Sunday, September 30, 2012

Purple Door Ice Cream

An artisan ice cream previously only available in select restaurants and specialty stores has opened its own storefront in the Walker's Point neighborhood of Milwaukee.

Purple Door Ice Cream, owned by Steve and Lauren Schultz, crafts and sells super-premium, super-yummy, small-batch ice cream inside Clock Shadow Creamery in the new Fix Building, at 538 S. 2nd St. The creamery - clad in familiar Cream City brick so that is looks like it's been there forever -- is owned by Wisconsin cheesemaker Bob Wills, and is one of only three urban cheese factories in America. It is named for the nearby Rockwell Corp.'s four-sided clock tower.

“We are very excited to have a storefront inside one of the few urban dairies in the nation, and in one of the most sustainable buildings ever built in Milwaukee,” Lauren says. “It fits right in line with our business model, which is to buy local, be environmentally responsible, and support our community.”

All of the milk used for Purple Door Ice Cream comes from Wisconsin dairy farms, and the couple sources as many local and natural ingredients for its flavorings as possible.

"We believe that staying local and supporting our community is essential for small businesses. For every dollar you spend at a locally owned business, 68 cents stays in the Milwaukee community versus only 43 cents when you purchase at your typical national chain," Lauren says. "Part of our responsibility as a local business is to invest back into the community that supports us. One way we are able to do that is by purchasing local ingredients."

Using local ingredients also makes better ice cream, she argues, and I agree. Purple Door Ice Cream is creamier than most, as it contains 14 percent butterfat, resulting in an extraordinary texture and silky mouth-feel. As a comparison, big-name ice creams you find in your grocery store average only about 10 percent butterfat.

In addition to purchasing and enjoying a scoop of ice cream on site, customers may watch ice cream being made, as Purple Door shares production and retail space with Clock Shadow Creamery. A viewing window allows guests to watch both cheese and ice cream production.

Purple Door serves up to eight rotating flavors daily and sell pints and ice cream novelties from the Clock Shadow Creamery retail space. Classic favorites such as vanilla, chocolate, strawberry and butter pecan are next to more signature flavors, such as blueberry buttermilk, green tea and mascarpone. Coming soon: introduction of ice cream sandwiches in the next few weeks, adding catering (weddings, parties, ice cream socials, corporate events) this fall, and introducing a new fall line of flavors in October.

While the company officially celebrated its first business anniversary last April, Lauren says the move to a storefront has allowed Purple Door to expand its pint production and introduce at least two or three new flavors. Expanded sales are also helping the community. At the launch of their business last year, the Schultzes started their Milk for Milwaukee program, in which 10 cents from the sale of each pint, and a portion of profits from all other size containers sold, goes to buy milk for local men's, women's and teen’s shelters.

“As a small family business our initial impact may be modest, but it is sincere,” Lauren says. “Our hope is as we grow so will our impact on this community and the people within. We like to let customers know when they purchase Purple Door Ice Cream they, too, are supporting the Milwaukee community. That’s what it’s all about.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Tour of Artisan Cheeses in the Driftless Region

This past week, I did what anyone who needs an excuse to go see some of her favorite cheesemakers would do: I organized a two-day artisan cheesemaker and craft beer tour of the Driftless Region. Fifteen members of Wisconsin Cheese Originals came along for a backstage pass to some of America's finest food artisans.

First stop: Uplands Cheese near Dodgeville. Cheesemaker Andy Hatch, son August and wife Caitlin were amazing hosts, showing off one of America's most famous farmstead cheese plants, home to Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

We tasted three ages of Pleasant Ridge Reserve - 5 months, 11 months and 15 months.

We also got a sneak peak at baby Rush Creek Reserves, which will hit the market in about a month. This washed-rind cheese, wrapped in spruce bark, is aging nicely in the aging rooms. I can't wait to taste that yummy gooiness of a cheese -- it's been too long since I had my Rush Creek fix.

After waving goodbye to Andy, Caitlin and Baby August, we were off to Hook's Cheese in Mineral Point. Owners Tony and Julie Hook are always the most gracious of hosts, and Tony was in an especially good mood, just having made his very first batch of goat milk blue the day before. He says he'll know in six months whether his new goat blue (yet to be named) is a success, but with Tony's track record, I'm pretty sure it'll be a winner.

One of my favorite places to visit is Hooks' cold storage, packed floor to ceiling with Cheddar just waiting to be eaten. I saw some 17-year Cheddar in there -- fingers crossed it hits the market in the next year or two!

After a local lunch of pasty, corn casserole and pecan pie at the Brewery Creek cafe in Mineral Point, we were off to Potosi Brewery for a museum tour and beer tasting (because nothing goes better with cheese than beer, right?). The always amazing Sara Hill of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board put together a full Potosi beer and Wisconsin cheese course together for us. My favorite pairing of the day: Potosi Cave Ale and Pleasant Ridge Reserve. Thank you, Sara!

After a four-course local-foods dinner and overnight at the Old Oak Inn Bed & Breakfast in Soldiers Grove, we were off bright and early to Hidden Springs Creamery near Westby. Owners Dean and Brenda Jensen took us on a wagon ride to get up and close and personal with their sheep, and trek through a little of Amish country. Aren't we a good looking group? Check out this 20-second video of the Driftless Region.

Brenda gave us the full tour of her farmstead cheese factory, milking parlor, barns, farm bed and breakfast, and treated us to a tasting of the many award-winning sheep's milk cheeses she makes by hand.

We were then treated to an on-farm lunch catered by Rooted Spoon in Viroqua. Owner Dani Lind made us some Hidden Springs Ocooch Mountain cheese cornbread & jalapeno honey butter, local greens salad with roasted beets, cucumbers, Hidden Springs Driftless cheese, sausage, pepitas, & fresh mint vinaigrette, fresh local fruit and some tasty purple basil & aronia berry lemonade. What a treat to eat a meal right from the area from which the ingredients were sourced.

Our last stop of the trip was Nordic Creamery, where we were greeted by owner Sarah Bekkum and given a VIP tour of the farmstead butter, cheese and ice cream plant. After a butter and cheese tasting, we ended our day with an ice cream cone made right at Nordic Creamery.
Thanks to everyone who joined me on the tour, and special thanks to our hosts and hostesses who showed off the Driftless Region with pride. I have no doubt we will be returning, and returning very soon!
All photos by Uriah Carpenter. Copyright 2012.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The End of the Dairy Business Innovation Center

On Sept. 30, a simple idea that started in a break room over a frozen dinner and evolved into one of the most effective and efficient dairy innovation catalysts ever, will come to an end.

That's right: 8 years, 43 new dairy plants, 72 expanded dairy plants, more than 50 new cheese varieties and hundreds of realized dreams later, the Dairy Business Innovation Center will close its virtual doors because of a lack of funding.

For me, watching the DBIC end is like losing a member of my family. It is personal. It is raw. I am grieving, and I know Wisconsin cheesemakers are grieving with me.

For those of you who know me, you know this organization has made me the person I am today. From the moment I met DBIC Founder Dan Carter in 2004, and he asked me to be part of a team that aimed to help grow artisan cheese in Wisconsin (my response: what's artisan cheese?) to the moment 9 months ago when I walked away as communications director because I could not stomach watching the organization die, DBIC blood has run in my veins. Hell, it still does. It probably always will.

For the life of me, I can not understand why an organization that helped more than 200 dairy farmers, artisan, farmstead and specialty cheesemakers, milk processors, yogurt makers, ice cream manufacturers, and buttermakers with no- to low-cost, world-class technical, business and marketing assistance, was simply allowed to shrivel up and die.

Perhaps it was because we didn't have a fancy logo or neon-lighted building. Maybe it was because we never made a DBIC banner or printed four-color brochures. Perhaps it was because I didn't tell the story often or well enough, not wanting to (but sometimes doing so anyway) stepping on partner organization toes or turf. Maybe it was because we lost our champion in the honorable Senator Herb Kohl, who diligently secured funding for five consecutive years, but when earmarks were declared politically incorrect, could no longer conjure up needed funds.

What I can tell you is that like all endings of government-run not-for-profits, this ending was pointlessly political.

What I can tell you is that I'm pretty sure every cheesemaker who opened a new cheese plant or launched a new product doesn't care whose administration the organization started under.

What I can tell you is that I'm pretty sure every dairy farmer who received grant funds to modernize his fourth-generation family farm doesn't care which industry organization got the credit.

What I can tell you is the people - yes the real people that we helped - simply cared about results. And we had results. We had $1.2 billion in industry reinvestment worth of results.

What a shame that in the end, results didn't matter. In the end, politics won. And for that, Wisconsin cheesemakers and dairy farmers will suffer.

For every cheesemaker, every wannabe cheesemaker, every dairy farmer, every little girl and boy growing up on a farm and dreaming of it one day being theirs, please know this: the core team of DBIC consultants -- the folks who were there in the beginning and who stayed to the end -- still have the best interest of Wisconsin's dairy industry at heart. We are passionate. We want to help you. We want to move forward. We are dedicated to continuing the growth of artisan, farmstead and specialty dairy products in Wisconsin, and we don't care a whiff about politics. You'll find us continuing our work in the industry. Seek us out.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Next Up on the Bucket List: Cheeses of Northern Italy

It started with a bucket list: visit France before I turned 40 and taste a raw milk Camembert. After checking that baby off my list last fall, when I took 20 members of Wisconsin Cheese Originals on a 10-day cheese tour to France, I've decided to check off another bucket list item: meet a shepherd and taste his cheese at the Bra Cheese Fair in Italy.

That's why I'm excited to announce I'll be taking 20 people on The Grand Cheese & Wine Tour of Northern Italy, September 20 - 29, 2013. Whoo-hoo!

What will we do? Well, we will eat cheese obviously. But we'll also do much more. In summary, we'll visit six cheese makers, three wineries, dine in a castle, stay in luxury hotels and spend an entire day walking the famous Bra Cheese Fair, one of the largest and most prestigious cheese festivals in the world. In short, we'll spend 10-days eating and drinking our way through the Piemonte and Lombardia Regions in Northern Italy.

A quick snapshot:

Day 1: After flying into Milan, we'll travel to Arona to visit Guffanti Cheese, named by the Wall Street Journal in 2010 as one of the Top Ten Cheese Shops in the world. We'll spend the late afternoon shopping in this quaint village, enjoy a group welcome dinner at a local restaurant, and then stay overnight in an 18th Century-inspired Villa.

Days 2-4: We'll visit Ceretto Wine Estate, Barolo Castle, and Beppino Occelli, a butter and cheese producer and affineur. Most importantly, we'll take a full day walking the Bra Cheese Fair, featuring the finest cheeses from Italy, Europe and the Americas. The Festival commands the entire historical center of Bra. On the “Street of the Shepherds”, we'll meet small cheesemakers who tend to their flocks of sheep and goats and produce a limited quantity of extraordinary cheeses that rarely make it out of their home region. Tasting booths, seminars discussing the preservation of traditional methods, The House of Goat Cheeses, with more than 100 different goat cheese products from all over the world, are just some of the events open to tour attendees. Overnight in the Piemonte region.

Days 5-7: These days are dedicated to exploring, visiting and tasting some of Italy's finest cheeses. We'll enjoy private tours and tastings with Gorgonzola, Tallegio, Buffalo Mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano cheesemakers, along with a visit and tour at a balsamic vinegar producer. Overnight in the Lombardia region.

Days 8-10: It's time to enjoy the final days in Milan, with a cooking class, private art tour with viewing of Leonardo da Vinci's famous The Last Supper painting in the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, time to explore and shop in the city, capped with a farewell dinner.

And now for the game show deal. All this and more can be yours for the low low price of $3,895 per person. This price includes all hotel accommodations, most meals, and transportation via private motorcoach while in-country. However, airfare is additional. View a detailed brochure by clicking here.

Once you've checked out the full brochure, I know you'll want to join me. That's why I've made it super easy to click here to reserve your spot by November 15, 2012 with a $1,450 deposit. I look forward to traveling with you to Italy next September!