Welcome to Foodie Friday. You’ll find a food-related travel article here most Fridays, and if you’re wondering why, it’s simple: People travel to eat. You know how they used to say that an army travels on its stomach? These days, an army of foodie tourists travel for their stomachs.
Most Fridays this post will be held down by Mike Lintal, a blogger at Chicago-based food-experience purveyor The Chopping Block. However, Mike has a reasonably good excuse for not appearing on the debut episode of Foodie Friday: He just got married. So I’m stepping in in his stead under the assumption that this will only be a sometime thing for him.
Okay, so a couple of weeks ago our family went out for Easter brunch, and were treated to the sight of a carved-butter Easter lamb being paraded to its slaughter over by the hot breads.
We live in central Wisconsin, so we’re comfortable with shaped dairy products – maybe a little too comfortable. When you think about it, the whole long tradition of food charades – dressing up one food to look like another – is sort of bizarre. My mother used to make something called city chickens out of veal, which I never understood, even when my definition of haute cuisine involved floating cheese curls on my Campbell’s tomato soup. Why would you buy something expensive and doctor it up so you could pass it off as something cheap?
This sort of primal unease extends to foods like photo cakes (I wonder about people who want to eat the face), fois-gras sculptures of geese, and chicken-shaped chicken nuggets, which I maintain are the idiot first cousin of cannibalism.
Anyway, around here we have cheese stores the way Chicago has potholes, and practically every one of them offers as a key part of their product line a waxed hunk of cow-shaped cheese. No one is creeped out about this, and the cow-shaped cow product must sell, otherwise it wouldn’t be trooped out year after year.
If you are one of the many who do not find bossy-shaped cheddar odd in any way, and in fact would like to send some to a loved one who you know would find this irretrievably weird, here are some of our favorite Wisconsin places to find cow-shaped cheeses.
Mullins Cheese, Knowlton, Wis. The chief advantage of buying a waxed cow cheese from Mullins is that it’s an easy on-and-off from Interstate 39, the main conduit funneling FIBs (the middle word is “Illinois”; the words on either side are used in love to describe Illinoisians) to the resort lands of northern Wisconsin. The other curd-based attractions are much more attractive (including fresh-from-the-fryer cheese curds), but nothing says “I really have no concept of what good cheese tastes like, and neither do you” like a Mullins cow. Mullins Cheese, 598 Seagull Dr., Mosinee, Wis. 54455; (715) 693-3205.
Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese, Rudolph, Wis. It has the most ungainly name this side of the San Luis Potosí Prickly Pear Pickers, but you can’t beat the cheese. The curds are fresh and come in half a dozen yummy flavors from dill to pizza, the variety – blueberry brick cheese, stilton, emmenthaler, frying cheese, and more – can’t be beat, and the prices are rock-bottom. Grab some hot sticks from Pete’s Meat Service next door and you’re all set. Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese, 6860 Wisconsin 34, Rudolph, Wis. 54475; (715) 435-3144.
Mars Cheese Castle, Kenosha, Wis. Everything about this is wrong except the cheese: the castle is merely castle-shaped, and were it on Mars! Yet if you’re just dipping a toe into America’s Dairyland, or are realizing you are almost to the Land of 1,000 Tollways and have not yet secured a bovine-shaped souvenir, this is indisputably the place to stop. Mars Cheese Castle, 2800 W. Frontage Rd., Kenosha, Wis. 53144; (262) 859-2244.
Get a little bit further off the beaten Interstate and you’ll find cow-shaped cheeses outstanding in their fields at Joe’s Cheese in Waterloo, the Lynn Dairy Store in Lynn, the Star Dairy Store in Weyauwega, and the Union Star Dairy in Zittau. But wherever you go you’ll find the same holstein approximation with the same beady-eyed stare.
Better buy two so they don’t feel lonely.