Monday, November 26, 2012

Lactose Tolerance

On this feels-like-17-degrees day I decided to blog about something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy:

I've had friends come visit me in Madison and make only one request: "take me to the cheese store." (I'm looking at you, Amitai.)  While there are novelty cheese outlets around, the nearest Woodman's grocery store is the only place anyone needs to shop.  Let me show you why.

This is one half of the main section of the cheese "aisle" at Woodman's.  I say main section because that's where you can find locally-produced blocks of the kinds of cheese made in Wisconsin.  Those thigh-high bins along the bottom are filled with cheddars, colby, muenster, string, curds, multiple types of jacks, three types of swiss, and farmers cheese.  The shelves are a random assortment of locally-made specialty types (blues, havartis) and a few foreign-made varieties (boursin, chevre, gorgonzola, stilton).

May I present the entire spectrum of yellow cheddar:

Super Sharp
Super Super Sharp

And for the not faint of heart, 4-year cheddar (it's normally aged 3-18 months):

Pre-school aged cheese

Pepper jack, anyone?

And two types of Diamond Marbles, one with peppers and one without.  I will spare you pictures of all the different varieties of Havarti.

And then my personal favorite sub-section of the first half of the main section: string cheese and cheese curds.  String cheese is mozzarella and cheese curds are a fresh (meaning not aged) mild cheddar, both are tasty and fun to eat.

You may be noticing the packaging or lack thereof, on this local Wisconsin cheese.  This ain't no Kraft cheese, which is frequently made from blends of several types of rubber...oops, I mean, cheese.  These cheese blocks, each cut to a random weight and sold by price/lb, are cut from even bigger blocks made from milk probably milked no farther than 100 miles away.  There is a basic website and a basic label and outstanding basic cheese.

Moving on to the second half of the main section of the cheese "aisle" at Woodman's, which immediately faces the first half.

This half features Wisconsin cheeses made by producers that actually have company names: Bucky Badger, Crystal Lake, the occasional block of the more real "cheese" made by Kraft.

One case over from the main section is the shredded cheese section, which is as big as the entire dairy display at many grocery stores.  It ends right about where that yellow-ish sign hangs from the ceiling (which incidentally marks the beginning of the cream cheese section).

Facing the shredded cheese is the sliced cheese, mostly Sargento and Kraft, companies that are willing to spend their time cutting cheese instead of making better cheese.

On the back of the sliced cheese is the orange juice, not an altogether Wisconsin product, but the sheer size of selection always amuses me.

Facing the orange juice is the yogurt section, the end of which can be seen in the distance down by the red-white sign hanging from the ceiling.  So, a solid selection of yogurt I'd say.

On the back of the first half of the main section is "dippable cheeses": dairy-based dips, ricotta, and cottage cheese.

And facing the dippable cheeses, we finally arrive at the main ingredient: milk.  The case extends to the wall at the very end....

And - this is the best perspective I could provide - the milk racks are three-deep, ready to be pulled forward when the one in front empties.  Hundreds of gallon at the ready.

Hidden on the shelves are some sharp-tasting delicacies if (mostly) mild cheeses don't get you excited.  For example, blue cheeses - Danish Blue, Maytag Blue, Domestic Blue, Amish Blue - and other stinky/moldy types like Gorgonzola and Stilton.

Or Port Wine Spread, which is a biting combination of cheddar cheese and port wine.

And Beer Cheese.  If it included ground-up bratwurst, this spread would embody 75% of what people recognize Wisconsin for.

This is the other 25% of what people recognize Wisconsin for, if cheese in general isn't your bailiwick: the Badgers and the Packers.

Don't worry, we'll still let you into Wisconsin even if you don't like cheese.  Maybe.

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