Wisconsin is American’s top cheese-producing state and, if you are into cheese, there are a lot of different ways to see your cheese and eat it too in America’s dairyland. Whether you’re staying in Green Bay, on the shores of Lake Michigan, or in the state capital itself, you will have many opportunities to tour dairies, sample craft cheeses (and beer!) and buy directly from the farmers who make America’s favourite cheeses.
If you’re planning a cheese tour, you will have a variety of appropriate accommodations where you will be able to enjoy farm fresh breakfasts at local B&Bs and inns. The Speckled Hen in Madison is a certified ecologically friendly outfit on 50 acres of wetlands, trails and orchards. You can expect an earth friendly, farm-to-table breakfast to get you ready for your day. You will also share the grounds with the sheep and llamas who call the Speckled Hen home. Or if you’d prefer a true haven for cheese lovers, stay at the Chalet Landhaus Inn in New Glarus, where the Swiss-trained chef provides fondue classes and demonstrations. Your Swiss accommodations will have you feeling right at home when you set off on your cheese adventure!
If cheese shopping is your priority, head to the Dane County Farmers’ Market, a producers-only farmers’ market (the largest in the county), where you can choose from over 300 vendors selling a wide range of food items and, of course, Wisconsin cheese. Another crucial stop is Widmer’s Cheese Cellars in Theresa, a family-owned brick cheese producer where tradition is paramount. Guided tours are available Monday to Friday and you will have the opportunity to purchase some handmade product. And if you’re able to plan ahead, take a cheese-making workshop at The Cheesemaker in Mequon. Choose from a two hour weekday session or a two-day weekend course and try your hand at making camembert, blue cheese, ricotta and many other varieties.
Not all dairies are able to offer tours (some may only have observation windows, while others only have gift shops), but if you’re looking to get a close-up view of the cheese making process, head to Hinchley’s Dairy Farm – a family owned and operated farm that is perfect for families and anyone who wants to learn more about dairy farming. Milk cows, feed calves and enjoy a complimentary hay ride
To cap off a big day of cheese sampling, purchasing and education, enjoy a meal at one of Wisconsin’s best restaurants featuring local cuisine and cheese-oriented menus. L’Etoile Restaurant offers French-Midwest flavour in Madison, using only the freshest local ingredients that they acquire through a network of local small farms. Or stop by Milwaukee’s Sanford Restaurant for gourmet regional fare from Chef D’Amato, who was named 2009’s “Wisconsin Cheese Chef Ambassador”.