Local cheese connoisseur Ken Monteleone of Fromagination gives the lowdown on yummy Midwestern cheeses that shine in the spring months.
Central Wisconsin's famed cheese-making Cook family has been at work for more than a hundred years. This Mobay is the family's version of a French Morbier cheese and involves a layer of delectable goat milk, separated from a layer of sweeter sheep milk, with a line of grape vine ash. Monteleone suggests pairing this with a light and bubbly wine, such as a rosé or Champagne. For beer aficionados, he suggests local brews like New Glarus' Spotted Cow or Ale Asylum's Hopalicious.
Young cheese maker Katie Hendrich creates an irresistible mixture of goat and cow milk with a mild, pleasingly citrus zing. The martone is coated in a grey vegetable ash, which Monteleone says is an ode to the past. "Cheese makers used ash in the midcenturyto dismay bugs, and now follow that history." Martone would make a perfect appearance on a cheese board of tangy fruit and crispy crackers.
The pride of Mankato, Minnesota, Bent River Camembert is a creamy and award-winning cheese. What makes this one special is that it's made traditionally, using just cow milk, which Monteleone says is pretty rare with modern Midwest cheese makers. Monteleone recommends this as a great breakfast cheese, adding that it complements anything from a flaky croissant to a juicy apple.
Holland's Family Cheese is well known for its Gouda, considering that the Marieke Gouda Mature won the 2013 Grand Championship of the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest. Its butterscotch-maple flavor pairs well with another Wisconsin-made item—rich maple syrup. Monteleone suggests stouts, lagers or pale ales for alcohol pairings.
The most awarded cheese in American history, Upland's Cheese's Pleasant Ridge Reserve, is perfect this time of year. This Alpine-style cheese is made May through October, when cows are eating fresh pasture, and features only the highest quality of milk, leading to a limited amount of this famed cheese. Monteleone says it goes well with darker liquor such as aged scotch or whiskey, or crisp and fruity beers.