As I sit here typing this post in Milwaukee, the snow is swirling outside my window. It’s around the freezing point, the wind is whipping up and there must be at least five inches of snow on the ground. It’s still coming down, and I’ve got to hit the road early tomorrow for Green Bay to the north (where it’s probably going to be colder).
I’m now 10 days into a 30-day research trip (I’ve marked out my progress in red on a map here) and already it’s starting to remind me of another surprise Lonely Planet journey that took me outside of Central Europe. That one was two years ago this month, when I traveled down the Volga River from Nizhny Novgorod to Astrakhan, in Russia. That trip also required me to cover long distances relatively quickly and I also woke up on more than a couple of mornings to find a blanket of fresh snow on the ground.
And just like back then, I’m also having a blast. Wisconsin is a surprisingly interesting, quirky and cool place to visit. I’d heartily recommend it to anyone looking for a low-key road trip, centered around pretty countryside, architecture, beer and, well, cheese.
Since I’m on the road and don’t have tons of time to write, I’ll keep the text brief and describe the sights in the photo captions. This first set of photos (in random order) focuses on the early leg of the journey, from Minneapolis, where I flew in, to Eau Claire, La Crosse, Spring Green, New Glarus, and Madison. In Part Two, I pick up with Milwaukee, Green Bay, Door County and the Apostle Islands to the far north. Find the link to that story here. The plan from there is to re-enter Minnesota and make my way slowly back through the state to Minneapolis-St Paul.
Worthty of your book: AN EPICUREAN GETAWAY: THE WISCONSIN CHEESE TOUR
Taste & Shop: Fromagination
Travelers can launch their culinary adventure at Fromagination, one of the state’s premier cheese shops. Though Fromagination offers international artisanal cheeses, as a certified member of the Slow Food Organization their primary focus is Wisconsin dairy products. Additionally, Fromagination offers cheese cooking classes, fondue events, gourmet lunch options, catering and in-house culinary events.
EVERYONE KNOWS THAT WISCONSIN HAS THE BEST CHEESE IN THE WORLD BUT ITS DOUBTFUL YOU’VE TASTED THE BEST OF THE BEST
OUTSTANDING WISCONSIN CHEESES FROM SOUTHERN WISCONSIN
The trip through the beautiful and unique Driftless Area to visit these cheese companies reinforces the saying “It’s the journey, not just the destination’. In addition, there are many other neat historical, recreational and natural places on the journey. One can tell where the Driftless area is in southwest Wisconsin by the highway map. Starting just west of Madison the roads change from straight to curvy and the Interstates north from Madison skirt the area on the east and north.
Interstates north from Madison skirt the area on the east and north.
CARR VALLEY CHEESE COMPANY, INC
Carr Valley Cheese
S3797 County Road G – La Valle, WI 53941
Toll Free: 800-462-7258
Sauk City: Retail Store [ 45 minutes; 30 miles from Capitol square]
Carr Valley Store
807 Phillips Blvd.
Sauk City, WI 53583
HOOK’S CHEESE COMPANY, INC. [One hour; 60 miles from the square]
HOOK’S CHEESE COMPANY, INC.
320 COMMERCE STREET
MINERAL POINT, WI 53565
Roelli Cheese Haus [75 miles; 1.75 hours from square]
15982 State Highway 11
Shullsburg, WI 53586
Pleasant Ridge Reserve is the most-awarded cheese in American history
Grand Cru® is our signature alpine-style cheese. It’s made with the freshest milk in imported copper vats and aged 4+ months in our cellars. Robust and full-bodied, this one-of-a-kind cheese melts beautifully to become a cook’s everyday companion.
Download the Traveler’s Guide to America’s Dairyland map.
YOUSE GOTTA TRY SOME CHEESE CURDS
The Old Fashioned – Madison
Fresh and never frozen, these are beer-battered in a buttermilk/lager mix. Fresh curds are brought in twice a week from Vern’s Cheese Inc. in Chilton. Located at 23 N Pinckney St, Madison, WI 53703
Graze – Madison
These curds come from Hook’s and have the bonus of being wrapped in a vodka batter. Less appetizer and more first course, you might need a fork to attack these curds. They’re located at 1 S Pinckney St #107, Madison, WI 53703.
Craftsman Table and Tap – Middleton
These Carr Valley curds are dipped in a Surly Helles Lager beer-batter. Each one is more than one bite. Located at 6712 Frank Lloyd Wright Ave, Middleton, WI 53562.
Curd Girl – Madison
These curds come from a cart during Saturday farmer’s markets. The cart is run by two friends who grew up in the cheese community of Monroe. They feature homemade sauces and drinks to accompany the fried goodness. Located at State St & W Mifflin St, Madison, WI 53703.
Beyond the Deep Fryer: Unique Wisconsin Cheese Curd Dishes