Becca and I have mounted our first major research foray for the book, and we have returned to Minneapolis fully laden with photos, mp3s of interviews, pages of notes, cheese, sausage and one bottle of Blumers black cherry soda. Some general thoughts, and brief thumbnail impressions of the masters we’ve met so far.
Southern Wisconsin looks absolutely gorgeous at the moment. A light covering of snow graces the fields like icing, covering all the square footage without obscuring little details like broken stalks of corn and gnarled stumps. Our second day on the road, we were able to pull over a few times and snap some shots of Green County in the winter, like this stark little number:
I’m also rather fond of this snow scene (with church). It didn’t look like much when we snapped it (I remember the bridge looking particularly unsightly) but then, through the magic of image capture and regurgitation, we get this:
Our first meeting was with the fabulous Buholzer brothers of the sprawling Klondike plant. Between their impish senses of humor and impeccably organized and Willy-Wonkaesque factory, we left entirely charmed. Klondike puts out a number of different cheeses, but feta — sometimes up to 95,000 pounds a day — is the mainstay. It’s hard to express the massive scope of their plant, but this photo reaches toward the appropriate scale:
That (and a very productive meeting with Jim Path, a retired Center for Dairy Research honcho who helped set up the master program) was Monday. Tuesday, we went to Chula Vista and met with master Jim Meives:
He was kind enough to send us home with some of his Chihuahua (a trade name for a sort of queso blanco) melting cheese, which Becca will be reviewing in our next tasting notes update.
The next (and final) day of our trip, we got to shadow master Bruce Workman and his assistant Matt as they put out a batch of his rightfully famous Swiss. The interview started at 4am and ran until about 7:30, and mostly consisted of us trying to stay out of Bruce’s way as he raced from milk vat to curd vat to garage to office to milk vat to … etc. The guy was a blur of motion. Moreover, he was just about as gracious as he could have been — despite it being 4 in the morning — and the factory being loud, in parts — humid and hot, in parts, and cold in parts — we had a blast.
All in all, the trip was tremendously rewarding. And while we were in Monroe, we got to stop by and visit Baumgartner’s tavern, a legendary establishment.
To the best of my knowledge, it’s the only place in the world with sufficient yarbles to serve a limburger and onion sandwich. Note the mint.
It’s the only sandwich that requires not just the brushing of one’s teeth, but the taking of a hot shower. Good times. For the record, not only did I finish my sandwich, I liked the thing.
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