Wisconsin and Fried Pickles and Cheese Curds, Oh My!

I’ve spent the last two weeks in Wisconsin for work, which I realize is not most people’s idea of a culinary mecca. However, they are a mecca for cheese, which is one of my main food groups.

On my first night in Wisconsin, I was introduced to cheese curds. Despite having the word “cheese” in their name, they don’t sound very appetizing at first blush. Must have something to do with the word “curd.” However, let me assure you that they are little gems of deliciousness, and if you get the chance to try them, you must.

Cheese curds are very young cheese, and according to Wikipedia, “little known in locations without cheese factories because they should ideally be eaten within hours of manufacture.” They are mild in taste and often prepared fried for an appetizer. Some of them are like mini mozzarella sticks, while others (my preferred) were less “perfect” looking due to homemade batter (see above), and the cheese inside was a little sharper. Biting into cheese curd is heaven — the cheese is hot and melty, the fried shell is crunchy and savory…yum!

The cheese curds above were one part of a fantastic “snack-y” meal on my last night in Madison with my co-workers Carey and Martin. They introduced me to Graze, a very cool gastropub located right by the Capitol building in downtown Madison. The vibe was young and hip, with floor to ceiling windows looking out at the Capitol, a loud, upbeat, chatty atmosphere, and the food was downright delicious.

In addition to our cheese curds, we ordered some killer fried pickles (or “frickles” as we called them) with a yummy dill dipping sauce. I’m used to the typical sliced pickle rounds, but these were actually long, thin pickle spears, which was a nice, offbeat twist. We devoured two orders of them in record time.

Add to that some of the best mac and cheese I’ve ever consumed. It was made from 10-year cheddar (super sharp), herbed breadcrumbs and topped with pulled pork. Wow. The cheese was the perfect degree of creaminess — not too thick/sticky and not thin. And it packed a punch in the sharp cheese flavor department!

Vegetables? Oh no. Well…do pickles count as vegetables? Mmm hmm. Definitely.

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