Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Say cheese, a Wisconsin experience April 30, 2011

TO TRULY EXPERIENCE Wisconsin, you must, must, visit a cheese store, like Simon’s Specialty Cheese Retail Store in Little Chute, northeast of Appleton. Simon’s offers a Wisconsin experience you’ll long remember.

Simon's Specialty Cheese is one of the retail outlets for Trega Foods, Ltd., which produces natural curds and mozzarella sticks right next door at its Little Chute plant.

And, yes, bring your camera to Simon’s for some touristy photos. Photo ops abound in every aisle.

Start by trying on the cheesehead hats. They’re perfect if you’re a Packers’ fan or are looking for a Halloween costume or, ummmmm, just want to make a fashion statement say in some place like London. I would not, however, recommend wearing a cheesehead hat in Minnesota.

Shoppers, aka tourists, don cheesehead hats and pose for photos at Simon's.

If this boxy style or color doesn’t suit you, then scoot down the aisle and try on a wolf or moose head piece. I would not, however, recommend wearing a furry animal hat in the Wisconsin woods, especially during hunting season.

A wolf disguise... Just a thought here, Simon's, but since your geographical region is called "the Fox Cities/Fox Valley" after the Fox River, how about stocking some fox hats?

If you’re looking for truly unique sunglasses that will turn heads at the beach this summer, then select cheese shades. I promise no one will even consider stealing your chic eyewear. I would not, however, recommend wearing these to, say, Minnesota’s Lake Calhoun, Lake Mille Lacs or Gull Lake.

Chic Wisconsin eyewear modeled by a Minnesotan who likely prefers anonymity.

Now, if you’re hosting a party, you’ve come to the right place. Simon’s offers plenty of conversation starter food choices. Grab a handful or two of cheddar cheese shapes. Cows. Barns. Cupcakes. Beer mugs. I would not, however, recommend purchasing the green and gold Packers and football cheese shapes if you are hosting a football (or any other) party in Minnesota.

Cheddar cheese shapes that are kitschy cute.

Along that same party line, pick up a few bottles of beer fish batter or bread mix. I would not, however, recommend stashing these near Spotted Cow (or any other beer) lest you mistakenly toss the bottled mix into the cooler before leaving on that annual fishing trip up north.

Wisconsin fish batter and beer bread mix, not to be confused with a Wisconsin beer like Spotted Cow.

Finally, even the romantic can find a gift at Simon’s. What better way to say “I love you” for a non-occasion than with a jug of bottled milk? A heart logo on the glass bottle adds just the right romantic touch. I would not, however, recommend this as a replacement for flowers no matter your state of residence.

Romantic or nostalgic, bottled milk is available at Simon's.

There, you have it, directly from someone who’s experienced Simon’s Specialty Cheese and enjoyed every aisle of photo op kitschy-ness. This store is a must-see for anyone visiting Wisconsin.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling