Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

For the love of cheese curds January 19, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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I’M A BIG FAN of local mom-and-pop restaurants. I prefer to eat at a place that’s distinctly home-grown as opposed to chain anything.

The Curdy Stop, Redgranite, Wisconsin.

The Curd Stop, Redgranite, Wisconsin.

On my last trip through central Wisconsin, I spotted a new eatery, The Curd Stop, in Redgranite, west of Oshkosh. I love the name of that community and how Wisconsin State Highway 21 curves right through the town.

How the building looked as an ice cream shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, May 2014.

How the building looked as an ice cream shop. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo, May 2014.

In the past, the lavender hue of an ice cream shop, once housed in this building, always grabbed my photographic attention.

The Curdy Stop up close.

The Curd Stop up close.

But this time I noticed the building had been repainted a muted brownish red and was sporting signs about cheese curds. That’s so Wisconsin.

Time did not allow my husband and me to stop at The Curd Stop this trip. But, after checking out the eatery’s Facebook page, I’m determined that we will dine there sometime.

The menu promises farm to table fresh food that’s locally sourced.

For example, on Fish Fryday, you can dine on freshwater Lake Michigan yellow perch from Two Rivers, one of my favorite Wisconsin communities.

Order up The Curdy Classic and you’ll get locally sourced beef with Wisconsin artisan cheese tucked inside and melted on top.

Given the name, you can expect most menu items to include cheese curds or some form of cheese. And I do love cheese.

The restaurant promises that “all menu items are handcrafted fresh, not frozen.” Just how I like my food.

“Wisconsin never tasted so good,” according to The Curd Stop.

If any of you readers have dined at The Curd Stop in Redgranite, I’d love to hear.

Do you have a favorite home-grown eatery? Tell me why and give them a shout out here.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

It’s true: Ellsworth cheese curds really are the best November 17, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 6:00 AM
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Western Wisconsin based Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.

Western Wisconsin based Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery.

BASED ON THE RECOMMENDATION of a dear friend, whose sons have worked in a Faribault area based festival concession stand that serves cheese curds, I tried cheese curds from Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. Deb is right. This Wisconsin co-op’s cheese curds are the best I’ve ever eaten.

These cheese curds sell fast.

These cheese curds sell fast.

Now I’m no cheese expert. But these curds are less salty than most, making them a win-win for my taste buds.

Apparently lots of others agree. The creamery’s retail store proved one busy place when my husband and I stopped on an early October weekday afternoon while vacationing in western Wisconsin.

Customers can watch employees bagging cheese curds.

Customers can watch employees bagging cheese curds.

Through a window, I watched employees package cheese curds before selecting two small bags of regular and cajun curds and two other Wisconsin cheeses to bring back across the border to Minnesota. Family dairy farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin supply the creamery with its milk.

Trucks line up to deliver milk to the creamery.

Trucks line up to deliver milk to the creamery.

Much to my grew-up-on-a-dairy-farm delight, I spotted bulk milk trucks lined up outside the plant.

The sign makes it official.

The sign makes it official.

Whatever this co-op’s recipe, their cheese curds have become a national success, titling Ellsworth as “The Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin.”

Someone really ought to tell that to the local who gave us directions to the creamery. He seemed less than enthused when we asked about the creamery and other attractions in town. “It’s Ellsworth,” he sighed. I wondered in that moment why he hadn’t moved elsewhere given his clear discontent with his hometown.

No thanks to this unwelcome welcome, we found two additional places of interest—east Ellsworth and the stunning Pierce County courthouse—after stopping at the creamery for those famous cheese curds.

You can sample selected varieties of cheese curds at the retail store before purchasing.

You can sample selected varieties of cheese curds at the retail store before purchasing.

Now I realize most of you likely are not going to drive to Ellsworth. So you can either search your local grocery store dairy department for these tasty curds. Or you can shop online by clicking here.

You can buy butter at the retail store, too, although I don't believe it's actually made in Ellsworth.

You can buy butter at the retail store, too, although I don’t believe it’s actually made in Ellsworth.

I wasn’t paid to write this. I didn’t get free cheese curds. I simply love Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery cheese curds. Plus, I possess a deep affection for cows and dairy farmers and dairy products. I am, after all, a dairy farmer’s daughter who worked side by side with her father in the barn.

© Copyright 2014 Audrey Kletscher Helbling