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Tuesday, January 27, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 27.0° F  Overcast
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Curd Girl is Madison's new dedicated fried cheese curd food cart
An order of curds is $6.
Credit:Linda Falkenstein

Curd Girl is a cute, farm-themed, heart-of-the-Midwest styled cart with barnboard sides and a red-and-white-striped awning. The menu is simple. It's battered, deep-fried cheese curds, with a choice of homemade dipping sauces.

The cart is run by best friends Kayla Zeal and Jessica Wartenweiler, who grew up together in Monroe, certainly an epicenter of cheese culture in southern Wisconsin. "We've been friends since the first grade," says Wartenweiler, and the two left Monroe together to attend UW-Madison.

Now, Wartenweiler lives in Madison and Zeal is a teacher in Oakland, California. The Curd Girl cart idea was born as a way to "do something together," says Wartenweiler, "and celebrate our heritage, and the best that Wisconsin has to offer. We're both obsessed with cheese."

Since Zeal has the summers off, she returned to Wisconsin to help Wartenweiler with the cart, which officially launched August 1.

There were a few obstacles along the way, many having to do with the physical logistics of the cart (custom designed) -- trucks, hitches and the like. Getting Curd Girl up and running involved "a lot of little details" that all have to be gotten right, says Wartenweiler.

An order of curds is $6. The dipping sauces are buttermilk ranch, cilantro aioli, or strawberry rhubarb. The curds themselves are sourced from Maple Leaf Cheese in Juda and are rolled in a light beer-style batter that's somewhat reminiscent of Culver's fried cod batter (but an improvement over Culver's cheese curds). The result is lighter than many deep-fried curds. They try to keep all of the ingredients as local as possible, and everything, including the limemade, is homemade.

Curd Girl has been vending late nights downtown on Broom Street on Friday and Saturday, and at the Let's Eat Out Madison food cart gatherings Monday-Wednesday nights. The gathering seems to have finally found a permanent home on the north side for Monday nights on Wheeler behind Blackhawk and Gompers schools. It remains in its original west side spot on Midvale Boulevard behind Midvale Elementary on Tuesdays, and is moving to slightly more spacious spot on the east side for Wednesday nights: Elmside Circle Park, 500 Elmside Blvd.

Curd Girl has also catered a private party and this weekend is headed to Curdfest at the Warner Park Duck Pond. "We're very excited to try everyone else's curds," says Wartenweiler. More information about events and locations can be found on Curd Girl's Facebook page and Twitter account.

This September, Curd Girl will participate in the city of Madison's cart review to gain a downtown Mall/Concourse vending permit. For now, they're sticking with their signature item, curds, doing one thing and doing it well.

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