Love that Wisconsin cheese.
If Wisconsinites have one sin down, it's pride. Whether it's beer or football or drinking beer while watching football, if we do it in Wisconsin, we do it the best. But of all the things we do well in Wisconsin, our most pride-inducing export of all is cheese. Growing up in Florida, I only ate Kraft Singles, but since moving to Madison my tastes have irrevocably changed. From the tangy crunch of Hook's 10-Year Cheddar to the smooth, sweet profile of Pleasant Ridge Reserve, we're good at making cheese, and we know it.
If you're looking to indulge in some Wisconsin pride, the first stop on your list should be Fromagination (12 S. Carroll St.), an artisan cheese shop named 2011 Outstanding Retailer by the National Association of the Specialty Food Trade. High ceilings with slow-turning fans open up this cozy space. The walls are lined with jars of olives, small-batch preserves and cured meats. A deli case displays cheese from our beloved state and beyond. There are neat rows of sandwiches like roast beef with shallot confit or smoked turkey with Camembert, which can be enjoyed on the sunny patio overlooking our state Capitol.
Early on a warm Friday evening, I chose the cheese tasting for two -- a hand-selected platter of local cheeses, figs, honey and crusty bread, washed down with a cool glass of Pinot gris. Our sommelier led us through our selections, then left us to enjoy the bounty of our local cheesemakers. I'm proud to live in Wisconsin, and I don't care who knows it.