As the importance of local food and agriculture continues to take root throughout the nation, artisan cheese shops have been sprouting up across the country. Our community has been eagerly seeking out information about specialty cheeses, learning more about cheese pairings, and experiencing the amazing cheese products produced by our nation’s farmers. With so much excitement surrounding cheese, we were eager to chat with Ken Monteleone, owner of artisan cheese shop, Fromagination. He shares with us how he got into the cheese world, decadent cheese pairings, favorite cheese recipes, and sourcing specialty and artisan Wisconsin Cheeses for his shop.
How He Got into Cheese: I was exposed to good food and good cheese at an early age. My family made their own breads, sausage, pasta, wine, and cheese. Food was always the center of all my family gatherings. We were always experimenting and enjoying and sharing great local food. After trips to Europe and living in Wisconsin for 18 years I came to appreciate great cheese. Three years ago, I decided to put my passion to work. Fromagination has allowed me to work directly with the cheesemakers and share my love for great food and cheese with our customers every day.
Cheese Recipe of the Moment: Traditional Swiss Fondue. Easy to make. Fun to share.
Cheese of the Moment: Having access to over 100 cheeses, I constantly taste. Cheese is a living thing so what is good one day, can be great the next day. The new Uplands Rush Creek Reserve is a great addition to our soft-ripened cheese assortment. You very seldom see cheeses like this in the United States. Wisconsin cheesemakers are at the cutting edge of developing world-class cheeses that stand tall next to any other cheese in the world.
Best Cheese Tools: The traditional cheese knife and cheese keeper – a cheese knife is the perfect knife for cutting a variety of cheeses and the cheese keeper reminds you that cheese is best enjoyed at room temperature. Take the cheese out of the refrigerator an hour and a half before serving and place in your cheese keeper.
Perfect Cheese Pairings: Honey, figs, and walnuts with Blue cheese and a nice crusty baguette.
On New Cheeses: Don’t be afraid to try something new. You can taste any cheese in our shop and we work one-on-one to help guide you through our cases while educating you on the cheeses, the cheesemakers, and most important, learning how to taste a specific cheese and finding the perfect cheese companion.
Reading About Cheese: The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese is an essential and engaging reference guide covering the very best in American artisan cheesemaking. Several Wisconsin cheesmakers are highlighted in this book. The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin is another great one.
Cheesemakers to Watch: Willi Lehner, from Bleu Mont Dairy, and Chris Roelli, from Roelli Cheese, are doing some amazing cave-aged Cheddars right now. Sid Cook, of Carr Valley Cheese, wins more awards than any cheesemaker in the U.S., and we have some amazing female cheesemakers that are masters at their craft – Brenda Jensen just came out with a mixed-milk sheep/cow cheese that is simply amazing. There is also a new generation of cheesemakers that are eagerly learning from cheesemakers who have been making cheese most of their adult lives. Andy Hatch, from Uplands Cheese, has traveled the world working with cheesemakers from France to Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Cheese News: We are constantly tasting and working with cheesemakers – Seymour Dairy just released an amazing Blue cheese last week.
On a Cheese Shop in Madison: Madison is becoming the epicenter of food in the Midwest. Surrounding the city, we have beautiful pastures that are perfect both for brewing beer and making cheese, and we have one of the top farmers’ markets in the country, only steps outside our cheese shop. There are world-class restaurants, amazing chefs, and a population that understands and appreciates great cheese.
Happening at Fromagination: February is “Fondue Month” at Fromagination. We will have fondue lunches on Wednesdays and Saturdays throughout the month. Check our website for times and dates. www.fromagination.com.
A Timeless Cheese Tip: Eat more. Share more. Enjoy more Wisconsin Cheese.