We don’t mean to alarm you, but summer is almost halfway over. If you haven’t yet taken a good old fashioned summer road trip, now is the time! Luckily, we have the perfect destination for cheese lovers – Door County, Wisconsin.
Head northeast from Green Bay and you’ll find a 75-mile-long peninsula jutting into Lake Michigan, or Door County, as it’s known to travelers from throughout the state, the Midwest and beyond. Often called “The Cape Cod of the Midwest,” this beloved destination is home to breathtaking shoreline beaches and vistas along Lake Michigan and Green Bay. The land between them is lush with cherry and apple orchards, wineries, charming inns and restaurants, and one-of-a-kind cheese destinations. Visit Wisconsin’s newest creamery where you can interact with cheesemakers as they work, snack on fresh cheese curds still warm from the vat, and sample the creations of the state’s Master Cheesemakers. Wash it down with a glass of local wine, cider or beer as you take in the scenery.
Ready to hit the road? Check out our picks for a Wisconsin cheese-focused trip to Door County:
Door Artisan Cheese Co., Egg Harbor
With an on-site cheese plant, three aging caves, a fine dining restaurant, coffee nook and market, the newly opened Door Artisan Cheese Co. is a true cheese destination.
Door Artisan Cheese will produce cheddar and other classic Wisconsin cheeses, as well as original cheeses developed by owner and Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Mike Brennenstuhl. And, of course, there will be fresh cheese curds. Cheese enthusiasts can not only watch cheese being made, but interact with the cheesemakers during the process. Cheesemakers wear headsets and a button in the viewing area lets visitors ask questions as they work.
Renard’s Cheese, Algoma and Sturgeon Bay
Renard’s Cheese has been making cheese in Door County since 1961. Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Chris Renard and his staff make a wide variety of cheeses from fresh Wisconsin milk, including cheddar, colby, muenster, brick and string cheese. Fresh cheese curds are available daily. Visit Renard’s Cheese Store & Factory in Algoma for a cheese factory tour and Renard’s Cheese & Deli in Sturgeon Bay to shop their assortment of cheeses and enjoy breakfast or lunch in the outdoor picnic area.
Wisconsin Cheese Masters, Egg Harbor
Did you know Wisconsin is the only state to offer a Master Cheesemaker Program? To become a Master, a cheesemaker must have a minimum of 10 years’ experience before they begin the rigorous program. When you purchase a cheese made by a Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker, you know you are getting the very best. And you can do just that at Wisconsin Cheese Masters, a cheese shop featuring cheeses made by more than 70 Wisconsin Master Cheesemakers. Stop in for a taste of original creations like Casa Bolo Mellage from Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Sid Cook, or take home a wedge of Black Pepper BellaVitano from Wisconsin Master Cheesemaker Mike Matucheski, which was named Grand Champion Cheese at the 2017 U.S. Championship Cheese Contest.
The Cheesiest Local Eats
Wisconsin cheese is the star of some of Door County’s most popular dishes. Here are four examples of restaurants on the peninsula spotlighting Wisconsin cheese and other local ingredients.
Wickman House, Ellison Bay
Enjoy fresh, farm-to-table fare in this charmingly restored 19th century house and its large surrounding garden. Try the house-made queso with beer cheese and salsa verde, or a N.Y. strip from nearby Waseda Farms topped with blue cheese bone marrow compound butter.
“In Wisconsin, we are surrounded by a ton of incredible cheesemakers, we sometimes take for granted the products we are able to get right at our doorstep. We take for granted the fact that we have a personal relationship with those producers, but every time we take a bite of one of their creations, we never take for granted the care and creativity that goes into that amazing flavor. Our inspiration starts with their inspiration.” — Mike Holmes, Proprietor & General Manager, Wickman House
Wild Tomato Wood-Fired Pizza & Grille, Fish Creek & Sister Bay
With a dedication to sustainability and the highest quality local products, Wild Tomato slings some seriously good pies. Looking for a true Wisconsin experience? Try the Green and Gold with roasted chicken, bacon, grilled broccoli, spinach and topped with REAL Wisconsin cheese curds.
The Whistling Swan Inn & Restaurant, Fish Creek
You’ll find contemporary American cuisine and bold flavors at Door County’s oldest operating inn. Try the brisket cheeseburger with bacon, sharp cheddar and crispy onion straws, or the pan-seared cauliflower with red quinoa, parsnip purée, roast broccolini, oil cured olives, feta and balsamic vinegar.
Find even more tips for planning your Door County trips, as well as Wisconsin cheese recipes for every summer occasion in our latest issue of Grate. Pair. Share.