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Tenaya Darlington

Phil and his wife Katie live in a cozy, blue, two-story colonial in a newer subdivision on Madison's west side. There's a wreath on the front door, a Dodge minivan in the drive and kids' snow boots on the stoop--the sheen of mid-America normalcy is everywhere, right down to "The Simpsons," which I can faintly see through the sheers as I trudge up the front walk. more

Isthmus 35

In May of this year, after having lived in Madison for an entire gestation period, I crawled out of the womb and embarked on a quest: to scour the dark underbelly of this city for its highly touted art scene. Here I was, in a city rated the number-one place to live, a mecca described by this year's "Insider's Guide" as "a hotbed for free thought" and "a lively, affordable arts community." Yet somehow, nine months into my Madison migration, I was still trying to locate the umbilicus, the causeway to the glitter bomb. more

Isthmus 35

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Tenaya Darlington

The first thing I noticed about Little Darling was its great rind -- it has the look of a champagne cork, with a golden paste inside that is firm and crumbly. I requested a sample of this cheese when I heard a Philadelphia cheesemonger sing its praises after tasting it in a Chicago restaurant. With a name like Little Darling, it wasn't hard to remember. more

FOOD & DRINK

Jeanne Carpenter runs one of my favorite blogs, Cheese Underground. Since early 2006, she's been documenting artisan cheesemakers in Wisconsin and writing about them. This month, Carpenter released the first Wisconsin Artisan Cheesemaker calendar. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Tenaya Darlington

Lately, I've had a thing for aged sheep's milk cheeses. Their nutty profiles pair well with stone fruits (cherries, apricots), and they're perfect to serve on a muggy evening alongside a glass of white wine. Most sheep's milk cheeses I see in stores are European imports. Back in May, though, I tasted the best aged American sheep's milk cheese I've ever eaten: Dante. more

FOOD & DRINK

In this latest heat wave, goat cheese has become my cold compress. No, I don't apply blocks of it to my forehead, but I do find it cooling -- one glance at this icy-white goat's milk cheddar from Mount Sterling Co-op Creamery and my core temperature drops. I begin to hallucinate snow in the air, mountain goats bleating in the distance. more

FOOD & DRINK

A few Wednesdays ago, I was at the Dane County Farmers' Market when I overheard one vendor say to another, "You know what I like to do with my curds? I wrap them in arugula." A little light went off in my mind. Of course, arugula-wrapped curds. Maybe add a cherry tomato? more

FOOD & DRINK

Imagine the opposite of a breath mint, a cheese so oniony and powerful that even mice would retreat into their holes. What you have is America's own stink mint, a takeoff on Limburger that was once known as Liederkranz. more

FOOD & DRINK

Many of my friends are triple-crème lovers. Me? I don't freak for brie. I like the stinkers, and most brie is too grassy, too tame. A couple weeks ago, that changed. Oh mercy, I ate a triple-crème with an orange rind and a peanutty vibe. more

FOOD & DRINK

The taste is bracingly sharp at first, the texture firm, but then it melts on your tongue, releasing a woodsiness that reminds me of sweetgrass -- the scent of it. Along the way, lactic acid crystals release their salty, caramel notes. Extraordinary. This is a cheese that just tastes better and better the longer it sits out. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Tenaya Darlington

Hooligan, oh Hooligan, you make me feel born again. I love your rural notes -- exhaust of pick-up truck, eau de boarded-up barn. You have a boot-like rind that looks like salty leather, that smells like spruce bark. more

FOOD & DRINK

Every now and then I fantasize about writing a cookbook called "99 Kinds of Nachos". Why? I have a crazy attraction to melted cheese drizzled over chips and bits. I also like appetizers that masquerade as meals. I have toyed with sauerkraut nachos, with shredded corned beef over rye bagel chips; I have dabbled in breakfast nachos that feature bacon and chives, with a sunnyside-up egg shimmering across a layer of salsa. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Vermont Creamery

If you followed Lindsey Vonn's story during the Olympics the last couple weeks, you probably heard about how this world-class skier used cheese to help heal her bruised shin. That's right, cheese. Quark, to be more precise. Vonn applied it topically as a poultice, and it must have done the trick because she medaled -- gold, in fact. more

FOOD & DRINK

For the last month, I've been on a beet salad bender. For variety, I add scallions or caramelized leeks, along with walnuts and a crumbly cheese -- feta, chevre, mascarpone (with a dash of lemon zest), or a creamy blue all work well. Lately, I've been loving beets with gorgonzola -- Black River Gorgonzola. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Tenaya Darlington

So, there's blended Scotch, and then there's blended cheese. Take Bellavitano, a Parm-cheddar hybrid created by Sartori, a third-generation cheese company from Plymouth, Wis. It has the sweetness of a Parmesan alongside the sharpness of a cheddar, and its texture is somewhere in between: flaky and firm, not rock-hard. more

FOOD & DRINK

One of my favorite go-to books for planning a cheese board is "Cheese & Wine: A Guide to Selecting, Pairing, and Enjoying" by Janet Fletcher. It's not a comprehensive book by any means, but it's inspiring -- full of beautiful photos, interesting cheese selections from artisanal makers in the U.S. and abroad, and helpful pairing notes. more

FOOD & DRINK

I've always had a fondness for the nativity, maybe because it's theatrical, and over the years I've made visits to wax Nativity museums and sought out the live encampments that appear around town churches in late December. However, I've never owned a crèche. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Todd Striegel

I grew up eating raclette. My grandparents, who are from Switzerland, always hosted raclette parties around the holidays, filling their Cleveland house with the smell of strong cheese and boiled potatoes. My favorite part was sitting around the raclette grill, an electric table-top device, and using my own little fry pan to toast tiny portions of a meal that lasted several hours. more

FOOD & DRINK

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Tenaya Darlington

One of my favorite combinations at the Thanksgiving table is baked squash with some sort of savory stuffing. This year, I'm planning to adapt a Deborah Madison recipe that calls for cream, a leaf of sage, and a spoonful of Gruyere baked inside a mini pumpkin; instead of using Gruyere, I'm going to combine blue cheese with the cream, and a few cranks of black pepper. more

FOOD & DRINK

I'm so impressed by "The Master Cheesemakers of Wisconsin" (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), a new book by James Norton and Rebecca Dilley, I hardly know where to begin. more

FOOD & DRINK