I can't say it enough: Americans need to start thinking regionally about food. Why? Because thinking regionally supports a community's inherent culture and history. Buying regionally supports a local economy, which fosters more American-made foods and goods and in turn makes all Americans more proud to be here.
Ken Monteleone, the founder of Fromagination in Wisconsin, had that same "light-bulb moment" back in 2007. He left his corporate purchasing job and decided to open his Wisconsin-sourced cheese shop.
"I never looked backed. I love the industry and the people. The wonderful cheese they produce keeps me wanting more!" he told me.
Their selection focuses on traditional, full-flavored styles, and they forge strong, long lasting partnerships with the cheesemakers.
"We get to know our producer. We visit their farm. We want to know how the animals are treated and understand what they are grazing on," said Ken.
If you're a cheese enthusiast, you are probably well aware that Wisconsin is the American capital of big industrial cheese, but it is also a state with over 100 years of wisdom and knowledge of the specialty artisan craft. Similarly to European practices, cheesemaking Wisconsinites rely on their dairy neighbors to preserve this collective history.
"Wisconsin wins more awards for cheese than any other state. Our cheesemakers partner with one another, and they share ideas to keep the tradition alive and thriving," Ken said.
There are new Wisconsin cheeses emerging every year, which makes it exciting to check back on the Fromagination website for what new producers they discover. Cheesemakers are moving to the state from all over the world. Why?
"The land, soil, and weather are perfect for cheese making, not to mention all the systems in place to train and continue to build one's craft. We are the only state to offer a Master Cheese Maker's degree," Ken stated proudly.
In turn, by purchasing Wisconsin cheeses through Fromagination, you are helping to grow the vast number of specialty cheese makers in the American industry. Who can say no to that?
I asked Ken what his Wisconsin perfect pairing would be. His favorite, "New Glarus Spotted Cow Beer with Hook's 10 year cheddar and Wisconsin Door County Cherries." If you'd like more ideas, I put together a few of my favorite pairings below, as well.
Fromagination is our partner for the month of May: when you purchase a Grotto, you also receive 15% off their entire Wisconsin cheese selection online.
Fromagination Dried Apple with Uplands Cheese Company's Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
Fromagination's Signature Pepper Parmesan Crackers and Cranberry Relish, paired with Hook's 10 Year Cheddar.
Fromagination's Dried Orange Slice with Landmark Creamery's Pecora Nocciola.
All photography is by Jess Hitt.