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Cheese, please



Summer partying in Wisconsin means cheese, whether a platter of sliced selections, a creamy spread, a crumble in salads, an ingredient integral for sandwich-making or a simple bite-sized snack. Hunker back on a patio or porch, flop on a couch for a Brewers game or perch under a tree with a loaf of bread, a jug of wine, a significant other and a picnic basket. Regardless of locale, Wisconsin spins wonderfully with cheese. Here’s what area experts suggest when the weather warms.

Sweet Swiss
Brennan’s Market
19000 W. Bluemound Road, Brookfield
1670 Old School House Road, Oconomowoc

Department manager Chris Luken goes for the artisan Sweet Swiss by Wisconsin master cheesemaker Bruce Workman’s Edelweiss Dairy in Monroe. "It has a smooth and creamy texture, not a bitey Swissy-Swiss, but more of a cross between a baby Swiss and a Gouda. This is a top seller in all our stores, year-round," Luken says. He adds that Sweet Swiss goes well with crackers and slices of air-dried hard sausage from Usinger’s.

$3.99/4 ounces
Larry’s Market
8737 N. Deerwood Drive, Brown Deer

Cheese whiz Patty Ehlers Peterson suggests a fresh chevre, made in the traditional French way by Montchevre-Betin of Belmont, a central Wisconsin hub of the dairy goat industry. "It’s light, not overpowering and goes well with just about any kind of salad," she says. In addition to the shop, Larry’s Market has a booth at the Fox Point Farmers Market on Saturdays throughout the summer until early autumn.

Metro Market
1123 N. Van Buren St., Milwaukee

Executive chef Cary Dietsch favors melt-in-your-mouth Appenzeller, made only in the spring and summer in Switzerland, making the variety an "appellation of controlled origin." This cheese can only be made in a particular way by official manufacturers in the mountainous Appenzell region, before being labeled and marketed as Appenzeller. Dietsch says this semi-hard cow’s milk marvel pairs well with fresh fruit and vegetables and can be eaten with crackers, a crusty baguette or even melted on a hamburger ­­— a topping complemented with mushrooms. "Appenzeller has a rich, nutty taste. It’s nice and light, making it great for summer serving," he says.

Sendik’s Food Markets

Locations in Elm Grove, Franklin, Germantown, Grafton, Greenfield, New Berlin (opening this fall), Mequon, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay

Cheese buyer Marc Goodman opts for Saxony, a raw milk cheese from the Saxon Homestead Creamery in Cleveland, Wis. This is a light, washed-rind cheese that is slightly dry, with a mellow flavor, he says. "It’s rather like a cheddar. Nutty and balanced, making it great for putting on crackers or toasted bread and topped with a fresh sage leaf," he says, emphasizing that Saxony provides a great balance for spicy food, especially the bite of hot peppers. The cheese is made from local cows.

Marieke Gouda
West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe
Milwaukee Public Market, 400 N. Water St., Milwaukee
6832 W. Becher St., West Allis

Owner Linda Lutz swears by Marieke Gouda, made by Netherlands natives Marieke and Rolf Penterman of Holland’s Family Farm near Thorp. "This is one of the new Wisconsin cheeses," Lutz says, "a semi-hard variety that goes well with beer, either a red or white wine or a champagne." Lutz says to always serve at room temperature for the best flavor. This award-winning Gouda is a farmstead cheese, made from milk produced by the Pentermans’ own cows. "It’s phenomenal," she says.

6 Wisconsin cheeses to try this summer

Sara Hill, culinary manager of cheese education for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, has even more suggestions for summertime cheese, along with a value-added tip. "I’ve always been a wine lover, but these also really go well with any of the artisan beers from around the state," she says.

1. A fresh mozzarella from either Crave Brothers of Waterloo or one from Denmark’s BelGioioso. "I love this kind of cheese, served fresh with a slice of sun fresh tomato, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with basil. For me, that makes my summer."

2. Also from BelGioioso is Burrata, which means "buttery" in Italian. This a delicately creamy cheese, "with an upscale, rich flavor; simply delicious on crusty bread."

3. The award-winning Ader Käse reserve aged from Seymour Dairy in Seymour is a German blue that "really stands out with its mellow earth flavor, making it perfect for a summer salad."

4. Monroe’s Roth Käse Moody Blue is smoked over pear and apple wood, making it a particularly appropriate addition for a cheese platter. "Yum."

5. Big Eds is a clear rind cheese from Saxon Homestead Creamery in Cleveland, made with raw milk and "great for grilled sandwiches."

6. Roelli’s Dunbarton blue from Shullsburg is a cave-aged, small-batch cheddar with gorgeous blue veins. "This is really a great cheese, especially when served with a robust red wine."