Some people go to Madison, WI to go to college; some go for the beer; some have no choice if they want to get to Chicago from the Twin Cities. I go to Madison to grocery shop. I bring coolers and a shopping list and hit the ground running.
The first stop is the Norske Nook in Osseo, WI for their award winning pie. Through the years they’ve won a total of 16 ribbons at the National Pie Championship in Florida. Although their custard (made with 14 egg yolks) is a personal favorite and the butterscotch was hard to pass up, this year we sampled raspberry white chocolate and coconut pineapple dream. The raspberry white chocolate was our favorite. Although it’s been a first place winner, I was disappointed in the coconut pineapple dream. The coconut cream layer just wasn’t very creamy. They can’t all be home runs. With leftovers stored in the cooler, it was on to Mauston for award-winning Wisconsin cheese.
I won’t stop at just any cheese store with a giant mouse and a cheddar wedge sitting out front. I love Carr Valley cheese. They’ve been in business over 100 years and make cheese the old-fashioned way. They won 16 ribbons and two Best in Show awards at the 2008 American Cheese Society Competition. They make traditional cheeses, some incredible artisanal cheeses using cow, goat and sheep milks, and of course, fabulous curds. They have a new store right off of Interstate 90/94 at the Mauston exit so I can zip in, buy more cheese than I need, and get right back on the road.
My choices this time were wildflower cheddar, cocoa cardona, black sheep truffle, bread cheese, peppa-gouda, fontina, canaria, creama kasa, and sweet vanilla cardona. And of course a bag of curds in case we got hungry on the road. Actually I know some people that can make the trip from the Twin Cities to Madison without stopping for any food. Huh. That doesn’t sound like much fun.
We made good time to Madison so I decided to go to Bavaria Sausage right away and not wait until Saturday. I originally heard about this place from a Tony Bourdain cookbook. If there’s such a thing as a Disneyland of smoked, cured and ground meat, this is it! I opened the door of the car and the aroma of the smokehouse wafted in. I couldn’t wait to start shopping. Their creamy braunschweiger is like butter. It’s the best I’ve ever had and I’ve been eating braunschweiger for as long as I can remember. Brats, wursts, kielbasas, summer sausages, dry cured sausages, hams, the list goes on . . . it’s all made, and cured and smoked in-house. And there’s all the stuff to go with it there plus a wall of imported candy. We stocked up on our personal favorite, Kinder Buenos.
With one cooler full we finally made it to our destination. Dinner was at our favorite pizza place, Glass Nickel. Ben’s favorite is the Pepperoni Pile On sandwich, and my favorite is the Fetalicious pizza with sausage. Time for bed and dreams of the Dane County Farmer’s Market.