Most of us don’t need an excuse to indulge in ice cream, frozen custard, cheese or any other number of dairy-filled delights. But if you are looking for one, I’ve got your number.
June is National Dairy Month, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate the wealth of amazing products produced right here in our home state.
Here are 10 dairy-licious items to get you started.
1. Pancake Battered Cheese Curds from Black Sheep
Most restaurants in the Milwaukee area source their cheese curds from Wisconsin. In fact, a good number of them source fresh, squeaky curds from Clock Shadow Creamery in Walker’s Point. Among them is Black Sheep, a restaurant located just a few blocks from the unique urban creamery.
And yes, those ultra-fresh curds are part of what makes their unique pancake battered cheese curds shine. The huge fluffy curds are perfectly fine eaten on their own, but a dip into the accompanying maple syrup really does make them delicious (and brunch-worthy).
2. Pizza from Lou Malnati’s
Lou Malnati’s may have originated in Chicago, but the creamy, flavorful mozzarella cheese that takes their pizza to the next level is pure Wisconsin.
Even more incredible is that Lou Malnati’s has been sourcing mozzarella cheese from the same small dairy farm in Wisconsin for over 40 years.
“These guys are excellent at what they do, and they’ve made us great,” says Marc Malnati, who credits the flavor and texture of the cheese with helping to set their pizza apart from the rest.
When you look at the stats, it all makes sense. After all, 90% of the milk produced in Wisconsin is made into cheese. And 33% of the cheese produced is mozzarella.
3. The flavor of the day from Leon’s Frozen Custard
There are few things more classic than Wisconsin frozen custard. And Leon’s, while not the oldest, is among a shrinking number of classic stands in the Milwaukee area. Founded in 1942, the stand took on its signature retro canopy and fluorescent sign in the 1950s, making it the perfect backdrop for modern Instagram moments.
Leon’s doesn’t have many flavors, and they don’t get very fancy. You’ll find vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan daily, plus one of five rotating flavors (strawberry, raspberry, mint, maple nut and – the newest addition – blue moon). But Leon’s custard is silky and never too sweet. That probably has something to do with the fact that it’s proudly made with a base containing Wisconsin milk.
4. Truffles from Indulgence Chocolatiers
The chocolate used in the sweet creations from Indulgence Chocolatiers might come from abroad, but the treats are also filled with rich, high quality dairy products sourced from local farms through the Braise Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) program.
Owner Julie Waterman says that every handmade truffle is filled with rich, custom-flavored ganache made with cream from Sassy Cow Creamery. In fact, the chocolatier estimates she uses between 15 and 20 gallons of cream per week at their Walker’s Point kitchen.
Add to that the 30 to 60 pounds of butter they go through each week (an amount which tops 120 pounds per week during the holiday season) to make their ultra buttery toffee and you’ve got an impressive amount of dairy moving through just one small business.
5. Cheese-E-Que from Clock Shadow Creamery
Wisconsin is home to 1,200 licensed cheesemakers who produce over 600 types of cheese.
A number of them are produced right here in Milwaukee at Clock Shadow Creamery. Maybe best known for its ultra-fresh, squeaky cheese curds, the creamery also produces around nine cheeses on site (plus numerous flavor varieties, including flavored cheddar cheeses). They also carry a wide selection of cheeses made at their sister creamery, Cedar Grove Cheese in Plain, Wisconsin.
Among them is Cheese-E-Que, a unique grilling cheese inspired by Queijo Coalho, a South American cheese popular in Brazil.
Bob Wills, owner of Cedar Grove Cheese and Clock Shadow Creamery, says the idea for the cheese was inspired by Queijo Cualjo, a cheese that’s skewered and cooked on a hibachi by vendors on beaches in Brazil.
“I heard that and I thought it was the most ‘Milwaukee’ idea I had ever heard,” he says. “Perfect for tailgating or backyard barbecues.”
In turn, Wills developed Cheese-E-Que, a “Milwaukee” version of the cheese that’s texturally similar to other grilling cheeses like halloumi, queso fresco, juustoleipa or saganaki. But here’s the catch: It comes in two varieties – plain and bratwurst.
Both the plain and Bratwurst Cheese-E-Que are vegetarian. But thanks to a unique combination of flavorings, the bratwurst cheese takes on a salty, meaty flavor that’s extraordinarily similar to the classic Wisconsin sausage. It’s pretty wild. The cheese can be grilled (indoors or out), deep fried (giving it an exterior crust a bit like a cheese curd but sans gluten), or seared on a pan or flat grill. Any way you choose, you’ll get a soft warm hug of tasty cheese with a pleasantly crisp exterior.
Pair the warm salty cheese with fruit, jam, chutney or hot honey to serve as a fun, unexpected appetizer. Or, if you’d prefer, you could throw a nice fat slice on a bun (maybe with sweet relish) and enjoy it much like a brat.
6. The Wisconsin Cheese Board from West Allis Cheese & Sausage
Did you know that 48% of the specialty cheese made in the U.S. comes from Wisconsin? Our beautiful state also produces one out of every four pounds of cheese made in the U.S., including hometown favorites like colby and brick.
Those are two cheeses you’ll find on the Wisconsin cheese board at the West Allis Cheese & Sausage Shoppe cafe, which also showcases classic supper club style cheese spread, Nueske’s liver pate and summer sausage. It’s an amazing collection of classic flavors that are oh-so-classic Wisconsin.
7. The Cheesehead Burger from Crafty Cow
Speaking of Wisconsin, is there a better place to eat burgers? I think not. And there might be no burger in the state that’s more over-the-top in terms of dairy than the stuffed Cheesehead Burger at Crafty Cow.
This monster burger is stuffed with five delectable Wisconsin cheeses (American, cheddar, Swiss, pepper jack and muenster) and then topped with bacon, cheese sauce and Wisconsin cheese curds ($14.50). Of course, you can take it to another level by adding even more Wisconsin goodness by adding macaroni and cheese for an extra $2. Cheese-a-rific.
8. Margherita flatbread from Glorioso’s
Fans flock to Glorioso’s for favorite items like the Human Torch and Meatball sandwiches. But the Italian deli also puts out a number of delicious flatbreads including the classic Margherita, a delicious creation featuring Trio’s pizza sauce, roma tomatoes, fresh Wisconsin mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic glaze ($6.99). It’s a beautiful mash-up of fresh and cooked tomatoes, mild cheese and fragrant basil that gets an extra pop from the sweet balsamic.
Although Italian cheeses are (naturally) a large feature at the market, general manager Michael Glorioso says that they also make it a point to use and promote Wisconsin cheeses.
“We’re using Wisconsin Italian cheeses across the board in our food service,” he says. “Some of them are as good or even better than Italian cheeses. That’s particularly true of fresh cheeses – like burrata and fresh mozzarella – which just taste better when they are made here.”
9. Ice Cream Flight from Purple Door
It’s no surprise that Purple Door Ice Cream is dedicated to the use of Wisconsin Dairy in its ice creams. After all, thanks to the soil and geography in our state, the flavor of Wisconsin milk is beyond compare (and yes, that makes our Wisconsin cows just as happy, if not happier, than those in California).
But to get the full Wisconsin treatment at the scoop shop, you gotta order up an ice cream flight. This one features four of the most Milwaukee flavors they make: Purple Moon, Beer & Pretzels, Whiskey and Blackberry Quark.
The Purple Moon is Purple Door’s answer to a Midwestern classic: Ble Moon. Its purple color comes from raspberry puree and its flavor is fruity and citrus forward with a hint of almond, giving it a tropical “fruity pebbles” flavor.
You can’t get more Milwaukee than Beer & Pretzels, and this ice cream features them both. You’ll find chocolate flecks, crunchy pretzels and an ice cream base that offers a hint of beer flavor right on the end.
Meanwhile, the Whiskey flavor incorporates Great Lakes Distillery Kinnickinnic Whiskey into a smooth creamy base that (likely due to the alcohol) seems to melt a bit faster than other Purple Door flavors. Let it warm on your tongue and you’ll get the caramel and vanilla notes of the whiskey. You might also sense an unexpected flavor: a hint of banana.
Last, but not least, you’ve got the Blackberry Quark, a collaboration with Clock Shadow Creamery where Purple Door launched its first retail shop. This flavor is full-on berry with a creaminess that’s reminiscent of luscious cheesecake.
10. Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac from MACs
880 S. Moorland Road, Brookfield, (262) 395-4802
120 W. Town Square Way, Oak Creek, (414) 215-7733
Craving macaroni and cheese? You’ll find it at MACS, a Wisconsin Dells born concept launched by husband and wife team Nick and Jackie Morse in 2013. The brand, known for signature dishes like the popular Loaded Baked Potato Mac and Jalapeno Popper Mac, incorporates Wisconsin-sourced cheeses (from cheddar and mozzarella to jack and blue) into all of its macaroni and cheese dishes and grilled cheese melts.
Their Chicken Bacon Ranch Mac begins with sauce made with American, cheddar and mozzarella that cloaks ribbed elbow macaroni, specifically chosen to capture and hold onto the sauce. Topped with shredded chicken and more cheese, it’s baked in the oven and served up hot in a cast iron skillet topped with tangy ranch dressing and bacon bits.
Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club.
When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.