(Her) Just walked in the door with my bag of cheese and charcuterie after finally stopping at Butcher Block Meats & Cheese in Oshkosh and was more than happily greeted by the dog who must have thought she hit the jackpot. As I munched on a beef stick on the way home, I decided I’d help a brother out and blog about the experience.
Check out the link for their website as it is very informative and includes what seems to be a comprehensive list of their products, links to most of their vendors, and even some yummy recipes. The place is run by a husband and wife team who divide their knowledge of all things meat and cheese between themselves. The husband seems to be the meat guy and will defer all cheese questions to Mari who has spent the last four years exploring Wisconsin’s cheese culture. (At least that’s what the website tells me) Mari’s expertise really showed as she started rattling off different varieties and makers in the area while we got into a cheese pissing contest and I bragged about being at Baumgartner’s in Monroe recently.
This store is not just about local products, it’s also about quality and knowing where your food comes from. Meat-wise, the store stocks your typical cuts of meat and chicken but also has some different stuffed chicken breasts, marinated meats, Italian meats, aged salamis, and specialty meats like elk and pheasant. You’ll see and hear all the phrases you’d want to hear like “heritage”, “free range”, “organic”, and “uncured” when it comes to speaking about the origins of your food. For you Portlandia fans, no–you will not have to join a cult. For those of you not in the know–shame on you.
Anyway, back to my meat.
I had Kim shave me some hot Coppa which is not as sexy as it sounds. Whether you call it Coppa, Coppacolla or Capicola you can keep being snooty and take your pick–it all means the same thing and translates to “pig neck” and I got mine from Smoking Goose Meatery in Indianapolis, IN.
Next, I chose a Levoni Mortadella which I am now researching and learning is an Italian company that’s been around since Mario and Luigi were boys and is able to distribute in America. I also saw a Prosciutto from Italy and was informed that there are some Italian cuts of meat that can be sold here in the US.
I picked up a pack of “Willies Snack Sticks” distributed/made by Butcher Block Meats and then to round off the meat selection: some Uncured Salami from Bolzano Artisan Meats located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What I gleaned from their website that “Bolzano Artisan Meats is the first company in Wisconsin to bring back the lost art of dry curing, and one of the only in the nation to make products from locally raised heirloom hogs.” I got hooked on aged meats when we were recently in Monroe, WI and saw them hanging out their Landjaegers and even aging Old Wisconsin sausages by hanging them for a few weeks before consuming them. This all translates to “meat/ yum” to me so I chose the Fin Oh Kee Oh Na Fennel and pepper salami based on Kim’s recommendation.
Okay, so I got a few types of cheese of course. I learned from Mari that when making an artisan cheese the cheese maker can name his/her cheese whatever the heck he wants just to confuse all you people out there who thought you knew about cheese. You will see your Cheddar, Havartis, Brick and other familiar fare at Butcher Block Meats & Cheeses, but you will see these names used less in artisan cheeses. A cheese artisan can and will name his cheese after his kids, family, or favorite goat because he can, so you really do need to rely on Mari’s descriptions for picking out cheese to try. Just tell her what you like and I’m sure she’ll find something for you. She did a great job of explaining to me the benefits of raw milk cheese, why it needs to be aged for 60 days and why soft ripened cheeses are under the gun right now with the FDA.
Anyway, I chose a Carr Valley Snow White Goat Cheddar because it has all my favorite words in it and it seemed familiar enough for the hubby to like it. I also chose a cheese simply called St. Jeanne which if my research is correct comes exclusively from Union Star in Berlin, Wisconsin.
For those of you who have made it this far into my meat and cheese foray and are thinking “this sounds expensive” I want to tell you that I bought a quarter pound of each of the sliced meats and cheeses, a pound of beef sticks, and a half pound of salami and paid about 20 dollars. There really is something for everyone at the store, and the prices are reasonable so I wouldn’t let prices keep you from stopping in.
Well, as the dog sits drooling and making wookiee noises at me, I must put away my meats and cheese for the night and will have to keep you all in suspense. While you’re waiting, I leave you with this sexy Wookiee picture to ponder.