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The final post in our ‘Cheese Tour’ series see Parts I, II, & III) takes us to L’Etoile in Madison for a memorable meal hosted by chef Tory Miller and with guest cheesemaker Brenda Jensen of Hidden Springs Creamery in Westby, WI.  Tory is the finest chef in Wisconsin and Leslie and I both love L’Etoile (if we were in a slightly higher tax bracket, we would probably eat there constantly).  Brenda is one of the most respected farmstead sheep’s milk cheesemakers around.

Okay, for a food blogger I am reeeeaaaalllyyy bad at writing about food.  I’ll just end up using the same three adjectives over and over again.  So to spare both of us that tedium, pictures of the food can be found above, and the menu below.  As a homework assignment, you can write your own descriptions of each course.  Or not, whatever.  One part of the meal I must tell you about though, because it was simply one of the best things I have ever eaten.  Pictured in the upper right hand above, the gnocchi, made with Fatôme Farms chevrè, deep fried, served on sliced of honey crisp apples along with buttermilk blue cheese (from Roth Käse) were… cosmically good.  They were perfection.  And I didn’t order them.  Leslie did.  One perfect bite of soft gnocchi, resting serenely on a thin crunchy slice of apple was all I got.  She ate the rest. And then she asks, “Oh, did you want another bite?”

Having Brenda there to talk to was another treat.  Brenda was one of those people so passionate about what they do that it instantly rubs off on you.  She hadn’t been a cheesemaker for too long, and she only became one when she found herself living with 50 sheep and nothing else to do with the milk.  We’ve all had that problem.  Her solution was to become one of the best cheesemakers in the Driftless Region.  Our favorite is her Driftless cheese, a chèvre-like light spreadable cheese that comes in a variety of flavors (maple, pumpkin, basil and olive oil, tomato and garlic, cranberry and cinnamon, honey and lavender, and original).  It makes a great substitute for cream cheese on a bagel.   All of the writers on the tour were enamored with her and wished they could see her farm.  We’re lucky enough to only live an hour or two away, so we’re planning a trip up there this spring to see it ourselves.  Brenda, if you’re reading this, put a pot of coffee on for us!

I’d like to thank the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board for inviting us on their cheese tour.  We met many wonderful people and learned a lot about the cheesemakers in our backyard.  I’d also like to thank our fellow cheese tourists, all of whom are much finer writers than us and well worth checking out:

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