Two weeks ago, I wrote about Heather Fulton Jacobson, of North Mr. Pizza, and her cheesecakes.
Cheesecake lover I am, when it comes to cheese there is another close runner-up — cheese curds. A trip last fall to Wisconsin revealed seemingly endless opportunities to enjoy these addictive little morsels. It set me on a craving that still hasn’t ceased.
So, where are cheese curds on Rochester menus? For one, there’s the Sconsin Cheese Curds appetizer served at Dooley’s Pub. Theirs is a fresh natural white cheddar curd from Ellsworth, Wis., which is brought in lightly dusted with cracker crumbs then deep fat fried. As chef Derek Burbank noted, “You can always trust Wisconsin cheese.”
Wildwood Sports Bar and Grill offers appetizer curds from Kaufolds, Wis. These come in lightly dusted in a light flour meal breading. Once cooked and hot, they prove a palate delight, which also could be in part because of the rice-based oil used in their deep fat fryer.
At Crooked Pint Ale House, one finds, once again, an Ellsworth curd. However, here these wonderful morsels are taken a step further on the menu. Here you will find poutine served as an appetizer. This French-Canadian dish consists of a savory collage of french-fried potatoes, beef gravy, and in the classic version, “squeaky-fresh cheese curds.”
Crooked Pint’s twist on this dish, believed to have originated in Quebec, is to use breaded curds with some bacon crumbles and chopped green onion added to the dish. Chef Nick Beck notes that the beef gravy they use is prepared from scratch “Grandma’s style.”
Though known for their stuffed burgers, Crooked Pint still gets requests for their Scconi Burger, which indeed is another great way to get that “curd fix.” Here ,their specialty seasoned burger is topped with curds, lettuce, tomato and an “in house twist” on a classic bistro sauce.
Speaking of twists, beer lovers will rave over the curds served at Grand Rounds Brew Pub. Here each curd is hand-breaded in a special batter created with their Minnesota Kolsch beer. The fried curds are then presented with banana ketchup on the side, rather than the more common ranch dressing or simple tomato ketchup. All of the milk, butter, cheese and dairy products used in Grand Rounds’ kitchen is procured through WW Homestead Dairy in Waukon, Iowa.
Chester’s Kitchen & Bar, in Rochester, tops novelty, though, with their Brie Cheese Curds. Due to the nature of this cheese, it is important that these get flash-fried. The batter they are encased in is light enough not to overpower this more delicate cheese. The final texture is delightful, offering just the right bite against the ooey, gooey delight of the warm Brie.
If you want to learn more about cheese, a day or overnight trip to Wisconsin is hard to top. Simon’s Specialty Cheese Store, in Appleton, boasts 75 years of cheese-making. Besides being able to watch cheese being made, often their certified master cheesemakers are on site and will be happy to explain their craft.
Meanwhile, if you love those curds, keep looking for them on local menus, keep tasting and keep asking where the curds are from and how they are prepared.