Dream Cheeses from Four Chefs and a Writer the Q&A

Photo by Anna Thomas Bates

MADISON ESSENTIALS ONLINE

Maggie Roovers —general manager at Fresco, and previously head chef at Forequarter

What's your night cheese, that cheese you love for a quick snack and always have in your fridge? Merkts or Kaukauna cheese spreads with Ritz crackers. The Merkts horseradish flavor is a real winner in my book!

Bread, crackers, something else, or nothing to get between your mouth and the cheese? There are very few things that I would choose over a Ritz cracker. Ciabatta would be my go-to bread—something with some chew, but not too much resistance from the crust.

Raclette or fondue? Fondue! I love the communal nature of a fondue pot. I also like that it’s a sort of choose-your-own-adventure vibe.

What's your favorite cheddar age? Just a couple hours—I’ll take squeaky and bouncy over sharp any day!

Jon Rosnow —chef and owner of Common Pasta, and formerly of Heritage Tavern

Bread, crackers, something else, or nothing to get between your mouth and the cheese? I enjoy crackers with my cheese board. Thin and crispy. Strong enough to support a nice bite of a soft cheese covered in jam.

What's your favorite cooking cheese and how do you use it? I really enjoy cooking with Rush Creek Reserve; it’s so versatile. I like stuffing it inside a croquette, brûléeing on top of mushrooms, and finishing risottos with it.

Raclette or fondue? I prefer raclette. I didn’t have an appreciation for it until I lived in the Swiss Alps for a season. The simplicity and comfort of how raclette is eaten blew me away and brought me tons of joy.

What's your favorite cheddar age? I prefer a 5-year cheddar. You get a little bit of everything. Still sharp but you start to get those calcium lactate crystals. You also aren’t breaking the bank.

Daniel Bonanno —chef/partner at Pig in A Fur Coat and partner at Alimentari

What's your night cheese, that cheese you love for a quick snack and always have in your fridge? I always have a salty cheese in my refrigerator at home.

Bread, crackers, something else, or nothing to get between your mouth and the cheese? Depending on the cheese, I like bread with a great crust! I’m a big texture person, so crackers do that for me. But the cracker can’t be over the top for me. It’s all about the cheese.

Raclette or fondue? Fondue.

What's your favorite cheddar age? 15 year is perfect!

Patrick DePula —CEO/chef at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies

What's your night cheese, that cheese you love for a quick snack and always have in your fridge? Hook’s 5 year is always in my fridge.

Bread, crackers, something else, or nothing to get between your mouth and the cheese? Grilled bread, pretzel chips, crackers. I’ll tell you what though, pretzel chips and sharp cheddar are basically addictive.

What's your favorite cooking cheese and how do you use it? Sartori SarVecchio. It goes in so many dishes at the restaurants. From bucatini carbonara, shrimp scampi, rigatoni Bolognese to market salad. Runner-up would be our workhorse cheese: Wisconsin whole milk mozzarella. And our Woodman pizza is very popular; it features Pleasant Ridge Reserve from Uplands Cheese.

Raclette or fondue? Raclette, salted potatoes, and cornichons.

What's your favorite cheddar age? 5 years. Old enough to develop interesting nuances, but not so old as to be a special occasion cheese.

Jane Burns —freelance writer who frequently writes about cheese

What's your night cheese, that cheese you love for a quick snack and always have in your fridge? I think I could really rock a Liz Lemon look by wrapping myself in a Snuggie and eating Rush Creek Reserve (Uplands Cheese) by the spoonful.

Bread, crackers, something else, or nothing to get between your mouth and the cheese? Open mouth, insert cheese, all by its lonesome. If there is bread or crackers, it’s more as a nibbly little side.

What's your favorite cooking cheese and how do you use it? I don’t much use cheese as an ingredient, but when I do, I’m kind of lazy and use grocery store shredded stuff. But any time I make something with cheese, like a broccoli cheese soup, I’ll also shred some Hook’s 5-Year Cheddar to give it some bite. I almost always have black pepper BellaVitano in the fridge to shred onto pasta, salads, or whatever might need a smidge of cheese. Or just eat.

Raclette or fondue? Probably raclette because the mere mention of the word fondue brings back memories of early 1980s fondue parties that were nothing more than dipping chunks of bread into some truly awful Swiss cheese.

What's your favorite cheddar age? This is like asking a parent who their favorite child is, right? Barring the privilege of being able to mainline 20 year, I like 10. With the ones I get, it’s still hanging on to a bit of creamy but has aged past the big bitter years. I’m particularly fond of Forgotten Valley’s 10-year cheddar for a couple reasons. It’s creamy and a little sweet with a little bite. Also, it’s a sentimental thing; with a cheese that’s 10 years old, that means I’m still eating cheese made by Forgotten Valley’s head cheesemaker, Hans Lehner, who died in 2014. We went to high school together, and he is much missed.