It’s been a few days since I’ve attended the Wisconsin Cheese Throw Down at Bowers Harbor Inn, and I apologize for the delay in the post-party blog. But you see, I’ve been in a cheese coma.
This is what happens when a cheese lover attends an event showcasing a thousand-plus chunks of fine cheese and a dozen cheese-inspired gourmet dishes, all of which is washed down with her favorite local beers and wines.
Judging by the turnout (Bowers Harbor Inn, its fabulous new outdoor patio and spiffy new banquet room were all packed with scads of cheese-beer-and-wine lovin’ folks like me) a sizeable portion of the Northern population is likewise just coming to.
I’d consider being slightly ashamed about consuming (“vacuuming up” perhaps might be a more accurate term) roughly eight pounds of edible art crafted by our local chefs and paired with the liquid art crafted by our local vintners and brewers, but I’m not. Why? Because just before konking out into the aforementioned queso coma, I had the chance to feel like a bonafide cheese and drink expert.
Yep, that’s right. Of all the spectacular bites and sips I had the good luck to sample at the Throw Down, my No. 1 picks in the competition were named the winner by official judges too:
My favorite food and wine pairing was the winning Bowers Harbor Inn’s Chef Paul Olson’s Sartori Sar Vecchio Aged Parmesan in an asparagus risotto paired with L. Mawby’s Blanc De Noir wine. Not only was the food delicious and fancily named—really, who doesn’t love pretending to have an accent when announcing what she’s eating?—the presentation was fantastico. (you like that? Fantastico?) Olson served the risotto NOT with parm in it, as one might expect, but rather, with the risotto IN a crispity cup made of baked parm. Too cool, I loved it. As for Larry Mawby’s finish, come on. The man is always the master of wooing my tastebuds in just one sip. (Though they don’t much mind when I glug either.)
My favorite food and beer pairing, also a winner: Chef Ted Cizma of Grand Traverse Resort’s wee little pork flat iron sliders—slightly spicy and with a just-right tang of Roth Kase Buttermilk Blue Cheese—paired with Right Brain Brewery’s super-surprising Don Thomas Belgian Dubbel. Note: The surprise here ain’t Right Brain’s winnin’; it’s that this double-yeasted dark-yet-light beer has a slight touch of raisin sweetness to it. It sounds odd but when tasted, good God, it’s the best thing to happen to that shriveled-up fruit since the California raisins heard it through the grapevine in the 80’s.
If you were one of the few to miss last week’s Wisconsin Cheese Throw Down, don’t choke down those sobs with a can of simulated cheese spray just yet; word is, another Throw Down is in the works for next spring, and if you’ve got more sense than a block of smoked provolone, you’ll make it your business to be there. I know I will.
Can’t wait until next year? Make plans to take a trip Up North now—the summer crowds aren’t yet here, and the lodging deals are fabulous—and the opportunity to eat great cheese and drink our local wines and beers happens year round.
Plan Your Trip
Check out the lodging and great things to do in Traverse City, which will put you within easy distance of Leelanau Peninsula and Old Mission Peninsula, home to all the great wineries and the local breweries that showcased their nectars at the Throw Down.
You’ll find some great Wisconsin cheeses in lots of gourmet markets around Traverse City.
Take a virtual beer tour through some of our favorite Up North breweries.
Read all about young wunderkind brewer Joe Short of Short’s Brewery (another Throw Down participant) in Bellaire—about 40 minutes from Traverse City and worth the trip.