Thursday 22 May 2014

I should really have gone for the Spotted Cow...

It's very odd, to see sitting on my kitchen bench, a (now empty) beer bottle with a label I last saw, and photographed, in Popeye's restaurant in Lake Geneva in Wisconsin. I drank it there, served with an orange slice as recommended, thinking it was a local wheat beer. Turns out, it's made in Colorado. Oops. I enjoyed it, though, so it was great, if a bit mind-blowing, to see it in the cool room of the liquor shop round the corner here in my leafy Auckland suburb.
I should have expected it though, with my history of random connections, since I was writing just yesterday about my whistle-stop tour around the state after IPW. I was considering using this photo until I looked Blue Moon up and realised it wasn't a locally-brewed beer. The theme of the story is that nobody - here in New Zealand, anyway - knows where Wisconsin is, or why you would want to go there. I certainly didn't, beforehand. Once I was there though, I had a lovely time, despite everywhere still looking brown and beaten after an unusually extreme winter. It was bizarre to see a lifeguard tower on a sandy beach lapped by water tinkling with shards of ice, with a solid cover further out. I even saw a gull swoop down and pick a frozen fish out of the water - now, would you consider that fresh, or what?
There was plenty of good food, but really you needn't go past beer and cheese. Staples of life, those two, aren't they? Wisconsin produces over 600 cheeses, which is more than France - though from what I saw, 'produce' is the active verb, and the Frogs wouldn't be impressed. The cheese I tasted was all a bit synthetic. That's not always a bad thing though: the local speciality of cheese curds, which can be flavoured or natural, then breadcrumbed and deep fried, is pretty much irresistible. There are criteria to meet, you know. The curds should be super-fresh - an hour is ideal - so that they squeak when bitten into. As if alive! But nobody mentioned to us what I was fascinated - if somewhat repelled - to discover yesterday: that they use cheese brine, a waste-product, to spray on their icy roads in winter. No-one can accuse the Cheeseheads of being unecological, eh.

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