As you probably know, Mother’s Day was this past Sunday. So, it was time to do some shopping for mom. It’s a tough thing for me. Sometimes, and I hate to admit it, I do the thoughtless thing and just buy a basket of flowers. That’s the standard ‘go to’ when I haven’t really spent anytime pondering a gift. And after over forty years of purchasing a Mom’s Day present, new and surprising gifts are hard to find.
Yet, by accident, I stumbled upon a place that spurned a new Idea. I guess you could call it a destination. It certainly does feature a top Wisconsin draw-cheese. Yet, instead of your run of the mill Dairyland cheese shop, this offers something a little more, shall I say, refined.
I drive into a strip mall parking lot located on Monroe rd south of 172, realizing that this is not my average blog topic. As I do, I see the name of the establishment emblazoned in a font that appears to be derived from handwriting; ‘Nala’s Cheese and Wine’. Underneath the sign, glass panels reflect the mundane contents of the parking lot. I sigh, this is the second week in a row where I’ve doubted the place I’ve selected is blogworthy.
As I walk in, I’m greeted by an elegant interior. Wood meshes well with an abundance of wine and a meager cheese case. However, even if I was expecting a larger stage for the age milked products, what’s in it is about to surprise me.
As I surmise what’s before me, a polite woman asks if she can help me. I had studied their brochure and read they offered cheese tasting. Their artisan cheeses come from around the world, which is not typical in this area. Some would say it’s darn right sacrilege. I, on the other hand, feel that a Green Bay resident should get a chance to purchase fine cheeses from around the globe.
I must make known, if it isn’t from Wisconsin and a basic cheese I’m really clueless about dairy products. Which is alright in this place because my host explains all about them. I discover a Spanish sheep’s milk cheese Italian goat cheese and some Wisconsin products as well. I cringe at the price some sell for, almost $40 dollars a pound. Yet, most of these are meant for nibbling, not to top off your cheeseburger. So a smaller amount is required to satisfy your taste buds.
I’m a little bit of a chicken, plus I’m a Wisconsinite through and through, so I select a homegrown bleu to taste. She cuts the smallest of samples and allows me to try it. It’s the slightest of bites yet the taste explodes inside my mouth. First, its slightly sour but then a rich creamy taste culminates across my taste buds. I feel fulfilled with the modest slice. I try the rest of my sample, it’s still good but nothing beats the first bite. This particular block, which is your typical grocery store size, sells for $6.10. I’m sold, however, ask her to cut it in half. It’s a grand total of $3.00.
After she wraps and bags my cheese, I ask about the wines-Particularly the chardonnays. She asks what I look for in a chardonnay and I’m probably wearing a deer in the headlights look. “I don’t know a thing about wine, I just prefer chardonnay.”
A man walks buy an encourages her to sell me their most expensive vintage, jokingly of course. She waives him off and explains to me, “Just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better.” Then she asks, “Do you prefer the oak flavor? That’s why I asked what you look for in a chardonnay.” I like this woman, she’s making me smarter and saving me money.
I do know, from winery tastings, that sometimes the hint of the wood barrel can be detected in the wine. I do like this. “Yes the oak flavor would be cool.”
“I like this one here.” She shows me a bottle with a tag of $11.50. Now that’s more reasonable, the passerby’s suggestion was $68 dollars. I don’t buy wine today, but keep this in mind for future reference. I thank her and make my way out.
It may not be a tourist destination per say. Yet, Nala’s is a place that adds a little flavor to the city of Green Bay. I do urge you to taste some artisan cheese from across the globe. You can sample anything in their case. Also, select vintages are available for wine tasting. And if you’re not interested in these delectable treats, you could buy for someone that is!