What product most definitely says Wisconsin? Well, for those of you not familiar with America’s Dairyland, cheese would be tops on the list. With that in mind, what if you mixed a cheese shop, that resides within the state’s borders, with other products that proclaim the Badger State? You get a destination that anyone visiting, or with an appreciation of the thirtieth addition to the union, would absolutely need to check out. Oh, and throw in some locally fermented wines and beers, and wah-lah, the ultimate Wisconsin cheese shop is born. A shop fitting that description exists in Appleton.
Appleton is located, if traveling by automobile, about a half an hour south of Green Bay. Today’s selected destination, Simon’s Specialty Cheese, resides right along I-41 making it an ‘on the way spot’ for those traveling north and south in the eastern portion of the state. This would especially hold true, should you be making the trek northward to take in a Packer game.
I found this place while searching a list of creameries and dairies in the area. Simon’s Specialty Cheese boasted some pretty cool elements that led me to choose it for this week’s installment. First, the shop shares a parking lot with a large cheese factory, which is part of a conglomerate. In fact, owners of Simon’s are also high ranking brass at the corporation that owns the factory. Yet, even if there seems to be some corporate influence at Simon’s, it is still a family owned shop from generations of cheesemakers.
Second, this is more than just your average cheese shop. It offers other local businesses a chance at a buck as well. Wineries, such as Algoma’s Von Stiehl and Keewanee’s Parallel 44, are front and center in the shop’s abundant wine rack. Sodas, from Baumeister to Point, sitting in Simon’s coolers, steer away from the two corporate giants, you know who they are, and put local twists on American staples. There’s also local craft beers to buy. Add some concoctions to cheese, like artisan and award winning specialty cheeses and its already a great slice of Wisconsacana…I made up that word. And, oh by the way, I haven’t even mentioned the cheese curds.
So on with my shopping escapade for all Wisconsin things edible….
It’s relatively a short drive south from Green Bay. Around eighteen minutes to be exact, and on the schedule today lies a fun destination. When I arrive, I’m a little apprehensive about my choice. Actually, I’m wondering if what I envisioned when reading the description and what is here is even remotely the same. I stand before the most mundane one story corrugated metal and brick building you could imagine. Set on a weathered parking lot that also plays host to a hulking, ugly cheese factory, the shop’s exterior doesn’t strike me as a ‘must see’ cheese shop. I feel I’ve swung and missed this particular go round.
That sensation lingers until I walk through the single glass door into the store. Then, as I survey signs for handmade pizza and fudge among others, foam cheese heads along the walls, coolers full of cheese and tons of other Wisconsin products, I realize this is exactly what I envisioned. I wanted a Wisconsin shop, I got a Wisconsin shop!
Off to my right lie Wines I’m very familiar with, having visited a few of the wineries in the past. I know cheese and wine is seen as something luxuriant, meant to relax in an Old World European way. When the products come from right here in Northeast Wisconsin, I feel as if we took out the Old World and are just relaxing the way Wisconsinites do. And believe me, that is quite alright.
Residing in the coolers, I find artisan and specialty cheeses, along with summer sausage, cheese spreads and other delectable goodies. My favorite Simon’s signature cheese, at least by name alone, is the Chocolate Cheese Fudge. Seriously, such a curious combination deserves perusal and purchase. There are tons of other cheeses to choose from.
Besides the obvious food choices, I find Packer memorabilia, wicker baskets, indoor décor, craft beers and so much more. I’ve mentioned it in the intro, I find Wisconsin soda brands available for purchase. There’s also a fudge counter.
I just came to check this place out, however, yep, I’m going to purchase a few things. I don’t know if its the ambiance, that says nothing more than the local cheese shop with a few extras thrown in, or if it’s just being immersed in an atmosphere that boasts some fine products from my homeland, but I’m not leaving here empty handed.
I should also mention that much of the food is not ‘Souvenir’ pricey. You know what I mean, they lured Joe Shmoe tourist into their shop, conveniently placed on the highway, so he’s going to buy all the Wisconsin products he can. Joe does this because he doesn’t know when he’ll get back and really doesn’t care how much he pays for it. That’s not the case here. I actually buy a wedge of artisan cheese for three bucks. That’s very reasonable.
I haven’t mentioned Simon’s gift baskets. If you’re in Wisconsin, a basket of cheese and sausage is a great gift for the person who seemingly has everything. Some baskets are a little pricey, however some fall in my spending range. I don’t buy one, but its a great Idea for next Christmas.
I pick some Items for purchase and make it to the checkout. There, a clerk informs me that this place will be featured on the Discovery channel. I can see why. For anyone visiting Wisconsin, true staples of this midwestern land are on display here. It’s more than cheese, complete with souvenirs of its own.
Okay, maybe a flannel is not what you’d anticipate when entering a cheese shop, but it speaks to the type of man that has graced this state for generations!