Hey there ACS fans and friends! I know you’re traveling to Madison for the American Cheese Society this week, and you might be worrying about how to fit into our cosmopolitan world class city. Here’s my first word of advice: leave the stilettos at home and pack your Birkenstocks. Then follow these five suggestions to become a true member of America’s Dairyland.
1. Eat deep fried cheese curds until you’re sick
Just like Friday fish fries, Jell-O salads, and beer brats, deep-fried cheese curds are uniquely Wisconsin. In downtown Madison, dozens of restaurants offer deep-fried curds as an appetizer or side, and some are even transforming the once lowly fair-food into a top-shelf item. Around the Square, check out the deep fried beauties at The Old Fashioned, Tipsy Cow or Graze. For best results, pair with a local craft beer, because it’s always best to mix hot oil and cheese with a little fermented yeast.
2. Drink beer with a cheesemaker
Madison is home to a thriving craft beer culture, with a half dozen brewpubs located within a couple blocks of the Square. On July 31, buy a $10 Pub Crawl ticket at the ACS Registration desk and buy a pint to drink with one of 18 different Wisconsin cheesemakers hanging out at six different downtown taverns. Visit them all, and you can enter to win a free ACS Registration for next year.
3. Get your shop on down State Street
Madison is a university town, and in the fall, winter and spring, State Street – a pedestrian-only, six-block shopping boulevard – is crowded with students. In good news, it’s summer, so you’ll have it to yourself. Full of eclectic shops and restaurants, State Street is THE place to see and be seen in Madison. Walk to the end and enjoy an ice cream cone at the UW-Madison Union, and sit on the pier while watching sailboats cruise Lake Mendota.
4. Eat a picnic on the Capital lawn
During the lunch hour and extending well into the afternoon, the four sides of the state capital lawn transform into the city’s unofficial picnic spot for downtown workers and visitors. Grab a sandwich and cheese plate from Fromagination, walk across the street, and people watch as you enjoy a cheesy snack. Warning: the lawn is famous for its influx (some might say infestation) of squirrels, so guard that sandwich accordingly.
5. Explore the Capital City Path via B Cycle
A paved bike/walking path starts downtown and rings Lake Monona, enticing many a visitor to hop on a rented bicycle or hoof it around the lake. Buy a B-Cycle pass for just $3 – a special discount for conference attendees from the normal $5 rate (there are two stations on West Wilson, on either side of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, just one block up from the Monona Terrace) – and explore the Capital City Path for an afternoon on wheels. Find information about public restroom stops and drinking fountains at Bike Madison. Be sure and stop to feed the ducks your leftover sandwich on Lake Monona or enjoy the sunset in Olin Park. Pedal back before dark to enjoy the view of the Capital lit up at night.
Of course, it goes without saying that I’ll see you all on Saturday at the Dane County Farmer’s Market, which surrounds the Capital Square, and is the largest producer-only farmer’s market in the nation. See you there!