You’re going to hear about how it debuted at a fancy dinner at L’Etoile in downtown Madison, where three James Beard award-winning chefs prepared a seven-course dinner for 70 people.
You’re going to hear about how expensive it is – $209 a pound – and how there’s very little to be had, because most of it is pre-sold or already reserved.
You’re going to hear about how surprisingly creamy it is for a 20-year piece of Cheddar, and how the calcium lactate crystals crunch in your mouth like pop rocks. And guess what? All of these things are true.
What you’re likely to hear less about, is that tonight, Tony and Julie Hook donated $40,000 – half of all proceeds from their 20-year cheddar — to the new Babcock Hall/Center for Dairy Research Building Fund at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
“I said when we started this, that if I got a cheddar to make it to 20 years, I’d donate half the money to the Center for Dairy Research,” Tony said. “Well, I meant it. We’re proud of the work they’re doing and looking forward to a new facility.”
Ground is expected to be broken this summer on the new Babcock Hall, which will be a state-of-the-art facility at UW-Madison with 20,000 square feet dedicated to a new Center for Dairy Research and dairy processing space with specialty ripening rooms to manufacture and experiment with mold and surface ripened cheeses. The building is expected to be finished in 2018.
Many, many thanks to the Hook’s team for making such an amazing cheese and for their generosity to the the industry. And a big thank you to chefs Tory Miller, Justin Aprahamian and Justin Carlisle for a fabulous dinner with seven courses featuring Hook’s Cheddar from young to old.
First off, all three chefs each created a cheese curd dish: top right with Kimchi by Miller, bottom with pesto and pickled rhubarb by Aprahamian, and left with truffles, Buddha’s hand and koshu from Carlisle.
Next, Miller created a 2-year Hook’s Cheddar “nacho” with chorizo, picled jalapeno and cilantro.
The first official course (the previous were bonus starter courses) was charred asparagus, rhubarb-hickory nut salumera and shaved 5-year Hook’s Cheddar from Miller.
Second course was one of my top 10 favorite dishes ever: Hook’s 10-Year Cheddar soup, with pepper, beer vinegar, popcorn wafers and chives by Carlisle.
Third course: 15-year Hook’s Cheddar with roasted veal breast, apricot and turnip by Aprahamian. One of our table mates had to stop mid-chew because he was “having a moment” and never wanted this dish to end.
Cheese course: Hook’s 20-year Cheddar. The dining room applauded after the first taste (and Wisconsin Foodie recorded our reactions).
Dessert: curd cheesecake with rhubarb, meringue, basil and delicious mystery pink ice by Carlisle.
Many, many thanks to all three chefs, L’Etoile, the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and the Hook’s Cheese team for making tonight’s dinner happen. Wisconsin salutes you!