Last weekend in Seattle, The American Cheese Society held its annual conference and competition to announce the best artisan cheeses in the land. For cheese lovers, the event was appropriately titled "Cheese-a-topia," with a bounty of fine cheese producers gathering to showcase their best work. The winner of "Best in Show" from Saturday's competition just happened to be nearby cheese producer Uplands Cheese of Dodgeville, WI, just three hours north of Aurora.
The winning cheese is the Extra Aged Pleasant Ridge Reserve, a hard cheese in the style of a Gruyere that is full of flavor that can only be found in the unique milk of the cows on this Wisconsin farm. "We make Pleasant Ridge Reserve only during the summer months, while our cows are grazing on fresh pasture," according to the Uplands Cheese website. "This milk is full of flavor — and nutritional qualities -— not found in the milk of cows kept inside and fed stored feed. We use only fresh milk that is never pasteurized, and age the cheese in ripening rooms on our farm to ensure that our cheese expresses all of the flavor complexity possible in a grass-fed, raw-milk cheese."
Pleasant Ridge reserve is not new to awards. Most notably, it was named Best of Show at both the 2001 and the 2005 American Cheese Society competitions, making it the only cheese in that competition's history to win the top honor twice. It was also named the US Champion Cheese in the 2003 and is the only cheese ever to win both national competitions, according to the producers.
Uplands Cheese Company is owned and operated by two families: Mike and Carol Gingrich and Dan and Jeanne Patenaude. After years of farming separately as neighbors, in 1994 they bought the farm together. The cheese is made only from milk on the farm, which makes it a farmstead cheese.
This prestigious cheese will excite Fox Valley foodies who want to try the very best. You can order it online or find it in Chicago at Pastoral, a specialty food store that carries a wide variety of artisan cheese. Another way to get the cheese is tell the manager of your favorite store that you would like to see it in stock. For fine dining options, Vie in Western Springs currently features the cheese on its menu as part of a dessert cheese plate. Call ahead to make sure it is still available.