Most of you know last Thursday as the day that Twitter, Facebook and other social networking sites were brought down by DDoS attacks.  It was too easy to jump to the conclusion that both services had gone mad with commentary on my 40th birthday.  In the end it was a "good thing" -- I had vowed to have a mostly data-free long weekend celebrating the big four oh.

I'm not the type who needed a big blowout to celebrate the conclusion of forty years on this planet.  It wasn't possible, anyway, with Deborah at 30 weeks into the pregnancy -- no flights, no dim sum in Hong Kong, no tapas in Barcelona.  Earlier in the summer, we decided that a nice roadtrip would be a perfectly acceptable milestone, and easier on the budget with a free weekend night and some points.  About the same time, Bon Appetit magazine had an ad in it labeled "A foodie fantasy", which advertised a sort of "Wisconsin Great Cheese Trail" in the south and central sections of the state near Madison.  It sounded perfect, and the Sheraton Madison even happily accepts dogs (our b!tch was on the club level, no less) so we brought Payton along for the ride, too.


We set out on Thursday morning and visited three cheese trail stops along the way -- Chalet Cheese dairy, Roth Käse, and the Swiss community of New Glarus.  On Friday, we visited Carr Valley cheeses in Mauston and Cedar Grove in Plain.  On Saturday, we bought cheese from vendors at the Dane County farmers market, including Blue Mont and a few select varieties from Fromagination.  We also took up tour tips for dining in Madison -- L'Etoile, a farm-to-table restaurant, printed special "Happy 40th Ed" menus; the Sheraton had a welcome treat in my room; we had lunch at the Old Fashioned; and had excellent southeast Asian/Laotian food at Lao Laan-Xang.  (Lest you think this trip was all about food -- I also brought my bike and did a whole bunch of riding on Madison's amazing trail system.  Williamson Bike shop saved my butt, too, when a tire ruptured -- turned it around in just a few hours).

Now, having grown up 30 miles south of Wisconsin, cheese has always been big in my food life -- but it was a trip to Italy three years ago where I discovered artisan cheese (a young Pecorino is still way high on my list) and started to explore more.  I had hoped visiting the dairies that produce these cheeses would be educational as well as tasty, but on that front, I was disappointed.  Even the cheesemongers who advertised site visits or tours really had nothing more than observation windows on big stainless steel vats of stuff.  I had hoped to learn more about cheese production, how different cheeses are made and flavored, see the aging process...yeah no.  It was a WHOLE LOT of driving with very little payback.  A little disappointed in that regard, especially since the rolling hills of Wisconsin offer little in the way of visual variety -- there are only so many cornfields and cow herds you can see in a lifetime.

Still, my 40th was memorable, and my wife really made it special -- starting with my gift, an introductory flight lesson at Palwaukee Airport (I've wanted to learn to fly for a long time), making arrangements with the hotel and restaurant for little surprises, and indulging my hunt for cheese.   In the end, it looks like I bought about a dozen different kinds of cheese -- and clearly could have bought 50 more.  What am I going to do with all of it?  I think, in the remaining weeks before the baby comes, it's time for a cheese party.  No (Kraft) singles, please.

A few pics here >

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