Forty-five minutes north of my home near Chicago is a magical land of beer, cheese, and bratwurst.
Okay, that’s a gross caricature of Wisconsin, but it does feel culturally and culinarily different the moment you cross the border north on Interstate-94.
The most notable landmark in Southeastern Wisconsin is a market/restaurant/delightful tourist trap called Mars Cheese Castle. Here, you’ll find food products not widely available 45 minutes to the south: New Glarus beers, novelty foam cheeseheads, artisan sausages, local Bloody Mary mixes. But what I’m really here for are fresh cheese curds.
Cheese curds, the squeaky nubs of curdled young cheese, are certainly not exclusive to Wisconsin. Perhaps you've had them on poutine! But any Badger State bar worth its salt will likely have fried cheese curds on the menu.