Aug. 24 is my half birthday, and it was a good half birthday at that… until disaster struck.
This year on Aug. 24, it was confirmed that our time-honored Curdfest would need to be postponed due to the extreme flooding sweeping across Madison. It wasn’t just postponed a little, it was postponed an entire month. Patiently I waited.
Then the Wisconsin-Iowa game kickoff was announced — a night game. Quick calculations told me that this was translating into a game-ending at around 11 p.m. with a tired Badger rolling back into Madison at 4 a.m.
Needless to say, when I sauntered my tired and sore butt into Breese Stevens Field on Sunday around Noon, I was ready for a cheese-induced turf-nap. The cheese gods blessed us with sunny skies and a dry field (was it just me or was there a definite hint of beer aroma in the grass from OctoBeerFest the day before…?).
Most of us shook our shoes off, sat down with our boats of cheese and cruised through the music lineup. Since the entire event was free admission, there was a constant flow of people ebbing in and out.
The great part about Curdfest is that they make sure there is a nice selection of both deep-fried and fresh, squeaky cheese curds.
Here are some of the vendors I stopped by:
Tristan Straub and Matt Phelps
These guys are responsible for the food over at the Madison Mallards and Breese Stevens, and they had a lot to choose from. My favorite from their camp was the Elote Curds.
They had me sold at jalapeno curds, and it just got better from there. Served with roasted corn, garlic aioli, onion, and cilantro, it was clearly a crowd favorite. But as I said, they took up six whole tents at the festival.
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Their other concoctions included Truffle Curds and Hoisin Glazed Curds (hoisin is a traditional Chinese sauce that’s popular for stir fry’s, but is popular in Vietnamese cuisine as well, usually served with spring rolls).
Also, Shawarma Curds, which I thought was the most original concept, served with Tzatziki sauce, Kettle Brau Curds, and Brisket Poutine. Dude. The poutine. They took fries and curds and smothered them in this thick, creamy, beef gravy. The brisket set it over the top.
It was at this point I really needed to start pacing myself. Six tents in, but only two chefs down — I was heading for a cheese coma for sure.
Joe Gaglio, of Gotham Bagels
Translation: New York Does Street Corn. The guys at Gotham were not playing around. Fried cheese curds, sprinkled with corn salsa and tomato, and a hunk of corn-on-the-cob topped with avocado crema, Cotija cheese (which is like the better, Mexican version of feta) and paprika.
With those beautiful radishes to top it all off. Ugh. Delicious, beautiful, and surprising coming from guys whose forte usually pertains to the east coast.
Cody Wood of Wood BBQ
Their story will give you happy goosebumps. They were the winners of Breese Stevens’s “Fan Favorite” award on Sunday with their BBQ Brisket Curds.
Chipotle brisket burnt ends (I know, I could stop here… but there’s more), fried Muenster curds topped with poblano ranch, dill pickle chips, and raw onion rings. I will definitely be making the trip to visit their landmark location in Sauk City after this taste-test.
The real MVP. As it turned out to be a really sunny day, I think I went through about four of these suckers. I thought their logo looked familiar and turns out I’ve been mistakenly passing them up at the Dane County Farmers Market at Capitol Square.
I will no longer be making this mistake. Their strawberry-lemon and raspberry-basil pops were my personal favorites.
Overall the field seemed pretty full for most of the day, especially after the unfortunate Packers loss. It felt like most of the fans were in need of a serious cheese and beer pick-me-up.