Part of the joy in writing my forthcoming cookbook about Wisconsin cheese was all the places it took me in my own state, beautiful little towns and natural wonders I’ve never been to before. I’ve lived in Wisconsin long enough to feel like a resident but now I feel (almost) like a native.
After visiting Driftless Region cheesemakers on a recent weekday, I checked into The Charmant Hotel in downtown LaCrosse, hugging the Mississippi River. which immediately reminded me of The Iron Horse Hotelin Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood because both are historic sturdy brick buildings reborn as hotels. Another reason: both were developed by the same company, Aparium, intent on restoring old, sleepy buildings into hip hospitality ventures.
Throughout, there’s a conscious nod to the building’s first chapter as a candy factory, starting with check-in when guests receive chocolates. (Actually, even before that, the building’s heritage is present when you click your heels or roll your tires over the exposed-brick drive-way!) All those exposed-brick walls, antique tile flooring and high ceilings make you feel like you really are at the turn of last century. Another “old is new again” angle: the culinary team’s sourcing from within 100 miles as much as possible for serving in the hotel’s restaurant.
Naturally, I ordered the cheese plate, smiling at the realization that at least two of the cheeses were made by cheesemakers I’d seen within the last week.