A big cheese, private dining, new zoo baby


My dairy farmer father for many years held a side job: hauling milk (stacked in steel cans, no less) by the truckload from the neighborhood to a small cheese factory, 10 miles from home.

It was a daily and year-round commitment. I’d occasionally ride along and play with the cheesemaker’s little girl while the heavy milk cans were unloaded by hand, emptied, sanitized and restacked in the truck.

Today Baker Cheese, near St. Cloud, is a fourth-generation family business with a longstanding reputation of staying ahead of the competition.

When I was a kid, that meant shifting production from ubiquitous cheddar to upstart (for Wisconsin) mozzarella – which baffled some farm families. Then came the introduction of string cheese, a novel concept for the times.

That string cheese has won national awards, and now Baker Cheese is a winner for its progressive work in the dairy industry. Dairy Foods, a national trade publication, has declared the dairy processing plant as 2020 Dairy Plant of the Year.

The company’s most recent expansion, the sixth since 1985, added a production line that allows for more variety and capacity to produce private label, conventional and organic string cheese.

When on a road trip, stop at the factory’s compact retail shop for fresh string cheese that is sold by the pound. bakercheese.com

Another road trip stop, in a different direction: Walker House in Mineral Point, for lunch. Owners of the 1836 inn, a former stagecoach stop, promise each dining party a private entrance, private dining room and private bathroom. That’s in addition to sanitizer at the table and outside the door.

Reservations are required, food orders are chosen online, before arrival, and the meal is only served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays. Five indoor and two outdoor reservations are accommodated at one time.

Culinary fare includes house-made appetizers, salads, daily specials and desserts. Innkeepers Dan and Kathy Vaillancourt are both 73 years old and since Easter have also set up a pay-what-you-want, grab-and-go brunch twice a month, by reservation. thewalkerhouse.org

Artwork from 114 artists from throughout the world makes the cut for the 45th annual “Birds in Art” exhibition, Sept. 12 to Nov. 29 at Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, Wausau.

The 2020 master artist is Timothy David Mayhew of New Mexico, whose works have been acquired by the Getty Museum in Los Angeles to the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

In total, 510 artists submitted 830 works of art to the event’s three-person jury. Original paintings, sculptures and graphics for the show were created within the past three years.

All “Birds in Art” opening day festivities are suspended this year because of the pandemic. A 134-page show catalogue, where an artist statement accompanies each work of art, will be available to purchase in September.

Check details about what to bring and expect at lywam.org before visiting. Admission is free.

On view until Aug. 30 is “Many Visions, Many Versions: Art from Indigenous Communities in India,” art from three cultures in India.

Expect “dazzling patterns, vibrant colors and nonlinear storytelling”  in nearly four dozen narrative scrolls, paintings and drawings.

New at Milwaukee County Zoo is a female snow leopard cub, born May 11 at the zoo.

The unnamed cub is in an off-exhibit den with her mother, Orya, who was moved from Zoo Zurich in Switzerland to Milwaukee in 2016. The cub’s father, Asa, arrived from Rosamond Gifford Zoo, Syracuse, in 2015.

Both parents are 6 years old. The genetic lineage is considered valuable because

Orya’s mother was born in the wild and was part of the European Endangered Species Programme.

Want to send a baby shower gift? On the zoo’s wish list are enrichment items to help the new cub’s development and “enhance her natural instincts and behaviors.”

What’s on the list? A commercial ice maker machine (“snow leopards love to play in tubs full of ice”), mallard duck decoys (“the cats try to swat at them”), baby bubble bath (“a fun enrichment activity”), toys to hone preying skills and much more.

Check out the “zoo wide list” under “enrichment” at milwaukeezoo.org.

The 2,100-some residents live on 190 acres, open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily. Tickets must be purchased online, and they are for a specific entry day and time. The final entry time is 1:30 p.m.

The newest addition to Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets, near Kenosha, is the Beef Jerky Experience. It’s a destination for adventurous eaters.

The 100-plus varieties of handcrafted jerky and sausage-like chub include exotic meats: kangaroo, alligator, elk, wild boar, antelope. Flavors are wide-ranging too, Cajun BBQ to teriyaki to biltong (a South African spice mix).

The lowfat snack has been sent into space with astronauts and around the world with the military. In Pleasant Prairie, the manufacturer is based in Tennessee.

A grand opening, in the works, will include giveaway and chances to win free jerky for one year. beefjerkyoutlet.com/pleasantprairie

In the outdoor shopping center, at Interstate 94 and Highway 165, are at least 90 outlet stores. premiumoutlets.com

In the village of Kohler are two dining opportunities of note, one new and one reimagined.

New is Taverne on Woodlake, at the Shops at Woodlake, in the space formerly filled by Cucina, an Italian restaurant. The new restaurant serves comfort foods with a contemporary spin.

A wood-fired grill produces pizzas to pork chops to teriyaki salmon. For dessert: Warm Beer Doughnuts, Cast Iron Fruit Cobbler, Chocolate Whiskey Cake.

One mile north is The Blind Horse, Kohler, a winery with outdoor patio and restaurant on seven acres that has partnered with Green Up Solutions of Butler to provide antimicrobial protection to customers.

Ultraviolet light treatments are a part of the strategy. “UV light is able to not only disinfect the surfaces that the light reaches but also the air in the room,” explains Andy Weins, Green Up Solutions president.

This is in addition to staff wearing face masks, social distancing and additional sanitation measures. Seating options include a private “dining villa,” outdoors and under an open-flap tent ($25 rental fee). theblindhorse.com