Chris Attaway may have had the best job in the history of employment on the planet Earth.
At least for 11 days.
The Madison resident recently traveled more than 1,200 miles to visit 37 restaurants in Eau Claire and 10 other Wisconsin cities. The goal: To find the best cheese curds in the state.
“I just frickin’ love cheese curds,” Attaway said in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story.
Attaway was named Curd Nerd for EatStreet, a Madison food ordering and delivery company. She was chosen out of a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants to find Wisconsin’s best cheese curds.
As one social media post regarding the importance of cheese curds — a staple in the state — to Wisconsinites read: “This is a public service. Godspeed, Curd Nerd.”
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The campaign kicked off at Great Dane Brewery in Madison on National Cheese Curd Day — Oct. 15 for those who may be out of the loop — and wrapped up in Eau Claire.
Attaway also made a point of visiting Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, which is located in a Pierce County village that bills itself as “Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin.”
“We tried their fresh cheese curds, and it was one of the squeakiest curds I’ve ever put in my mouth,” Attaway blogged after the expedition came to a close.
During her journey, she judged the dishes in six categories: flavor, texture, smell, squeakiness, presentation and dipping sauce. The champion, Stone Arch Brewpub, is in Appleton but the Chippewa Valley had a critical role in the eatery taking the title.
“Why did I choose Stone Arch Brewpub in Appleton as my top curd? First and foremost, I was impressed with the overall flavor and texture of their cheese curds,” Attaway wrote. “Their square-shaped curds are brought in fresh from Chippewa Falls and are made with their own Stone Arch Scottish Ale batter.”
Water’s Edge Cheese Curds — technically in Jim Falls — has supplied Stone Arch Brewpub with the product for several years.
“My wife and I were fortunate enough to invest in Water’s Edge Cheese Curds last May,” said Rick Drolet. “We partnered with one of the founders to introduce cheese curds across the nation.
“Wisconsin is certainly the epicenter and every good cheese curd starts with Wisconsin dairy.”
And the secret to a perfect finish?
“A fine-tuned ratio of golden beer batter and fresh Wisconsin cheese,” Drolet said.
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Attaway moved to Madison in 2016 and founded Epicurean Chronicles, a marketing agency for the food, beverage and hospitality industries.
EatStreet reportedly paid Attaway $1,000 and covered expenses for her temporary position. In the interest of transparency, she reported that the restaurants visited were all on the EatStreet platform.
“Will some of the places you love not make it on the list? Possibly,” Attaway wrote. “Will there be rankings that you don’t agree with? Probably. Will there be backlash after this list is published? Most likely.
“Can we all still be kind to each other knowing that food preference is subjective and that everyone’s opinion can differ? Absolutely. If we can do this, then my faith in humanity is restored.”
Also in the top six were Longtable Beer Cafe, Middleton; Tavernakaya, Madison; Crafty Cow, Milwaukee; Avenue Club, Madison; and The Sweet & Salty Pig, Fond du Lac.
Milwaukee Burger Co., a small chain that started in Eau Claire in 2008, was seventh on the list, while Titletown Brewing Co., Green Bay; Fox River Brewing Co., Oshkosh and Appleton; and 2510 Restaurant, Wausau, rounded out the top 10.
“Wisconsin is serious about cheese curds, be it fried or fresh, and everyone has an opinion about it,” Attaway wrote. “What I know for sure is that cheese curds are delicious and fantastic when shared with friends, or even with strangers, which I got to do a lot of during this campaign.”
Attaway even lost four pounds during her culinary quest.
“Is that even possible???,” she wrote. “Could it mean that eating curds for 11 days straight is the answer to weight loss? Did we inadvertently invent the next fad diet?”
We can only hope.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org, 715-833-9215 or @marlaires on Twitter.