Review: Simon’s Specialty Cheese – Foreign Exchange Student’s First Time Trying Squeaky Cheese Curds

Photo by Mrs. Plankey

Photo by Mrs. Plankey

Ana Sofia O. Pavao, Student of Journalism

When people think about Wisconsin, one thing comes to mind (ironically not the Green Bay Packers): cheese, and more specifically, squeaky cheese curds

As a foreign exchange student from Brazil, the first piece of knowledge I acquired about my placement in America’s Dairyland was my father’s enthusiastic scream about how Wisconsin was where “the Cheeseheads” were from, followed by an explanation that he was talking about the Green Bay Packers. Not being a cheese enthusiast myself, my knowledge of cheese could be considered limited, if not nonexistent, but as my plane landed at the Appleton Airport, I soon learned about the Wisconsinite’s great passion for excellently produced coagulated milk. 

My host family introduced me to the cheese curd delicacy in the fried version, but later I learn learned, by the doings of my journalism teacher, about the different shapes and forms that cheese curds, and cheese itself, can come as. The possibilities went from fried and cold cheese curds to cheese strings and whips, and even different shapes of cheese, such as the state’s format or a football. 

Simon’s Specialty Cheese was the chosen place for my first squeaky cheese adventure.  The store for the world-class cheese producer factory in Appleton, located approximately 25 minutes away from NHS, has continuously received multiple awards for its signature cheeses. The incredible variety of cheese includes Mozzarella, Feta, Cheddar, Provolone, and their signature squeaky cheese curds, which are a local favorite – and a must-have Wisconsin experience. In addition to that, they also offer handmade pizzas and fudge (that has my seal of approval as a sweet lover).

A map of the United States hangs at the front entrance of the store, and customers are encouraged to pin the place where they are from to showcase how far people have come for the unique opportunity to have squeaky cheese in their mouths. In my international case, there were a series of pins scattered around the Atlantic Ocean together with paper notes pointing to locations from all over the world. The pins revealed that I was not the first Brazilian to visit the store, but gave me hope to possibly find the mysterious other Brazilian that has been in the area around the same time as I am.

The store is well decorated and organized, and the employees are clearly passionate and ready to help the customers. Besides the variety of locally produced cheese, the store also offers Wisconsin apparel for those interested in buying cheese hats and other tourist gear. 

As we talked to the employees and explained my foreignness, we managed to get a little tour of the store along with some behind-the-scenes information on how the cheese curds are produced, I also got some samples of cheese whips to try and have the full experience. 

Expectations ran high for my first squeaky cheese curd experience, not only my own with all the things I had heard, but also for the people around me getting see my first-hand reactions to something they adore so much about their culture.  The cheese curds were in fact squeaky, as everyone around me had promised, and they tasted like nothing I had ever had, the salty and cheddary flavor they left was a surprise for me and the consistency was something I had not anticipated, even though they were not as good as fried cheese curds, they were a great experience, and worth the trial. 

The cheese whips were my greatest surprise. I did not have high expectations for it, but they turned out to be my favorites, the flavor was less salty than the cheese curds and they were more fun to eat. 

My first time trying out cheese curds could not have been better. Even if I did not fall in love with squeaky cheese, visiting the store and interacting with the employees was a great, and important, addition to my experience in the dairy state of Wisconsin.