- Mars Cheese Fortress is a huge roadside attraction that appears like a medieval citadel.
- It sells every kind of Wisconsin cheeses, in addition to different regionally made treats.
- Inside, you possibly can order meals and drinks or chow down on an array of free samples.
Whereas touring in Wisconsin with associates, some locals instructed us to take a look at the state’s well-known Mars Cheese Fortress. We initially did not plan on going, however after seeing the large signal subsequent to the freeway, we determined to cease in.
I later discovered that it has been in enterprise since 1947 and is widespread with locals and vacationers alike. The unique homeowners have been named Mario and Martha. Apparently, as a result of each their names began with “Mar,” when folks would go to the store, they’d say, “I will cease by the Mars.”
Here is what it was like to go to the distinctive roadside attraction.
What actually acquired us within the door was the constructing’s citadel design.
If we drove by and the store simply appeared like a grocery retailer, we most likely would not have stopped. However since we noticed a turret, a flag-topped steeple, and an entryway that appeared like a drawbridge to a medieval citadel, we have been instantly intrigued.
The within additionally had some castle-like options. The eating corridor had picket benches and an arched, wood-beam ceiling, and different components of the constructing had stone partitions with mounted shields and armor.
The citadel is known for promoting native Wisconsin cheeses — the state is also known as America’s Dairyland and is thought for its cheese.
The citadel had an enormous selection, from requirements like Swiss, Parmesan, and Gruyère, to extra adventurous flavors like chipotle cheddar and mango pepper jack.
It additionally offered a big number of cheese spreads and dips, with flavors starting from port-wine cheddar to Swiss with almonds.
The Cheese Fortress was loaded with extra than simply cheese. It had tons of native delicacies, like Noticed Cow beer, a farmhouse ale made by New Glarus Brewing Co. It is hardly ever offered outdoors of Wisconsin, and all through our journey we had quite a few locals inform us we would have liked to strive it.
I used to be additionally shocked to search out an enormous number of kringles. The Danish pastry was apparently extra like a pretzel in its unique type, however when it gained recognition in Racine, Wisconsin, folks started baking them as extra of a dessert.
These Racine-style kringles at the moment are extraordinarily widespread all through the state, particularly throughout the holidays. The citadel had tons of flavors to select from, like raspberry, cherry, pecan, and cinnamon cream.
The feel was someplace between a cake donut and a croissant. It was dense, but additionally flaky, and never too candy — form of like a breakfast pastry.
Free samples have been actually in all places contained in the Cheese Fortress. We tried over a dozen cheeses, quite a few sorts of kringle, and even some sweet and chips.
It was a good way to pattern the flavors of Wisconsin with out having to pay a dime.
One of many extra attention-grabbing issues we discovered when making an attempt all of the samples is why Wisconsin cheddar is orange. I’ve lived in a number of completely different nations all through my life, and I bear in mind being shocked once I first noticed that Australian cheddar cheese is white.
Wisconsin cheese makers have been including the enduring orange coloring to their cheese for a whole bunch of years as a approach to differentiate it from different kinds and produce uniform batches all year long. However it’s not coloured utilizing any synthetic dyes, it will get its hue from plant-based substances like annatto seeds and beta-carotene.
My favourite deal with we acquired to pattern on the citadel was the chocolate cheese.
The feel is someplace between fudge and cheesecake. It sounds bizarre, nevertheless it’s truly actually good.
Whereas most fudge tends to be tremendous candy and chocolaty, the chocolate cheese had a a lot deeper taste. Think about chocolate blended with the smoothness of mozzarella and the slight tang of cheddar.
It is a type of issues the place it sounds so flawed however finally ends up being the proper mixture of salty, candy, and savory.
I discovered it a little bit bit like making an attempt alligator meat in Louisiana. I might by no means seen chocolate cheese earlier than, and possibly won’t ever have it once more, so it was cool to pattern one thing so distinctive to the state.
On the citadel, you can too order freshly made snacks together with beer and wine on the bar. We ordered fried cheese curds, some tacky bread, and a cheese plate.
For any customer, cheese curds are a must-order as a result of they’re an iconic snack in Wisconsin. They’re mainly chunks of curdled milk, so it is like cheese that is been minimally processed.
You may eat them as is or get them breaded, fried, and served with a dipping sauce. Most locations serve them with ranch dressing, however the Cheese Fortress had a house-made cheese dip.
They have been clearly improbable — it is arduous to go flawed with fried cheese. Better of all, a basket was solely $6. We assumed we would be getting actually small parts, so we ordered rather a lot and ended up with sufficient meals for a full lunch for 4 folks.
I am actually glad we determined to cease at Mars Cheese Fortress.
We have been ultimately going to cease for meals and to make use of the restroom anyway, and I am glad we did not choose a gasoline station or 7-Eleven. It was enjoyable to go to an area institution, study extra about Wisconsin, and take a look at among the meals the state is known for.
In the event you’re driving from Chicago to Milwaukee (or one other widespread Wisconsin vacation spot like Lake Geneva), you will doubtless move by Mars Cheese Fortress. I believe it is a superb cease to stretch your legs and cargo up on some free meals.