The Cheese Bar – Des Moines, IA

Each summer, we head north to Whalan, MN for a family reunion. This little pocket of paradise is something I’ve grown to love since (officially) joining the family in 2013. The lone downside, though, is the due-north drive on i35, so naturally we attempt to populate the commute with a couple stops to break things up.

Up until this year, the only stop beyond refueling was the SPAM museum in Austin, MN. It’s a delightful place, as is the town in which it resides, and I recommend it if you ever find yourself in the area. It’s also worth noting that Cate is the current (unofficial) SPAM-packing champion of the world. If you do check the SPAM Museum out, see if you can beat 1:27.

But now, back to the point of this post. We needed a lunch option beyond typical fast food joints to accompany the journey. Preferably, something cheesy, and, fortunately, we found one.

I hadn’t spent much time in Des Moines since I showed dogs as a youth, but now I’ll be revisiting it on an annual basis, and it’s all thanks to The Cheese Bar.

DSC00441

The Cheese Bar is as unique as it is cheesy, and pairs perfectly as the lunch spot on a long drive. It shares a building with a few other companies, including a yoga studio, which makes me imagine how perfect some baked feta would taste after an intense yoga sesh.

DSC00459

A neon sign lures you in from the street, communicating precisely that what your heart desires most is directly inside. Minimal and wood-based decor adorn the small restaurant, and a few long, community style tables occupy the floor. The bar features a long line of unlabeled beer taps against a massive subway-tiled backsplash. I still have no idea how they kept them all straight, but after ordering our drinks the bartender poured my Trellis Buster (Crooked Stave Artisan Beer Project) and Cate’s Liliko’i (Avery Brewing Co) with ease.

DSC00443

There didn’t seem to be a bad option on the menu, but since I had never had the chance to experience raclette, I opted for that. Cate, of course, had to take their classic grilled cheese with bacon for a spin. Both were delicious, and the things the folks around us selected all looked incredible, as well.

DSC00448

Although our stay was brief, The Cheese Bar left us full but wanting more, and we can’t wait to visit on our way north next year.

DSC00449

DSC00454

DSC00456

DSC00440

DSC00461

DSC00460

6 Steps to an Impressive Cheese Platter

Now this is a story all about cheese
A platter of course, it was such a breeze.
I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there
We have some cheese tips, that we’d like to share.

With all the cheese plates I’ve created, both big and small, I realized to some people, a cheese plate may be intimidating. The great thing about fromage is that you CAN’T mess it up, seriously. Well, only if you forget the cheese, then yes, you can royally mess it up. Since it was the two of us, I’ll stick with tips for a smaller cheese platter. For a larger plate, just multiply the goodness!

Step 1: Pick Your Cheeses

My go-to cheese pickin’ strategy: Something hard, something soft, and something funky.

We chose Prairie Breeze cheddar, Italian fontina, and Le Roule.

Prairie Breeze: Straight out of Milton Creamery in Iowa, this cheddar is dry yet creamy to taste. It is aged for at least 9 months, but tastes like its been aged MUCH longer than that. It gets you in the ‘cheddar spot’ as I like to call it (back of your lower jaw, it’s my scientific way of rating cheddars).

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer, cheddar

Prairie [cool] Breeeeeezeeee


Italian Fontina: Can’t go wrong with a fontina. It is, to this day, the best cheese for grilled cheese in the entire galaxy. Soft, creamy, and delectable.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer, fontina

Italian Fontinuhhhhh

Le Roule: First off, you sound fancy as HAIL when you tell your guests what they are about to experience. Let me help you, “LAY- ROO-LAY.” Yes, it is French. It is a soft, spreadable cheese (once you get it to room temperature) full of garlic and herbs. Believe you me, this is one pretty cheese on ANY cheese plate. This cheese is a real crowd cheeser… pleaser.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

Le Roule ay ay ay

Step 2: Pick the Platter

Lay out your cheese on the platter or plate BEFORE you open them up. This will eliminate more dirty dishes and less handling of the käse. Just lay your cheese out on a platter, leaving enough room for your other adornments to fill in the gaps.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

Be prepared.

Step 3: Prep the Plate

Be sure to let your cheese sit out about 30-45 minutes before guests come so they are at room temperature. This will allow all of the flavors to come out of the cheese so you can enjoy them at their fullest capacity.

Take off any wrappers that may be on the cheese. Rinds are different, rinds are the outer layer of the cheese. Most rinds are edible, except for wax, cloth, or bark. Rinds add more flavor to the cheese.

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

Pro Tip: Don’t eat paper.

Step 4: Select Your Accessories

This is completely up to you and your taste. I am a pretty basic bitch when it comes to my cheese accompaniments. I’ll go for grapes, berries, apples, some meats, and of course, crackers. If you wanna get wild, spring for soaked dates, or some finely cut prosciutto.

If you have more extreme, strong cheeses, try to get a bland cracker as to not take away from the cheese flavor. I’m a sucker for anything that says “crisps” on it, I love a little crunch with my käse.

Step 5: Get Your Tools

Depending on your type of cheeses, be sure to get the correct cheese knives and/or spreader. If you don’t have cheese tools, don’t fret. A knife will do JUST fine.

Step 6: ENJOY

Pour yourself a glass of wine, turn on some Marian Hill, and enjoy yourself!

cheese, cheese platter, cheese blog, diy, blog, party, appetizer

You earned this.

 

-C

.

 

Carr Valley Cheese

A few weeks ago, we road tripped up to Wisconsin for a cousin’s wedding. Good times, food, and drinks naturally followed, but one unexpected thrill greeted us on our way out of town. After we stopped at an incredible, family-owned diner, we continued our journey through southern Wisconsin and its rolling hills. As we passed through a small town, we saw something familiar up ahead. It was none other than a Carr Valley Cheese shop. We were already behind, but surely you can understand why we had to make a stop.

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

Wisconsin Cheese Pride

The store was being run by a former teacher who had decided to adjust her path to cheese curation. Her passion for it was palpable, and she guided us through her offerings, made suggestions, and left a lasting impact on us both. Beyond just the cheese, the tiny shop offered shoppers a variety of cheese-related merchandise. We were lucky to leave with cash left in the bank, and were genuinely proud we were able to even leave altogether.

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

We needed it all.

Carr Valley Cheese is one of most recognizable cheese brands in America, and arguably in the world. Their offerings are delicious and award-winning, and we always encourage you to snag something unique and funky. We learned an incredible amount during our short stay, and can’t wait to come back on our way to the next family event up north.

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

We spent more than a handful of moments here

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

Awards? Carr Valley’s got ’em!

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

Cheese runs in the family at Carr Valley

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

Please kindly take all our money.

Carr Valley Cheese, Wisconsin Cheese, Cheese Store, Cheese Boutique, Cheese tour, Wisconsin greatness, Road trip, Pit Stop

We took home as many as we could.

-D