From the Editor – Quality under control in the New North

Posted on Sep 2, 2014 :: Editor
Margaret LeBrun
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

It starts with the cows, and the farmers who pledge to follow strict guidelines outlined by the cheesemaker.

“Here, have a cow,” Farmer Paulette Ditter said as she handed me the rope with a cow on the other end while we waited for our photographer to set up.

What the heck was I supposed to do with it? Turns out, not much. That about sums up how the farmers treat the cows on the 175-odd small Wisconsin farms Sartori contracts with to get the milk it uses for its international award-winning cheese. They keep their cows relaxed and comfortable on these farms, which range in size from 20 to 500 cows, and they keep them free of bovine hormones.

“You can make bad cheese from good milk, but you can’t make world-class, good cheese from bad milk,” says CEO and third-generation company owner Jim Sartori.

Fortunately for us cheese lovers (and who isn’t, in Wisconsin?), Sartori began making its gourmet cheeses available in grocery stores in 2006. Before that, the Plymouth-based company, founded in 1939 by Jim’s grandfather, Paolo Sartori, produced cheese for restaurants and food products companies. The company has won hundreds of awards, including the 2014 World Championship Cheese Contest, first place for its Extra-aged Asiago and SarVecchio Parmesan, and second for its Merlot BellaVitano (my personal favorite!).

If you’ve been a longtime reader of Insight, you know that the Sartori family and the Gentine family of Plymouth go way back, before those of an earlier generation had combined parts of their names to launch what is known as Sargento, another world-class cheese company but one that focuses on cheese we use for sandwiches, cooking and pizza. (Lou Gentine was featured in our August 2011 issue.) Sartori has an inspirational story about its high-quality products to share, one that Associate Editor Nikki Kallio brings to life in our cover story.

Another good story out of Sheboygan County involves a comeback tale. Remember the fanfare when Blue Harbor Resort opened on the lakeshore? It cost $54 million to build and it certainly changed the shoreline in an elegant way. The recession knocked it flat, however, and for a while there was speculation it would lock its doors and become a white elephant on the lake. Since Great Wolf Resorts sold the 182-room resort for just $4.2 million in 2011, its new owner has invested in renovations and upgrades that have breathed life back into Blue Harbor. Check out Senior Associate Editor Sean Johnson’s story for more.

Coincidentally, this month’s Connections feature also takes us to the southeastern edges of the New North, offering a glimpse of the upcoming Kohler Food & Wine Experience in October. Top chefs, including cookbook authors, TV food show hosts and those from some of the best gourmet restaurants, will convene for the 14th year at the food and wine tasting and learning event. The one time I “attended,” I was actually in the market for new kitchen and bath fixtures, when wonderful aromas wafted over the din of the steam shower demonstrations. Fixtures and faucets, bidets and bathtubs, with a cooking demonstration in their midst? Well, why not? It was all quite lovely, and somehow the juxtaposition made sense. Check out our story.

Gourmet cheese, a luxury lakeside resort, a weekend of world-class food and wine – these are just a sampling of the things that make life great in the New North. I was reminded of this when I met Lawrence University President Mark Burstein, this month’s Face Time feature. The former Princeton vice president and Columbia University administrator had never been to Wisconsin before he landed in Appleton two years ago. Today, he and his partner couldn’t be happier. He laughs when he talks about how he’s become “the guy from the East Coast” recruiters turn to for testimonials about the good life in our neck of the woods.

I could go on. Instead, I invite you to find other gems in this issue that shed light on the quality of business, work and life here in the New North. Enjoy!

Margaret LeBrun

About Margaret LeBrun

Co-Publisher, Executive Editor View all posts by Margaret LeBrun →