MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is on the short list of foods most people have to have when they visit the Minnesota State Fair.
But behind all the hype are the brave souls who unpack, batter up and fry those lactose-laden lumps of goodness.
Dave Cavallaro is the big cheese at The Mouth Trap booth.
“I was fascinated by the food vendors,” Cavallaro said.
But the path that brought him to this point is marked with county fairs and city celebrations all over the Midwest.
“Oh, that travel,” he said. “We were passing ourselves coming and going.”
With his food trailer in tow, Cavallaro traveled from one event to another for 22 years, living the carny life.
“It was tough, and being away from your family,” he said.
All the time spent away from home is paying dividends now, with practically a lifetime of traveling food service experience under his belt.
Most important to Cavallaro: ingredients.
“We think that starting with Ellsworth cheese is vital,” he said.
Now before anyone throws a flag for shameless cross promotion, let’s try to remember that our friends over in Packer country have been rumored to know a thing or two about cheese.
Joe Hines of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery says they make approximately 170,000 pounds of cheese curds each day.
That’s a lot of curds, especially when you realize that there was barely even a market for this milk byproduct 50 years ago.
“We started making cheese, and about five years later we started making curds. It seemed to be a better thing and then everybody wanted a squeaky cheese curd,” Hines said.
Shortly after Ellsworth Creamery’s switch over, the curd market exploded, partially due to guys like Cavallaro — and the advent of the deep-fried curd.
“Right now we’re in 49 states, we’re in China, Korea, Australia,” Hines said.
That definitely put Ellsworth Creamery on the map. So much so that in 1984, then-Wisconsin Governor Tony Earl declared it cheese curd capital of …
“Some say Wisconsin, some say the United States,” Hines said.
So why is this important? Starting with the cheese is huge, because in one day the product goes from the source, to the creamery.
“So it’s made that day, we get it that night, the next day we’re frying it,” Cavallaro said.
And we’re buying it!
“We feel blessed to be able to sell our curds at the Minnesota State Fair,” Cavallaro said.
Your other favorite spots for cheese curds in Minnesota were Redhead Creamery in Brooten and Boulder Tap House in St. Cloud.