Two Days to Explore
In the winter...
Ashland’s wild beauty beckons outdoor enthusiasts to make the trek north to this spot on a large sheltered bay of Lake Superior known as Chequamegon. Local businesses relish that visitor enthusiasm, providing a warm welcome to snowmobilers, anglers, and cross-country skiers. For anyone looking for a soul-stirring destination, this is it.
For those famished from the trip, grab lunch at Burger Barn. We’re talking Wisconsin cheese curds, a bacon burger topped with homemade BBQ sauce, and a Cowpie dessert of cookies and ice cream. Stretch your legs on the city’s self-guided downtown mural walk, a virtual walk through Ashland’s history with 20 murals in all, the newest being the Women of Ashland mural. Stock up on cold-weather clothing and gear at Moore’s on Main, third generation and locally owned. There’s also Solstice Outdoors, a top spot for ski and snowshoe rentals and activewear. For those who plan to cozy up next to a fire with a good book, pop into Spinster Books, where the owner sells more than just books. Lots of options for where to rest your head, starting with The Inn at Timber Cove, with private cottages for rent and breakfast delivered right to your door. Mission Spring Resort is another option, this one ideal for families. Blue Wave Inn is a five-room boutique hotel right on the shore of Lake Superior. There’s ample parking for snowmobile trailers at River Rock Inn, a mom-and-pop motel where you can purchase Lake Superior fish from their shop. Friday evening, be sure to take in the breathtakingly beautiful winter sunset over the bay. Watch it anywhere in town, as there’s not a bad seat in the house. Toast to the weekend with a brew from South Shore Brewery. Try one of their flagship beers, like the Nut Brown Ale or Northern Lights. Then head next door to Deep Water Grille for the Lake Superior whitefish dinner.
Saturday morning if you’re in a hurry to hit the snowmobile trails, pick up a pastry at Ashland Baking Company. If you can spare a bit more time, head across the street to Black Cat Coffeehouse, 20 years in business, where the food is made-from-scratch and the menu emphasizes organic, fair trade and vegetarian. Scurry to the snowmobile trails, with 280 miles of groomed trails in Ashland County. There’s bound to be a good base, given the average annual snowfall here is 73 inches. For those who brought their fat tire bikes for pedaling in the snow, there’s the Tri-County Corridor Trail that takes you through Ashland, Bayfield, and Douglas counties. When conditions are right and the ice road is open, you can even bike to Madeline Island.
Have a hankering for pizza? You’re in luck, with a trio of top choices - Hugo’s, Frankie’s and Pizza Pub – all open for lunch. If authentic Mexican is what you crave, try El Dorado for the salsa alone. And for those who believe no lunch is complete without something sweet, you’ll love Gabriele’s German Cookies & Chocolates, where the cookie recipes have been in the family for 100 years and the chocolate truffles are all handmade.
In the afternoon, turn your attention to ice fishing for trophy trout on Chequamegon Bay. Check on ice conditions and hot fishing spots at local bait shops including Angler’s All or River Rock Inn. Get your heart racing with some cross-country skiing. Copper Falls State Park has 14 miles of trails for classic and 6.5 miles for skate. The 8.6 km loop of the Penokee Mountain Ski Trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest has climbs and downhills that demand intermediate skiing ability. Take a side trip to Benoit Cheese Haus, where you can taste before you purchase. There are more than 150 varieties of cheeses here, from fresh curds to 16-year cheddar.
Your dinner destination is 2nd Street Bistro. This restaurant has made a name for itself by using fresh seasonal ingredients and supporting local farms. Butternut squash ravioli with wild mushrooms sounds like a good choice here. Then get a nightcap at Scott & Ar’s Bar, where the locals go, or take in a game at The Neighborly Bar. If you still have energy left, make it a late night with blackjack at Bad River Lodge Casino.
As for where the locals congregate for breakfast, that would be Ashland Family Restaurant, where the homestyle cinnamon French toast tops the menu. Then make a stop at Sixth Street Market, where they have 38 flavors of homemade fresh bratwurst to choose from. Hope you packed a cooler. If ice conditions permit and time allows, stick around to see hot rods race an oval track on frozen Lake Superior. It happens every Sunday during the winter months.
Tip: If the ride home takes you near Clam Lake, slow down for wildlife viewing as this is the Elk Capital of Wisconsin.
TIME YOUR VISIT!
January 12, Northwoods Harness Club Sleigh & Cutter Rally: See antique sleighs and drivers in period dress on parade at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center.
February 16, Book Across the Bay: Annual cross-country ski race and snowshoe nighttime trek across Chequamegon Bay. The 10K course, groomed for classic and skate, starts in Ashland and finishes in Washburn and is lit by the stars and nearly 1,500 candles in ice luminaries. Chili feed and bonfire at the finish line. VisitAshland.com
Article by lakesuperior.com/wisconsin
Put Benoit Cheese Haus & Tetzner’s Dairy on Your Wisconsin Itinerary
Driving in the Ashland/Washburn area, plan two stops for a true taste of Wisconsin with regional cheese at Benoit Cheese Haus and couldn’t-be-fresher ice cream and milk at Tetzner’s Dairy and its self-serve store.
Smiles & Samples at Benoit Cheese
One of the pleasures of stopping at Benoit Cheese Haus, 12 miles west of Ashland, is getting to sample cheeses you’ve never had – and may have never heard of – before. Another pleasure: the big smiles that greet you when you walk in the door.
More than 150 different cheeses are sold at the modest-sized specialty store whose tongue-in-cheek motto is “We cut the cheese.”
There’s no joking about the quality of the cheese. “We support 30 to 35 Wisconsin cheese makers, and we carry the cream of their crop,” says owner Jill Jones. “A lot of them have wheels or loaves of cheese, and we cut those in the back so you can sample and get it cut to size.”
On my visit in August, I came away with two new favorites that I suspect are as new to you as they were to me. Marieke Gouda brand’s foenegreek gouda comes from Penterman Farm in Thorp, Wisconsin, where cheese maker Marieke Penterman, originally from the Netherlands, has won multiple prestigious awards. Foenegreek is a seed, and the cheese has a nutty flavor with hints of maple. This outstanding cheese, best savored with a good wine, sells for $14.50 a pound.
Another of my choices is the Sartori brand Citrus Ginger BellaVitano ($13.95 a pound). To Jill, it’s a cross between parmesan and asiago, “with a touch of fine cheddar and a creamy, almost buttery finish with the wonderful ginger and citrus.” I second that.
Even those who crave spicy cheese can find happiness here, with a range in “heat” from the mild and popular buffalo to chipotle havarti, jalapeno cheddar, pepper jack, habanero jack or, the hottest, ghost pepper.
The store has been around since 1973, and for many years served as a sort of a co-op for dairy farmers. Jill bought the business two years ago after working there for nine years. “With the knowledge I had of Wisconsin cheese, and especially with the tourism in Ashland, I thought it would be great to have that little cheese shop.”
She grew up “cheesy.” Her grandfather was a cheese maker when Jill was growing up in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Benoit Cheese is stacked with shelf after shelf of packaged cheeses in refrigerated cases. It also sells a few other groceries and locally made products such as honey, jams, soaps, wine and souvenirs. All of that helps serve the local folk as well as the visitors.
“We’re a small little town way out in the country,” Jill says. “There was a gas station and it closed, so we try to carry some of the products so that people don’t have to drive all the way into Ashland to buy their milk.”
The shop’s styles and prices range from $4.35 a pound for a mild Wisconsin Colby to almost $80 a pound for a 19-year-old cheddar. The age, quality of the cheese and the cheese maker can affect the price, Jill says.
The store offers made-to-order gift boxes and can ship throughout the United States. The guest book shows cheese fans have visited from as far as Colorado, South Carolina and Europe.
WITC Raises Money For Students
There was also some fun to have in Superior.
WITC hosted the annual sip for scholarships fundraiser with proceeds going right back to the students.
Of course there was a lot of wine to be had. But this year featured a new vendor.
“This year is our first year the Benoit cheese is here so were real excited for that, they’re doing cheese sampling. We always have a lot of wine on hand and then we have 4 distributers doing some brew as well,” Says Organizer, Jasmine Burt.
Last year the event raised over 4,500 dollars and they were hoping this year exceeds that amount.
BENOIT, Wis. —
Jill Jones is a true Wisconsinite.
As the newest owner of Benoit Cheese Haus in Benoit, Wisconsin, she knows her home state loves its cheese.
“I couldn’t imagine a world without cheese,” she says with a wry smile.
From Havarti, to Colby Jack, Pepper Jack, Swiss, Gouda, and Cheddar, Benoit Cheese Haus in Bayfield County boasts that their store offers more than 150 types of cheese.
Jones took over as owner just last year, but she’s been working here for around eight years now.
“A man named David Johnson and I revamped it, called it Benoit Cheese, and started doing a lot of advertising out here in the country,” Jones said.
And Wisconsin country is cheese country, something Jill is well aware of.
“My grandfather was a cheese maker and my grandmother worked at a cheese store when we were growing up for a little while,” Jones said. “So it’s kind of in my blood.”
Jill researches the cheese herself, and brings in products from all over the state of Wisconsin.
“If I’m interested in bringing in a Gouda, I’ll research who has the best Goudas in the area,” Jones explains. “Who’s been getting awards, just find out different information. We deal with probably at least I would say 25 different cheese makers.”
And if you come into the shop, come hungry.
Benoit Cheese Haus lets you sample their products before you buy them. And if you’re a cheese lover, they pretty much have everything.
“When people are having a gathering and they’re having friends and stuff over, they want something unique,” Jones said. “Something they can actually have a conversation about.”
And the dedication to a huge selection is exactly why at Benoit you’ll find different takes on old favorites, like buffalo wing jack or jalapeno, habanero, ghost pepper cheeses for people who like it HOT!
“Whatever heat they can tolerate, they want that hottest one,” Jones said.
So maybe you like your cheese to be plain and traditional? Or maybe you want to try something really unique?
Either way, Benoit Cheese Haus has you covered.
They are open Monday through Saturday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.
They are located in downtown Benoit, Wisconsin, right on highway F.
Story & photos by Alan Ralph
Six years ago this month, “Benoit Cheese” started doing business in downtown Benoit, and ever since then, Jill Jones has worked there as the sales manager, and later as the general manager.
Owned by local dairy farmers, Benoit Cheese was housed, and still is, in the Benoit Reload & Livestock building at 23920 County Highway F, a mile west of Hwy. 63 next to The Avalon. You can’t miss it.
What changed on October 1, however, is that Jones finalized her purchase of the business, building, and property, and is now the sole owner of the newly named Benoit Cheese Haus.
During a recent interview with Bottom Line News & Views, Jones said she’s changing the name slightly for several reasons. First, it’s important to clarify that the Benoit Cheese Haus is an old-fashioned specialty cheese store that sells a wide variety of the best Wisconsin-made cheeses. They do not make cheese as the former name led some customers to believe.
Secondly, she is mostly German, so the word haus (which means house) matches her ethnic background, and better describes the business when combined with the original name.
She also noted that the word Benoit, in French, means blessed, and that’s exactly how she feels about her new business, staff, and loyal customers. The closing of the G & M Country Store in Benoit at, coincidentally, the time of her purchase could also be viewed as a blessing as Jones begins to make her own imprint on the operation.
There’s more to the Benoit Cheese Haus than just cheese, though. Customers can purchase bread, eggs, milk & ice cream (from Tetzner’s), sausages, chicken, hamburger, bacon, and a whole lot more including gifts and souvenirs. Over half of what the store sells comes from local sources.
The cheese alone is worth the stop, Jones said, because they offer 150 varieties from 16 year old cheddar to fresh, squeaky curds.
The Benoit Cheese Haus goes out into the community, as well, selling their products at area festivals, events, fundraisers, holiday shows, and to other businesses seeking high quality cheese.
They also give back to the communities they serve by supporting area organizations such as WITC, Big Top Chautauqua, 4-H, area schools, and the Furball fundraiser for the Chequamegon Humane Association, to name a few.
According to Jones, the store has a steady stream of customers most of the year, especially in the summer when tourists are in abundance. It slows down in the first quarter, as do many other businesses in the area, but loyal local customers keep the doors open all year. To accommodate them, Jones said, the Benoit Cheese Haus is open year-round Monday through Saturday from 9 to 5, which allows those who can’t make it during the week to shop on Saturday.
Jones wants shoppers to know, too, that if they want or need a specific item, all they need to do is ask for it. Many items on sale at the store are the result of customer requests, and are invaluable in helping Jones and the staff to meet the needs of their clientele.
According to Jones, the months ahead will be busy ones while she replaces the logo on stationery, shirts, signs, labels, advertising, and all other promotional materials. She also plans incremental improvements to the building and store on a priority basis, and plans to enlarge the retail shop sometime next year.
With the busy holiday season coming, some of that will be put on the back burner for the rest of this year, but will be front and center in 2017 as she ramps up to make the Benoit Cheese Haus an even better destination stop.
Jones may be reached at 715-746-2561.
“We ship all over the United States,” Jones said, noting that orders can be placed a multitude of ways.
Benoit Cheese is located at 23920 County Highway F. Ashland, is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and can accommodate multiple RVs and buses.