The Black Pepper BellaVitano cheese from Sartori Co. in Plymouth has won its second major award in five months.
The semi-hard cheese made with cow’s milk and hand-coated with coarse-ground black pepper was named Thursday as the overall grand champion in the cheese and butter category at the World Dairy Expo Championship Dairy Product Contest in Madison.
In March, the cheese was named best in show at the prestigious U.S. Championship Cheese Contest at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
But the Dairy Product Contest held this week goes beyond cheese and butter. A French onion dip from Dean Foods Co. in Rockford, Illinois, was selected as the overall Grade A Grand Champion while a cookie dough peanut butter ice cream produced by Oberweis Dairy in North Aurora, Illinois, was the overall ice cream grand champion.
The three-day contest, sponsored by the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association and held at Madison Area Technical College’s culinary arts facility and at UW-Madison’s Babcock Hall, drew a record 1,489 entries from North America. The range of products also included yogurt, cottage cheese, sour cream, milk and whey. The inaugural contest 14 years ago had just 100 entries.
“The unprecedented growth of this unique contest since its inception in 2003 is simply amazing. There has never been an all-comprehensive dairy contest like this one and that fact is reflected in the 22 percent increase in entries in this year’s contest,” said Brad Legreid, executive director of the Wisconsin Dairy Products Association. “This contest has not only surpassed our hopes and expectations, but the potential for continued growth is unlimited.”
Wisconsin dairy producers took first place in 23 of the 75 categories, including the top three spots in eight categories. But the best whole milk award went to Hiland Dairy Foods in Fayetteville, Arkansas, while the top whole chocolate milk award went to Country Delite Farms of Nashville, Tennessee. The top sour cream was from Dean Foods.
Other notable award winners from Wisconsin included Kelly Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, which took first place in three categories: ice cream sandwich, ice cream with caramel and dark chocolate ice cream. Cedar Crest Ice Cream in Manitowoc had the best gelato, while Kwik Trip in La Crosse took first place in frozen yogurt with its black raspberry variety. Crave Brothers Farmstead Cheese in Waterloo grabbed the top two spots in fresh mozzarella and placed second in string cheese behind Baker Cheese in the Fond du Lac County community of St. Cloud.
Foremost Farms also grabbed several awards. Its Marshfield plant took first place in cheddar, its Chilton facility had the top mozzarella, its Clayton cheesemakers swept the provolone category, and the Plover plant took first place in whey with its demineralized whey powder.
First-place winners in the contest will be auctioned off on Oct. 3 at World Dairy Expo in Madison. A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be used to fund scholarships to students pursuing careers in the dairy industry.