I spent Thanksgiving with family in Colorado. It was a trip I ruined. I enter that confession into the record in case you run into any of my family and mention Thanksgiving. They will roll their eyes; now you know why.
They roll their eyes whenever the subject of my eating habits comes up. It isn’t pretty and often involves copious amounts of fast food (anyone who knows me knows I love Taco Bell and McDonald's).
Maybe I was in a sad state of mind leaving Wisconsin right before Thanksgiving, but that fact coincided with the return of McDonald's brats and the restaurant chain's foray into the wonderful world of cheese curds.
Indeed, the morning I got back to town and began my habit of waking up to the news, I was immediately besieged by back-to-back commercials featuring the voice of the Green Bay Packers, Wayne Larrivee.
I like Wayne. I once served on a charitable board with his lovely wife, Julie. And everyone loves his declaration of game conclusion, "And there is your dagger!"
Of course, like anything (except fast food), it is enjoyable in moderation. The last thing I need is to hear Wayne’s dagger comment out of context.
Make a wrong turn and the GPS voice says, "And there is your dagger?" No thanks.
Have the angel on one shoulder tell you to do something good. And the little devil on the other says, "And there is your dagger?" No thanks.
Walk through a haunted house at Halloween time and have a zombie pop out from behind a wall that screams, "And here is your dagger?" Again, pass.
But following the first of the two back-to-back commercials extolling a car, there was Wayne on my TV reminding me that I was back in Wisconsin and not far from those curds and brats at McDonald's.
I have had the McDonald's brats in the past, and they are very good. In a way, it is a surprise. I have always thought the key to the addictive aspect of McDonald's items was due to the sauce. In fact, I have espoused that theory before in OnMilwaukee blogs. The Big Mac, the McRib, the tartar sauce on the Filet-O-Fish and the sugary goodness of their ketchup on crisp fries are all sauce-based successes. They're not based on the savory status of the ingredients. You don’t buy a McRib for it’s resemblance to Kobe beef.
The brat goes against the grain. No sauce is necessary. You start with a quality Johnsonville brat, and you are hard-pressed to mess it up. I am a fan. Not only that, but at two for $5, it's a true bargain.
I recently tweeted that I hit up the McDonald's Pick Two menu and had trouble editing my order. I had two burgers, two fish sandwiches and two orders of nuggets … all for $15! Then I fell asleep and got a $22 parking ticket.
But back to the cheese curds. Just like there is a time and a place for Wayne Larrivee’s signature tag line, the key to McDonald’s cheese curds is timing.
They must – I repeat – MUST be hot.
My first attempt was in the drive-thru when I was hungry and in a hurry and excited to try the curds. When they were handed to me they barely made it out of the bag and onto my driver’s side seat before I was carefully pulling out of the lot and putting a curd in my mouth. When served hot, they are pretty good. Breading is decent. Not great, but pretty good.
My understanding is that the cheese is real Wisconsin cheese. But unlike the accurate description of our Midwest warmth and generosity, the amount of cheese isn’t generous and – unlike the name-brand brats – there seems to be a generic aspect to the actual cheese. It wasn't as bad as McDonald's controversial 2015 mozzarella sticks experiment. But it’s just pretty good. There's none of the squeaky specialness associated with the kind of curds we are blessed to find almost anywhere in the dairy state.
When McDonalds cheese curds sit around for a few minutes and lose the warmth, they lose all luster. Pretty good goes to meh.
The company's heart is in the right place and the price is right too, at $3 for a box. I wouldn’t give up perfecting it. Especially since they nailed the brat.
And on the bright side, if you are hungry, in Wisconsin, and eat them with the quickness of a well-timed slant route when the ball is out of the quarterback's hand before you can blink … well, there is your dagger.
Two responses came back, including one janitor position. Steve took the other: the opportunity to hang out at WUWM.
After that, he worked at WAUK, then WQFM, then WZUU, then back to WQFM ... and finally worked afternoons at WKLH for a little while.
"I gave up Eddie Money to earn money in 1986," says Steve, who eventually entered the world of commercial real estate.
"But 23 years ago WKLH offered me the chance to wake up early every Sunday morning," he says. "I mean every Sunday morning. I mean like 5:30 am. I mean no matter what I did on Saturday night. Live every Sunday morning. I love it."