Pat’s Tap has many lovely qualities.
If you can forgive Pat for preferring the Packers, you’ll appreciate her generous happy hour, Skee-ball machines and a patio welcoming to pets.
Oh yeah, and the food’s good too.
What I’m here to talk about today is cheese curds.
It’s easy to make OK versions and hard to perfect. Deep frying battered cheese so that it has the ideal taste and texture is a complicated and beautiful thing.
Not all bits of fried cheese are cheese curds. Cheese balls are not cheese curds. Mozzarella sticks aren’t cheese curds. Only cheese curds are cheese curds.
High quality cheese curds are the heart and soul of the dish.
Texture matters. The cheese should be stringy and chewy and seeping with milk fat.
Batter is integral. The batter or coating can go wrong in so many ways, blemishing a perfectly good curd. Mass-produced, previously frozen, nuggets are usually afflicted with dense, sandy breading. Some fresh batters begin with good intentions but end up too thick or too tough.
Service temperature is essential. They’re magical served molten hot from the deep fryer.
And then there are dips. Cheese curds have to be served with some type of dip. It doesn’t matter what it is and it doesn’t matter if you use it. What matters is that the dip is there (because someone will want to dip their curds) and that it’s good. Ranch dressing, marinara sauce, funky fruit ketchups, hoisin sauce can all work.
Pat’s Tap serves cheese curds that taste as good as our favorites from the MN State Fair. We’ve never found cheese curds we like as much as the MN State Fair’s until we visited Pat.