Allison Hooper, co-founder of the Vermont Butter & Cheese Company
was the first person I met when I landed in San Diego for the Fancy Food Show; we were staying in the same hotel and shared a ride from the airport. She was also one of the last people I visited with, at the cheese panel
I attended on my last day.
I knew of Allison for her Chèvre, Crème Fraîche and Mascarpone. Learning her story, and also tasting more of her products, endeared her to me and my weekly shopping list.
Allison founded the company in 1984 with Bob Reese. They each threw in $1,200, and began a labor of love to bring goat cheese into the US market. There was a lot of laughter slung her way when she insisted that people could learn to love goat cheese. These days she's managing 30 employees in a state-of-the-art facility in Websterville, Vermont and speaks authoritatively yet humbling and joyfully about what she does and no one, not even the local firemen, is laughing anymore.
In particular, she is proud of the efforts her company is making to stay as local and sustainable as possible. She learned cheese-making on a small farm in France and is insistent that quality originates at the source – with the people who work the land and the pride they take in the yield. Their milk comes from eighteen local Vermont farms, one in New Hampshire, two in New York and one in Quebec. Their cream is sourced from two Vermont dairies: St. Albans Cooperative Creamery and Booth Brothers Dairy.
Allison and her merry team of cheese-makers also make an amazing cultured butter with sea salt and a gem of an aged goat's milk crottin called Bijou. I tried both of these (yep, two pats of butter down the hatch) and was impressed. For a step-by-step guide of their process, her website has a great page on the basics of cheese-making.
Vermont Butter & Cheese is available at Artisanal Cheese, iGourmet and Murray's. Or use this handy store locator to find other shops by zip code.