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Wisconsin Artisanal Cheeses

This is my first newsletter article, so let me introduce myself: I’m Stuart Mammel, the Deli department’s Cheese Coordinator. I’m the third generation of my family to work in the grocery business. I’ve worked in the food service industry for 24 years, the last 13 of those in natural foods. I’ve been part of the Willy Street Co-op team since 1994. Impressive credentials, right? I should know everything there is to know about food and marketing food, right? Well, as enormous as my ego is, much to my surprise I’ve discovered that I’m learning new things each day. What has most impressed me in the time I’ve worked here is the knowledge, sophistication and passion that our customers bring to their choices as consumers. I’ve learned more from customer questions and concerns than any other source of information.

Cheese origin labeling

Recently I was shocked to discover that many of you don’t realize how much Wisconsin cheese we stock in the cheese case. Why, there are hundreds! I would say a good 80 percent of the cheese that we sell is made right here in Wisconsin. How is it that no one realizes this? I finally noticed that many, if not most, of the stickers and labels that you as customers rely on for your information said nothing about the origins of the cheese. How embarrassing! I want you all to know that we are committed to Wisconsin cheeses. A commitment to local agriculture is an essential part of the Co-op’s mission. We are working on a solution to the labeling problem as I write. Very soon you should be able to look at any cheese in the case and know its origin.

Wisconsin artisanal cheese

The word “artisan” has become a buzzword lately in the food industry. It’s mentioned on the Food Network, in all the trendy food magazines, in all the bestselling cookbooks. Artisan-crafted foods are becoming an important part of our culinary culture. This is good news. Artisan-crafted means handcrafted products created with a respect for tradition and technique. These are products usually crafted by smaller producers in limited quantities with great precision and care. They are the labors of love.

In Wisconsin, as in every other part of this country, there are small farmers and producers diving into this growing field. Artisanal cheesemakers are starting to crop up everywhere. Many of their cheeses are in our cheese case. They represent the best cheeses that our state has to offer, which makes them some of the best cheeses in the nation—perhaps some of the best cheeses in the world. We’ve created a section to highlight Wisconsin artisan-crafted cheese. It is the very front bottom shelf of the cheese case. Many of the cheeses that you’ll find there have been in stock for quite some time, but there are some new faces, and there will be many more in the future.

Some of the familiar cheeses include: Uplands Cheese Pleasant Ridge Reserve; Roth Kase Grand Cru Gruyere; and Roth Kase Vintage Van Gogh Gouda; Pasture Pride Juusto; Capri Cheesery Wash Bear; St. Felix goat cheeses; Crave Brothers Les Freres. I’ve also brought in Brenda Jensen’s Driftless sheep cheeses, as well as a whole line of Sid Cook’s finest

Carr Valley cheeses.

Some of the artisan cheeses still reside in their previous places in the case: Widmer’s cheddars and bricks; Belgioioso’s Provolone, Parmesan and Asiago; the Salemville blue cheeses; Cedar Grove’s Prairie Premium extra-sharp white cheddar, and their blended milk Faarko; and Hook’s blue cheese and aged cheddars. Keep your eye out for more new Wisconsin, as well as many other great domestic, artisan-crafted cheeses. We plan to continue introducing them to the case on a regular basis.

June is Dairy Month, and we’re planning to bring in as many artisan cheesemakers as we can to sample their wares. This will give you all a chance to taste these delicious culinary works of art and meet their creators.

Give us your suggestions

I learn so much from your interests. Please come to me with your questions and concerns, or take the time to fill out a Customer Comment card. We’re interested in any suggestions you may have. Help make us the best and brightest workers that we
can be.

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