Bill Anderson, founder and proprietor of Crème de la Coulee Artisan Cheese Company in Madison, is a busy man. I caught up with him by phone in late April to talk about the company, which specializes in the process of affinage (aging and ripening cheeses to the height of flavor), using the Bear Valley Affinage facility, west of Spring Green. Crème de Coulee is the recipient of a Willy Street Co-op Local Vendor Fund, which was announced by General Manager Anya Firszt in our May Reader.
The mission of Crème de la Coulee is a perfect example of “simple, not easy”: To propagate the concept of terroir, the traditional French word which expresses the effect of climate and place on the flavors of food, in a Wisconsin context. To this end, Bill crafts cheeses using, as often as availability permits, organic raw milk. “There was this renaissance of artisan cheese in Wisconsin and I saw an unfilled niche in that market—soft ripened cheeses (which begin firm and chalky in texture, ripening from the outside inwards).” Bill worked with Willi Lehner of Bleu Mont Dairy, among others, to cultivate his own expertise in the art of translating green pastureland into delicious cheeses made in the French tradition.
Bill learned of the Willy Street Co-op Local Vendor Fund program through Tera Johnson of Tera’s Whey, a business partner of Bill’s through the UW-Extension and a local luminary of environmentally conscientious dairying. The effects of the loan for the Willy Street Co-op Ownership in the next two to five years, Bill said, would be “An increase in our available inventory, with more variety. We’d like to acquire a distributor to make the product more readily available, and improve quality control.”
Currently, Crème de la Coulee’s St. Tom, a French-style Munster washed-rind cheese, is available at the Willy Street Co-op and Westside Community Farmer’s Market. In the past year, the Co-op has featured a range of Crème de la Coulee’s seasonal cheese selections and will do so again this year as they become available.