Visiting Allison Hooper

Hooper mailbox

Before I went to Vermont, everyone and their brother told me I would luvvv it and never want to leave it. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I thought. Everyone also said the same thing about Maine. But then I went to Vermont. And it was the fortune cookie fortune I always wanted…One day you will travel to the land of green pastures and be fed amazing cheeses while swimming.

My reason for visiting Vermont was two-fold; I’ve always wanted to attend the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival, AND Allison Hooper of Vermont Creamery told me I could stay in her Cheese Blogger Chalet.

Cheese blogger chalet?

Cheese blogger chalet

“Bring your swimsuit,” she said. “We can use the pool.”

Pool?

She didn’t mention that it was a saltwater pool, surrounded by lavender. She didn’t mention that you could laze along the edge and smell Provence while you watched four kinds of bees dance around the purple spindles.

Hooper pool

Allison Hooper, you will note, makes furry little French-style goat cheeses that look like chinchilla paperweights. I wrote about them back in March. I find them transfixing to look at – not unlike taxidermy – and breathtaking to eat. They are so cool and clean. Like a compress. Like a pool.

Allison has spent the last thirty years perfecting her wrinkly rinds.

Coupole and Bonne Bouche

Coupole and Bonne Bouche

She showed me the sugar house where she first started her business (it’s in what is now her front yard), and then she drove me to her HQ, a sleek, red Dairy-Queen-like space in what is basically a warehouse district.

The birth place of Vermont Creamery

The birth place of Vermont Creamery

Vermont Creamery today

Vermont Creamery today

Inside the creamery, I saw two things I’d never seen before.

First, there was a wild machine called a Berge filter that looked like a giant diaper press. It was made of fabric pouches arranged like file folders, and Allison explained how curd was poured into the sacks, then pressed.

Berge filter

Second, there was a white board covered with names and numbers.

“This is our accounting system,” she said. “It’s all open book.”

Don Hooper (Allison's huz) pointing out accounts

Don Hooper (Allison’s huz) pointing out accounts

“Each Thursday, we stop production and all the employees gather around. We put up all the finances, and every department gives a two-minute report,” Allison explained. “It’s been great!”

During the three days I spent in Vermont, I watched Allison fix Bar Hill gin’n tonics, swim the butterfly, banter with her sons (3, grown), carve a chicken, create a cheese plate, read a book over her husband Don’s shoulder, make a cooking video, walk the length of her goat farm, explain plans for a new milking barn, describe her vision for sustainable goat dairies, attend a party she had sponsored, roam through the Vermont Cheesemaker Festival, etc.

But she was most animated when she got down to business. Here she is in “the butter room,” describing the churn.Vermont Creamery Butter Churn

“When we started,” she said, “We used a tiny glass churn that Bob [her business partner] and I found by the side of the road in Middlebury.”

Allison is a quiet person. Very much like her cheese. (You know that saying about how dogs reflect their owners? I am beginning to think that the kind of cheese a person makes says a lot about their personality.)

Allison’s cheeses are complex, durable, yet tender.

Allison holding cheese

All this to say: I loved staying at Allison’s house (her crisper had a lot if interesting unmarked wedges) but the greatest pleasure wasn’t eating Coupole by the pool; it was tagging along after her through the business that she built with her family.

“When our son Miles was born, Allison came in here with him and packed goat cheese seven days a week,” said her husband Don.

Allison and Miles in the kitchen

Allison and her son, Miles, in the kitchen

Such revelations amaze me. It’s easy to enjoy a well-made cheese, but how often have you peeled back the packaging and considered the hands that folded the wrapper?

To read more about Allison’s cheeses, visit the Vermont Creamery website and check out the blog. If you live in Philadelphia and are attending Cochon555 on Sunday, you can find her there. In fact, we will both be there. (Allison will be staying at my house!)

Outtakes From The Weekend

Breakfast with limited edition creme fraiche

Breakfast with limited edition creme fraiche

Creamery manager Adeline Druart

Creamery manager Adeline Druart

Allison with Raiza Costa off Dulce Delight, making a video

Allison with Raiza Costa off Dulce Delight, making a video

Note: Look for the forthcoming video with Raiza and Allison on Dulce Delight.

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Comments
7 Responses to “Visiting Allison Hooper”
  1. Aunt Dawnie says:

    Fascinating and absolutely wonderful! Thank you for sharing your amazing adventure with us. Behind every cheese is a unique personality. Or several. You are one, yourself.
    Love…

  2. Sonja Darlington says:

    Your blog post is the next best level of enjoyment, if one can’t go to Vermont and taste Allison Hooper’s Vermont cheeses directly. A beautiful context through which to appreciate this particular creamery–the cheese chalet, swimming pool amidst lavender, and family support make for an imaginative vacation in the mind’s eye. Fabulous! Bring on the Coupole.

  3. Alex says:

    This looks like such an amazing experience! I’ll be in VT in a few weeks — will have to try more VC goodies in their home state. And Ann, Joe, and I will see you at Cochon tonight!

  4. Aunt Tookie says:

    Tenaya, always fun reading your amazing adventures! I’d like a fortune cookie like yours! 🙂
    Love you

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  1. […] time this year (I think cheesemaker Allison Hooper slipped a chip in my brain when I stayed at her blogger chalet over the summer): Hooper makes kosher-certified cow’s milk products that stay kosher because […]

  2. […] brow (a.k.a wrinkles). I’ve written about her cheeses before, and I visited her and stayed in her “cheese blogger chalet” a few summers ago – you may […]



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