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If you’ve been following the story of the two Annas (Anna Landmark and Anna Thomas Bates)—the Landmark Creamery owners who last spring successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to build a production space complete with cheese cave—then you may appreciate this update. I’ve visited the new shop in downtown bucolic Paoli, and it is every bit a dream come true.
It’s a storefront in what was once a grocery store and café across from Cluck The Chicken Store. There are two tables inside the cozy space.
The rest of the shop is filled with locally crafted wares such as American Provenance (offering beard balm, lip balm, leather conditioner and other products). Selected cookbooks and cocktail recipe books sit alongside Quince & Apple syrups and preserves and Potter’s Crackers. The cooler is filled with dozens of local eggs, grass-fed frozen meats from Riemer Family Farm of Brodhead and a cheese case that you won’t be able to take your eyes off of.
The case is well-stocked with Landmark Creamery’s cheeses, including Tallgrass Reserve, pasture-grazed cow milk with a natural rind; as well as Pipit, a new-to-me cheese that is 100-percent sheep's milk with a creamy texture. Thomas Bates (a food writer and marketing manager for Landmark Creamery) tells me, “it starts sweet and has a zippy finish, and melts beautifully. It’s sort of a Havarti/gouda hybrid.”
Also in the case is a darling petit nuage sheep's milk cheese that Landmark crafts in 1-ounce portions. The tart, bright and aesthetically beautiful “little cloud” is an award-winner, having garnered gold in both the 2017 and 2015 U.S. Championship Cheese contests. Most recently, it won a 2018 Good Food Award. A few other standout cheeses on offer that day were the Pecora Nocciola, an Italian Pecorino-style firm sheep's milk cheese with notes of brown butter and toasted nuts, as well as Anabasque, a classic sheep's milk cheese inspired by the French Basque country.
In a show of solidarity with their fellow small-batch cheese makers around the country, the Anna’s proudly offer their favorite cheeses from makers from North Carolina, Nebraska, Minnesota as well as Wisconsin favorites including Roelli’s Dunbarton Blue and Upland’s Pleasant Ridge Reserve.
And that's just the cheese case. I haven’t even told you about the lunch menu yet. You always have your choice of sheep's milk cheese-topped sweet or savory toasts made by Bates, who, by the way, has placed many times in the annual Wisconsin Grilled Cheese Championship. The day I visited I enjoyed the sweet toast made with fresh thyme, ginger-honey-pear jam and garnished with edible flowers. It was almost too pretty to eat. There is also a basic grilled cheese offering on the board, but, let’s be honest, there is nothing basic about having Landmark Creamery’s artisan cheeses melting on grilled Madison Sourdough bread.
"As spring gets closer, we will add to our selections in the cooler and on our menu so that bicyclists, fly fisher people and folks who just like to eat outdoors can take some cheese and other delicious items with them like cheddar and chutney sandwiches and portable cheese boards,” Bates says.
Presently, there is a cheese board on the menu, and it comes with a seasonal house-made pickle. The coffee served is from small producer Lodge Coffee Roasters out of Baraboo.
Last, but certainly not least, a large part of this 5,000-square-foot space is what Landmark Creamery needed most to continue making their exceptional cheeses: room for production, cutting and wrapping cheeses, boxing up gift box orders and a cheese cave on site for their delicious and award-winning sheep and pasture-grazed cow milk cheese. In the cave, "we can flip it and wash it,” Landmark says, to keep all those bloomy-rind cheeses at the perfect temperature and humidity and with proper air flow. Before the new space, they had to make the cheese in one place and age it in another. Now everything but the sheep and cows are under this one roof. The sheep and cows are on local farms happily grazing away, while people like me happily munch on cheese-slathered toast at the storefront.
6895 Paoli Road, Belleville