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Door County Creamery, Sister Bay

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Love. Local. Cheese. This sentiment accurately expresses Door County Creamery’s aesthetics and inspired owner Jesse Johnson to open a store dedicated to humble goats milk. While in France honing his culinary chops, Johnson fell in love with goat cheese and the European philosophy emphasizing fresh and simply prepared food. Inside the recently-opened Creamery, ‘fresh and simple’ can be seen in the Door County, Wisconsin produce kept in the restaurant’s glass cases: just-picked cherry tomatoes, ruby strawberries, leafy romaine, and the Jesse’s delicate, soft chèvre.

Jesse began his journey towards the Creamery many years ago. After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he apprenticed at Babcock Diary, famous for their delicious Wisconsin ice cream, and Dream Farm, nearby in Cross Plains. Afterwards, Johnson attended culinary school in Colorado, followed by a period of culinary training in France. The experiences brought Johnson back home to Sister Bay where his father, J.J., operates J.J.’s/LaPuerta and Waterfront, and where Jesse initially learned to prepare food. One evening at home with Rachel, they decided they wanted to raise goats to produce Door County chèvre.

This decision started the Johnsons on a several year plan “to make a dream come true.” Jesse needed to obtain a Wisconsin Cheesemaker’s license in a state that has some of the most stringent qualifications in the nation. Besides the certification, the Johnsons began raising a herd of goats on a farm about a mile out of Sister Bay — goats need to mature before producing milk. The process also provided Jesse with testing time, to decide which type of chèvre to produce.

The buttery cheese made from goat’s milk tastes airy and light on the tongue, especially when spread on the Creamery’s toasty crostini, available in small bags on the front counter. Behind every container of fresh chevre, hard work and perseverance were essential ingredients. While Jesse churns the cheese on the Creamery premises, Rachael, with some hired help, raises the goats that produce the milk on a farm located just outside downtown Sister Bay. The farm, with a substantial herd of goats, represents the other half of the Johnsons’ dream, completely invisible to the customer, when someone enjoys the Creamery’s chèvre or goat’s milk gelato.

Presently, they add goat’s milk from a Sturgeon Bay farm to produce enough cheese for their unique chèvre and the specialty varieties Jesse eventually plans to create: Wild Ramp, Valencay covered with an ash rind, hand tomes, and a baked juristelipia. The Creamery also serves daily sandwich specials, seasonal produce, baked breads, and hand-made gelato from goat’s milk with added cow’s cream. Light, thin crostini, or toasted bread crisps, can also be purchased to eat with the cheese, although fruit and chèvre were equally tempting.

Goats Milk Soap

Rachel also makes goat’s milk soap fragranced with local herbs. Goat’s milk soap has a PH balance closest to the human skin, and can be soothing for those with sensitive complexions. In the store, her hand-cut soaps are tied with twine. A soap scented with lemongrass has been popular for its gentle and natural qualities. Customers have returned to buy more soap, saying that their child’s skin problems have benefited from the goat milk formula.

The Johnsons began raising their goats about two years ago. This year they have a herd of 40 all individually named which they plan on increasing to about 70 or 80.

The Johnsons care for their animals year-round. Rachael noted that the goats need milking twice a day, at 6:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m., in addition to feedings twice a day. Otherwise, the herd grazes on alfalfa and hay in the pasture. While the old adage says that goats “eat anything,” Rachael says it’s not true. Goats can be very picky, and if the desired milk will be used to make cheese, the quality of their food determines the quality of the cheese.

Besides feeding and milking, each goat needs their hooves clipped, their pen cleaned, and regular check-ups for signs of illness. Since goats exhibit distinct personalities, individual animals can be curious, shy, active or robust. While some goats are healthier than others, and able to withstand any fluctuation in farm habits, others might be fragile and find themselves under the weather at the least change in temperature. Jesse and Rachael have self-educated themselves on goat health, saving on veterinarian bills, an important feature of raising goats. Imagine the medical bills for raising 40 children!

Surviving 18-hour days, manning the farm, overseeing the restaurant, are all a testament to a faithful routine, hard work and the love the Johnsons put into every batch of chèvre and gelato. As a result, more and more Door County, Wisconsin residents and visitors have come to Love.Local.Cheese!
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Door County Creamery reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 5.0
242 reviews
  • I’m only taking off a star because the girl behind the counter seemed less than thrilled to be there. We asked if they were offering samples of the gelato since there were some different flavors and.....  more »
  • Stopped by on a cool Saturday afternoon. We had the BLT and the Turkey Brie sandwiches. Delicious using top notch ingredients. The Gelato is wonderful also.  more »
  • Add my five star review to all the rest. First, the ingredients they use to make their sandwiches are fresh and flavorful. I had a BLT unlike any that I have ever had. The potato salad that came with it was just fine, according to my wife. The cheese spreads are soft, fresh, and full of flavor. We brought a French style bread and two spreads to a cocktail party, and people were raving about it. Don't forget a chocolate chip cookie to go.
  • Found this place last year and while it took a while to convince to me try “goat cheese” anything I am so glad I did! In addition to blocks of goat cheese they also offer a nice selection of goat cheese spreads and ice cream along with goat milk soaps and lotions, apparel and wine. They also partner with a local farm for goat yoga which I definitely want to try next time! Only downfall is the crazy small chairs all the places seem to have here...not hip/butt friendly. Otherwise fabulous shop and a must see!
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