South Florida is not a major producer of small artisanal cheeses, but if you look further afield to other parts of the state and to Georgia, it is possible to get enough interesting, tasty cheeses to create a regional cheese plate. Below are suggestions in order of distance:
Hani’s Mediterranean Organics-Hani Khouri raises goats in the Redland and makes fresh goat cheese. This goat cheese differs in taste and texture than what you might find in the plastic tube at Publix. While it still has that grassy note goat cheese is known for, Khouri’s cheese is a little firmer and slightly sharper than store-bought goat cheese. Khouri also makes silky hummus, baba ganouj and other good accompaniments for a cheese plate.
You can find Hani Khouri’s cheeses at the Fairchild Farmer’s Market.
Mozzarita-Vito Volpe is the master cheesemaker at the Pompano Beach company. The burrata’s delicate mozzarella shell gives away to a creamy, buttery interior. Serve the burrata with fruits like star fruit, mango and strawberries, or with herbed olive oil and bread.
Mozzarita also makes fior di latte–mozzarella made from cow’s milk–smoked mozzarella, fresh ricotta and other cheeses that are compelling in their freshness and simplicity. Find Mozzarita cheeses at Whole Foods, Milam’s and Norman Brothers.
Ni.Do Caffe-The MiMo Italian restaurant makes its own creamy mozzarella, as well as firmer smoked mozzarella, fresh ricotta and fior di latte. I was impressed by the elegant flavors and textures of the cheeses at Ni.Do. You can order these as part of a meal or take some to go.
Zerpa ‘s Antojos Criollos-If you love fresh mozzarella, then the watery, creamy delicacy that is Venezuelan queso guayanes will appeal to you. Typically, the cheese is served half melted in the wide sweet corn cakes known as cachapas or in arepas. However, the cheese also works nicely with fruit, just as burrata does. It’s a little saltier and tangier than fresh mozzarella.
You can find Zerpa’s queso in the cheese case at Artisan Kitchen & Bar, a Key Biscayne restaurant that offers solid Venezuelan dishes. There’s also another local brand to be found at South Miami’s European Corner, which is actually a Venezuelan restaurant and prepared foods shop.
Winter Park Dairy-So far I’ve only found the Orlando-area dairy’s cheese on menus at a one or two local restaurants. I wanted to mention Winter Park Dairy anyway as its raw milk cheeses, including the nutty Bleu Sunshine and the striking Florida Tomme, are very much worth trying. According to the website, you can order the cheese online. If you’re ever in the area, the artisan dairy also sells at the Winter Park Farmers’ Market.
Sweetgrass Dairy-I visited the North Miami Whole Foods earlier this year for a primer on cheeses from the Thomasville, Georgia dairy.
Jeremy and Jessica Little make cheeses from the milk of their grassfed goats, as well as from the cows’ milk from Green Hill Dairy, a Jersey cow farm owned by a family member. The Green Hill cheese is Sweetgrass’ most award-winning cheese. The buttery, grassy, slightly funky cheese is made in a style aimilar to Camembert.
The mild and sweet Thomasville Tomme, a raw goat’s milk cheese, is a little firmer. Whole Foods cheesemonger Lauren Surman informed me that raw milk cheeses are allowed to be sold in the U.S. as long as they are aged for 60 days or longer.
Asher Blue is a good gateway cheese for those new to blue cheeses. It’s robust and pungent, but not as full-on funky as a Roquefort or a Gorgonzola.
All of the above Sweetgrass Dairy cheeses are available at most Whole Foods stores in Florida.