APGDiscover: Eat Local, the Cheese Edition

Since the Audubon Park Garden District is Orlando’s food hub, I thought I’d celebrate Slow Food Orlando’s Eat Local Week with a month long commitment to only eat food that has come from our district. (And no, 7 Eleven doesn’t count with their snack selection. So no cheese popcorn for me this month. *sniff*)

This morning started with a cup of Dancing Goat coffee from Stardust.

Image via Stardust.
Image via Stardust.

Now I’m working on a cheese plate from La Femme du Fromage. Because I am picky, I requested only cow’s milk cheese for the plate. Lee, the storm trooper t shirt wearing employee, selected three beautiful cheeses – Kenny’s Norwood, Marieke Foenegreek Gouda and a five-year-aged Gouda from Dutch cheesemakers, Beemster.

(Lee apologized for the limited cow’s milk selection, but if I wanted a consistent selection of a food, I’d go to a supermarket with their uniformity of brands, where food is somehow not always quite food, but it is always a commodity.)

Image via East End Market.
Image via East End Market.

All three cheeses are great, of course, but I wanted to explore their dairies’ back stories, too. The most intriguing one is Beemster from the Netherlands.

Beemster cows are grass fed and pasture raised in the canal lined, Beemster Polder in the Netherlands. Created in 1612 by Dutch engineers draining for pasture land, this polder was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. It’s here that the cows eat rich grasses that grow in the mineral rich soil. The gouda I tried is certainly both creamy and still somehow firm, with a deep, natural gold color and bits of salt crystals in each bite.

real food quoteAs for the cows themselves – Beemster is a Caring Dairy. Founded by Ben and Jerry’s, Caring Dairy is focused on animal welfare, living wages for farmers and sustainable farming and transportation practices. In addition to Ben and Jerry’s, the Caring Dairy program (with 500 dairies participating) is supported by the World Wildlife Fund, Stichting Natuur en Milieu (Dutch organization for Nature and Environment) and Solidaridad (supporting fair and sustainable trade). In support of animal welfare, Beemster Dairy pays a premium for cows fed in pasture land and enjoys over a 95% participation rate.

So that’s how I spent my lunch money today. Trying award winning cheeses, supporting a local business and learning about cows, Dutch history and a Ben and Jerry’s initiative. I wonder what tomorrow will bring?