A wedge of Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese (photos courtesy Whole Foods Market®)

From Block to Wheel

Whether aged, semi-soft, or made from goat’s milk, local cheese purveyors have it covered.

ACCORDING TO FRENCH PHILOSOPHER JEAN ANTHELME BRILLAT-SAVARIN, “A MEAL WITHOUT SOME CHEESE IS like a beautiful woman with only one eye.” Granted, he was a gourmand and noted aficionado of cheese, but there is no doubt that the right cheese can lend a certain elegance to a meal.

Here in Hawai’i, thanks to a confluence of different things in our community-a thriving foodie culture that embraces the farm-to-table movement as well as grocers and other specialty shops that offer a selection of cheeses-there has been an uptick in availability. All options-from imported to Hawai’i-produced-make these very interesting times for veteran cheese-lovers as well as rookies who aren’t sure where to start. Since artisan cheeses tend to be grouped by their region of origin, we explore some of the local producers who are keeping our islands supplied with curd.

Some local dairies have been around for a relatively long time, such as Surfing Goat Dairy. Others, like Naked Cow Dairy, have been around for just a few years. One thing that they all have in common: dedication to their craft and a loyal fan base.

For more than a decade, Hawaii Island Goat Dairy (www.hawaiiislandgoatdairy.com) has been offering up both goat cheese and goat milk feta from their Ahualoa farm-stead. Proprietors Dick and Heather Threlfall have mixed, tasted and experimented to create a variety of goat cheese flavors including chipotle pepper, garlic-dill as well as mac-nut basil pesto. As for their version of feta-it doesn’t get any fresher. the brine-aged cheese is vacuum-packed, and once opened, is as salty and tangy as intended. Maui isn’t short on producing goat cheese either-the Valley Isle is home to Surfing Goat Dairy (www.surfinggoatdairy.com). the award-winning brand has three kinds of goat cheese available, from their “Paradise” line, to the herb- or fruit-infused “Aloha” selections, to their top-of-the-line “Shark Bites”-made with premium ingredients such as truffles and flecks of 23kt gold.

But goat cheese is just the beginning if you’re bound for Whole Foods (www.wholefoods.com). the grocer’s cheese department is a one-stop shop for creating your perfect cheese board or scoring a block of Gruyere for a fondue party. And with a cheese specialist behind the counter on standby, feel free to ask questions and get recommendations.

On O’ahu, Naked Cow Dairy (www.nakedcowdairy.com) holds the distinction as being the only cow milk dairy on the island. When the dairy started its cheese making efforts a year ago-making Naked Cow the first-ever cow milk cheese producer in the state-supporters came out and put their money where their hearts were. Now, the Wai’anae-based dairy is supplying local restaurants like Chef Mavro with their farmer’s cheese, mozzarella, feta and more.

Over on O’ahu’s North Shore, Hawaiian Fresh Farms (www.hawaiianfreshfarms.com) is producing what they brand “Hawaiian style goat cheese.” their offerings come from goats of diverse bloodlines that are flavored with Hawaiian chili pepper, mac nut and honey and plain.

In keeping with the farm’s philosophy of sustainability and organic farming, the chili pepper and honey used to flavor the cheeses are also produced on the farm.

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