Food News

Cheese Culture in Fort Lauderdale Sure to Attract the Cheese-o-philes

Susan Phipps was in an Atlanta cheese shop a year ago when she became inspired. "Cheese was stacked from floor to ceiling. My jaw dropped. I couldn't speak for several minutes."

Phipps decided to open her own place. Cheese Culture will have a soft opening this weekend. It will offer cheeses (duh), charcuterie, fancy olive oils, honey, wine,

and specialty food items. Those looking for a meal rather than a graze

can order paninis, cold sandwiches, salads, eventually coffee, and brunch

geared toward gastronomes.

So how do you prepare to open a cheese shop?

Aside from quitting her day job as an event planner for Marine Max and

cashing in her 401K to invest in the place, Phipps trekked to The Cheese School of San Francisco for boot camp. She also sent an email to Steve Jenkins, aka "The King of Cheese" and architect for the cheese section in New York's Fairway Market, who hooked her up with David Grotenstein, a cheese consultant who sits on the board of the American Cheese Society.

Grotenstein rounded out Phipps knowledge and guided her on how much

cheese to carry, what things cost, accompanying items, hours, and


He also directed her toward a trend. "American artisanal cheeses are the

hottest selling specialty items right now," said Brooklyn-based

Grotenstein, who was in-house during Clean Plate Charlie's visit. Among

those for sale at Cheese Culture is bandage-wrapped cheddar, which allows

cheese to dry and breathe, creating a cheddar with the texture of a

Parmigiano- Reggiano that's earthier and nuttier than traditional vacuum packed

cheddar. The technique, says Grotenstein, is so new The American Cheese

Society had to create a category for it.

"American cheese makers had been imitating European icons," he said.

"Over the last five or ten years, American cheese makers are pioneering.

There are brand new cheeses on the market with brand new names."

Though California and Wisconsin are at the forefront of US cheese

making, it's a trend across the country. Even in Florida. Phipps said

she will carry goat cheese from a farmer south of Miami as well as

mozzarella made locally.

If you want to get all fancy, the most expensive cheeses in the shop are not French. It's Rogue River Blue-

a raw milk seasonal cheese from Oregon that's wrapped in grape leaves

macerated in pear brandy that won the "Best in Show" category at the

2011 American Cheese Society judging.

The damage? 45 bucks a pound.

Aside from curds and whey, food nerds will relish four kinds of

mustards, a half dozen olive oils, jams, and meat: prosciutto,

mortadella, pancetta, salami, speck, and coppa to name a few. Put it all

together and you've got paninis ($10) such as The Italian, layered with

speck, Genoa salami, aged provolone, Black Forest ham, and olive

tepanade on Gran Forno crusty bread. Among cold sandwiches ($9) is the

Napa Valley Picnic, made with burrata (yum), tomato, sundried pesto, and

basil on cibatta. For lighter fare (kind of) there's a slew of salads, 

like the Great Pear, made with baby greens, Point Reyes blue cheese,

pear, Granny Smith slices, and caramelized walnuts ($9).

Phipps is in the process of culling a boutique wine collection from old

and new world vineyards. She's also planning a selection of classes such as cheese 101, and pairings with wine or beer. She'll launch with one a month and eventually offer several a week.

Susan Phipps' Cheese Culture will be open seven days a week from 11 a.m.

to 9 p.m. weekdays, 11 p.m. weekends. The official debut is next

week, but cheeseheads are encouraged to drop in over the weekend.

Cheese Culture
813 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart