MAITLAND – With names like Japalpeno Havarti to tempt the taste buds, Debbie Miller was fully prepared to tackle just about any taste a customer might have – in cheese.
“Oh, my God, are you ready to try some?” Miller asked, as she took out a knife, then several blocks of cheese, and after carefully unwrapping them, cut slices of each one to be sampled.
“This is my Irish cheddar,” she said, as she then reached for a second sample. “This is my smoked cheese from the Netherlands. And you have to try my Whiskey Cheddar. It even smells like whiskey.”
Miller was cutting slices of cheese from the booth she had set up on Lake Lily Drive in Maitland, site of that city’s five-acre Lake Lily Park, which offers jogging trails, a wedding gazebo, picnic areas, the restored Historic Waterhouse Residence Museum – and, on Sundays, a Farmer’s Market that opens at 9 a.m.
It’s the kind of outdoor event that has been attracting businesses like Che Bella Gourmet Cheese, a company based in Lake Mary that sells a wide variety of cheeses, and which has been sending Miller down to Maitland on Sundays introduce to the local crowds to their items.
“These are all imported,” she said of the cheeses.
The company does the vast majority of its business, she added, at outdoor markets like the one in Maitland.
“We are just at the Farmer’s Markets,” she said, noting that turnout was slower than normal on Sunday, most likely because the temperatures that morning were struggling to break out of the low 40s. Patrons at the park were dressed in an unusual way for Florida, even in December – in thick coats, wool hats, scarves and gloves, when t-shirts are more often the norm.
“It’s been slow because of the weather,” Miller said. “This is the first time I’ve been here that it’s been this slow.”
The nippy temperatures didn’t seem to be hurting the nearby booth being operated by Rona’s Gourmet Soups & Salad, a family business operated by Frank and Sharon Barba. Items like their Rosemary Chicken Salad were drawing in the lunch crowd.
“The Curry Chicken Salard is pretty popular, too,” Sharon Barba noted. “And I’ve sold out of our soup already.”
The couple got their start operating a restaurant in New York before relocating to Florida several years ago.
“My husband went to school for cooking, and he makes all the salads,” she said. “They change every week. Everything we bring here changes. We used to own a deli in New York. We’re just starting out here.”
The Farmer’s Market at Lake Lily Park attracted plenty of other booths, selling everything from kettle corn to coffee and espresso, to Buffalo Bill’s beef jerky — which included meat from alligators, kangaroos and ostriches.
Unlike Che Bella’s, nothing is imported from overseas, owner Buffalo Bill said.
“They’re all domestically raised,” he said. “Nothing is imported. The ostrich is from Nebraska, the alligator is from Louisiana, and the kangaroo is from Iowa. They have huge kangaroo farms out there.”
The Lake Lily Park Farmer’s Market also has a playground for the kids, and families can feed ducks on the lake or have lunch while listening to live music provided every Sunday by the Performing Arts of Maitland.
It’s located at 701 Lake Lily Drive, off Maitland Avenue and U.S. 17/92, and is open on Sundays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Contact us at FreelineOrlando@gmail.com.