On February 27th, Whole Foods stores world-wide attempted to break the Parmigiano Reggiano wheel cracking record set back in 2008. Did they do it? To be honest, I’m not sure yet. What I am sure of is this event was a major hit with staff and customers alike at the University Heights, Ohio location. One of the coolest things about cheese is that it unites all aspects of food as shown by the many tasting stations set up throughout the store. From wine and beer to dessert, this cheese let its versatility shine.
Fox8 morning news personality, Stephanie Schaefer, was on hand to MC the event. Here, Ron is showing the proper method to cracking a wheel. When asked if all shops use this method, Ron replied:
“A lot of places us a band saw or wires and then they shrink-wrap it, and they’re not using good parm to begin with. From a traditional point of view, they’re butchering it. We have to take care of our cheese and love it”
Ron’s expertise pays off and a perfect split is made. Next up is the sampling and what an amazing taste this cheese has. Salty and tangy with an earthy undertone and the perfect balance of smooth and crystal paste, it’s obvious this was a quality wheel of cheese.
While Ron sliced samples and broke down one half of the wheel, another cheesemonger, Joe, went to work on the other half. Perfect wedges were wrapped and sold hand over fist. I got mine before they were all gone. Next, it was off to see all the other tasty samples being offered.
First up was Sara, two-year cheesemonger with Whole Foods, and her mixed green salad topped with a thin curl of Parmigiano Reggiano. When asked what greens go best with parm, she gave these suggestions:
“Anything that’s a nice light green. Romaine, butter lettuce or even spinach are perfect.”
The dressing was a family recipe belonging to one of the store’s associates, Jim consisting of lemon juice, olive oil, salt a garlic ground together in with a mortar and pestle, a little pepper and a dash of sugar. A perfect balance of sweet and savory that Sara deemed as a umami (Japanese term for flavor and refers to savoriness).
Next up were the main courses of lasagna served by Neil (pictured right) and a risotto with roasted tomatoes and asparagus. Both recipes are available on the Whole Foods website.
Finally I met up with Jenn, Whole Foods Specialty Associate. Specialty foods consist of cheese, beer, wine, coffee and chocolate which are some of my all- time favorite foods. Jenn was offering some fresh-cut parm with a dab of Lambrusco wine jelly. I have fought against the whole compote or fruit spread pairing with cheese-something to do with mixing the sweet and nutty flavors. I have been so wrong! This was a marriage made in heaven. The perfect balance between the fresh fruit-forward wine flavor of the jelly tempered the intense savory taste of the cheese. When asked what other cheeses would work with the Lambrusco jelly, Jen gave these suggestions:
“Any of the edam from Holland or gouda from Holland, anything that’s aged actually would do very well. And aged cheddar would be beautiful with this.”
Jenn also had samples of a Chianti Classico Villa Nozzole 2007 (grown ups only). Soft tannins and crisp fruity flavors make this a great all-around wine.
Overall, this Parmigiano Reggiano event was a smash (or crack) hit in spite of the inclement weather. I want to thank the staff at Whole Foods, University Heights for being so wonderful, enthusiastic, and informative. Whether they broke the Guinness World Record or not, in my book, they are definitely winners.