Thursday, March 27, 2008

Whole Foods and a world o' cheese

Whole Foods Market will attempt a world record by breaking open hundreds of wheels of hand-selected aged Parmigiano Reggiano in all of its stores at the same time to honor the tradition and celebration of this iconic cheese.

Stores in the south region, including the one in Mountain Brook, plan to celebrate the "Crack Heard Around the World" with wine and cheese pairings that will make a cheese lovers swoon.By attempting to set a world record for "cracking open" wheels all of its 270 stores simultaneously, Whole Foods Market will try a feat worthy of the Guinness Book of World Records and may just go down in cheese history.

Saturday, April 12 at 2 p.m. (Central) is the official start time for the "cracking open" ceremonies, when Whole Foods Market cheesemongers will demonstrate the traditional method of breaking into 24-month-aged wheels of Parmigiano Reggiano in the Company's cheese department worldwide using official tools (five different knives) from Italy's Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano.

The entire process of carving into and portioning each 85 pound wheel will take approximately half an hour and is truly a sight to behold.

"It will be the 'crack heard around the world' as we 'break open happiness' in our stores," said Maggie Largente, Regional Cheese Buyer for Whole Foods Market's south region. "Each year, we hand select the very best Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy and are excited to share this crown jewel of cheese by offering tastings, pairing suggestions and recipe ideas to our shoppers, whether they are rediscovering one of their old favorites or are just getting acquainted with this amazing product."

Crafted using a tradition dating back almost 800 years, each wheel is carefully aged and cared for and is an expression of its cheese maker's dedication. Parmigiano Reggiano has been made for centuries in one area of Northern Italy comprising Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena and portions of Bologna and Mantua. Only in these regions are the conditions ideal to produce Parmigiano Reggiano.

After one year of aging, each wheel that passes the test is branded with a unique proof of authenticity, an oval certification mark, and left to finish aging. That seal guarantees that the cheese was made under the regulations of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano and conforms to its stringent standards of quality.

Parmigiano Reggiano is wonderful when served alone or paired with other flavors that highlight its subtle bite and sweet nuttiness. Pairing ideas, along with recipes, will be on hand at the south region's Whole Foods Market stores during the ceremony.

Wines from Italy will be featured in stores during April. A classic pairing for Parmigiano Reggiano is a Chianti such as the Frescobaldi Castiglione Chianti, in which the clean aromas of black cherry over nuances of dried plum and spicy sage strike a harmonious balance. The Sicilian Regaleali Nero d' Avola is one of the first of its kind to hit the U.S. and is not only tasty but a great value, too. Ripe and juicy, the Pirovano Barbera is a delicious complement to red-sauced pasta with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano.