Move over wine cellars. Cheese caves are the must-haves for 2013 – at least in the cheese-making industry.
This weekend you’ll be able to taste the products of those dark spaces where milk goes to curd during Metropolitan Market’s annual “For the Love of Cheese.”
The monthlong festival of cheese events and sales starts today and runs through Oct. 7.
The grocery store is setting up a tent in the parking lot of its Tacoma store to handle the highlight of the event: free samplings of cheese, wine, cider, chocolate and other products on Friday and Saturday.
The goal of the event – aside from selling cheese – is to educate consumers on artisan, specialty and farmstead cheese produced both locally and globally. The month includes tastings, pairing events and appearances by local and national cheese makers.
Metropolitan Market carries about 120 cheeses, the largest selection in the area, said Paige Lamb, the market’s food service director. That number will jump to more than 200 during the two-day tasting event. Regularly sold cheeses will be reduced during the month.
The event gets more popular each year, Lamb said, a reflection of the increasing awareness of, demand for and production of artisan cheeses.
“We have three times the (cheese) staff we did nine years ago,” Lamb said.
Metropolitan Market has three cheese mongers. Just about every day one of them can be found warming and stretching mozzarella curds into braids inside the store. The soft, clean-tasting cheese bears little resemblance to the vacuum packed hard lumps sold by large-scale cheese producers.
But “For the Love of Cheese” is more than cheese. Charcuterie (cured meat) producers will also be at the event this weekend. Portland-based Olympic Provisions will offer samples of its salamis, pates and chocolate salamis – chocolate and nuts compressed into salami-like logs. Other producers on hand include Fermin Spanish Meats and Hempler’s Meats from Bellingham.
Wine, chocolate and cracker tastings will be going on inside the store along with pairings of cheese with wine and cider.
“It’s not a feeding frenzy,” Lamb says of the event. But pack your patience, lines might be long.
Cheeses (and their makers) you can meet on Friday and Saturday:
Roelli: This Wisconsin creamery makes one of the most surprising cheeses on the market. Looking like a Roquefort-infused cheddar, Dunbarton Blue tastes neither like a cheddar nor a blue. But the well-balanced cheese has substantial flavor.
Gothberg Farms: With just 20 milk goats, Rhonda Gothberg makes farmstead chevre and feta in one of the smallest Grade A micro-dairies in Washington.
Zola: Metropolitan Market uses this whole milk gouda with Parmesan culture in its Mac & CheeZola.
Sartori: This cheese maker produces dozens of varieties, but its line of flavored cheeses offers up personality without being in-your-face. The wheels are rolled in ingredients, not infused with them. Flavors include rosemary & olive oil, espresso, chai, merlot and salsa.
A smaller tasting event is set for Sept. 27 (4-7 p.m.) and will feature six creameries including Gothberg Farms and Mt. Townsend Creamery along with Olympic Provisions pates. Mt. Townsend Creamery owners Matt Day and Ryan Trail started the first artisan creamery on the Olympia Peninsula in 2005.
See Metropolitan Market’s website for the full list of events, tastings and products offered.Craig Sailor: 253-597-8541
IF YOU GO
For the love of cheese
When: Wednesday, Oct. 7
Tasting events: 4-7:30 p.m. Friday and noon-4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Metropolitan Market, 2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma
Admission and tastings: Free.
More information: 253-761-3663, www.metropolitan-market.com