AUSTIN, Texas — Whole Foods Market last month highlighted Parmigiano Reggiano cheese with an attempt to break the company's own world record for “Most Parmigiano Reggiano Wheels Cracked Simultaneously.”
Using sets of five specialized cheese knives, cheese mongers at all Whole Foods locations in the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom showed shoppers the traditional method of breaking into a wheel of aged Parmigiano Reggiano at 3 p.m. EST on Feb. 27. Although the results are not yet official, the company almost certainly broke the record it set with a similar simultaneous demonstration in 2008, when almost 300 wheels were cracked in 176 stores.
“Part of the fun of this promotion will be watching our team members who have mastered the skill of ‘parm cracking’ perform this task in record time,” Cathy Strange, global cheese buyer for Whole Foods, said in a release.
The record attempt was the culmination of a month-long series of events highlighting Parmigiano Reggiano, including product samplings and an online recipe contest.
Parmesan cheese has to be made in one specific region of northern Italy to bear the Parmigiano Reggiano name, so many of the samplings were arranged to evoke a sense of place, or “terroir.” For example, shoppers were invited to try the cheese with Lambrusco wine jelly, a northern Italian delicacy produced in the historic town of Mantova.
Or, the cheese could be paired with Castello di Gabbiano il Cavaliere Chianti, a Sangiovese wine produced especially for Whole Foods Market.
While these pairings focused on the traditional, the grand-prize winner of the recipe contest had an exciting take on the cheese, baking grated Parmigiano Reggiano and chopped almonds into round “crisps,” then dipping those crisps into melted chocolate and sprinkling them with sea salt.
The runners-up showcased the cheese's versatility, with recipes ranging from Savory Cannoli con Parmigiano Reggiano to Parmigiano Reggiano Blondies.
More than 1,000 customers entered the contest, which offered prizes including a $500 Whole Foods gift certificate, authentic cheese knives from Italy and gift baskets filled with parm and foods to pair it with.
“Whole Foods Market salutes Parmigiano Reggiano each year because it is truly one of the incomparable cheeses of the world,” said Strange. “We take extraordinary measures to work with a small group of artisan producers in Italy to hand-select the very best Parmigiano Reggiano. Our chosen wheels are carefully aged for two years to bring out the best of Parmigiano Reggiano's nutty and sweet flavors and creamy and crystalline textures.”