Back in 2012, we reported in these columns that Murray's Cheese from Bleecker Street in Noo Yawk had cut a deal with Kroger to start building proprietary cheese kiosks in Seattle QFC stores. Well & good, the cheese are fairly priced and the staff behind the cheese counters seems well-informed.
Though you have to wonder (as I wrote back then) where Murray's then-VP for Cheese, a young Yale grad named Liz Thorpe, got the idea, printed in The Cheese Chronicles, that the fishmongers at the Pike Place Market are throwing around whole tuna! Tuna! If she can't tell the difference between a tuna and a salmon, you've got to wonder about every other observation in the book.
Digression: could I really have been so charitable? Unlike me. So I just went back to check, and, yes, there it is on page 109: "Seattle's Pike Place Market, where fishmongers throw around whole tuna to impress the tourists." Good grief. The closest place to buy a whole tuna is probably Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, at $100 per lb and up, average weight per fish maybe 500 lbs. Do we want to take cheese advice from someone who might get mozzarella di bufala confused with actual buffalo? Or who mistakes a Brie de Meaux for a wheel of Bleu d'Auvergne? I could go on but will, like Ms. Thorpe, retire to the sidelines.
Meantime, though, the Murray's Cheese program has expanded nationally. Fry's, a Kroger label in Phoenix, is adding cheese kiosks, and Dillon's groceries in the Midwest will follow this summer. The plan is to reach 250 kiosks, which will carry some 200 cheeses. Granted most of them are familiar, world-wide designations, but ten percent are selected locally.
Doubtful that we'll see Kurt Timmermeister's excellent Dinah's Cheese among the local offerings, but regional brands like Mount Tam and Cowgirl Creamery have pretty good production levels, and it would be nice to see some of the Skagit Valley goat cheeses when there are no farmers markets. Sure, I know, not every artisan wants to sell at QFC, fine. But folks like the Montheillet family in Dayton, Wash., could probably use a more permanent retail outlet during the long winter months, no?