Updated Tuesday, March 20, 2012 at 11:01 AM
Say cheese! One of the nation's best cheese shops is, ah, coming our whey. Photo courtesy of Murray's.
Seattle's thriving cheese scene (yes, we have one) is adding a major new player with Murray's Cheese, the renowned New York cheese shop, coming to town. Mini-Murray's will be opening inside seven QFC markets this year, starting March 28 at the University Village branch.
"I love to tell people it's almost like you picked up our store in New York and dropped it in the middle of the supermarket," said Murray's marketing director, Deena Siegelbaum. Technically, the selection will be smaller than the New York original, which boasts its own cheese caves and cheese handbook -- but even so, we'll be looking here at a selection of 175+ cheeses, which is fewer than DeLaurenti, but a number Siegelbaum said is "lovely and almost dizzying" and yet manageable. The shops will also carry local specialty items like Renee Erickson's fabulous Boat Street Pickles. Murray's has similar operations in Kroger-owned stores in seven other states. (While they've come here, our own Beecher's has opened a New York branch.)
Why open a store-within-a-grocery store instead of a standalone shop?
"We've been around since 1940, and our mission is to bring the best cheese selection to the U.S. while educating customers about cheese," Siegelbaum said. Supermarkets are "an opportunity" to entice and educate customers who might not think to visit a standalone cheese shop, or consider themselves particular cheese connoisseurs. Expect cheese-shop standards like being able to buy whatever quantity you like and being able to taste interesting finds.
"It's pretty rare to be able to walk into a supermarket, point to anything in the case, and say "could I take a little bite of that?" she said. "Our favorite kinds of customers walk in and say, (for instance,) "You know I like Cheddar, but I'd like to try something new. What do you have?"
Murray's selects the cheeses and trains QFC employees to run the stores -- many went through a three-day training in New York earlier this year. "In every new market we go into, we really want to have local products, not just cheese, but also chutneys and meats and whatever is local and really exciting in that area," Siegelbaum said, raving over the "Sleeping Beauty" cheese from Trout Lake's Cascadia Creamery.
Despite our fine shops like The Calf and Kid and Resident Cheesemonger, and despite our impressive existing cheese counters at grocery stores like PCC and Metropolitan Market, every cheese-lover I've talked to about the Murray's move has been thrilled, with just one question: "Are they coming to a QFC near me?" Here's the lineup: After the U Village opening, the next Murray's scheduled to open are at the Harvard Market QFC (1401 Broadway Ave.) in April and at the Broadway Market QFC (417 Broadway Ave. E.) in June. Later this year, branches are tentatively scheduled to open in Ballard (5700 24th Ave. N.W.), West Seattle (4550 42nd Ave. S.W.), Sammamish (2902 228th Ave. S.E.) and Issaquah (1540 Gilman Boulevard). The first month after opening, a local cheesemaker will be at the University Village QFC every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Look for John Schuman of Cascadia Creamery March 31, Beecher's owner Kurt Dammeier and cheesemaker Brad Sinko April 7 and 21, and Matt Day of Mount Townsend Creamery April 14.