METROPOLITAN MARKET SPOTLIGHTS ARTISAN CHEESE

SEATTLE (FNS) -- Metropolitan Market here threw the spotlight on domestically produced artisan cheeses by hosting the nation's leading cheese makers at a tasting promotion.The two-week event, at all five of the retailer's stores, gave producers a chance to show off their prize-winning selections shortly after the American Cheese Society's national exhibition in Louisville, Ky., where the awards were

SEATTLE (FNS) -- Metropolitan Market here threw the spotlight on domestically produced artisan cheeses by hosting the nation's leading cheese makers at a tasting promotion.

The two-week event, at all five of the retailer's stores, gave producers a chance to show off their prize-winning selections shortly after the American Cheese Society's national exhibition in Louisville, Ky., where the awards were bestowed.

"Customers need more information on cheese," said Ilga Westberg, marketing director. "It is time to embrace the farmstead cheese."

Tristan Ambrose, the retailer's fromagiere, introduced the six producers and their specific assortments to assembled consumers at the initial event at the Admiral Way store in an up-and-coming section of West Seattle. Consumers got an overview of the cheesemakers' farms and their production methods, along with a description of the attributes of their respective cheeses. Three cheesemakers came from Wisconsin, two from California and one from Idaho. Two additional cheese producers from Washington state showed off their selections at subsequent in-store programs.

"Metropolitan Market has long been committed to a far-reaching artisan cheese program, from direct imports in the early 1990s to today's focus on American farmstead cheeses," Ambrose said. "We go to great lengths to find the very best and newest cheeses for our customers, and this special celebration underscores that dedication."

Farmstead cheeses, a specialty category of artisan cheese, come from a farm or from the same location where the herds live and are milked. Metropolitan Market calls attention to the cheeses by using signs in the cases, emblazoned with an orange band and either a green box indicating "farmstead" or with the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board's seal. Signs identify the individual producer, offer a description of the flavor of the cheese, explain the type of milk used to produce the product and offer the price-per-pound, highlighting the savings offered during the promotion.

The tasting event was conducted outside the Admiral Way store in an area generally reserved for floral on the store's entrance patio. Each cheesemaker staffed a display table where they talked to consumers about their herd and farm, described how their cheese is made and offered recipes and serving suggestions. Prewrapped portions of their specific cheeses were available on each display table to encourage buying. Hot apple cider, grapes and sliced baguettes were offered as palate cleansers on each table. Case-style signs described the flavor and suggestions for use.

Inside, point-of-sale materials including signs telling the individual story of the producers and encouraging consumers to sample the products, were visible in the cheese department. Whole wheels with smaller packages of prewrapped cheeses were also positioned throughout the area.