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Good Parmesan cheese in N Cal stores?

SimSportPlyr Sep 7, 2013 04:47 PM

[cross-posting from the California forum]

Earlier this year I had Parmesan cheese in a restaurant in Parma, Italy that was off-the-charts delicious.

Is it possible to buy cheese in N Cal that is as good or nearly as good as what is available in Emilia-Romagna?

I haven't had any luck so far with Parmesan products in local supermarkets.

P.S. I live in the Roseville area and regularly visit Sunnyvale. I'd be willing to shop within 20-30 minutes of either.

Thanks in advance for recommendations.

  1. Steve Green Sep 7, 2013 05:08 PM

    For starters, you want Parmigiano-Reggiano. Plain old "parmesan" is NOT the same thing. Look for the rind imprint like in the photo below. And forget about anything pre-grated. But even within that category, there's a pretty big difference between a chunk of parm that's from a wheel that was cracked open a few days ago, or a week ago, vs a chunk that's been lying around for a couple of months (not uncommon). I've had Parm-Reg from a wheel right after it was cracked open, and there's nothing like it.

    Also, although Parmigiano-Reggiano has to meet a minimum standard, some are still better than others (different farms, longer aging, etc).

    Try Cheeseboard in Berkeley, or Whole Foods. WF may not have the best cheese department, but they have a high product turnover, so your chances of getting a fresh product are probably better than they would be at a small cheese shop.

    18 Replies
    1. re: Steve Green
      SimSportPlyr Sep 7, 2013 05:20 PM

      Steve, thanks for the explanation, advice, and the awesome photo!

      I'll try WF.

      1. re: SimSportPlyr
        Steve Green Sep 7, 2013 05:51 PM

        Also, please note that the average wheel of Parm-Reg is 80+ lbs, so your wedge will only have a small section of imprinted rind (at the risk of stating the obvious). It's also pretty pricy compared to ordinary parmesan, but believe me, it's worth it.

        1. re: Steve Green
          SimSportPlyr Sep 7, 2013 07:21 PM

          That makes sense, Steve.

          1. re: SimSportPlyr
            CarrieWas218 Sep 7, 2013 08:59 PM

            I recently acquired a VERY nice hunk from a large wheel from Lucca on Valencia.

            1. re: CarrieWas218
              mariacarmen Sep 8, 2013 12:44 PM

              that's where i get ours.

              1. re: CarrieWas218
                SimSportPlyr Sep 8, 2013 01:34 PM

                Next time I'm in that neighborhood, I'll shop there.


                1. re: CarrieWas218
                  SimSportPlyr Sep 11, 2013 09:04 PM

                  Carrie, DW and I had a chance to visit Lucca yesterday.

                  We bought some P-R and some Romano.

                  Both were excellent and the best cheeses of those types I've had in the US.

                  Thanks again for the recommendation!

          2. re: Steve Green
            SimSportPlyr Sep 8, 2013 03:14 PM

            FWIW, I got some P-R at Whole Foods.

            It's pretty good, although not 'parma-good'. I have the sense that the difference may largely be freshness (or lack thereof) in terms of when the piece was cut off the wheel.

            The label says, "Parmigiano Reggiano Aged 24-months Mitica'.

            'Mitica' is a brand, I believe.

            1. re: SimSportPlyr
              SimSportPlyr Sep 9, 2013 09:48 AM

              I wonder if it's possible to get to know the 'cheese guy/gal' at WF or Corti Bros and find out when they cut pieces from the wheel, then buy it very recently-cut.

              Have any of you done that?

              1. re: SimSportPlyr
                wally Sep 9, 2013 10:05 AM

                I have never bought cheese at Corti Bros., but when I do buy Parmesan cheese at the Cheeseboard in Berkeley, it is always cut from the wheel as you watch and you taste it before you buy it. Ask at Corti Bros.

                1. re: wally
                  SimSportPlyr Sep 9, 2013 11:41 AM

                  Wow, I'll have to figure out how to get to the Cheeseboard someday!

                  I don't go to Berkeley often, unfortunately.

                  1. re: wally
                    wally Sep 9, 2013 12:52 PM

                    I repeat, ask at Corti Bros. And make sure it is Reggiano.

                    1. re: wally
                      SimSportPlyr Sep 9, 2013 01:06 PM

                      Will do, Wally. In fact, I'll try to visit all of the recommended shops, although some are more convenient to my location than others.


                    2. re: wally
                      wally Sep 10, 2013 11:44 AM

                      At the Cheeseboard, they are cutting off a piece of a very large piece of the big wheel.

                    3. re: SimSportPlyr
                      Melanie Wong Sep 9, 2013 11:47 AM

                      In case you're interested in how to cut a wheel of Parmigiano-Reggiano, here's how:

                      1. re: Melanie Wong
                        SimSportPlyr Sep 9, 2013 12:30 PM

                        Wow, interesting!

                        I didn't realize that it's so tricky to cut up a wheel.

                        1. re: SimSportPlyr
                          wolfe Sep 9, 2013 02:34 PM

                          They used to do it at my work place. I would always lurk around waiting for a chip off the heart of the wheel as the halves separated.

                          1. re: wolfe
                            SimSportPlyr Sep 9, 2013 02:47 PM

                            How cool!

                            Around 1970 I worked in a cheese factory where we made cheddar wheels, but I never got to see it chopped up after being aged.

                2. rmarisco Sep 7, 2013 05:18 PM

                  corti brothers, sacramento

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: rmarisco
                    SimSportPlyr Sep 7, 2013 05:20 PM

                    marisco, thanks. I'll try Corti.

                    1. re: rmarisco
                      Tripeler Sep 7, 2013 07:50 PM

                      I would be really surprised if anyplace in Northern California had better Parmesan-R than Corti Brothers.

                      1. re: Tripeler
                        rmarisco Sep 8, 2013 07:19 PM

                        just thinking... i'm wondering how many wheels they go through in a year! 5? 25? 125???

                        1. re: rmarisco
                          Tripeler Sep 9, 2013 12:59 AM

                          I am certain there are other places with product as good, but would find it hard to believe another place would have better Parmesan R. From the looks of the Corti Bros. store, it is easy to imagine they don't do enormous volume, but their care for products is exceptional.

                    2. wolfe Sep 7, 2013 06:32 PM

                      Check at your local Costco. I believe the Richmond store has Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio or did.

                      8 Replies
                      1. re: wolfe
                        SimSportPlyr Sep 7, 2013 07:21 PM

                        Thanks, Wolfe. I'll look at Costco.

                        1. re: SimSportPlyr
                          Ruth Lafler Sep 8, 2013 05:04 PM

                          Yes, Costco regularly carries Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio -- aged 36 months. Pretty good!

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler
                            maria lorraine Sep 8, 2013 10:01 PM

                            That's what I've been buying lately: $12.89 a pound.

                            1. re: maria lorraine
                              SimSportPlyr Oct 11, 2013 08:17 AM

                              Jupiter, Robert, Maria, Ruth, I bought Parmigiano Reggiano Stravecchio at Costco in Roseville for $12.49/lb and it's excellent. I prefer it to other P-R I've bought in the Sac area (Corti Bros, Nugget, etc) and it's also less expensive than the P-R at those other outlets.

                              Thanks for the recommendation!

                        2. re: wolfe
                          jupiter Sep 10, 2013 12:12 PM

                          I whole heartedly second the Costco suggestion. i have bought a lot of aged parm from fancy cheese vendors the costco stravecchio is just as good. nutty and crystaline when you eat it in chunks, but shaves and grates wonderfully as well.
                          We pretty much go through a chunk every month or two. it is one of the few staples that we keep our costco membership for.

                          1. re: jupiter
                            Ruth Lafler Sep 11, 2013 09:56 AM

                            Yeah, although after much discussion of how to store cheese on the Chowhound Cheese board (you do know there's now a board dedicated to the discussion of cheese, don't you?), I'd recommend taking it out of the plastic immediately upon purchase, wrapping it loosely in cheese paper or waxed or parchment paper and then putting that in a plastic bag or container. The plastic shrink wrap doesn't do the cheese any favors.

                            1. re: Ruth Lafler
                              jupiter Sep 11, 2013 11:28 AM

                              Yes. i unwrap it from the shrink wrap and wrap it in parchment and then throw it in a ziploc (the same one i have used for years), but that is more for my own piccadilo's as i have a strong aversion to food wrapped in plastic, it seems somehow very wrong....
                              and now i have another board to focus on while wasting time at work ;) thanks Ruth!

                              1. re: Ruth Lafler
                                Robert Lauriston Sep 11, 2013 12:52 PM

                                I've been told to use paper many times, but in my experience most cheeses keep longer and better in plastic wrap. Maybe it varies depending on what brand you use. I use the non-clingy giant Kirkland roll from Costco.

                                The Costco Reggiano chunks keep perfectly as vacuum-sealed from the store. After I open the package, I vacuum-seal whatever portion I won't use within a few days with my FoodSaver.

                          2. Robert Lauriston Sep 8, 2013 10:00 AM

                            If you live in Roseville, definitely Corti Bros.

                            The Cheese Board in Berkeley sometimes has exceptionally good Reggiano.

                            Costco's a reliable source for excellent quality.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Robert Lauriston
                              SimSportPlyr Sep 8, 2013 11:48 AM

                              Thanks, Robert!

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                SimSportPlyr Sep 21, 2013 08:06 AM

                                I went to Corti Bros a few days ago and bought some P-R and some Romano.

                                The P-R was excellent, although at $23/lb pricier than I was expecting.

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