I'm a spoiled New Yorker, and whether I'm close to home or work, I'm only a few moments away from a trusted purveyor of the kind of cheese that you write about (or at least I do). This isn't true across the entire country, of course.
But now, some good news for the cheese-deprived.I'd like to believe that even in the heart of our country, where so much milk is produced, you should be able to find excellent local cheese, but the truth is that most dairy production is trucked across state lines to milk production plants. And while more American dairy farmers are beginning to turn down government subsidies to experiment with cheesemaking, the truth is that you'd be much more likely to find a block of flash-pasteurized shrink-wrapped cheddar than a drumette of artisan goat brie if you found yourself in a Midwestern grocery store.
A Kroger grocery store reminds me of a can of Budweiser: ubiquitous, super-commercial and industrial, and pretty uninspiring. But as much as you don't like either, there are some times when you don't have any other choice. (Just think back to your last college kegger.)
If your grocery store choices are limited, Kroger, with its 2,458 supermarkets across the country, may actually be your best option.
So what's the news? The venerable Murray's Cheese, New York's oldest and pre-eminent cheese authority, has entered into an agreement with Kroger to help expand specialty cheese departments in select stores. With changes expected within the next year, this could mean a revamp of your current cheese selection sooner than you think. You may change your mind about Kroger, too.
With annual sales in excess of $60 billion, Kroger has the ability to redefine what cheese means to American consumers. As our friend The Curd Nerd says, "If successful, it will signal a giant step in the mainstreaming of fine cheese in this country."
Specific details about the deal, including where we can expect to see the first Murray's outpost, are hush-hush at the moment. We'll keep you updated. At the very least, you'll be guaranteed a larger selection and a more knowledgeable staff of cheesemongers. At best, you may even see some esoteric cheeses that make us New Yorkers so spoiled in the first place.