AUSTIN, Texas (Feb. 18, 2015) –Whole Foods Market will celebrate Parmigiano-Reggiano, the King of Cheese, throughout February and March with in-store events, samplings, food pairings and more, culminating in the “Crack Heard around the World” on Saturday, March 7, at 3 p.m. EST. The grocer’s cheesemongers will simultaneously crack 24-month-old, 85-pound wheels of cheese — some in less than 60 seconds.

“Parmigiano-Reggiano has long been regarded as one of the top cheeses of the world and constantly remains one of my personal favorites,” said Cathy Strange, Whole Foods Market’s global cheese buyer. “This is because of its rich history, complex flavors and versatility.”

Whole Foods Market cheese buyers often visit the region in Italy where Parmigiano-Reggiano is made to hand-select the wheels, buying from just a handful of producers they know personally. The chosen wheels are carefully aged for a full two years to bring out the best taste and texture.

Ever wondered why Parmigiano-Reggiano reigns supreme? Only Parmigiano-Reggiano made in the rolling hills and green pastures of Reggio Emilia, Parma, Modena, and portions of Bologna and Mantua, can bear the royal name of Parmigiano-Reggiano, a tradition dating back nearly 900 years.

Typical of the region’s esteemed food culture and tradition, the cheese is made using artisan methods often passed down through families from generation to generation. After a year of aging, each wheel that passes the test is branded with a unique proof of authenticity — an oval certification mark —and is left to finish aging. The seal guarantees that the cheese was made under the regulations of the Consorzio del Formaggio Parmigiano Reggiano and conforms to its stringent standards for quality.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is fantastic enjoyed on its own or paired with a long list of other condiments and beverages that highlight its subtle bite and sweetness. Try it with honey-drizzled pears, stirred into a creamy risotto or as a real treat on eggs with shaved truffles. And, of course, the flavor trio of Parmigiano-Reggiano, tomato sauce and pasta is one of the most satisfying combinations in food history. When it comes to wine, bring out the full potential of the cheese by serving it with light- to-medium-bodied reds such as chianti, Valpolicella or lambrusco, as well as prosecco and other sparkling whites.

“Our cheesemongers love sharing their passion for Parmigiano-Reggiano during this annual event,” Strange said. “We invite everyone to come out and experience the ‘Crack Heard around the World,’ meet our Certified Cheese Professionals™ and taste a cheese like no other.”

To learn more about Whole Foods Market’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, including recipes, visit http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/department/article/parmigiano-reggiano.