Say cheese!

by Travis Hare
Photos by Eric Bond

Greg Czech, head of promotions at TPSS Co-op, has placed a variety of cheeses on a table in front of me. As Czech cuts pieces to sample, he, along with General Manager, Abdi Guled, describe what we are eating and where it came from.

The cheeses on the table range from a savory garlic and chive cheddar from Chapel’s Country Creamery in Easton, Md., to a pungent and powerful blue cheese from Firefly Farms in Accident, Md. While the cheese in front of us presents quite the smorgasbord, this is just a small sampling from the newest addition at TPSS Food Co-op.

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As of Saturday, Aug. 31, the Co-op began featuring local cheeses, all of which are artisanal, small batch, and from within 150 miles of Takoma Park and Silver Spring. As of right now, there are 29 different types of cheeses but very soon that selection will expand to 40. The cheese will be available at both the Takoma Park and the Silver Spring stores.

Many of the cheeses, which come from Virginia, Maryland, and southern Pennsylvania, are award-winning, and all of them come from grass-fed cows, sheep and goats.

According to Czech, a lot of these cheeses are available at farmers’ markets and stores in the community, but the Co-op is the only place where you can find all of them in the same place.

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Photo: Greg Czech, head of promotions at TPSS Food Co-op

“We really wanted to support local, small producers,” says Czech, “but we also want to educate the public about all of the great, artisanal cheese being made right here in our area.”

Guled says that locals can come out and get a taste for themselves, and maybe learn a little something about cheese, as the Coop will be doling out free samples from 1pm to 3pm over the next four Saturdays.

In just the last two days, Czech says that cheese sales have gone through the roof.

“We’ve essentially seen an increase of 100 percent,” he says. At this rate, they may soon begin phasing out some of the cheeses from larger producers.

“It’s hard to find a good local Swiss,” says Czech, “but we would hope to eventually sell mostly regional cheeses.”

Of course Czech and Guled are hoping to bring in more customers but Czech says his main reason for expanding the selection is because, “local just tastes better.” After finishing all of the samples offered, I am in no place to argue that assertion.

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 Featured photo (at top): TPSS Food Co-op General Manager, Abdi Guled