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The TikTok Feta Effect

By mid-February — when feta was the No. 1 search term on the Instacart grocery delivery app — The Charlotte Observer reported temporarily empty feta shelves at local stores such as Harris Teeter supermarkets. Demand was up 200%, said Danna Robinson, a spokesperson for the company, which operates more than 230 stores in seven states.

February 28, 2021 / 10:13 PM IST
A block of feta. Cheese purveyors have been swept up in the video recipe phenomenon known as baked feta pasta. (PC-Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)

A block of feta. Cheese purveyors have been swept up in the video recipe phenomenon known as baked feta pasta. (PC-Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times)

In the rarefied world of small-batch cheese, the closest a product may get to widespread fame is Tom Colicchio’s shoutout for his favorite bloomy rind on “Top Chef.”

That’s why Anne Saxelby, founder and co-owner of Saxelby Cheesemongers, in New York City, was so surprised when a supplier told her that a recipe on the popular video app TikTok had whipped up such a demand for feta that she wouldn’t get her weekly shipment of the cheese.

Saxelby and her feta maker — Narragansett Creamery, a small Rhode Island dairy — had been swept up in the video-recipe phenomenon known as baked-feta pasta. It’s an exceedingly easy, extremely creamy oven-baked pasta sauce made with a whole block of feta cheese nestled into a pint of cherry tomatoes, with olive oil, chiles and garlic.

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