Field Trip: Fresh Market

Chef Mcafee gave us a fun assignment this week: a self-guided field trip to Fresh Market. I decided to let the kids tag along for this one and watching their enthusiasm over every random thing made my heart smile. It also made me feel a little less ridiculous for yelling out things like, “Oh my gosh! Look at the tiny little endive! It’s hiding here in it’s own treasure box!” If that sentence makes no sense to you (and why should it?), consider it a challenge. A scavenger hunt, if you will.

We were greeted at the door by stacks of fire wood, huge pots of mums, gourds in every shape and size, and loaves of fresh baked pumpkin bread; Everything we city dwellers need to turn our homes into shrines of autumnal delight.

We saw produce that ranged from beautiful to the absurd including the most enormous artichokes I’ve ever seen and very trendy white asparagus.



I was intrigued by a large display of freeze dried fruit snacks and decided to try the cantaloupe. One word of advice: Don’t! However, the collection of dried mushrooms, tomatoes, and peppers was impressive and made me want to hurry home and whip up an autumnal soup. (P.S. – my daughter now wants corn husks for Christmas. I may be making her weird.)


Next on the list of “most bizarre foods” was a display of “gourmet” sauces that looked a lot like juice boxes to me. I’m not exactly sure how these work, but I’m fairly certain no gourmet chef is using them. Still, at $3.99, that’s a steal, right? {insert sarcasm font here}


I nearly cried when I saw their meat case. Rack of lamb?! Are you kidding me?! Seriously, they had leg of lamb for $6.99/lb. how is this possible? I ran all over town searching for it two years ago and finally found a frozen hunk imported from New Zealand that cost me $24/lb.! Ugh! Sorry, I got caught up. Where was I?

Oh, yeah…check out their extensive meat counter. It has many hard to find and delicious meats. Then, cruise over to the deli and check out the pâté. Honestly, where else are you going to find pâté in Little Rock to impress your friends? My son was not impressed, but he’s twelve. My kids were more interested in the gourmet pizzas. And, to be honest, they looked delicious. I haven’t seen a Greek pizza since we left Maine.


Actually, we found a lot of favorites from our time in the northeast around the store, like Moxie soda, Pirate’s Booty, and Barbara’s cereals. My son even found an Italian in the deli that he fell in love with and just had to take home. For you southerners, that’s a sandwich – a delicious sandwich that can be found in every corner of the great state of Maine. (But Fresh Market’s was better. Shhh! Don’t tell!)

This brought us to the cheese section. The only time I’d ever visited Fresh Market before was in search of a particular cheese, and they never disappoint. There were cheeses from all over the world. While we were there we caught them cutting into a wheel of Reggianno. We stood debating how much it cost to buy an entire wheel until finally asking a sales associate. The answer? Over $2000. This does not surprise me when you consider it took 2 years to make that mountain of cheese and then the cost of importing it from Europe. I’m glad my children are learning an appreciation for such things in an age of budget-obsessed consumerism.


My oldest daughter got lost in the tea section while I stood drooling over the loose spices. It took me back to a defining trip to Seattle when I first saw a spice and tea shop. If I had my way, I’d open one right here in town. Alas! That’ll never happen, so I’m glad to know I can run over to Fresh Market when I need a hard to find spice or a specialty salt like fleur de sel.


As if that wasn’t enough…the pasta aisle. Oh my word, the pasta. There were pastas here I’ve never seen in a store! Torcetti, tagliolini, long fusili (fusilli con buco), even mushroom pasta! Goodness. How on earth I walked out of that store without a collection of pasta is beyond me. Believe me, next time I’m drooling over an authentic pasta recipe I’ll be making the trip across town to grab a few boxes of imported happiness.

I could go on and on. We wandered around for over an hour oohing and ahhing over every little thing. I’m sure we were quite a spectacle. But, in the end it was worth it. Not only did we learn a lot, but I found a place to purchase some of the hard to find specialty items I’ll need as a chef-in-training. I’m sure it won’t be long before I make another trip to Fresh Market…at least for the pasta!

Oh, and if you take me up on that endive scavenger hunt, here’s a clue:
It’s Belgian endive from the Netherlands. Go figure! If you find it, come back and post a photo for us.


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