“Look at this!”
“I’ve been here three times this week.”
These are all things you might hear on a visit to The Fresh Market, which opened in Bradley Fair earlier this summer.
Okay, I’ll admit the second comment is my own. I’ve been a fan of the TFM chain since it opened a store in my old stomping grounds of Little Rock, AR a few years ago.
Wichita’s location is No. 117. And just as Dillons raised the supermarket bar a few years ago with the introduction of its “super stores,” TFM takes that bar up a few more notches.
That’s a subjective judgement, of course, but here are handful of reasons why I think it applies:
It’s the first thing you see upon entering the store, it’s extensive and it’s gorgeous. Yellow tomatoes, red peppers, green-skinned avocados and a hundred other varieties of produce vie for attention. There are otherwise hard-to-find items such as fresh black mission figs and Jerusalem artichokes, but the real emphasis is on quality and freshness.
Beef lovers will salivate over thick-cut porterhouses and other steaks. The truth is that TFM’s meat counter has trained butchers who will cut your meat any way you ask. Chicken, pork, veal and lamb are well represented as well. Ready-to-cook items include marinated filet mignon kabobs, pork snitzel and chicken breasts stuffed in a variety of ways.
In addition to the usual salmon, tuna and tilapia, TFM carries fresh mussels, Chilean sea bass, smoked white fish and several tasty prepared seafood salads and heat-and-eat entrees such as crab cakes and lobster mac ‘n cheese (not to mention sushi prepared in the deli area).
TFM puts a huge emphasis on cheese, which is why the chain opens each new store with a symbolic cutting open of a huge Parmesan cheese wheel. About 150 cheeses are available at any one time: cave- aged Emmentaler from Switzerland, salty myzitrha for grating from Greece and super-rich white Cheddar from right here in the United States. Local girl Donna Gold, who’s running the cheese counter, said that every time a cheese is featured on the Food Network, it starts a run on one of the store’s cheeses. The staff is happy to provide samples.
This is a bit of an around-the-world experience with whole bean and ground coffees from Sumatra, Costa Rica, East Africa, Jamaica, Hawaii and more. As with the cheese, samples are available.
I could go on about the bulk spices, nuts and candy, the 36-item antipasto bar, the big collection of specialty bottled and canned goods, the deli (oh no, I haven’t even mentioned the deli!) and the gorgeous baked goods prepared onsite. But I said I’d keep this list short.
TFM isn’t really the place to go for things like detergent or toilet paper (although they are sold there). If you’re on a budget (and who isn’t), shop smartly. Many foods cost no more than their counterparts in regular supermarkets. Some cost a little more and are worth it. Some, like peeled carrots with their leafy tops left on, are silly extravagances.
As I was leaving The Fresh Market the other day, I heard an elderly man excitedly say to his female companion: “Wait ‘til you see the steaks?” Meanwhile, two ladies exiting the store giggled over their Whoopie Pies, which disappeared before they made it across the parking lot.
Another TFM fan summed it up best: The Fresh Market will make you feel like a foodie. It will make you want to cook and eat better. And that’s about the best thing a food store can do.