Imagine my horror, having been invited to a 10 am press event scheduled before the general opening of Fairway Pelham Manor, to get stuck in Hutch traffic at 9:50 , behind a vast mob heading to the Pelham Manor store. Worse, though the doors were slated to open after the press event, we found ourselves patrolling the lot for a space through regular customers—the public hoi polloi, mind you—- wandering out with Fairway bags. O the outrage – we wanted to deflower that virgin store ourselves!
Westchester longest grocery aisle at Pelham Manor’s Fairway
Worse, we got stuck outside in a sun-baked press corral, listening to various politicos backslap and bloviate, without sunglasses or sunblock, and with diminishing hopes of a gift bag (though we could see the gift bags on the podium—looking all stuffed and sexy—apparently reserved for “elected officials only”). As if the suits will be dipping into their free Steve Jenkins cookbook, The Food Life. Meanwhile, as we endured, regular, free-from-responsibility folks were packing that oceanic store like sardines.
Well, what can you expect? Fairway has always been anti-elitist, with its studiously un-fancy décor and modestly priced gourmet items (plus, that ungrammatical butcher sign that claims, “No one does it as good as us.” Wince.) Though sunburned and bookless, I had to give democratic Fairway its props: this is a great market for everyone, and a welcome addition to my personal food shopping world.
Here are some first impressions that these photos might not show. This sucker is huge—like, Ikea huge. (Well, maybe not quite: the average Ikea store is 300,000 square feet, while the Pelham Manor Fairway is a mere 75,000 square feet. Still, a quarter of an Ikea-full is a hell of a lot of food.) It’s easiest to wrap your head around the space to imagine a sequential series of separate stores—produce (organic and conventional), meat, Kosher, coffee and tea, bakery, prepared foods, grocery, dairy, seafood, cheese, etc., etc.—all fairly large and all well-stocked.
SOME of Fairway’s cheeses – there are tons more in refrigerator cases and also displayed in the aisles
To give an example of how well stocked, let’s just say that Fairway sells 200 types of olive oil, 600 types of cheese, many kinds of chorizo—including fresh, hot, dried, Mexican and the Spanish brand imported by La Tienda (to which I am addicted). Also andouille sausage, should I take a notion to go Cajun, and scores of other links too numerous to mention. Their overarching theme seems to be, “You want it? We got it.” And, as at Ikea, Fairway provides a central eating area with a cafeteria, presumably for when shoppers hit the “Wall”.
I quizzed a butcher about what Fairway will be carrying. Poussin? Check. Magret? Check. Quail, pheasant, and boar? Check. Hanger steak? Check. Plus, these meats won’t be frozen (as is the single member of the above list, pheasant, available at Whole Foods. Best of all, my need of beef-stock bones will be satisfied, as will pretty much every other prosaic or esoteric meat requirement I might have. Just look at the sides of beef on display. Unlike most supermarkets (which receive small, pre-cut portions of animals and do minimal processing afterward), Fairway is breaking down the whole beastie. This means that they’ll have nose-to-tail butcher’s cases that include hard-to-find items like hanger steaks and veal bones.
An actual butcher that you can talk to, breaking down sides of beef
Among the more interesting innovations of the new Fairway design are the floor markers in the center aisle of the grocery section, which steer shoppers either right for organic and natural items, or left for conventional, nationally branded items. So, standing in the center of the cereal aisle, you can go one way for the cereals you find at Whole Foods, and the other way for the cereals you find at Stop & Shop. The design feels handy, if you’re not exclusively wed to one eating style (and I, being of a promiscuous nature, am not).
So what separates Fairway from the other big, Westchester markets? Unlike Stew Leonard’s, Fairway is neither kid-friendly nor “themey”—plus, its concentration spans both mundane and upscale eats. At Fairway, you’ll find Oreos along with eight types of truffle oil (and some porcini oil). Yet unlike Whole Foods, Fairway is not elitist, and it makes no natural-food exclusions: Fairway’s website offers tips on Food Stamp shopping, plus, you can actually buy a Diet Coke at Fairway (which you can’t at Whole Foods).
If you’re grossed out by mayo, DO NOT go down this aisle
Unlike Trader Joe’s, Fairway is vast, and though Fairway does offer good value store-brand items—like its famed olive oil and smoked salmon —shoppers can also find the national and international brands with which they’re most familiar. In contrast, Trader Joe’s offers its low prices because its products—which may in fact be produced by larger brands—usually are sold under the Trader Joe’s name. Trader Joe’s also keeps prices low by offering (primarily) pre-bagged produce, and a small selection of high-selling, cryovaced cheeses, fish and meats. In contrast, Fairway offers a vast selection of fresh food behind cases serviced by countermen.
I’m already planning my next trip, though I might wait until the crowds (and my sunburn) fade.
Porchetta Sandwich at Juniper
This sandwich’s slow-roasted, porky goodness literally melts in the mouth; it’s cooked until it’s beyond tender, though it still magically retains its sweet, piggy flavor. The roast gets sliced into fat, juicy slabs, then layered onto country loaf with house-pickled red onions, whose sparklingly sweet acid makes the perfect foil for all that luxurious pork. Shaved fennel adds crunch, while a side bowl of soulful lentil and ham soup doesn’t hurt, either—and at only $13 for both, it’s an absolute gourmet steal.
Wining and Dining
Here are some fabulous pairing events available around the county:
An Evening of the Wines of Douglas Polaner, with Special Guest, Wine Importer Douglas Polaner at Crabtree’s Kittle House
Tuesday, April 20 7pm, $110
Check out menu and pairing details here http://www.kittlehouse.com/menus.php?id=9 for this great (and great value) opportunity to explore some unusual picks. In its April issue, Food and Wine Magazine included Crabtree’s Kittle House in its five “American Pairing Meccas.”
Fifth Annual Spring Wine Tasting to Benefit Cardinal McCloskey Services
â€¨Sunday, April 25 (in a private home in Garrison, overlooking the Hudson River) 3pm-7pm, $350
Enjoy fine wines personally selected by private collector Tony Corso from his personal collection and indulge in a menu created by Chef/Owner of X20, Peter X. Kelly. Dinner will be followed by a live auction of extraordinary prizes (including a four day trip to San Francisco and Napa Valley) with all proceeds benefiting CMS, a not-for-profit, non-sectarian social-service agency providing programs and services for at-risk children, families, and developmentally disabled adults. For more details, call 914-997-8000, ext. 114 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dine Out For Kids at Xaviar’s, Restaurant X and Bully Boy Bar, and Freelance Cafe
Wednesday, April 21
Do good by eating well. Join Peter Kelly and his staff as they gratefully participate in Dine Out for Kids Rockland. At Xaviars at Piermont, Restaurant X & Bully Boy Bar, and Freelance Cafe & Wine Bar, 20 percent of the evening’s proceeds will be donated to Nyack Hospital. This year, the hospital will be renovating its pediatric unit—including its patient rooms the new pediatric play room, which will be equipped with age-appropriate learning materials and games.
Other Rockland restaurants have agreed to donate 20 percent of that evening’s proceeds to Nyack Hospital. The list of participating restaurants will be updated weekly on www.nyackhospital.org and www.lohud.com.
Fairway Pelham Manor Opens
This YouTube video clip gives a better sense of Fairway’s size of than the stills—look how dogged these folks are, not yet halfway through the store. Also, check out the opening day register lines that snaked all the way back through the aisles. If you remember that Fairway’s aisles are incredibly long, this is a bear of a wait to buy some Bounty.
O, The Humanity! Trader Joe’s Shuts Down its Free Balloons
In one of those uncommon indicators of our current economic mire, Trader Joe’s has suspended its free, 100-percent- biodegradable helium balloons. According to an unnamed source at the Larchmont store, the branch went through $20K per annum in helium and balloons; in order to keep TJ’s prices low, the store decided to eliminate this popular service. Trader Joe’s is currently offering kiddies strips of (lame-ish) stickers instead, but while kids all over Westchester are sulking, I’m sure PETA is happy about TJ’s decision. While those balloons were stamped “100 percent biodegradable,” no one said doots about their ribbons. And I’ve seen scores of TJ’s balloons floating toward L. I. Sound and its fish and sea birds, just waiting to get entangled.