I went to Fairway and not a single schlubby husband challenged me to a round
of rage carts. When old ladies left their groceries in the middle of an
aisle and wandered off, it didn’t matter: The aisles were so wide, Grandma
could have whipped out her La-Z-Boy for a nap and still left plenty of room
to pass by.
OK, the part about the La-Z-Boy is a lie, but the long-anticipated Red Hook
Fairway is positively sprawling. The mood on opening day was festive, so
instead of shopping, I hung out, talked to strangers, and assembled a free
lunch from the many generous samples.
“Dave Sneddon, the owner of this place, can taste any of these and tell you
where it’s from,” an admiring shopper told me as I worked my way through all
eight varieties of Fairway’s olive oil. “He’s amazing!” A similar display of
sliced French bread and dishes of oil provides a reliable snack at any
Fairway, and a good place to take a time out if you’re experiencing hostile
feelings as a result of overly competitive food grabbing. I particularly
enjoyed the unfiltered, dark-green D.O.P. Gata-Hurdes, a “cult olive oil
hoarded by Spain’s olive oil fanatics” ($14.99).
All that bread made me hungry for cheese. A guy behind the counter told me I
looked like “a mushroom person,” which I chose to take as a compliment, and
handed me a taste of a cow’s milk cheese infused with black truffle.
Obviously, this was good. The official samples were two Goudas. The Dutch
Parrano was labeled “The Hippest Cheese in New York.” Why? “Everyone’s
buying it,” a cheese representative explained. “It has a nice kick to it,
and the price is right.” This is true
Not surprisingly, this was a very popular sample table. People who passed by
invariably exclaimed, “Look, honey! Sushi!” or “OK, I’ll just have one
more.” Two shoppers debated whether it was harder to get a Sicilian mom or a
Jewish mom to try the stuff. “What about getting her to take off her shoes
in the restaurant? Forget it!” Sushi has somehow become a supermarket
staple, and it’s often pretty sketchy. At Fairway, it’s made fresh, and the
tuna-avocado roll I had tasted good, but the nori was on the moist side
($5.69/nine pieces). This was also the site of smoked-salmon samples,
artfully folded and placed on toothpicks. Fairway carries several varieties
of smoked salmon, including a house-smoked organic version, pleasantly fatty
and a good option for those who like the smokiness to be subtle. This was
also selling at a special price, $3.99/quarter-pound.
Sabra Brand Hummus and Baba Ghanoush
There is little I can say about hummus from a container. It is fine.
D’Artagnan Truffle Butter/Mousse
Hello. Welcome to the Cadillac of sample tables. Black-truffle butter
($6.59/three ounces) tastes great until you try the white stuff ($9.99/three
ounces). But possibly even more fun is watching other people taste it,
particularly if they haven’t before. Some did not seem to be “mushroom
people.” Also on hand was a mousse made from organic turkey and chicken
livers with black truffle ($4.99/four ounces). The woman working this table
said, “It makes a great gift˜for $5˜and it’s so cute. Unless you have high
cholesterol, like me.”
Solea Brand Potato Chips
A little girl in a denim skirt seemed to be enjoying the fancy olive oil and
sea salt potato chips from the comfort of the cart in which she was perched.
“Scout! Potato chips!” her dad said, messing up her hair in that
affectionate, oblivious dad way. “We’re never leaving.”