Butchers block communal tables.
Fresh, homemade pastas prepared daily.
Artisanal jars of flavored honey.
These were just a few of the sights I saw upon entering Mario Batali’s Eataly in New York City. I had spent the last few days celebrating my twin sister’s graduation from Columbia University, and was itching to go to one of the restaurants tucked inside this culinary icon. My family wasn’t familiar with Eataly, but they graciously agreed to give it a try – and I know they’re glad they did!
After reading about this market concept in various food and nutrition headlines since its opening, my mind wandered back to the summer I spent in Madrid, Spain (yes that’s an invitation to read my old blog). As an au pair living with a host family, I expressed my interest in all things food right from the start. The father of my host family was the designated cook and regularly asked me to accompany him to market. I was particularly fascinated by the icy rows of fresh meat and fish. No pre-formed patties or pre-seasoned filets here like are so common at supermarkets in the U.S. In fact, the food was so fresh (read: usually still had eyes or skin), I’m not sure I would have even known what to do with it!
So you can imagine my excitement when I entered this Mediterranean-inspired market right in the middle of NYC. There are several restaurants inside Eataly, so we quickly put our name down for the hour-long wait (at 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight…) at the pizza and pasta place. They don’t take advance reservations, because there is plenty to keep you occupied while you wait. As I meandered through the store, I wondered why I hadn’t thought to pack a large cooler so I could take fresh prosciutto, cheese and squid ink pasta on the flight home to enjoy back in Kansas City.
And the variety! Who knew this many types of mushrooms or greens even existed?
Of course, wine and a tasting plate of charcuterie were also a must while we waited for our table at the restaurant. Again, Eataly didn’t disappoint! The accompanying plate of olives also reminded me of my time in Spain. I can’t remember a single meal where we didn’t have olives and a fresh loaf of bread (pan) at the table.
What if all supermarkets in the U.S. were more like European markets? Why do we have to shop the perimeter? What if the majority of foods in our markets were “perimeter” foods? I’m not bashing the center of the store, as there are many items there that are near and dear to my heart. But…what if? I leave you with the quote from a banner hanging across the market: Eating is an agricultural act.