Oser Communications Group

Restaurant Daily News May 23

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R e s t a u r a n t D a i l y N e w s M o n d a y, M a y 2 3 , 2 0 1 6 1 0 2 A COMPLETE FOOD EXPERIENCE AT FRUIT CENTER MARKETPLACE By Richard Thompson The winters in Milton, Massachusetts bring brisk cold-snaps and 30 degree rains to its historic red-brick buildings and famous waterfront restaurants. Red- cheeked children skate on the frozen brook in nearby Cunningham Park and short horn blasts from incoming barges are carried over the sea air all the way to East Milton Square. It's here that resi- dents put on their Red Sox embroidered scarves and head out into the cold, because they know that if they want some of Mike's Fresh Sushi or need to stop by Kinnealey's Meat Shop for a whole chicken, they have to make it to the Fruit Center Marketplace. "This is a family run business that's been around for 42 years now," says Michael Dwyer, Marketing Director for the Fruit Center Marketplace Milton. Focused on specialty and gourmet prod- ucts, Dwyer says that residents come here because its a place they can trust. "From bread and butter to paper goods and detergents, all the stuff you'd find at a regular grocery store, you'll find here – with countless gourmet items as well." The Fruit Center Marketplace, named by "The Boston Globe" as one of the Top Places to Work in Massachusetts for four years running, began in 1973 with the simple idea of providing excep- tional produce to customers in the South Shore community. Its loyal base and rep- utation quickly saw business expand, so the original store was replaced with two locations to meet demand – one in Milton and a smaller location found down the road in Hingham. Says Dwyer, "Folks come to us because they're looking for the complete food experience." The Milton Marketplace, in which Fruit Center Marketplace resides, is a 10,000 square-foot two-story building that houses the Fruit Center Marketplace on the first floor, while upstairs, customers will find an assortment of stores and a gourmet eatery, The Plate, that makes for a com- plete shopping experience. According to Dwyer, the layout is designed this way to entice customers to stay and shop: "We have a range of customers; some who shop here weekly for their groceries and leave, while others spend the entire day here, shopping upstairs before picking up some bananas and a few takeaway items to bring home for dinner. Different customers...dif- ferent purposes." The grocery store itself is home to an assortment of gourmet and specialty departments that are locally sourced, high-end and are highly regarded by both customers and upscale restaurants. Dwyer says that an important factor in choosing their partners was that these companies have experience in working with hotels and restaurants and specialize in high-quality products. He said, "This is certainly not usual for any other gro- cery retailer." Inside, customers are offered a selec- tion of locally sourced produce from the Boston area, a 40 foot salad bar that boasts over 100 fresh items everyday, a baked goods display, an olive bar and even a line of prepared meals and side dishes such as meatloaf, chicken Parmesan, scallops au gratin and butter- nut squash, for those busy shoppers look- ing for something to eat without dealing with the hassle of cooking. Mike's Fresh Sushi, which partnered in 2008, specializes in all things raw, making all of its products in-house, right on the floor. While there is no seating available, shoppers are able to pick up restaurant style sushi and take it home without a second thought. Everyday, the itamae – or sushi chef – behind the bar creates 10 to 12 varieties of sushi ranging from traditional California rolls to more creative sushi offerings like eel with strawberries. Kinnealey's Meat Shop, which has worked alongside the Fruit Center for nearly 30 years, is its own business run inside the marketplace and is a high-end meat purveyor that caters to high-end restaurants and hotels in the Boston area. Aged sirloin steaks, veal cutlets, pork ribs, game, sausage and organic poultry options are all offered by the specialty butcher. On the second floor of The Marketplace, shoppers will encounter the newly opened restaurant, The Plate, offering customers a sit-down compli- ment to the food-center motif downstairs. "The new cafe will offer an inventive dining experience with a partially open kitchen," says Suzanne Lombardi, Chef and Owner of The Plate. Says Dwyer, "Suzanne [Lombardi] has a long and impressive food back- ground in Boston and we know from her two wildly successful past enterprises that she could bring homemade food and innovative dishes to Fruit Center." The 2,600 square-foot marketplace cafe serves handmade, gourmet break- fasts and lunches Tuesday through Sunday, allowing patrons to enjoy its reclaimed wood décor, natural sunlight and variety of seating options. Everything from commuter breakfasts for on-the-go professionals to organic eggs and smoked bacon dishes are offered as eat-in or take out choices. Lombardi even makes her own English muffins and jams. After filling themselves up at The Plate, shoppers who meander upstairs will find a small assortment of retail mer- chants selling clothes, jewelry and toys. The Gift Garden carries a selection of upscale women's clothing and jewelry plus greeting cards, cookbooks, candles and ceramics, while The Nutshell focus- es solely on children's clothing. Rounding out the second floor is The Toy Chest, a toy store that harkens back to a simpler time, where customers can treat their grand-kids, nieces and nephews with toys that don't require batteries or AC adapters. "It's a traditional toy store," says Dwyer. During certain times of the year, the Fruit Center works collaboratively with the retailers upstairs for social and shop- ping events such as a "stroll" night where shoppers can go to the second floor and take advantage of special deals, and then come downstairs to enjoy some wine tasting and cheese and chocolate sam- pling downstairs. Says Dwyer, "Having regular prod- uct samplings within the store, a busy restaurant and a wide range of products that customers desire not only brings them back, but they tend to come back with greater frequency." CHEWING THE FAT ABOUT EATING MEAT By Lorrie Baumann American demand for food that tastes better is helping some food animals live better lives, says D'Artagnan Chief Executive Officer Ariane Daguin, who credits chefs in fine dining restaurants for elevating Americans' expectations for how their food should taste. "Customers are getting more educated and are asking retailers to source these good pieces of meat for them," she said. "A happy chicken makes a tasty chicken. this is what we've been doing for 30 years, making sure the animals are not stressed and they're raised humanely. It makes a better piece of meat on the table." D'Artagnan distributes high-quality meat products in the eastern, southern and midwestern United States from warehouses and logistics facilities in Chicago, Houston and New Jersey. For much of the company's 30-year history, its primary market was fine dining restaurants, but the company's reach into the retail grocery market is growing because educated American consumers are demanding high-quality meats that have been raised humanely and without unnecessary antibiotics, Daguin says. "Over the past 30 years, I've found a tremendous drive for education and for wanting to know what you eat and being concerned about how the animals were raised," she said. "And the proof is our success. We are now in major retail stores, even in big supermarkets. It means something. It means that con- sumers are aware and don't mind paying a little bit more to have the security to know they are giving the right thing to their family." D'Artagnan has been a pioneer in requiring its suppliers to raise their ani- mals humanely, and the company is now working to educate consumers to under- stand what's on the labels they see on the meat in their grocery market and on their restaurant menus. She's particularly con- cerned about widespread misunderstand- ing of what the word "natural" means when it appears on a food label. "'Natural' on a meat label means absolutely nothing – literally," she said. For instance, consumers should look past the word "natural" on chicken labels to see if there's a statement there about a percentage of retained water, which would indicate that the product was chilled with ice water, which increases the weight of the bird they're buying because some of that chilling water is retained in the animal's tissue. A better choice would be a chicken, such as D'Artagnan's Green Circle brand, that was air-chilled rather than water-chilled – it costs more per pound, but it's a better product, says Daguin. D'Artagnan is also campaigning for better understanding of how antibiotics are used in the beef industry. Ranchers are allowed to give their animals non- therapeutic antibiotics to make them grow faster as long as they withdraw them a month before slaughter. "There is a huge difference between doing that and what we at D'Artagnan call antibiotic- free, which is a never-ever-ever program, which means that the animal has never had antibiotics," she said. "We got the attention of the USDA, and they are addressing it right now. We are going in the right direction. It just takes a long time." Over the past year or so, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture was con- sidering how to update the nation's dietary guidelines, animal rights activists and nutrition experts alike have been sug- gesting that perhaps, as a nation, we ought to rethink how much meat we include in our diets, using the argument that Americans' meat consumption is not environmentally sustainable. Daguin counters by arguing that it's factory- farming, not simply our carnivorous tastes, that's hard on the environment. "Factory farming pollutes, and pollutes big time," she said. She's an advocate of raising beef on pasture with naturally diverse vegetation and providing supple- mentary nutrition in the form of rich hay and silage during the winter rather than finishing beef in feed lots. "There's a sus- tainable way of having good meat with- out polluting," she said. Meat is more expensive to raise that way, and many are questioning how Americans will respond as those costs have an effect on what goes onto their plates. Restaurateurs and Slow Food advocates Dan Barber and Alice Waters have been suggesting recently that the time may have come to take meat off the center of the plate and to reduce restau- rant portion size to match the amount of meat normally served for a meal in other cuisines around the world. In many other cultures around the world, meat is used more for flavoring than as the main com- ponent of a meal, Barber observed. That won't necessarily decrease the cost of the meal, since the preparation of ingredients to take the place of that meat tends to be more labor intensive, but the result would be a healthier meal, he said. Daguin agrees. "In general, our U.S. portions are too big," she said. "That's not just about meat – it's everything. Portions are too big.... We associate big- ger with better. That is changing, but it is changing very slowly.... We want a full plate, and we've been raised to finish the plate, so we eat too much." She has a piece of advice for American restaurant diners: "Just realize that you have two portions instead of one, and just take half of it home in a doggie bag," she said. "It's going to be a tough uphill battle because it's so engrained in our culture in the United States that bigger is better."

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