When John Burry, Chief Customer Officer of Fresh and Easy Neighborhood Market, dubbed the West coast grocery chain as your new ‘meal store’, I knew right away that those words would stick in my head. My brain is a jumbled mush of blog posts to write, online assignments with fast approaching due dates, preparing for a short-term gig and gearing up for Amir’s rapidly approaching wedding. Despite all of that and more, I managed to remember something else. That’s how I knew that the idea made an impression on me. Last week, I had the privilege of attending a sneak preview of Fresh and Easy’s Kitchen To Go line up. Several other bloggers and I sampled a number of prepared dishes that will soon find their way in California, Arizona and Nevada stores starting tomorrow, June 13th. Get ready for the roll out!
Not every one is familiar with Fresh and Easy, which is understandable considering its appearance in just three states. They are small neighborhood markets stocked with staples and specialty items to fill your pantry, fridge and freezer. Amir is lucky to have one literally around the corner from his apartment. Each and every time we cook at his place, more than half of the ingredients were purchased at Fresh and Easy. One of the stores just opened in my neighborhood not too long ago, and slowly but surely, I find that the store’s aisles are busier as local residents explore the new grocer. Fresh and Easy’s headquarters is in El Segundo, CA, so I found myself in the funky green and white office standing before three tables of food from the new Kitchen To Go selection. More than 150 new food items will be available in stores, and they will include bowls, side dishes and small entrees and large entrees in four different cuisines–Mexican, American, Italian and Asian–and a healthier selection entitled Eat Well. According to Fresh and Easy, you can mix and match to create your own meal within the lines of the cuisine or create your own line up by crossing the food borders. The only thing you cannot do is finish off the meal with a prepared sweet. I have a notorious penchant for dessert, so I admit that this is disappointing. Perhaps down the road, they will add desserts.
Over the course of the morning, we sampled several dishes from the four main cuisines. There were a few that stood out from the crowd: Loaded Pulled Pork Potato Skins, Texan Blueberry Pork, Garlic Shrimp, Eggplant Napoli and the Caprese Salad. The Kung Pao Chicken was good, but it was very spicy. I have a decent tolerance for spice, but even I had a hard time with it. I have a feeling the general consumer would not enjoy it. I sipped on the Argentinian Recoleta Chardonnay, which I found a rather pleasant partner for several of the samplings. I would, without hesitation, purchase any of those items for myself or a party. Unlike frozen foods, these are fresh, prepared meals held in the grocery store’s refrigerator, so it’s just a matter of a quick trip in the oven or microwave before dinner is done.
The decision to develop the Kitchen To Go offering was based on the fact that despite the explosion in food and culinary exploits, there are still many people who do not or cannot cook. Their reasons vary, but the main point is that those people want easy ways to put food on the table. Many of them resort to fast food or other unhealthy choices. Fresh and Easy wants to make it easier for them to make dinner a grab and go situation. One of their missions is to pop up in lower income areas of the West coast, especially in Los Angeles, so that residents will have access to fresh foods at fair prices. That’s one of the ideals I admire most.
Another tidbit that was new to me was the chain’s local processing plants and kitchen. I had absolutely no clue that Fresh and Easy has a large facility in Riverside, CA. It is there that they process meat, grow and process a bit of their own produce and cook, package and load out the Kitchen To Go prepared foods. When individual stores submit their orders for food, the kitchen cooks dishes in large batches and ships them out within 24 hours. I just want to spend one day in the kitchen watching it all happen. I’ve never seen that sort of production in an up close and personal way. It’s also great to know that the development chefs fight for use of key ingredients. It’s hard to do Thai food without fish sauce, but how often do you see that listed on a grocery store’s meal packaging? Kudos to Fresh and Easy for attempting to maintain a level of authenticity with the food.
Be sure to check out your local Fresh and Easy’s Kitchen To Go line. Hopefully, you’ll find a couple of favorites for your friends and family.
Disclaimer: The morning’s event was sponsored by Fresh and Easy and RL Public Relations. All opinions expressed here are our own.