It’s hardly a secret that Fairway Market has thrown off the shackles of the bad old days. I speak of a time when there were but a few Fairways for so many far-flung people who had no choice but to drive to us. There are 15 Fairways now, and more coming.
I don’t deny that there are lots of people who still don’t have ready access to a Fairway. Nor do I deny the noise from many who deplore the proliferation of the new mega-Fairways, preferring instead the cozy little store we used to be on the Upper West Side. Success has its drawbacks, and it is my job to forestall the eventuality that people will be justified in ruing ours.
It’s a cliché that ‘bigger is not always better,’ but it’s more often true than not. Often the inevitable result of success is a sickly-sweet smugness wafting from the source of the success. With a super-successful retail business, a cool distance might arise between merchant and patron. This would be a hideous and marked departure from the longtime fact that we know most of you, and that we ingenuously, truly welcome every return trip you make to shop with us. This joy at greeting you is something that has ordered my life for 40 years, and just because my company has gotten bigger, there is no reason for either of us to feel less than grateful that we found each other. I’m the same as you; I dislike bigger. I dislike feeling like just another face in the crowd. One of the reasons we’ve done so well is that we always managed to make you feel special, and that we really, really do respect the choice you’ve made to shop with us.
So for the last few decades, it has been an obvious commitment to your trust and pleasure that we chose to master, and master it we did. How we did it is, again, a commitment—in this case, to serious food. We consciously chose to have not just the regional best, but a world-class best selection and execution of conventional fruits and vegetables, certified-organic produce, organic baked goods and organic shelf stuff, cheese and charcuterie and salumi, olive oil and vinegar and every crucial ingredient in recipes no matter how arcane.
We have re-committed to what it is that got us here in the first place: the lowest prices we can possibly muster. I just saw us in The New York Times again last week. As usual, Fairway was FIVE DOLLARS A POUND cheaper than a competitor carrying the cheese (Tarentaise) that won BEST OF SHOW at the annual American Cheese Society competition. I said to myself, ”There we go again! All’s right with the world!”
I’d come to a Fairway on a regular basis just to look at and taste all those olive oils. It’s stunning, what we’ve done with olive oils. If I had to pick just one, I’d have to be in therapy. We exclusively import TWELVE (count ‘em) TWELVE of Dr. Gino Celletti’s Italian regional early-harvest monocultivars, and another shipment is approaching my warehouse as we speak. Dr. Celletti’s remarkable book MONOCULTIVAR – THE PERFECT OLIVE OIL is here, too, for sale, and at our cost. We don’t make a penny on Dr. Gino’s book, and if you read just the “36 Truths” inside, you’ll know more about olive oil than most ‘experts’—certainly more than any chef you can name.
Speaking of olive oil, you DO know the world’s best potato chips come from Spain, don’t you? And that the reason is that Spaniards fry them in olive oil? Spanish people are the world’s best fryers. Friars, maybe, but fryers, definitely. You ever sit before fried fish and seafood in Spain? Patatas bravas? Bunyols, for heaven’s sake? Food fried by a Spaniard is more often than not ethereal, and without fried food greasiness; seemingly un-fried, if you can imagine. Fairway is the only store that offers you TWO brands of Spanish potato chips: Anavieja from Soria, and Patatas Torres from Barcelona. Both are meant to be served as a cocktail treat. Spaniards would never partner a sandwich with a handful of potato chips, much less a bowl of chips and dip. These Spanish potato chips are meant to stand alone, to be meditated over, to be savored chip by chip. I particularly crave the Anavieja paprika-enhanced chip. And while I normally do not care for truffle-infused anything, I cannot believe the alluring subtlety of the Patatas Torres black truffled chips. We offer the Anavieja chips certified-organic, too. And both outfits use sterling ingredients, Spanish potatoes and Spanish EVOO, and Murcian Spanish paprika. God knows where the black truffles come from, but who’s concerned?
You will flip for this chip. THESE chips. And this is coming from one who has assiduously cut chips out of his diet.
Did you get a load of our Fairway-label ice creams? No? Hottest item ever. You have to jump on every single one of the flavors, and this is coming from one who despises new-fangled flavors in everything, certainly ice cream. (And foam. I hate foam, unless it’s on a frosty mug of Pilsener.) These ice creams come from Atlanta, a collaboration between our famous Lori Levy and High Road, a company whose operators have become very, very close to us, and who are being lauded in every foodie publication we pick up, which is to say, these guys are HOT. Seriously; as hot as their ice creams are cold.
- ALSATIAN SPAETZLE, a cross between dumplings and pasta.
- A.O.C. PERIGORD walnuts.
- ARAGON OLIVES marinated in anchovies.
- ARGAN OIL from Morocco.
- BADOIT MINERAL WATER from France.
- BANYULS AND PINEAU DES CHARENTES exquisite French vinegars.
- BOQUERONES, the wonderful white pickled anchovies from Catalonia.
- BRITTANY FLEUR DE SEL and ‘sel gris’ (sea salt from the Guerande).
- BUTTER WAFFLES (gaufres) from Flanders.
- CATALAN ESCALA ANCHOVIES and the equally great French Catalan Roque anchovies from Collioures.
- CLEMENTINES, which have become staple, were premiered at Fairway Markets long before they entered the coast-to-coast distribution channel.
- ESPELETTE CHILE in no less than seven different guises, including Bixi-Bixia, the great Basque BBQ sauce made with the Espelette chile pepper, named for a lowland village located in the very center of the pepper’s growing area.
- EXTRA-VIRGIN NOVELLO OLIVE OIL from Western Sicily, a nod to France’s breathlessly awaited autumn arrival of Beaujolais Nouveau.
- FONTINA D’AOSTA, MASCARPONE AND MOZZARELLA DI BUFALA from Italy, just three of our favorite cheeses.
- JAMON IBERICO BELLOTA (acorn-fed!), the most famous of all Spanish foodstuffs, and far and away the greatest meat on earth.
- LORRAINE’S BEETS, cooked, peeled and vacuum-packed French beets for salads and borscht. We import mountains of these beets, and we now have a kosher mark on them!
- NORMANDY BUTTER, several of the most famous brands, salted and sweet.
- OLIO SANTO, the beloved ‘sanctified’ (hot chile-infused extra-virgin olive oil) from Western Sicily.
- PROVENCALE TAPENADE, made with the finest black olives.
- PRUNEAUX D’AGEN, our favorite prune from around the world.
- QUIBERONNAISE AND CONNETABLE VINTAGE SARDINES from the deep Atlantic water off Brittany.
- REAL ANDALUCIAN GAZPACHO, such as that made by Luque with ripe tomatoes and rich olive oil.
- ROYAL MEDJOOL DATES from Paradise Valley, California made their debut at the Fairway cheese counters.
- VERJUS, unsweetened wine grape juice from the Perigord.