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Mangia Bene at FRESH

There’s a famous Italian quote, “Mangia Bene, Ridi Spesso, Ama Molto.” It means “Eat well, laugh often, love much.” It sums up the Italian lifestyle of long, multi-course feasts filled with laughter, friends and family. It’s also a good reason why Italian cuisine is so loved in America.

At FRESH, there are plenty of ways to eat well, especially when it comes to authentic Italian food. From October 9 – 15, the store will be celebrating a Taste of Italy. In every department, products will be featured that highlight the essence of Italian cuisine and are perfect for creating your own multi-course feast with friends and family.

The ingredients in many Italian recipes are really quite basic. They highlight the wonderful natural flavors of things like quality extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, handmade pasta, artisanal cheese, slow-baked bread and plump juicy San Marzano tomatoes.

Here are a few of my favorites that I think you will enjoy from various departments throughout the store:
Cheese: Housemade Fresh Mozzarella, Gorgonzola Bleu Cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Grana Padano and Asiago.

Charcuterie: Prosciutto di Parma, Mortadella, Speck, Molinari & Sons Italian Salami and Pancetta, and Columbus Italian Salami.

Fresh Pasta: Also found in the cheese department is fresh pasta. Made daily, you’ll find Fettucine, Pappardelle, Alfredo Sauce, Marinara and Bolognese.

Pizza di Napoli: Enjoy an authentic Neapolitan-style pizza cooked in our new pizza oven. Made with handmade dough, San Marzano tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella. An assortment of toppings and flavors are available that are truly Italian.

Chef-Prepared: Spaghetti & Meatballs, Lasagna Rolls, Eggplant Parmesan and more.

Bakery: All bread is baked in the store. Look for Rustic Italian Bread, Focaccia Bread and Ciabatta.

Wine: There is a wide assortment of Italian wines to enjoy from throughout the country and at every price point. From an inexpensive Chianti Classico to the prized Barolo. Two of my favorites are from Southern Italy.

Asmodeus Nero d’Avola from Sicily is a dark red wine that has a rich earthy flavor, but it is also balanced with red fruit, spice and high tannins. Also, Lacryma Christi Bianco Feudi di San Gregorio from the Naples area is a bright and golden white wine that has floral notes and flavors of white fruits. Lacryma Christi means “Tears of Christ” and the legend claims that as Christ ascended into heaven, he wept over the beauty of the area and brought life to the vines that were growing on Mt. Vesuvius.

Italian Products: Some of the essential Italian pantry ingredients can be found in the aisles. Look for Extra Virgin Olive Oil made in Italy and Balsamic Vinegar of Modena. San Marzano whole canned tomatoes are available in a variety of brands, along with sun-dried tomatoes, basil pesto, olive tapenade and a variety of pasta sauces. Of course, you need some pasta to go with all of these wonderful ingredients, and FRESH carries Montebello dried pasta that is made in Italy. Available in a variety of shapes, Montebello is handmade using Old World techniques.

Celebrating the Tradition of Oktoberfest

Celebrating the Tradition of OktoberfestWho would’ve guessed that a wedding celebration in October 1810 would become a worldwide annual celebration? Of course, now it is known as the German beer celebration called Oktoberfest.

It was October 12, 1810. The Crown Prince Ludwig, who later became the King of Bavaria, was marrying Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen. A little-known fact about the princess is that she was supposed to marry Napoleon Bonaparte in 1809, but she married Ludwig instead. If she had married Napoleon, there would be no Oktoberfest!

The wedding celebration was held outside the gates of Munich in the German state of Bavaria. The festivities included food, beer, horse racing and plenty of revelry. The celebration continued from year to year and began to grow. At some point, it was decided to hold the celebration in September because of better weather. The festivities last for 16 days and always end on the first Sunday of October.

In the beer tents at the Munich Oktoberfest, only six breweries are allowed to serve their Oktoberfest-Maerzen brews – each of them adhering to the strict beer-making requirements of the Reinheitsgebot (Bavarian Purity Requirements). They are Augustiner, Hacker Pschorr, Hofbräu, Löwebräu, Paulaner and Spaten. Each one has been producing beer since before Oktoberfest began. The oldest one is Augustiner, founded in 1328, and the newest is Paulaner, started in 1634. Over the length of the festival, more than 7,000,000 people will attend and approximately 6,900,000 liters of beer will be served.

FRESH will be having their own Oktoberfest celebration, although on a slightly smaller scale. During the week of September 18 – 24, the store will be decorated for Oktoberfest, and plenty of themed food and beer will be served.

Thursday, September 21 from 6PM to 9PM will be the official Oktoberfest celebration. Several breweries will be there to sample some of their beers. Also, there will be games, live music and plenty of Oktoberfest fun.

Here’s a look at the visiting breweries:
St. Arnold
Southern Star
Samuel Adams
Real Ale
Nine Band

Shop Local, Shop Tasty

Local ProductsOver the past few years, East Texas has evolved into an up-and-coming part of the food industry. There have even been two Tyler-based food companies named to Oprah’s Favorite Things list: Janie’s Cakes and Greenberg Smoked Turkeys.

Both of these brands, along with many other local products, can be found at FRESH. Starting July 24, FRESH will put the spotlight on a growing inventory of East Texas foods.

An array of local items can be found throughout the store. The produce department may as well be its own farmers market with all of the fruits and vegetables that are grown in East Texas. There are tomatoes, zucchini, squash and cucumbers from Jacksonville. There are also blueberries, peaches and plums from Winona, strawberries from Athens and watermelon from Chandler.

In the beer and wine aisles, there’s True Vine Brewing, plus wine from Briar Creek, Kiepersol, Los Pinos and Pelle Legna. Shopping the aisles, some of my favorites include Stanley’s BBQ Sauce, Simply Sassy Salsa from Longview, East Texas Honey from Whitehouse, Popcorn Junction, Porch Culture Coffee and David Wade Worcestershire Powder.

On Saturday, July 29, be sure to drop by the store between 11AM and 4PM. FRESH has invited several local vendors to come by for demonstrations and tastings throughout the store. It’s a great opportunity to learn about some delicious East Texas products and support your local farmers and purveyors.

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Celebrate Craft Beer Week at FRESH

Celebrate Craft Beer Week at FRESHTake a walk down the beer aisle at FRESH and it is certainly evident that craft beer has reached its peak of popularity. According to the National Brewers Association, craft beer has been the fastest-growing segment of the beer industry over the past several years. It peaked in 2013 and 2014, with 18% growth rate for each of those years. In 2016, 24.6 million barrels of craft beer were produced on both the regional and national levels.

The Brewers Association defines craft beer as an operation that is small, independent and traditional. Production of craft beer must be 6 million barrels or less, ownership should be through independent brewers and not an alcohol industry member, and the beer production needs to derive from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients.

The industry certainly offers something for everyone. The flavors, varieties, marketing and packaging of craft beer are very creative and designed to appeal to anyone’s palate.

FRESH will be celebrating Craft Beer Week from May 15th to 21st. Some of our favorite brews will be featured throughout the store. The big event will be on Thursday, May 18 from 6pm to 9pm on the FRESH patio. Ten Texas breweries will be on hand to distribute samples of their beers. There will also be some great food pairings to complement the variety of beers.

Along with the beer and food, we’ll have live music, cornhole, a photo booth and giveaways. You won’t want to miss this great evening of fun and brews!

Kick it up with Cajun Week at FRESH

Cajun Crab BisqueWhat’s the next best thing to being a Texan? Celebrating all things Cajun with our neighbors to the east. The flavor and traditions from Louisiana make Cajun food some of the best in the nation.

During the week of April 24-30, FRESH will be celebrating all things Cajun. Many of our favorite Cajun products will be on display and available for tasting.

From Frog Bone sauces to Slap Ya Mama seasonings, this is a great time to peruse the aisles and check out all the Cajun FRESH Finds. The week caps off with a crawfish boil on Saturday, April 29. Come join us for a day of delicious mudbugs on the patio. Check the calendar for details.

Cajun Crab Bisque

3 Tbs butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 Tbs sherry
3 Tbs all purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half
1 cup whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 lb lump crabmeat
1 cup corn kernels
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs Slap Ya Mama Cajun Seasoning
1/2 tsp paprika

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat, and cook the onions until golden. Deglaze with sherry and reduce. Add the flour; stir until smooth and it turns a pale golden color.

Whisk in the chicken broth, stirring constantly 
to avoid lumps. Mix in the milk, half-and-half, salt, crabmeat, corn, Worcestershire sauce, Cajun seasoning and paprika.

Reduce heat to medium-low, and continue whisking as soup comes to a simmer. Allow the bisque to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, until slightly thickened. Do not boil.

Serves 4

View this recipe to print or add items to your shopping list.

FRESH Pasta Brings the Taste of Italy

FRESH Pasta Brings the Taste of ItalyIt’s been a year since FRESH received a special delivery from Italy – the FRESH pasta machine! It makes such a difference in recipes when you use fresh pasta instead of dried. The noodles have a rich flavor, and the texture is sublime. It’s almost like you’ve been transported to a trattoria in Italy, enjoying a plate of fettuccine with Italian mandolins playing in the background.

All of the shapes and flavors, available at FRESH, are so good. I can’t pick a favorite. One thing is sure; I can’t get enough of the Texas BBQ Cream Sauce. It’s a delicious Texas-style twist on an Italian classic!

Now, for some really good news. This month, in honor of FRESH’s Taste of Italy festival, 5 new pastas will be introduced. So many great new choices to taste and try. The new flavors include:

  • Garlic Basil Fettuccine
  • Garlic Basil Tagliatelle
  • Spinach Fettuccine
  • Spinach Tagliatelle
  • Ancho Chile Pappardelle

All of these flavors pair well with either FRESH Pomodoro or Alfredo Sauce. Of course, the Texas BBQ Cream Sauce goes perfectly with the Ancho Chile Pappardelle. The wide-cut pasta ribbons of pappardelle have always been my favorite, so I can’t wait to try this spicy combination. Who says Texans can’t cook like an Italian? Buon Appetito! It’s Italian, y’all!

Celebrate Oktoberfest with FRESH

Saint Arnold Brewing Company OktoberfestTake a look at calendars around the world, and October is the month to celebrate. There are plenty of festivals and harvest celebrations that are part of the fall revelry, but the most celebrated is Oktoberfest.

It is the crown prince of fall festivals, but its origin has little to do with food or harvest. It was organized to celebrate the marriage of Bavarian Crown Prince Louis to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen on October 12, 1810.

The German Beer Institute describes the first Oktoberfest as a grand wedding party that allowed the commoners to partake in the ceremonies. The couple organized the gathering for their subjects on grazing land outside the Munich city gates, and some 40,000 Bavarians showed up for the fun. Every year on the anniversary of their nuptials, the party was repeated. To this day, the same meadow is the site of the annual Munich Oktoberfest.

Many Oktoberfest patrons are unaware of the festival’s origin, but the annual celebration has turned into a worldwide revelry of German sausage and special brews of Oktoberfest beer.

The Oktoberfestbier, or Märzens, are brewed in the spring, kept cool all summer and tapped in the fall. They are described as having a sweet and toasted malt complexity with spicy Bavarian hops and a crisp lager finish. Technically, it must be brewed within the city limits of Munich to be classified as or served at Oktoberfest. However, brewers everywhere have begun producing Oktoberfest-style beers that are made in limited release each fall.

On September 29, FRESH will be hosting its own Oktoberfest celebration. Several breweries will be participating, and there will be house-made brats prepared and cooked in the Taste Kitchen. Of course, our house-made brats are always available in the fresh meat case in The Market at any time of year.

There will also be handmade pretzels from the bakery that everyone can enjoy. It will be a great celebration to kick off October and celebrate the flavors of Oktoberfest!

Participating Breweries & Featured Beers:

  • Karbach – Karbachtoberfest
  • St. Arnold – Saint Arnold Oktoberfest
  • Southern Star Brewing – Southern Star Oktoberfest
  • Santa Fe Brewing – Oktoberfest
  • True Vine – Kip’s Pumpkin Ale
  • Goliad Brewing – Golden Ale, Redfish IPA and Black Hefeweizen
  • Guns and Oil – American Lager
  • Cedar Creek – Dankosaurus and Lawn Ranger
  • Community Beer Co. – Texas Helles
  • Nine Band Brewing – Ghost Cow Oktoberfest
  • Grapevine – 3113 Oktoberfest
  • Spaten – Spaten Oktoberfest Beer
  • Franconia – Franconia Oktoberfest

See the FRESH calendar for more details.

Keeping Cool at the FRESH Grill & Patio

FRESH Grill + PatioSeptember is always a great month for East Texas weather. The summer heat is fading, evenings are cooler and it’s the perfect time to take advantage of outdoor dining.

That means a visit to the FRESH Grill & Patio is a fun and casual way to enjoy lunch, dinner or relaxing time with friends. The area was recently renovated to better serve our guests, and new items have been added to the food and drink menus.

Open daily, the FRESH Grill menu features an assortment of appetizers, salads and casual entrees like burgers, tacos and hot dogs. You can also purchase food from inside the store to enjoy on the patio.

The FRESH Grill is also a great stop for happy hour. From 4pm to 7pm on Monday through Thursday, enjoy $1 off beer, wine and mixed drinks, and 1/2 price appetizers every Thursday. Order a cool cocktail like the Lemon Sunset, Patio Mojito, Vino-Rita or Sriracha-Lada, and enjoy live music on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s the perfect atmosphere for a casual evening with friends or family.

Hours: Daily 11am-9pm

FRESH Ideas Turns 200

Christine Gardner filming FRESH Ideas at the FRESH Taste KitchenOn Tuesday, October 4, 2011, the very first FRESH Ideas aired on CBS19 News at 5:00. Has it really been that long? That means that every week, for more than 200 weeks, I have created a new recipe to share with viewers. Wow! That’s a whole lot of recipes and countless hours of cooking.

You might have also seen the segment during its reairing on Wednesdays during CBS19 News This Morning between 5:30am and 7pm. There are also the videos and recipes that can be found on and on our YouTube page.

The final result is what everyone gets to see on the air, but you wouldn’t believe all the work that goes on behind the scenes.
It takes a lot of planning, preparation and time to film each recipe. I work with the FRESH marketing team to decide what foods we should feature. We look at what’s in season, new products and popular food trends.

Also, certain times of the year call for particular recipes. September is back to school and settling into fall routines, so we try to feature simple, quick and healthy entrées. In summer, it’s all about grilling and fresh produce, while the holidays need to feature new ideas for entertaining.

Then, we need to consider the theme of the segment – FRESH Ideas. It’s important to challenge ourselves to put a fresh twist on each recipe, and to offer tips and ideas that are helpful, new and delicious.

Once we come up with a list of what to feature, then it’s up to me to create the recipes. That’s the fun and creative part. I often look to the store shelves for inspiration and try to think outside the box. For example, roasted chicken is a common dish, but what if it’s rubbed with pesto and butter as a seasoning. How different will that be than typical roasted chicken? The results were moist and delicious, and that recipe made it on the list.

We then schedule a shoot date with the CBS19 crew, and I begin gathering all of the ingredients for the recipes we will be taping. We tape 3 to 5 recipes at a time, depending on the amount of time each recipe will take to film.

On the day before the shoot, I am busy chopping and portioning all of the ingredients. If the recipe is for something that needs to be baked for longer than 20 minutes, then I will make a duplicate that can be shown as the final dish at the end of the segment.

This swap-out, as it is called in food television terms, saves us a lot of time on the set and allows me to demonstrate key parts of the preparation then show the final result. Of course, many things like sautéing shrimp or vegetables can be done quickly and will be cooked while taping, and the longer parts of the cooking time are condensed when the segment is edited.

When it comes to scripting the segment, the recipe and cooking technique are my guide. I will talk about the recipe, ingredients and directions as though I am showing someone how to do it in my own kitchen. There’s no teleprompter or cue cards. I’ve gotten used to remembering the important tips that need to be shared and talking through parts of the recipe as they happen during filming.

That’s where flexibility comes into play. Food is an unpredictable costar – just like what they say about filming with children or pets – you never know what’s going to happen. The pan may be too hot or not hot enough, things spill, other things take too long to pour, ingredients are too cold, blenders won’t turn on, meat sticks to the pan or, inevitably, something burns. Filming has all the same variables we deal with in our own kitchen, but at home, no one is watching. Cooking takes a sense of humor, especially when you do it on television.

Currently, we are counting down to number 200 on Tuesday, August 11. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been featuring some favorite FRESH Ideas recipes, and I have something special planned for 200. Be sure to watch and check the websites to see some of the favorites.

I remember when we filmed number 100 and what a milestone that felt like. I never imagined making it to 200. So, what’s next? The possibilities are as endless as the ingredients that are available. Trying new things and creating new flavors is fun, and the best part is sharing it with others.

One thing is for sure – we will continue to keep it FRESH!

A FRESH Point of View: PLAYhouses

Have you noticed a recent addition to the green space in our north parking lot? If you haven’t walked over to check them out, you must take a look at the four PLAYhouses that are temporarily housed here at FRESH.  These architectural wonders are not only fun to look at, but are helping raise money for one of our favorite local charities, Habitat for Humanity.

Fitzpatrick Architects, the local firm that designed FRESH, has teamed up with Tyler high school students to lend hands-on design and construction experience.  More than 20 Robert E. Lee High School students, involved in the architecture and construction programs, designed and built the playhouses that will be auctioned off to raise money for Habitat for Humanity of Smith County.

Fitzpatrick has a long history of engaging with local organizations to get involved in mentoring and education in Tyler.  As luck would have it, Deanna Harrison, director of development for Habitat for Humanity, approached them with the idea of building playhouses to auction off and the two missions converged into PLAYhouse.

A true model for mentoring, this project has allowed the participating students to get a true to life experience.  These students, should they choose to move forward and pursue a career in architecture, have a great advantage.  They have experienced a very similar environment to their first college class.  They have seen an architect’s office, and know how the joys and frustrations of seeing a project through from start to finish.  And now, they have something to add to their entrance portfolio.

The project also took life in the construction department. Local contractors sponsored each of the PLAYhouses (RPR construction, WRL construction, Garrett Construction, and HGR construction).  The contractors have worked tirelessly with the students, donated materials, and mentored them in the building process.

Take a look at the story on Facebook:  PLAYhouse

The silent auction for the four PLAYhouses began on November 9th.  You are able to bid and see renderings of the PLAYhouses at this website:

I encourage everyone to come out to FRESH and take a look at these impressive structures and then go online and bid!  One of these could make the perfect Christmas gift!

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