Groceryland: Albemarle Square gets fresh

Yes, Charlottesville, you will soon have yet another grocery store option, as the North Carolina-based gourmet grocery store chain The Fresh Market is set to open on February 6 in the Albemarle Square Shopping Center, joining the recently opened Trader Joe's down the road, the new Whole Foods location, Kroger, Harris Teeter, and Food Lion as an additional 29-North grocery shopping option . The Fresh Market is known for its open European-style markets, complete with butcher shop, fish market, bakery, produce and floral stand, and a delicatessen. They are also known for their customer service, as employees often offer cooking advice or shopping tips.

Indeed, as Craig Carlock, the company's president and chief executive officer, promises in a release, shoppers will enjoy the smell of fresh brewed coffee and bread baking in the oven, classical music playing, un-grocery store-like soft lighting, and multiple tasting stations.

The 23,800 square-foot Charlottesville store will include a bakery that will produce 30 freshly baked breads and 14 different pie varieties daily, ready-to-serve entrées, freshly delivered seafood, more than 200 imported and domestic cheeses, and over 400 produce items.

At Wednesday's Grand Opening there will be chef demos, food samplings, and drawings for The Fresh Market gift cards. The first 1,000 customers will get a bag of the store's gourmet coffee, and the first 3,000 will walk away with a free reusable shopping bag.

"We are excited to open our store in Charlottesville and to expand our reach in Virginia," said Carlock. "We look forward to offering neighboring communities a rewarding new food shopping experience."

Lunch and learn
Over at the Charlottesville Cooking School they've launched a new Lunch and Learn series of classes, taught by Le Cordon Bleu trainer chef Tom Whitehead. The one-hour classes will be part demo, part participation, and best of all–they include lunch. They will be held on Thursdays beginning February 7 at noon, and are only $25. You'll learn how to poach and separate eggs, bake a soufflé, prepare potato-based soups, and more. The first lunch is a French country salad with frisée, poached eggs, and bacon lardons, and comes with french bread and chocolate truffle coffee or tea. The following week, it's a cheese soufflé. So check out this tasty schooling at their location in the Meadowbrook Shopping Center. For more information, email or call 434-963-2665.
Tuesday's here
Unlike the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd tune, Tuesdays are not gone over at L'etoile in 2013, as chefs Ian Redshaw and George Burke have added another dinner night. What's more, in the spirit of Restaurant Week, L'etoile will be offering their $30 three-course tasting menu every week of the year. Oh, and while some may be saddened that the West Main Street eatery no longer serves lunch, remember that they do brunch on Sundays from 11am to 2:30pm. But if you have a private party idea for lunch, they're open to that. Think bridal, baby, and business luncheons.

Beer craze
Okay, we've heard of ridiculously priced bottles of wine, but ridiculously priced bottles of beer? Yup. A recent segment on NPR explained how beer geeks everywhere have been trying to get their hands on Westvleteren, a beer made by Belgian monks and widely considered to be the best beer in the world. Recently, there have been rumors that the stuff has made its way into the United States, throwing beer fans into a frenzy. Could some of it wind up in beer crazy Charlottesville?

"It's impossible to get," says Matt Nucci, co-owner of Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton. "Usually you can only buy it at the actual brewery. I saw it once at a bar in Sweden but it was hundreds of dollars for one bottle so i didn't try it.  If any did make it to Charlottesville," he notes, "I'm sure it would be gobbled up super fast and cost a fortune."