I was sitting at my desk at work around lunchtime when my cell phone rang. Seeing that it was Joe Harvey, community manager for Local Food Service, I quickly accepted his call. Joe doesn't tend to call just to shoot the breeze, so I figured something must be up.
"Hey," he quipped. "You've got to check out this new place in Montrose called The Market Gourmet. They just opened and have a great selection of products."
After finding out that they were located somewhere around Swensons and Laser Quest, I knew sort of the general area in which to look, and made a note in my mind to stop in and check them out soon. What I didn't realize until I tried to find it was that they were SO new that they didn't even have any signs put up yet. I drove around the intersection of Brookwall and Brookmont for a good fifteen minutes before I pulled off the road and called Joe back.
"Joe, where the hell is this place? I've been looking for a while now and can't find it."
"It's in the building that sits between the Laser Quest building and the Goodyear shop. They're on the very end."
Now with a much clearer understanding of where to look, I pulled into the parking lot that was shared with the Goodyear store as well as a number of other shops at 3631 Brookwall Drive, Fairlawn, OH 44333. As I got out of my car, I walked up to the unit closest to the Laser Quest building and discovered this:
A-ha! Bingo! Specifically, The Market Gourmet was in unit 101 (notice the unit number on the door). They can be reached at 330-524-1818 and there was plenty of parking in the lot outside the stores. Once inside the store, I began to look around.
What I noticed were a number of gourmet and specialty prepared food items already packaged and ready to be sold. I also noticed the rather eclectic variety of items being offered: Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Italian, French, and American. High quality cheeses and charcuterie were being sold, too. None of it was exactly inexpensive, but for the quality of the products being sold, it didn't seem unreasonable. For those familiar with the West Point Market here in Akron, the products had a decidedly similar feel to them.
After walking around the small retail area, I noticed a large display hanging on the wall and I walked over to check it out:
It turned out to be the daily menu that was offered from 10:30 AM until they closed at 6:30 PM, Tuesday through Saturday. When I first arrived, someone had obviously faxed in a very large order as chef and owner Jeff Winer was working quickly and efficiently in the small prep area visible to the rest of the store to make numerous salads and sandwiches. While the woman running the cash register offered to take my order, I simply said that I was fine with waiting and I'd just look around some more.
When it finally looked like the gargantuan order had been bagged and paid, I approached the counter once more. Having looked at the menu long enough, I had become intrigued by the Market Roasted Turkey sandwich. As the menu described it, the sandwich came "with double creme brie, romaine hearts and a cranberry-sage aioli served on freshly baked Focaccia." Having heard my fair share of "menu speak" before, I knew that I needed a few questions answered first before placing my order.
It turned out that Chef Winer made a number of his own products for use in the market's offerings. The roast turkey and roast beef are done in small batches in the on-site convection ovens. The aiolis were made from scratch. The sides were made from scratch. The only item not baked on-site was the bread, which was supplied by a local bakery utilizing recipes that adhere to the chef's specific needs.
During the course of our four minute conversation, I mentioned how hard it had been to find the store's location. That was when he informed me that the new signs should be coming and being installed that day. Additionally, when I mentioned that a colleague of mine had recommended that I stop by and check the store out for myself, Jeff looked at me and said, "Oh, wait, are you the food blogger Joe was talking about yesterday?" I admitted that I was.
After paying for my lunch, Jeff finished making my sandwich and packed it, along with a side of the roasted potato salad, into a large brown sack for me to take with me:
For now, everything is take-out only, and there really wasn't a whole lot of space to set up tables with the gourmet market occupying the rest of the space. Fortunately, today was a lovely day outside, so I simply walked over to my car, sat down on the curb and prepared to enjoy my spoils. First up, a shot of my Market Roasted Turkey sandwich:
While the crust on the focaccia bread was a little pale in color, by looking at the side shot, there were plenty of holes in the crumb:
As is my usual custom, I tried little bits of each part of the sandwich before taking a solid bite through all of the layers. I was quickly drawn to the quality of the turkey breast. It actually looked like real turkey, the kind you slice from a cooked turkey breast. This was clearly not the compressed and shaped turkey loaf you find at the supermarket. I tasted it and was rewarded with an excellent turkey flavor. Next up, the brie. Smooth, mild, and creamy, this brie was tasty and delicious. Third, the cranberry-sage aioli. While the flavor from the sage was pretty subtle, the sweet and sour interplay of the cranberries in the aioli was a welcome addition. Finally, the focaccia. While the interior was definitely not dried out, it wasn't exactly moist either. Had the aioli not been applied to both sides of the sandwich, I think the sandwich would've needed some serious help.
Okay, all pieces now dissected and tasted, how did the sandwich fare when I took an entire bite? Excellent. All of the flavors complimented each other without taking over. I especially liked that the Brie was mild, as using one with too assertive a flavor would've easily killed the delicate flavor of the turkey breast. Since the focaccia was being baked to the chef's recipe, I would love to see something a little extra done with the bread, perhaps adding some kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to the top, just for that extra little kick of flavor. Additionally, the salt would help to make the mouth water, which would deal with the dryness issue.
Having finished my sandwich, I turned my attention to my side, the roasted potato salad:
It was clear that the potatoes had been roasted very deeply as there was definitely caramelization on some of the spuds. The dressing had an off-white look to it and there were chopped chives spread throughout the container. When I first tasted it, what didn't pop into my head was what normally does: acid. Most potato salads, whether mayonnaise-based or not, usually have a strong vinegar component to them. As I sat there pondering the flavors I was tasting, I had the oddest sensation of caramel register in my brain. Nothing sweet, mind you. I could also tell that there was paprika in the dish, too (if for no other reason there were small red specks on the dressed potatoes).
Finishing my lunch, I cleaned up my trash and walked back into the shop. While at first the staff looked surprised to see me, after telling them where I had lunched and that I had a few questions, we quickly fell into a conversation. I asked the chef if he could tell me what was in the dressing for the potatoes. He looked a little apprehensive for a second and then said, "Mayonnaise and sour cream. That's it." I told him about the subtle and complex flavors I had tasted and he responded that it was probably due to some of the spices he also used, such as cumin and the aforementioned paprika.
Before I knew it, he had gone back to the soup pot at the rear of the store and returned with this:
Handing it to me, he said, "I was kicking myself for not giving you a sample of this to try when you were in earlier. It's a French onion soup, done more in a country style."
Utilizing chicken stock instead of beef, this hearty soup had a clean, sweet flavor and one spoonful was enough to wish I had a crouton, some Gruyere cheese and a broiler. Apparently the chef cooks his onion for a long time in almond oil, an unusual choice I originally thought. The chef informed me that since almond oil has such a high smoke point, it won't break down during the time it takes to properly cook the onions. While I certainly couldn't taste the almond oil (or the tarragon that was also part of the recipe), the end result on the onions was pretty spectacular. The next time I go back, I am definitely going to have to get a larger sampling of this hearty dish.
Besides six salads already on the menu, you also have the ability to create your very own salad from among fifty different ingredients. In fact, I suspect that when I had first arrived, the reason the order was taking so long to put together was that each person on the order wanted a unique salad. All I know was that the Market Caprese salad with actual Burrata looked quite tasty and I think that it will be on my radar for my next visit.
In additional to the retail and food outlet, Jeff Winer's other source of income is the affiliated On Market Catering. You can get information about both entities on the website linked to at the top of the article if you are interested.
After my conversation with Chef Winer and sampling some of his delicious offerings today, I would highly recommend that you give them a chance. While my sandwich and roasted potato salad weren't inexpensive at $8.50 for both, the fact that it was all homemade and much tastier than local fast food options makes the decision to go back a no brainer to me. I know I'll be stopping back soon and I hope you will, too.