The Devolution of Shopping

The mid-century debut of the supermarket was meant as a boon to busy homemakers. No more would Mom need to travel to the butcher, the baker, and the produce stand to round up weekly provisions. Just a short trip in the station wagon to the Super Market, and --- presto! — the drudgery was done. Now the notion of one-stop grocery shopping is beginning to seem positively quaint. (For this we blame the Food Network.) Today's foodies have devolved once again into hunter-gatherers, schlepping from the artisanal bakery to the upscale meat market, and then off to the organic foods store for fruits and veggies. (And don't forget the cheese shop and the wine store.) As proof that the fractionation of food shopping isn't getting any better, consider last week's opening of The Fresh Market, a Greensboro, N.C. based purveyor of high-quality meats, fresh seafood, in-store baked goods, more than 200 domestic and imported cheeses, and fresh (if not necessarily local, seasonal, or organic) fruits and veggies. Small, charming, and theatrically lit, the store is at 20125 Van Aken Blvd., in Shaker Heights. Want cat food? Go to Marc's. But if your grocery list includes heavily marbled cuts of aged, heritage-breed beef, all-natural chicken, or wild salmon, The Fresh Market is your kind of place. In the interest of consumer research, we snagged a pair of aged, boneless rib steaks to try at home. While the store's Hereford herds bypass the USDA grading process (but not the inspection process), the butcher promised that the thick-cut steaks would meet or exceed Prime quality standards. After pan-searing them to about 130 degrees, and then finishing them off with a pat of Plugra butter, our tastebuds confirmed it. Plushly textured, profoundly beefy, and succulent as hell, the steaks were killer. Of course, the two of them set us back a juicy 28 bucks, but hey, what price convenience? — Elaine T. Cicora