Food News

Fresh Market Not So Fresh

Fresh Market is supposed to be a place where a yuppie can go and not be afraid. They play classical music. They give you tiny cups of premium coffee. Their organic yogurt selection is enviable.

And in Aventura, even the coconuts on the trees are Louis Vuitton brand.

So why the hell is the Aventura Fresh Market doing its best impression of People's Bar-B-Que?

My tale of woe starts the weekend before last. My girlfriend and I bought broccoli there to accompany some pasta. The place usually has pretty bright and fresh fruit and vegetables, so we shop there when we're feeling flush.

But when she cut into the broccoli at home, she grimaced when she found little gray specks under the bushy parts of each stem. "They're just buds," I assured her.

"They have legs," she shot back, and she was right. They were little gray mites. And the more you looked for them, the more you saw. There were hundreds of them. It looked like fucking Fern Gully in there.

So I tossed it in the trash and called the store to complain. The manager, named Rick, sounded skeptical-- "In our broccoli?"--until he went to look at the vegetable shelf himself. "There's definitely something weird going on with the broccoli," he intoned when he got back on the phone, as if he had caught the produce planning an insurrection.

He told me to bring in the receipt and he'd "more than make it up" to me, but I didn't bother. Broccoli grows in the ground. Bugs live there. Que sera sera.

Then last Sunday afternoon, we returned to the supermarket and bought snow crab legs for dinner. These overgrown sea-insect extremities aren't cheap: We bought just over one and three-quarters of a pound of them for $14.54.

We got home and cooked up Mexican-style rice as a side, melted some butter for dipping, steamed the crab legs for about five minutes, popped a bottle of Pinot Grigio. We were pretty much characters in an ad for Fresh Market. Then the moment we sat down and cracked the first crab legs-- BAM. THE REEK OF AMMONIA.

We knew what the scent meant because we had been hit with it once before, eating crab legs from Publix, which is why we started buying seafood at Fresh Market in the first place. It means the crab is rotten, decaying, putrefying, and other words that you don't want to hear associated with your food unless you're a condor.

This time, the manager's name was Kadian. She didn't seem too concerned: "Bring back the receipt and we'll give you a refund."

Am I supposed to be on a never-ending loop, buying food at Fresh Market, bringing it home, finding out it's rotten and contemplating barfing, and bringing the receipt back to the supermarket? Should I just make a binder full of receipts for rotten food, with different managers' names written on them, and bring it back to them in one trip to save on gas? How will I get my sustenance? How can I live in such a manner?

When I contacted Fresh Market's North Carolina corporate headquarters to get a response for this blog post, I got a profusely apologetic statement from spokesperson Drewry Sackett: "We sincerely regret that you purchased any product in one of our stores that was anything other than absolutely fresh. We appreciate your taking the time to let us know about your experience; we will address it with our Aventura store management immediately."

That's all well and good. But I think I'm taking my yuppie bucks on down to Presidente Supermarket from now on. At least there, the price reflects the quality.

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Gus Garcia-Roberts