Yesterday was the grand opening of Stew Leonard's new Farmingdale location, right up the road from my office. Around these parts, maybe more so outside of Long Island, Stew Leonard's has a cult-like following of voracious shoppers. People love the deals, the quality of products and the commitment of the brand to their customers. They don't call it the "Disneyland of Dairy" for nothing- the store feels like an amusement park of food with animatronics throughout the store, displays of new products and sales, samples, a hot buffet and an Ikea style layout that funnels you through every aisle of the store. Not great for those who want a quick shopping trip, but it definitely facilitates the impulse buying business model that a store like this must thrive off of (and I fell victim to of course, hello chocolate frozen yogurt).
I love that the store feels alive.Every department is full of people working behind the counters, baking, cutting meat, prepping fish, making sushi, and on and on. I'm excited to go back and get the full Stew Leonard's experience when the hype dies down a bit. I'd like to linger a little more in each section and really discover what they have to offer. I went in with a list to keep my trip rather quick and opted for a hand basket rather than a cart allowing me to skirt around the meanderers there to take in the sights and sounds. Even with the crowds, I made it in and out in under 30 minutes which is pretty impressive! The staff was all very helpful and friendly and the store seems to be running pretty efficiently. I was only slightly disappointed by a few things: there were no fresh kettle chips out when I was there at noon, ground beef was much more expensive than at my local grocery store and I was kind of bummed that the Dad's Favorite cookies contained nuts. They were good cookies, but I'm a nut hater so I won't be buying them again. I'm a simple woman with simple tastes when it comes to desserts and nuts are just too close to being healthy to belong in brownies, cookies, cakes, fudge, etc. But I digress.
I'm unsure of my opinion on the layout of the store. It will have to be one of those places I go on a weekend afternoon without any time contraints. On opening day, it felt much like being in a cattle pen with hundreds of lost and confused souls drudging through the store, bent over carts and verging on domestic abuse with their spouses over baked goods (overhead in the bakery section, "We don't need the muffins!"). I think the thing I'll be looking forward to trying the most will be their steaks. I always have trouble finding a variety of cuts at chain grocery stores and last week pre-opening Stew was running an amazing deal on ribeyes that I wish I could have stocked up on. This week, it was bacon at $2.99/lb. Holy moly! I got one for the freezer and one to tide us over through the snowpocalypse this weekend.
Here's a breakdown of my haul and what I think of the stuff I've tried so far:
Dad's Favorite Cookies- I thought they were going to be just straight chocolate chip, but they weren't. My mistake! Next time I'll have to fight the crowds a little more to find the regular chocolate chip. My coworkers devoured them though!
Chocolate Frozen Yogurt- Creamy and delicious! Tastes kind of like a fudgesicle without the stick. I'm definitely going to try some other fro-yo varieties. I didn't see anything other than chocolate and vanilla at first glance, but the back of the container it lists ingredients for other flavors and coffee is one of them. Hello new vice!
Shredded mozzarella- Pretty tasty! I kept snacking on this while I was cooking last night.
Sweet Italian Sausage- Used half of this big ole link in my rice balls, pretty good! It was mixed in with other stuff so I didn't taste it too much, but it has a nice spice blend for sure. I'm using the rest tonight in some pasta so it should really stand out there.
Thick Sliced Bacon- Haven't tried this yet, but at $2.99/lb, I couldn't pass up that deal! One for the weekend, one for the freezer.
Butter- I'm a butter freak. An aficionado. I love the taste of a good butter, on your veggies or just on its own. I said I was a freak! Anywho, I'll give this a taste later and see how it compares to the Kerrygold stuff I love already.