The folks at Central Market were kind enough to host a recent preview of the new cafe and other special features of the store, a result of the ongoing construction over the last few months. The cafe received a complete overhaul, and other minor improvements throughout the store only enhance Central Market’s reputation as the go-to place for gourmet to-go.

For starters, there’s the new and improved cafe menu. My husband was eyeing the hangar steak and pommes frites, and I went crazy over the Kobe sliders, topped with caramelized onions, gouda and chipotle barbecue sauce. Don’t worry if you’re not a beef fan — there’s something for every taste. Just imagine if you’re a grocery store that stocks gourmet ingredients, and has all of these ingredients available to you when you’re creating dishes, and that gives you an idea of the menu. Yum.

Here’s a sampling of the other store changes you can expect:
• A guacamole bar in the produce section, where the onions and apples meet. It’s more like the tableside guac you might find at a Mexican restaurant — fresher and chunkier. You can even request the guacamole maker to custom make it by adding in extras or certain ingredients and leaving others out.

• The "Kit Kitchen" near the raw bar. It’s basically a mix-and-match section of easy grab-and-go meals. Recipe cards in a nearby turnstile show you how to pair which ingredients to create certain recipes. I’ll be trying this one out soon, and will let you know how it goes.

• The new wine wall at the end of the meat hallway. It has several different sections with titles like "big reds" or "sweet wines", where the store stocks under $15 bottles according to these general categories. Wines will be switched out when something new and interesting comes in, I was told.

• A bath salt bar in the health and beauty section features menthol, rosemary and other spa-ish scents. This station also has recipe cards, showing customers how to mix different scents to produce a certain effect.

• Gourmet salts in the bulk section. This might be my favorite new feature. If any of you share my cooking practices (meaning, you rarely ever can be found in the kitchen) you know that buying an entire container of gourmet salt is pointless because it loses its flavor before you can use it. But with this feature, you can get the precise amount of salt you need, use it in your recipe, and spend only $1 or $2. I have strict orders to return to the store soon and buy some of the smoked salt for my husband’s next grill experiment.

• I’m a California roll kind of sushi eater, but the expanded sushi bar looks like it would appeal to the most exotic raw fish lover. The bar also has plenty of bento boxes to go — and they’re 100 percent recyclable!


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