If you haven't been to a Market District grocery store yet, you should definitely check it out! I went to the grand opening of the one at Grandview Yard this morning where they had tons of things going on. And... met chef Mario Batali! He was so friendly, down-to-earth, and so insightful and poetic about food.
Back to the store... If you have ever been to a normal Giant Eagle store, the Market District has all of that. Then if you are looking for local, foodie faves, hard-to-find, or even obscure ingredients you will find it on the other half of the store. It starts off with a Starbucks, then a bar (a real bar to chill and drink at, watch a game, and then do your grocery shopping), sushi area, made-to-order stone fired pizza station, deli for custom sandwiches and more perfect for the grab and go (aka wish I had more time to cook, but this is the next best thing). In the produce section you'll find your normal everyday stuff, some organics, a section of local produce, and a section of oddball things like bittermelons and full sugar canes (which sound like a fun challenge to me!).
Although I don't buy meat that often, their meat section was very intriguing. Again, they still have your everyday stuff, they have a LOT of local stuff (including local lamb and boar), aged beef (I don't even know what that means!), python (what?!), and much more! Plus most of the meat is labeled with the place of origin and some even have a sign with the story behind the farm.
After a tour of the store by the head chef, Mario made some grilled cheese with the CEO of Giant Eagle. Since he's a professional Italian chef, it wasn't just your everyday grilled cheese... this Italian version was with ricotta, fresh purple cherokee tomatoes (sliced thick) with cracked pepper and dredged in cayenned french toast batter. We tried sample afterward and it was delicious!
He was very poetic about why he loves lots of fresh cracked pepper on his tomatoes. He said because when the tomato plant is growing, it grows best when it is still hot in the early evening... it sweetens the tomato. So too does a little heat (pepper) on the actual fruit... it brings out the sweetness. Such an interesting way to think about food pairings!
Lastly, wanted to mention their local produce. They had two large sections of produce with the farm of origin listed on the sign. Their definition of local is withing 150 miles of the store (so the Cleveland stores would not include Athens produce even if it is in the same state). I thought that was an interesting (and honest) take on local.
And to end with Mario's words (since he is way more qualified than I)... Simple foods you make with your hands in your home come from your heart. Yum