I’m just getting back from a trip to Austin, Texas, for the International Association of Culinary Professionals annual conference. It was my first time in Austin and I was told I had to visit the Central Market — an amazing grocery store that you’ll only find in Texas. So after my presentation was over, that’s exactly what I did. I hitched a ride with some colleagues and we drove to the original Central Market. I soon found out why this is a top tourist destination in Austin that attracts 2 million guests a year.
For starters, take a look at the chile display above. Maybe you’re only going to get this in Texas, but how wonderful to find such a wide array of dried chiles. And I love the Scoville scale that was posted above the chiles to indicate the degree of heat. There was also a salsa bar where you can buy freshly-made guacamole and a wide variety of salsas.
The produce section at the Central Market was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever seen better anywhere. They had everything! I was especially amazed at the variety of purple produce on display. I’m quite enamored with purple vegetables and I’ve written about these vibrant-hued vegetables several times, including In Praise of Purple Produce. Take a look at these beautiful purple baby artichokes…
Here’s purple kohlrabi…
and purple carrots.
I’ve never seen a bigger variety of fresh mushrooms.
Take a look at these giant portabellas.
Central Market is a must-stop for anyone interested in tracking trends, and I spotted several innovative products while we were there. For instance, there was an entire section of dinner kits that shoppers can take home to make quick meals — like this vegetable fried brown rice kit. All of the kits included pre-cut, pre-measured ingredients that were ready for quick assembly at home. Great idea, I think.
The bulk section featured several interesting products, including this falafel mix to easily make this Middle Eastern favorite at home.
The packaged food section included products I’ve not seen anywhere, like these flavored kale chips.
Nut butters are coming on strong as a trend, and I spotted several different varieties…
Blood orange has become a popular flavor and I spotted this Italian soda…
I was only in Austin for three days, and most of the time in the conference hotel. The Central Market was my only real side-trip — and it was well worth it. I found it especially incredible that Austin has Central Market, as well as the original Whole Foods — which is a full block long. Some nice food shopping in Austin, I must say.
Do you know the Central Market?