Monday, February 13, 2012

Harmons's Downtown Store is Pretty Cool!

Today I got a sneak peek at the new Harmons downtown store, at 135 E. 100 South.  It opens Wednesday morning. 

It's a very hip, happening place — stocked with a grocery selection as complete as any regular supermarket, but with many other "urban" amenities. There's a huge section of grab-and-go entrees, sandwiches, pizza, etc., with a quick express cash registers for people who are trying to get a quick bite for lunch. Like the Farmington store, there's a large salad bar and two wok stations, so you can dish yourself up a stir-fry or salad.  There are also 37 prepared fresh food items, from salads to pasta, paninis and entrees.  So on a busy night, you could easily stop in on your way home from work and get dinner-to-go for the family, as well as artisan bread, cakes or  or pastries. 
There's a mezzanine with lots of comfortable seating, snacks, fresh sushi, and a cappuccino and gelato bar. 
It has a 300-seat capacity, offering a view of the city on one side, and a view of the store below on the other side. 
The upstairs culinary classroom is beautiful and spacious, with two screens all the better to see the instructor dicing and slicing. It's headed by Adalberto Diaz, a Cuban native who is well-known in the Utah culinary scene.  He worked at Granato's for about seven years and taught in the culinary program at Utah Valley University. He also taught cooking classes at the Roth Concept Center for many years.  His first class, on Cuban cuisine, is already sold out. In fact, the classes are filling up quickly. 
"We're going to be teaching a lot of ethnic cooking classes," he said. "It's great because we offer so all the ingredients in the store so you can go home and cook it."
While I talked to Adalberto, he was busy making Asian meatballs. On opening day, he will be serving them, as well as other appetizers, to shoppers coming to check out the store.  
And next to the culinary classroom is a kitchenware boutique, where you can find pans and cooking tools. 
Spokesperson Rhonda Greenwood said the store is set up to serve the regular grocery shopping needs of residents, downtown workers who want to drop in for lunch or pick up dinner, and travelers who might want to buy a few things rather than going to a restaurant.  
"This store is six years in the making, and the  team went all over the country looking at other urban groceries to find out what works," she said. 
One thing that I especially appreciate: the parking garage.  Enter it from Social Hall Avenue (take 2nd East to get there). I often hear complaints about how difficult it can be to find parking downtown.  Yes, TRAX is nice, but not if you've got six big bags of groceries to lug around.  
During the ten years that I was the food editor at the Deseret News, I had to plan very carefully when I did test kitchen recipes, because there wasn't a nearby grocery store.  If during a photo shoot, we decided we needed a pat of butter to put on a muffin, or a sprig of mint to garnish a dessert, I would have to drive run across the street, jump into my car on the 7th floor of the parking garage, and drive to a grocery store. Just getting in and out of the parking garage took five or ten minutes.  I appreciated the chefs at Martine, the restaurant next door, who lent me items like sesame seeds or fresh parsley on occasion.  Six years ago, when I heard that Harmons was building a store, I was jubilant. But what a difference a few years makes! The Deseret News offices moved to the Triad Center, and there is no longer a test kitchen.... there's no longer a food editor, either. Since I don't go downtown very often anymore, I probably won't be shopping much at this new store. But what a boon it is for those who live and work downtown.  

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