You guys remember Katie, or KT, as (some) of us who love her love to refer to her. Well, this weekend, KT and her boyfriend Marc took me to Norwalk, CT, where our primary goal was to attend the Beaver Beer tasting, an event created by KT’s parents for beer created by KT’s parents’ friend. But before that would happen, I was informed, we would be making a stop at Stew Leonard’s to pick up food to cook for dinner.
Now, you might remember that visiting new grocery stores in unfamiliar cities is one of my favorite things, but I was totally unprepared for what we were actually about to visit: the Chuck E. Cheese of farmers markets. I’m not the only one who thinks so. I found out later that the New York Times calls it “the Disneyland of Dairy stores.” I wouldn’t go quite that far. I’m pretty sure that little moniker was driven by alliteration. But it IS marvelous. Come on inside.
This is more than just a dairy-section sideshow. This is a family tradition. Starting in the ’20s, the actual Stew Leonard’s father was a dairy farmer whose milk trucks delivered their wares about the countryside and delighted children with their “mooing” plastic cows.
Today, those cows have friends. This is the Farm Fresh Five, an attraction so popular they perform every three minutes. Crowds gather as the countdown clock ticks away its numbers. Children gaze slack-jawed at the dairy case. This is for real, people.
I thought that the automated plastic singing show was only in the dairy section, since, after all, dairy is Stew’s thing. Even today they still maintain their own dairy processing plant.
But don’t be mistaken; it’s not only about the dairy anymore. Stew Leonard’s is equally committed to live entertainment. Singing produce, for example, welcomes you AND offers timely advice on choosing healthful foods.
Here’s a different kind of act: this automated popper continuously snaps out fresh rice cakes, which gloved-and-hairnetted employees then cheerfully enrobe in chocolate, thus removing any misconception of intended nutritional value. (Actually, they have peanut butter between them as well, and that, my friends is GOOD FOR YOU.)
After what was one of the longer grocery store outings of my life, we did eventually make it to the beer tasting at KT’s parents’ yacht club, which was lovely, tasty and filled with hysterically laughing people making beaver jokes. I wouldn’t lie to you. You can make a few yourself.
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