Passport to Italy in Full Swing at Central Market

Lucky customers can win great prizes in passport sweepstakes

courtesy Central Market
Austin's homegrown gourmet grocery chain, Central Market, began the culinary passport series in the spring of 2010. This year, the focus is on Italy and shoppers have one more week to immerse themselves in culinary traditions, wine, products, music, and culture from the boot of Europe from now until Wednesday, May 13.

Plenty of Italian wines (courtesy Kristy Ozmun PR)

Central Market hosted a press preview party a couple of weeks back to give the local media a sneak peek at what would be happening. We gathered on the upstairs deck where there were stations piled high with bountiful displays of enticing food samples – all manner of cheeses, salumi, and condiments, breads and pastries, grilled fish and meats, pasta dishes, wines, and sparkling waters – all this complete with an Italian tenor singing everything from heart-rending arias to jaunty love songs in the background. There was even a mime sprayed in gold paint, dressed as a Roman statue!

The presentation made me think of the fabled international fortnight series that legendary Dallas retailer Stanley Marcus developed at Neiman-Marcus in the Sixties to promote glamor and fashion at his iconic store. Central Market is selling different commodities, but the marketing principle is pretty much the same; total immersion. Most of the total immersion concept (including regular music here) is being carried over at all Central Market stores during the Passport to Italy (probably no mime statues). Different cooking schools and wine departments will host some different presenters, but it's all things Italy for another week.

Bountiful array of breads and pastries (courtesy Kristy Ozmun PR)

The concept certainly worked on me, my favorite bites were a beer-washed bleu cheese called Dolomitico alla Birra from northern Italy paired with some dark Amarena cherries and several of the pastries. Big surprise: I've been back for all that. I've tried prepared foods (lasagne Bolognese, risotto with shrimp and squash, minestrone) and a couple of breads, one stuffed with olives, the other with walnuts. I'm going back for swordfish, meatballs, and imported marinara. The Peach Bellini flavor they've added to the line of organic Italian sodas is particularly delightful and has me primed for peach season here.

Another aspect shoppers can consider is the Passport Italy Sweepstakes 2014 where customers can enter to win some fabulous prizes:

Grand prize: One 2014 model Fiat 500

Second prize: One Vespa LX150 motor scooter

Third prize: Two round-trip airline tickets to Italy

Fourth prizes: Nine gift baskets

In order to enter, fill out entry forms at the info desk in any Central Market store by 10pm on Wednesday, May 13.

Central Market North 4001 N. Lamar

Central Market South 4477 S. Lamar

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