A Trip to Central Market in Austin

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.

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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.

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IMG_0829The 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…

IMG_0821Here’s purple kohlrabi…


IMG_0822and purple carrots.

IMG_0823I’ve never seen a bigger variety of fresh mushrooms.

IMG_0824Take a look at these giant portabellas.

IMG_0825Central 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.

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The bulk section featured several interesting products, including this falafel mix to easily make this Middle Eastern favorite at home.

IMG_0837The packaged food section included products I’ve not seen anywhere, like these flavored kale chips.

IMG_0835Nut butters are coming on strong as a trend, and I spotted several different varieties…

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Blood orange has become a popular flavor and I spotted this Italian soda…

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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.

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