I've been a big supporter of Fairway in Paramus, NJ, since they opened a few years ago.
Generally, I enjoy shopping there, and they have a decent selection of stuff that I need on a daily basis.
The folks manning the checkout lanes are efficient and pleasant, and it's never too hard to find someone to tell you where something is. And given all of the reorganization they do, that's often necessary.
There have always been some shortcomings with Fairway, but I usually write them off as my expectations being too high. For example, that basil that they get is just horrible. There's nothing bright tasting about it. Just dull stuff. For the life of me, I don't know why they can't get good, heirloom tomatoes from small farms in there during the summer months. At times it's hard to find a butcher who knows a nose from a tail. But by far the biggest issues I've had are with the cheese department.
Sure, they seem to have lots of cheese. But too many times I've been directed to the plastic wrapped case for selections. Worse, that cheese has too often been way past its prime. I'm no expert, but if there's enough of an ammonia smell to knock you on your ass, and it doesn't come anywhere near "blowing off" after a few hours of breathing, it's good for one thing: the garbage. I've thrown out a lot of cheese from Fairway.
Today's trip, however, was beyond annoying. I picked up a piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano, and noticed mold growing on it. This was a first for me. I've never seen mold on Parmigiano-Reggiano. I looked at the other pieces and most every one I glanced at had mold.
I brought a piece to the attention of the two kids behind the cheese counter and pointed out the mold. They instructed me to just put it down in front of them, and didn't seem concerned at all. I noted that there were a bunch of similar pieces out there, and that they should tell their manager. They could barely be bothered to lift their heads.
I figured since these kids have no skin in the game, and it's hard to blame them since the responsibility for their training and that cheese falls on management, I'd just ask for the manager myself, to discuss the cheese. "The manager is off today," one said, seemingly just dismissing my request. There was no manager to whom I could speak? Ridiculous. I'm a food blogger for crying out loud. Don't they know that 10s if not 20s of people every day go out of their way to hear what I have to say?
Which brings me here, reluctantly, to vent, and more importantly, to bring this to the attention of the nice folks at Fairway. In the big scheme of things, some mold on a piece of cheese isn't the end of the world. But it's the ongoing sketchiness of the operation that worries me.
Let's hope their aggressive expansion isn't going to drag down the quality control in the stores. If it keeps up, I'll be spending a lot more time at Whole Foods and the Cheese Shop in Ridgewood.
Update: Fairway contacted me and offered a gift card and said they are taking the matter very seriously and will be looking into it. An appropriate reaction for sure.
Update: (11/3/13): I commenter below notes that there was an issue with some cheese just recently.