I have posted about Harmons before. I have shopped there for years, I grew up with my Mum shopping there and I now actually drive past three or four other grocery stores to shop there. I have always valued the cleanliness, service and quality that they provide. Yesterday several other local food bloggers and I were invited to a “back of the store tour” with Bob Harmon at the Harmons at Bangerter Crossing in Draper. Now I can add an understanding of the level they go to, to really provide their employees with the education and commitment to quality necessary to serve the customer. Plus the sourcing of products for freshness, selection and quality that I find unusual in any company- not just a grocery store- these days.
Bob Harmon started by welcoming us and introducing us to Chef Bob Bryant in the culinary education center where they offer all sorts of cooking classes. He explained the desire of Harmons to have the best in products and quality for the customer and that Harmons had sent employees to Italy to Salone del Gusto -the slow food festival in Italy. While there they visited salumi, cheese and olive oil producers to really gain an understanding of the value of the food and methods of production of their vendors. They also visited the best of the best in retail grocers and vendors nationwide as well, to see where they might exceed the standards of what was then available to their customers. I love this idea of investing in people and facilities to make the quality of the food available for me to purchase the very best it can be.
We visited with Shauna, the cheese department manager in the store who gave us a brief overview of the amazing selection of cheeses sourced and available to Harmons customers.
Everything from huge wheels of Parmesan made just for them to local cheese makers such as Beehive Cheese Company and their award winning cheeses. There were also small farm cheeses from Utah and other regions of the USA- even a goat’s cheese from Alabama!
On November 19th at 5-7pm they will be hosting a book signing with local salumi maker Cristiano Criminelli and author Tony Seichrist for the book “Meat, Salt, Time” written by Seichrist about Criminelli. They will be offering samples of limited edition salumi that night. Do not miss it.
Then we met Derick, the produce manager who talked about their organic and local produce and gave us samples of several items to try. They have a great selection of high quality, organic, local and in season produce. They buy all of the hot house tomatoes from a local grower so that we can have good tomatoes throughout the year. They buy local peaches in season giving us a reasonable chance to get a peach that actually tastes like a peach. They also don’t stack their produce too deep- putting out what they expect to sell in a day which means faster turnover and fresher produce for us.
Right now they have fresh pistachios grown in Hurricane, Utah- get them before they are gone! Derick says they will have Ambrosia apples in as soon as the harvest begins- these are my own favourites! BTW-We just tried the Honeycrisp apple they sent home with me and OMG so good- I have to add that to my list of favourite apples now.
On to the meat department where the department manager, Bruce, showed us their dry aged beef and told us about the quality of their beef-all USDA Prime or above.
They make many selections of burgers and something like thirteen varieties of sausages ground and prepared fresh in the stores with no MSG or additives.
Their chicken is high quality, hormone free and recipe ready- great news because poor quality chicken really bothers me. They offer organic and free range selections. The best thing they make in my humble opinion is a pork “spoon roast”. (I’ve blogged about that before see here)
Next was the seafood department where Chris showed us their extremely fresh seafood- King crab legs that are fresh never frozen and flown in, great looking salmon, other fish varieties and shellfish.
We watched Chris crack the crab legs and shuck the oysters then we sampled the crab and several of us tried a raw oyster and most of us loved it. 😉 The department smelled good, fresh and clean which is essential for me.
In the bakery the manager, Bre, a graduate of the CIA, and her staff make amazing pastry, cakes and bars.
We sampled a ginger cake and some caramel scotchies which were like millionaires shortbread- yummy. I must admit that I had purchased one of the scotchies the day before and shared it with Rick. We enjoyed it very much. I think their croissants are terrific and I had an almond one there before that I’ve been wanting to have again. I admit that I am terribly critical in this area and I am impressed.
Then we met with Jason, the lead Artisan Bread Baker for the store, who told us he had been sent to San Francisco twice by Harmons to study bread techniques. Harmons’ bread is great – I buy it regularly. The sourdough is made in the traditional method with flour, salt and water and time as the only ingredients.
They make baguettes, delicious whole-wheat multi-grain, Country French, Baci and multi-grain rolls, white chocolate pecan and Ciabatta every day and specialty breads that rotate on each day of the week. They offer Challah on Fridays-plain, with sugar or sesame topped- it makes great french toast or a nice tea treat!
In the deli the manager, Mariah, gave us samples of some of the 40-60 items made fresh every day for sale.
They have everything from their best selling potato salad to quinoa salad to complete holiday meals for Thanksgiving- right down to freshly made cranberry sauce.
They have great cut up fruit selections made daily in the store, not provided from a broker so you don’t get all of the juice weeping out before you buy it .They also have a hot Asian and Mexican food bar and an amazingly fresh looking salad bar, hot fried or rotisserie chickens, fresh local honey and nut butters. Really amazing- the quality and selection!
Oh now wait I haven’t gotten to the wood fired pizza oven with yummy looking Naples style pizza or the gelato bar. They make genuine gelato held in an Italian gelato case that is the right temperature for such a thing.
Back in the culinary center we all got to try tiny spoonfuls of the stracciatella (vanilla with threads of chocolate) and the pistachio gelatos which were rich, smooth and delicious and a pop in your mouth grapefruit sorbetto as a palate cleanser before our lunch prepared by Chef Bob.
He fed us delicious lentil salad from the deli, cut up fresh fruit highlighting the store’s selections and then a muffaletta that he had the bakery add a little rosemary and garlic to the ciabatta he used and made a delicious olive and red pepper relish to finish it off.
It was great but I must admit that I was stuffed by the time our dessert of blood orange sorbetto arrived. I still finished my sorbetto though. 🙂
What I walked away with after the tour (besides a nice goody bag to sample -thank you very much!) was an appreciation of the thought, effort and education that shouts commitment from this company. Thoughtfulness about what they can bring to the market (literally) and the quality products the can provide for their customers and the education and experience they can invest in their employees. As an interesting side note, I found that over 10% of their employees have been with them for 20 years or longer- made me want to go work for them myself!
Hey I even appreciate that when they remodelled the customer bathrooms they made every effort to make them comfortable, clean, green and private. I admit it- I’ll be Harmons customer forever. 🙂
Thanks for a lovely tour!by