ST. PAUL, Minn. — Kowalski's Markets kicked off the warm-weather season this past Saturday with a daylong “Summer Entertaining Event” at each of its nine stores.
Depending on the size of the store, 12 or 16 demo stations were set up where associates put emphasis on easy-to-do recipes for entertaining small or large groups, indoors or out.
The idea was to showcase Kowalski's signature recipes, and also some of its private-label products. The annual event falls into the same genre as “holiday entertaining events” that many retailers stage in the run-up to the Christmas holidays.
“We've had a spring event for years, but it used to be focused on graduation, how to make a graduation party easy,” said Terri Bennis, Kowalski's vice president of perishables. “It was one dimensional until a couple of years ago, when we thought why not expand this?” another official said, adding that not everyone has a graduate, but everyone entertains in nice weather.
So, for the last couple of years, the theme of the event has been broadened to include all summer entertaining. Many of the recipes demoed Saturday could be easily put together on an outdoor grill.
For example there was one for grilled crostini which featured sliced ciabatta bread toasted lightly on the grill, then topped with a tomato mixture, and a slice of fresh mozzarella which melted just a little when the slices were put back on the grill.
Seasonal salads were in the spotlight. Not surprisingly, some featured kale, which is topping trend lists right now. Two citrus salads had kale as an ingredient along with such things as pearl couscous, red cabbage and garbanzo beans.
In the produce department, associates grilled slices of Portobello mushrooms in a grill basket and put them on a ciabatta roll spread with goat cheese. They also sampled a new product, Kowalski's own fresh-squeezed lemonade.
All departments got involved. In fact, a big attraction in the seafood department was a Mexican shrimp cocktail. The sauce was made with Kowalski's private-label cocktail sauce that had horseradish, chopped avocados, red onion and cilantro added to it. Tortilla chips were served with the cocktail.
Customers could for the first time buy Kowalski’s own-recipe, bottled Kalbi marinade. Previously it had just been used in the meat department and not sold separately.
Produce departments made it clear that Berry Bliss and Citrus Sunrise, two of Kowalski's signature fresh-cut fruit blends, could be bought in 5-pound containers — suitable for a medium- to large-size gathering.
The deli department showed its stuff with antipasto salad and a fresh mozzarella-making demo. Kowalski’s makes its own fresh mozzarella.
“This day benefits the deli department big time because it plants seeds for the rest of the summer. We also demoed a bunch of new spreads and dips,” Bennis said.