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Fly&Dine on TPG is a new monthly column that explores the intersection of food and travel with the help of TPG Contributor Jason Kessler of Fly&Dine, the best online source for dining while you fly.
For far too long, we’ve thought of airports as places where food goes to die. While the rest of the world has evolved to prize fresh farm-to-table cuisine, airports are still stuck in grab-and-go land, where week-old salads and stale turkey wraps angle to take a bite out of your wallet as you debate whether to take a bite out of them. There’s hope on the horizon, though. Airports are finally taking cues from the outside and starting to offer better, healthier food options that go beyond waxy red apples and flavorless oranges.
Will we ever see an actual farmers market at an American airport? Surprisingly, we already have. Back around Halloween 2013, JetBlue partnered with New York non-profit market group GrowNYC to create a pop-up Greenmarket where passengers traveling through the ultra-chic T5 at JFK could get a true farmers market experience, with fresh produce, cooking demos and (according to JetBlue’s press release) “a harvest-themed photo booth.” For three days, a real market could be found inside an American airport, but it doesn’t appear to have been a great success, considering that the pop-up has yet to pop up again.
In Europe, where actual fresh food often (not always, but often) trumps Cheetos, some airports have actually started to roll out locations of full grocery stores to satisfy the needs of busy travelers. In Amsterdam, you can order groceries and have them all packed up and ready for you next to the parking lot at the AMS location of Dutch supermarket favorite Albert Heijn. In Helsinki, there’s an outpost of Finnish grocer Alepa at HEL that’s actually open 24 hours a day/365 days a year. Imagine grabbing real food from the grocery store before your flight instead of settling for a bagel dog! Airport supermarkets may not offer the fresh-from-the-farm quality of farmers market produce, but it’s a step in the right direction.
This isn’t to say that American airports don’t have anything to offer in the way of healthy fare. In fact, there’s some real progress happening all around the United States. Airport concession giant Delaware North teamed up with LA’s iconic The Original Farmers Market in Terminal 5 (Delta) at LAX to offer local favorites; while using the term “farmers market” may be a bit ambitious here, it’s still nice to have an option at the airport where quality ingredients are emphasized.
At both SFO and BOS, a company called Tastes on the Fly has installed upscale markets aimed at the foodie set, with Napa Farms Market in San Francisco and Berkshire Farms Market in Boston. Each marketplace offers artisanal products and high-end menus that target a more conscientious consumer.
In Denver, frequent flyers flock to the DEN version of Root Down, a restaurant that specializes in globally influenced seasonal cuisine where the menu covers all kinds of healthy options from veggie burgers to edamame hummus. If we’re living in a world where you can now order honey-smoked salmon on your kale caesar salad, we’re surely doing something right. The farm-to-terminal movement is just getting started — and it comes with a side of multigrain coconut rice.
Noticed any farm-to-table dining in airports on your own travels? Please share what you’ve found in the comments below!
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