LIKE BREAD DOUGH swelling in the oven, the gourmet goodness found in small, neighborhood markets is on the rise. Four recently opened markets are bringing locally produced items, exotic imports, fresh-made baked goods and atmosphere to spare to neighborhoods both inside and outside the Perimeter. Join us on a tour.
LE PETIT MARCHE
1963 Hosea Williams Drive, Kirkwood. 404-371-9888. Mondays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (Spring-summer hours subject to change.)
The discerning little Kirkwood market has its head in the French countryside. Bottles of olive oil and vinegar sit atop wooden pallets and rustic tables. Bags of dry goods run throughout the store, including olive and rosemary Italian tea biscuits and Just Add Honey teas. Gifty items include hand-made aprons and a wide range of Caldrea soaps, lotions and more. The market specializes in many locally grown and produced products. Owner Marchet Sparks says Atlanta-made Hope's Garden brand pesto flies out of the door. Another popular item is Prissy's of Vidalia brand items including relish, barbecue sauce, marinades, and salad dressings. A small refrigerator with a glass door houses soy milk, hummus, salami and dill pickles. A small sandwich counter supplies a host of sandwiches and salads. Go meaty with a Cuban panini or Greek roast beef. Or stay lighter with a tuna croissant or Chinese chicken salad.
SPLURGE: Imported olives, $4.50; Via Elisa pasta sauce, $6.50.
BEST BUY: A fun and funky peanut butter and jelly sandwich, with a choice of jellies infused with chocolate, bananas and figs, $4.95. Animal crackers nestle on the side.
EXOTIC FIND: Bottles of Agave nectar, $4.69.
CUSTOMER FAVORITE: The Cuban panini, but don't expect the traditional ham, pork and Swiss cheese. It comes with pastrami and provolone pressed in flat, ridged panini bread with marinated onions, dill pickles and spicy mustard, $7.55.
SWEET TREAT: Local truffles from K Chocolat, $2.25.
CABBAGETOWN MARKET AND LITTLE'S GRILL
198 Carroll St., Cabbagetown. 404-221-9186, www.cabbagetownmarket.com. Tuesdays-Saturdays 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sundays noon-6 p.m. Closed on Mondays.
Established in 1929, the market combines the allure of an old-school soda fountain scene with a forward-thinking foodie grocery. Since March, co-owners Lisa Hanson and Maria Locke have put the shop through a transformation fusing gourmet sensibilities with affordable quick grabs. They also try to stock locally produced items as they come available. They currently have Jenny Jack Farms honey from Douglasville and whole pastured chickens from D&A Farm in Zebulon. Saunter up to the counter and order up a grass-fed burger with a plop of pimento cheese on brioche. Or peruse its selection of provisions from snazzy condiments like imported olive oil to Elmer's glue and Play-Doh. Their fried quail, an occasional special, was featured this week in an episode on the Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives."
SPLURGE: Bariani olive oil ($25) and balsamic vinegar ($15)
BEST BUY: Grass-fed beef hot dog, $3.
EXOTIC FIND: Indian spice mixes, $2-$3.
CUSTOMER FAVORITE: Lime Rickey with Mexican soda water, $2.
SWEET TREAT: Fresh-made baked goods including peanut butter cookies and oatmeal cookies with white chocolate and coconut, $1-$3.
ALON'S BAKERY AND MARKET AT PARK PLACE
4505 Ashford Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. 678-397-1781, www.alons.com. Mondays-Thursdays 7 a.m.-9 p.m.; Fridays 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Saturdays 8 a.m.-11 p.m.; Sundays 9 a.m.-7 p.m.
The new location boasts the same fab bakery as the original Virginia-Highland location with oodles of cakes, pies and other various goodies. But chocolate making gets an emphasis with a climate-controlled chocolate room that might rival Willy Wonka's imagination. A window allows customers to see the chocolatiers at work. (Sorry, no Oompa Loompas.) It's there owner Alon Balshan and company whip up an array of confections, from candies to gelato. A coffee, wine and beer bar offer other temptations, including locally-roasted coffees and a weekly rotating roster of beer and wine. The artisan cheese selection touts popular picks such as Sweet Grass and Pleasant Ridge Reserve brands, while fully cooked entrees feature grilled salmon and beef tenderloin. Balshan succeeds in creating a European specialty market with a Southern accent.
SPLURGE: Whole poached salmon, weighing between 10 and 12 pounds, garnished with veggies and a pair of sauces — creamy garlic dill and spicy remoulade, $150. Order in advance.
BEST BUY: Tangy lemon square featuring a shortbread crust and lemon custard, $1.79.
EXOTIC FIND: An exhaustive selection of olives, from Moroccan to Manzanilla, $11.99 per pound.
CUSTOMER FAVORITE: Cheeses from Sweet Grass Green Hill ($15) and Grayson Meadow Creek ($22.49 per pound).
SWEET TREAT: Chocolate Louise, a decadent union of chocolate cream and chocolate cake, $4.25.
PARISH FOODS & GOODS
240 N. Highland Ave., Atlanta. 404-681-4434, www.parishatl.com. Mondays-Thursdays 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Fridays-Saturdays 8 a.m.-Midnight; Sundays 8 a.m.-10 p.m.
Distressed brick walls and exposed duct work impart a timeless air in the basement of a circa-1890 building where Parish Market resides beneath Concentrics Restaurant's New Orleans-style eatery of the same name. In the center of the room, a long, wooden, common table with stools invites guests to belly up with laptops (free WiFi) and get cozy with a cup of Fair Trade coffee and a freshly baked croissant in the mornings. Later, customers can fill burlap shopping bags with produce, such as oranges and limes, and fresh cut flowers including Gerber daisies and sunflowers. Gift items run the gamut from baby booties to Tea Forte teas and pots. A treelike wine rack fans out, displaying with an array of vintages. Boxes of Sweetwater, Abita, Red Brick and other locally or New Orleans-brewed beers sit nearby. A full deli can be found in the back where Gulf shrimp po' boy and muffuletta sandwiches join a menu with salads, pastries, tarts, cakes, ice cream, sorbet, cookies and breakfast items.
SPLURGE: Rosemary lime sorbet, $9.50 a pint.
BEST BUY: Four gourgeres, a French cheese pastry, for $1.
EXOTIC FIND: Tomato and watermelon sandwich, $6.
CUSTOMER FAVE: The American breakfast with andouille sausage or bacon, grits or hash browns, and a buttered biscuit, $8.
SWEET TREAT: Tarts in a variety of flavors, including blueberry-lemon chiffon, chocolate hazelnut, banana cream and Key lime white chocolate, $5.50.