E-GROCER COOKS UP NEW MENU FOR SEASON

NEW YORK -- FreshDirect, the online grocer serving the Big Apple, has launched a promotion highlighting a new seasonal menu of freshly cooked entrees and side dishes."There's a lot of focus on soups and braised items, a little more rustic, heavier food that you like with the cold weather," Michael Stark, FreshDirect's executive chef, told SN.FreshDirect's kitchen is a busy place. Last year, the cooking

NEW YORK -- FreshDirect, the online grocer serving the Big Apple, has launched a promotion highlighting a new seasonal menu of freshly cooked entrees and side dishes.

"There's a lot of focus on soups and braised items, a little more rustic, heavier food that you like with the cold weather," Michael Stark, FreshDirect's executive chef, told SN.

FreshDirect's kitchen is a busy place. Last year, the cooking staff was tripled to keep up with the demand, and additional cooks may be hired this year to handle expected growth, Stark said. The 10,000-square-foot kitchen is in FreshDirect's 300,000-square-foot facility in Long Island City, Queens. On a busy midweek day, 40 to 45 staffers per shift are assigned to the kitchen.

"The kitchen part, the whole meal replacement, will be the fastest-growing segment of the company this year," Stark said.

Some 30,000 units were sold out of the kitchen one recent week, and with the new menu, Stark expects to see another boost in sales. The winter menu, featuring 24 items, includes soups, starting at $4.49 a pint, and main dishes, including "12-Minute Osso Buco" for two, at $29.99.

Some of the most popular winter entrees include Classic French Cassoulet, serving one to two people, for $9.99, or three to four for $25.99, and the Shepherd's Pie, serving four, priced at $24.99.