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The Village Market

17 Middle Neck Rd. Great Neck, NY 516-773-2406

Mathieu Frey is the chef-owner of Village Market

(Credit: Newsday / Erica Marcus)

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Type: Specialty, Shopping Special features: Breakfast, Near LIRR station Description:

Walk into your average "gourmet takeout" and you are confronted with a tired litany of grilled chicken breasts, balsamic-dressed vegetables, Asian-noodle salad. You know the drill.

What a difference a French chef makes. Mathieu Frey, who opened the Village Market three months ago, is a native of Alsace and a veteran of 3-star restaurants in France and Daniel Boulud's culinary empire in New York.

Frey's refrigerated cases (which he built himself out of weathered wood and marble) display bay scallops, grilled black sea bass fillets, a "fancy" potato salad featuring Peruvian blue, baby Yukon and fingerling spuds, and a ratatouille whose vegetables were cooked separately to maintain their integrity. At breakfast, homemade croissants are split and filled with cooked-to-order eggs. At lunch, burgers are made from beef, turkey, salmon (when it meets Frey's standards); there is also a vegan version.

Everything is simple, fresh and real.

"I've always cooked with big crews and big budgets," Frey said. "But the idea was not to reproduce that kind of fancy restaurant cooking here. The idea was what would happen if a chef with this knowledge and this skill used them to make a great egg?"

In the past three years, Frey had built up a robust catering business, most of whose clients lived in either New York City or the Hamptons. His decision to open a shop in Great Neck was based on its accessibility to the Long Island Expressway and its proximity to an LIRR station (so carless freelance cooks could get to work easily). "I made no demographic study of Great Neck," he said, "but so far people seem to like us." -- Erica Marcus

Mathieu Frey is the chef-owner of Village Market in Great Neck. (Feb. 18, 2010)