Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Whole Foods

I was out shopping the other day and made the mistake of stopping at Whole Foods Market. Now, there is nothing wrong with the food there, that’s the problem, it’s all really good stuff. For those of you not familiar with Whole Foods, it’s a chain of supermarkets specializing in organic and natural foods.

This Whole Foods is fairly new, located up on Charleston on the west side of town, near the area called Summerlin; one of the more ‘upscale’ areas of Las Vegas. It is a fairly large store, with a really large fresh fruit and veggie section and a beautiful butcher area. I try not to go there too often, not because we don’t like what they carry, but because I can’t afford it. We have about a half dozen large supermarkets nearby representing several of the big west coast chains. Each store carries a few different things, but mostly 95% of what you see in one store is exactly what you will find in all the others. WF however is 95% unique.

Most of the stuff in the produce area is certified organic – I’m not really a health or organic nut, but I will buy it if available, and the stuff at WF always looks so nice and ripe. I mainly went to get some steel cut oatmeal (not a regular item in the other stores) but the layout of the store takes everyone past those beautiful veggies as soon as you walk into the store. Knowing the temptation I took a hand basket rather than a regular shopping cart so as to restrict myself a little. I figured I would just get some bananas as I usually have yogurt and a banana every morning. But then the little baskets of blueberries looked so, well, blue. And there were pretty raspberries, and the pears and apples. I also like to make an assortment of steamed veggies for dinner once in a while and skip the meat, so wandered over to that section. Well, into the basket went a handful of beats, right next to the purple ones were some yellow ones so those had to come along, and on to the broccoli and cauliflower which resulted in the hand basket becoming almost full. Eventually I had to out of that section without looking at what was piled in the back half.

Over to the cereal area, there were lots of boxes of organic stuff that is not stocked at the other stores. I located the cooked cereal area, and found a nice big tin of steel cut ‘Scotch’ oats. Fortunately there was still a little room in the basket for the tin.

Before leaving I did have to go to the cheese section. Though no American store can ever match those marvelous fromage shops I found in Paris, WF does have a pretty good selection in that department. Unfortunately all American cheese is pasteurized, and so those wonderful tastes and smells that you can find in the French cheeses cannot be obtained here. Also unfortunately WF charges quite a lot for those unusual non-packaged items that you cannot get anywhere else. Each little handful can cost between $5 and $10, which means that filling a basket with a small selection and not looking at prices can result in quite a ticket when you get to the cash register. I was able this time to just get away with a nice pretty chunk of Ementauler, but that little wedge still ran me around ten bucks.

I did avoid the meat counter there. WF has the best counter outside of a dedicated butcher shop, which is hard to find around the US any more. There is one here in Vegas I drive past, have to stop in some time and see what it’s like. But back to the WF meat counter. If you are a non-vegetarian this is one impressive place. There are lots of different red meats, and the steaks are really thick: because of costs and changing diets most of the pre-packaged steaks you find in supermarkets are now under a half inch thick. I know that still seems fairly obscene compared to what was served in French restaurants, but a good American barbeque with thick steaks is a great way to spend a warm summer evening. But again, here quality comes with a price, which at WF is a rather large price.

So I love to go to Whole Foods, but unfortunately I can’t afford to go very often.

So, let’s leave you with another motivational poster.

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