Went to Whole Foods for the First Time

IN I-DON’T-KNOW-HOW-MANY years. First and last time Toni and I went for a lookaround, we decided that, as nice as the place was and as interesting as their product lines all look, their prices were too much to be borne.

That last part hasn’t changed, but my diet has. (Toni’s too. She’s just not as manic about it.)

I’m not eating wheat, so finding palatable substitutes for wheat-based sandwich breads is … shall we say…problematic?

Kroger has some. Mostly frozen. Well, all frozen. And what they do have is a lot of the time pretty picked over. Frex, I never see Udi’s white sandwich bread (which is the most palatable to me so far) on Saturdays (which is when I shop at Kroger).

Not sure why the wheat-free breads are all frozen. Maybe it’s preservation issue. The stuff isn’t demanded in sufficient quantity for them to turn over their inventory daily, so they have to stretch out its shelf life and freezing it is as good a way as any.

And it’s not like I don’t take a loaf of fresh bread home and freeze it anyway, so I don’t know why I’m complaining.

Anyway, Kroger has some.

Then there’s a place about as far from Casa d’Alger as is Kroger called Fresh Market which looks to me like an upscale 7-11, which should give you a handle on how wrong THAT is. Toni and my one colleague at the Patch Factory (whose family also is on special diets and who also knows this side of town pretty well) both maintain that Fresh Market is a pretty OK place. It just sets my teeth on edge.

As does the other relatively-close place, Trader Jack’s. Plus, TJ’s doesn’t have the GF* bread selection that even Kroger has. They just have better inventory of it, if you follow me.

And the PF colleague keeps plugging Whole Foods on me. Every time I complain about Kroger’s inventory, the first two words out of her mouth are, “Whole Foods…”

Aside from their prices, which are really high (did I mention?), the closest Whole Foods to Casa d’Alger is in a veddy upscale shopping center at the edge of Hyde Park, in Norwood (Remember the Kelo-like case where a whole neighborhood got swindled out of their homes by developers? It’s that development, albeit a whole different part.) It used to be a factory (Og! It was R.K. Le Blond machine tool.) and a lumber yard. The streets thereabouts were never planned for that kind of traffic. The traffic is on Cincinnati streets, while the tax base is on Norwood land, so there’s fuck-all cooperation on the matter. The streets are overcrowded, rutted, pavement buckling, the intersections poorly-designed, and traffic is, well, traffuck. The county ends up stationing Sheriff’s deputies on the main drag and directing traffic in and out of the one entrance (of three).

Oh, and did I mention that two of the three streets that bound the place are also feeding to-and-from Interstate 71? Yeah. Right off the expressway exit, between the I and the bedroom communities of Hyde Park and Oakley.

Add to that the fact that, for the past two months, it’s been Christmas — first the leadup, then the after sales. Drivers looking for parking spaces begin to resemble schools of circulating sharks. No space is open longer than it takes the prior occupant to pull away from it. Only the fact that this is a whitebread, middle-class suburb prevents there from being knife fights.

Although, you have to admit, that could be kind of hot. A couple of foxy soccer moms going at it…

Sure, Dolly. It’s all fun-and-games until somebody gets punctured out front of Smith and Hawken.

Er, yeah. Did I say that out loud?

ANY wayyy… Needless to say, the locals avoid the place like the plague this time of year.

But, in my brilliance and perspicacity, this weekend, I bought a thing of angus corned beef at Sams and then forgot to get rye bread at Kroger. And, in the what-to-do-about-it afterthought and recriminations, I decided — finally — to go and check out the bread situation at Whole Foods.

I tell you that to tell you this:

I expect the place to be wall-to-wall granola-and-bean-sprouts types. No big surprise there. And, despite my recent victories on the weight front, I fit in with that crowd about like a beached whale at Jones Beach Fourth of July weekend. No problem. I’ve never been the social butterfly anyway. I’m more the dress-in-black, stand against the wall, snark-sniping with hip and ironic bons mot type. That kinda shit rolls off me like Daffy off Bugs.

No, what amused me was the observation that all of the male employees beards looked exactly alike as to length and shape. As though they had a beard inspector who went around at morning check-in with a plastic mask he laid over their chins and made them either shave or glue on additional hairs so everybody had the same whole-wheat-and-chambray uniform appearance to match the store’s corporate theme.

That and the fact that everybody acted stoned. Especially my cashier, although I wasn’t mean or quick-witted enough to fuck with him. I wondered if they all did a doobie before going on shift — maybe sang a couple of choruses of “Kumbaya” as they passed the jay.

I almost wanted to wave a new bill at him to see if he fixated on the holographic ink as it sparkled and hue-shifted. But I’m not that mean. Or, as I say, quick-witted.

*GF=Gluten Free. Yes, I’m sans wheat, not gluten, but, in today’s market, the two are functionally identical.

15 Responses to Went to Whole Foods for the First Time

  1. Sweet. We still run up against Le Blond, now LeBlond/Makino. Nice machines. Overpriced as Whole Foods.

    I used to buy my marmite at Whole Foods until I found World Market. Nice not having to get that smug hippie smell all over you.

    If you really like bread, and expect to have it as a staple part of your diet, do invest in a bread machine. The Panasonic one with the yeast dispenser is rated pretty highly by most people who try it, and I’ma tellya, putting some stuff in a magic electric box and getting bread out is MAGIC! Plus, a $130 investment is not much more than a high end coffemaker, and you’ll use it more.

    I have been experimenting with bread a while and I have had best results in the oven, using a pizza stone and no pans.

  2. Mark Philip Alger

    Not bold enough to experiment with the gluten free bread recipes for the machines. Maybe someday down the road. Have had one success with Bob’s Red Mill Cornbread mix and am planning to do more of that. Also have their biscuit and pancake mix. Made the biscuits: hockey pucks — probably not enough moisture. Better luck with the pancakes.

    M

  3. The machines are foolproof, trust me on this. I experimented a lot with regular oven bread, but the bread makers, if you follow the recipe, good bread comes out. A big part of it is proofing the yeast.

  4. Gluten free breads are mostly underwhelming. Plus, they’re double and sometimes triple the carbs and calories of regular wheat bread. That said, I like Katz Bakeries GF Challah bread for sandwiches. We have a store in the next town that carries it (frozen, naturally) but we have ordered directly from them online before (and yes, it’s delivered frozen). If you ever have some, you’ll be un-enchanted with Udi’s right quick. I was. Mostly though, I try to avoid the wheat/gluten replacement items… they’re over-processed, higher carb and higher calorie all the way around. Lettuce leaves hold lunch meats pretty darn well. ;)

  5. Adding a bit to what Deb said. We have two different chain stores which now fall under the Schnucks umbrella, Hilander and Logli’s. Both of these carry a pretty good selection of Gluten Free foods and mixes. Another chain, Woodmans, has a pretty extensive selection as well. I mention Schnucks because I thought they were tied in with Korger, so I was a bit surprised in reading your selection was not all that great. You might also see if there are any local “organic food” stores in your neck of the woods, as the one in “the big city” closest to us does carry some GF foods too. For what it is worth, Bisquick has a GF version which is not all that bad for pancakes, biscuits, and the like. I have found this at almost all the grocers in the area (including mine). And like Deb says, when all else fails, there is the interwebs.

  6. I’ve had the best luck with the almond flours for muffins, have not tried bread yet.

    There’s a whole foods not far from the Bug Out Range. We usually find ourselves blocked by some hippie that thinks because there’s no parking they can just park their Obama Stickered SUV the sides of the lot, behind everyone, thereby leaving no room to safely back out.

    Between that and the prices, we probably won’t go back.

  7. Mark Philip Alger

    Thanks, Brigid. I looked at almond early on in this experiment. I found it interesting. Toni vetoed it. She hates nuts delivered anyway except as nuts. I’ve seen recipe for a crust for cheesecake that I’ve wanted to try which calls for ground almonds. Just haven’t gotten to it, yet. I also suspect I’d need to get a different kind of pie tin. We have a glass pie pan and I think I’d want a metal one for cheesecake.

    It’s funny how grocery experiences can vary so. One time when Og was down for a visit, he rode along on my regular biweekly grocery run. His reaction to the stores we have here was… edifying. I remember when I first encountered Safeway in my baby sister’s town up in the Idaho panhandle how rough and primitive the place seemed to me. And Og acted like a Russian emigre suddenly confronted with the bounty of capitalism.

    I theorized that, as he put it, the grocery stores here in Cincinnati are so good (and the neighborhood we’re in here, while upscale, is NOT the most-desirable one all retail businesses are killing each other to get into — that’s in the next county north) the reason they’re so good — if they are — is that this is Kroger’s home town. The place closest to HQ. The people who work in their stores are in their hometown enterprise. I think that makes a difference. And then, everybody else has to up their game to compete with that.

    And that includes our Whole Foods. Which is, as I put it in the post, in probably the most desirable shopping center in the city. (Even though THE most desirable locations in the region are in an epicenter twenty miles to the north.)

    I have no idea how that went where it did, but it did, and here we are.

    M

  8. Mark Philip Alger

    Kinda like, as a friend once told me, the restaurants are so good in Toledo because nobody ever goes out to do anything but eat — there’s nothing else to do there.

    Or that it use to be anyway that there were so many fast food chains in Indy because they all did their tests there. It being the most representative American city.

    Odd how these little bits of trivia stick in the brain.

    M

  9. Mark Philip Alger

    Deb, thanks for the suggestion. I have bookmarked Katz’s site and will definitely be looking into them further.

    M

  10. Mark Philip Alger

    Guy, I will try the GF Bisquick once I’ve used up the Red Mill stuff.

    M

  11. We have had some success with ground up GF gingersnap cookies as a pie crust for not only cheesecake, but especially pumpkin pies. You might want to give that a try. If you are interested, we have found two different crackers which are as close as you are going to get to the consistency of a “regular” table cracker/saltine.

    these are the ones we use for spreading soft cheese(s) and such on. Of the two, I like these the best.

    And these puppies, which have a bit more body. Crumbled up, they are great for using on top of chili or soups. They are also great for snacking on (and they are kosher!).

  12. mark: They had Chateau d’yQuem at the damned grocery store. Our grocery store has a lot of wine, but it doesn’t have any $700 bottles of wine.

    best of luck. I don’t even LIKE bread until I can’t have it.

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  14. My problem is that I LOVE bread. Hot bread. Crusty bread. Soft bread. Hard bread. White bread, brown bread, black bread. I could, contra the saying, live by bread alone and be quite happy with it. Especially if you threw in pizza for an occasional treat. But I would even more than I already do resemble the Pillsbury Doughboy.

    M

  15. Wayne Blackburn

    About the beards: They probably are all trying to look alike. My niece’s husband is a manager there, and his beard is like that.