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.