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Bristol Farms Produce

Anyone else had bad experiences with Bristol Farms "fresh" produce? Specifically, the Newport Beach location.
Arugula, fennel, pears, figs (woeful), shallots, garlic (rotten), heirloom tomatoes (decomposing, accidentally stuck my finger through one), unripe roma tomatoes, even the fresh basil was wilting and growing black, despite still being attached to its own roots. The only GOOD produce I've bought is canned tomatoes. I expect less from other stores like Von's or Stater Bros., but a store that prides itself on fresh gourmet foods is doubly disappointing.

ps: salami at the deli is lame (but the best compared to shrink-wrapped prosciutto and pancetta).

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  1. the westchester bristol farms is the closest supermarket to my home.
    i had such high hopes for them.

    when i go there, i mainly stick to the cheese counter.
    they also carry some zylis kitchen gadgets (my favorite brand).

    their prepared meats, even the 'carved to order' meats, are shot through with chemicals.

    their produce, is somewhat better than vons, but not enough better to justify the high price.

    had some good cookies from their bakery dept.
    their freshly ground almond butter is good.

    1. I too shop at the Westchester location. I can't resist their sushi for a quick and healthy lunch. The variety that Bristol Farms offers in all departments is phenomenal and to keep it all running at top notch is a obviousy a huge challenge. The prices are high so of course you should expect top quality, and I've found that if I have a complaint or comment, management and staff are responsive. Customer service is part of the price, so I suggest notifying the Newport store or even better, their corporate office, of your dissatisfaction.

      1 Reply
      1. re: deek

        i've not experienced such 'responsiveness.'
        i've asked them to order a particular flavor of haagen daz many times, each time they say that they'll start stocking it, they never have.
        same story with the silk brand creamer. i was even told that several other customers had also asked for the creamer.\

        as for contacting the corporate office, i'd rather drive down the hill to gelsons.

      2. I had great salami at the Bristol Farms Newport Beach location!!!!...I'm definitely a novice when it comes to salami, but it rocks over others like Gelsons/Pavillions....Where do you find great salami in Newport area?

        I find the beef at Bristol better than anywhere in OC....includes Gelsons, Celestinos, Irvine Ranch Market etcc.. I just can't find better beef anywhere, and I've tried.

        2 Replies
        1. re: High Maintenance

          The prosciutto de parma there is definitely the best I have found in OC, although there isn' much competition! But the harder salamis I think taste all the same and there isn't much variety, especially for the price in my opinion. That could be chalked up to the USDA regulations on foreign imports like pata negra and other good things from Europe and elsewhere. I've never had the beef--but I've seen kobe beef there which is certainly impressive!

          1. re: missholmes

            Have you tried the cured meats at Lucca's in Irvine (Quail Hill)? Their deli case usually contains a wide selection of imported prosciutto di parma, prosciutto di san daniele, bresaola, mortadella, prosciutto cotto, salamis, etc., etc.

        2. Never was impressed with much at BF. Produce has been somwhat better than other stores but nothin special. For some reason they think they can charge more. I will say that they try to stock a more upscale variety but it just does not warrant the prices charged!

          1. Bristol Farms is owned by Albertsons which 'used to be' Alpha-Beta so keep the expectations low - they are big and corporate from the old get-go. I buy produce at Whole Foods and have always been satisfied - big and corporate, yes, and a little pricey, (remember seasons and weather) but I think they keep their management in touch with the best growers and go local if they can. And, no, I don't work for them.

            2 Replies
            1. re: OCEllen

              I won't say I haven't had bad produce from WF, but at least they'll always give you your money back if something you buy isn't up to snuff. And if you're careful about seasons, it's rare that you'll get something bad. And, while I'm typing, I have always had the best russet potatoes from there. They're enormous, a little pricey, but really do taste better than potatoes from anywhere else. They're so flakey and flavorful I can eat them baked with barely any salt or pepper. Yes, russets with actual flavor!

              1. re: OCEllen

                Your history is flawed. Alpha Beta's ownership was American stores. Round about 1990 American stores purchased Luckys. There were 3 luckys to every 1 Alpha Beta so it was cheaper to make those stores Luckys as well. Albertsons then bought the Lucky stores.

              2. I don't buy produce at Bristol Farms (Manhattan Beach location). I get my produce at Whole Foods. But I find their deli counter excellent, including the salami. Actually, I shop there explicitly for their great deli counter, and generally don't buy anything else there (except bread to go with the deli stuff!).

                1. Bristol Farms in South pasadena. try it. they just remodeled the produce section. very very nice.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: caitybirdie

                    I doubt the OP would come up from around Newport Beach just to go grocery shopping in the SoPas location, ha!

                    But I might consider checking it out -- last time I went was pre-remodeling and the produce aisle was sad-looking, to say the least.

                    ~AquaW
                    http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

                    1. re: caitybirdie

                      The remodel is nice, but the price point is still outrageous.

                      I worked in a similar upscale store when I was a kid. We sold peaches for a dollar apiece, too, but man, those peaches were top notch. And we always stocked interesting and hard to get items like champagne grapes.

                      While I'm at it, I have to say that 2 small shallots enclosed in a bag for $5 really pisses me off. For that kind of money, I should get to pick which ones I want out of a pile, and inspect them more carefully.

                      Whole foods is also limited, but IMO less evil than BF.

                      1. re: caitybirdie

                        The South Pasadena BF is very good, I've never experienced bad produce there like the way the OP describes. But I usually buy produce from farmers markets.

                      2. I shop at the Bristol Farms in Mission Viejo. Overall, I find the produce, deli, seafood and meat sections excellent. You are probably paying premium prices but you usually get consistently good products not to mention all under one roof. Plus, their customer service is second to none. The few times we've had issues with something, it's immediately taken care of and then some.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: vonger44

                          I have found very good beef at the LaJolla and Orange county locations. The Meatloaf and stuffed peppers were great. Recentl a variety of pears were some of the best stocked anywhere.
                          I believe they are giving WF a run for their money, but I will shop at all of the for what ever looks exceptional at the time. Variety is the spice of life.

                        2. At least they have buratta, but I'm very careful about checking the sell by date! We did get a delicious beef tenderloin there for Christmas dinner, but outrageously expensive, compared to buying them up north or in the midwest.

                          1. Comparing with the Midwest is just NOT wise, if you want to enjoy what you invested in for dinner aorund here!

                            :)

                            1. i don't find the produce at either whole foods or bristol to be particularly amazing, though i have found some good things at bristol. the best stuff at bristol is the meat department (fresh and prepared) and the cheese department (and, yes, it would be infinitely better if they didn't have everything pre-cut).

                              1. If you want truly fresh produce, go to a local farmer's market.

                                Otherwise I tend to just get the produce at TJ's. They are pretty fresh although the variety is definitely limited.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: notmartha

                                  What TJ's do you go to? I've gone to the one in Costa Mesa with great results, but can't remember seeing any fruit? It seems strange that there wouldn't be any, so I'm probably hallucinating?

                                  1. re: missholmes

                                    I went to various ones, but the most frequent ones are Brea and Whittier. All the locations (Lake Ave Pasadena, Manhattan beach) I went to have fruits.

                                    I know they have bananas (organic ones too), boxes of satsumas, blueberries, strawberries when in season, seckel pears, apples, etc.

                                2. TJ's produce is just awful, pretty but flavorless stuff flown in from halfway around the world and embalmed in cellophane. I am happy that they sell decent dairy from Straus et al., and it is nice to run across Niman Ranch meat, but the fruit and veg are must to avoid.

                                  Bristol Farms produce isn't bad - it's where I tend to go when I wake up too late for the farmers market; distinctly better than Whole Foods or Wild Oats and with a much wider variety - but my lord, it is expensive.

                                  Their pancetta, btw, may be Boar's Head, but you could do worse.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: condiment

                                    What specific items are bad?

                                    I had no problems with their broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, small (baby?) green beans, zucchini, arugula, and generally any salad greens.

                                    No problems with blueberries, bananas, satsumas, organic strawberries.

                                    I don't think they are worse than any of the regular supermarkets. If you compare them to produce you can get at farmer's market that's a different story.

                                    I don't see flying some stuff half way around the world being necessarily bad either. I just had some great pears (not at TJs) flow in from China, and a lot of times cherries (off season here) are flown in from Chile.

                                    1. re: notmartha

                                      Call me crunchy, but flying produce halfway across the world is incredibly wasteful of resources, etc., and the produce so flown is invariably bred for physical attractiveness (it's expensive) and shelf-life, flavor not so much. I'm not a purist about these things, I eat bananas and pineapple cheerfully enough, but it just seems wrong. And the flavor of Chinese garlic, Peruvian avocados, Dutch bell peppers, Chilean asparagus and grapes, and New Zealand cherries is almost never worth the fuss - I'd rather eat locally.

                                      That being said, I don't shop for produce much at Von's, either.

                                      1. re: condiment

                                        We, that just generally applies to any fruit/veggies that you don't get at a local farmer's market. I would be very surprised if TJ's salad greens and strawberries don't come from california.

                                        Maybe that's a discussion for another thread. I too would love food whose flavors aren't breed out of it in favor of other traits like ease of transportation. Top examples are tomatoes - but I did managed to find heirloom tomatotes at TJs one summer that actually don't taste like plastic.

                                    2. re: condiment

                                      this isn't uniformly true at all. the fingerling potatoes at tj are often grown by weiser farms, which is a local farmers market grower. they also have good citrus (their texas grapefruit is good right now), including meyer lemons. i like their blueberries and their blackberries in season are good, too. veggies--aside from greens--are a little troublesome. their cooked beets are actually ok and a terrific convenience. and their broccolini is good, too.

                                      overall, it's just like everything else at tj: not the best in the world, but a good assortment at a very good price.

                                      1. re: condiment

                                        I agree that TJ's has terrible produce but what location has Straus dairy? I've never seen that at any location.

                                        THe niman ranch meat is handy but since I have almost a 50-50 record on rotten meat I don't buy it often.

                                        1. re: JudiAU

                                          I'm pretty sure that the house label organic milk is actually contracted to Strauss, or at least used to be. Unlike Strauss's milk, though, I think it may be homogenized.

                                      2. Forget BF for produce. Instead, Wholesome Choice in Irvine on Culver just south of the 405 deserves kudos for a terrific selection of beautiful and ultrafresh produce at invariably fair and often rediculously low prices. The breads, meats, fish, cheeses, hummus & eggplant spreads, vast array of Middle Eastern and Med groceries, and a wide variety of prepared foods (eat in or take out) are nothing to sneeze at either. Between the incredible produce and delicious fresh round and flat breads like Sangak hot out of the oven, what's not to like?

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: bernardo

                                          I don't understand why anyone shells out the big bucks for produce at WF and BF when you can get better and cheaper more interesting produce at ethnic markets like Farm Fresh in Pasadena, and Arcadia Supermarket in Arcadia on Duarte. Why pay $3/lb for apples when you can get 2lb for $0.99 at these stores. Or fresh mangoes and lychees when they are in season 2 for $0.99 or $2.99/lb. The quality is so much better too.

                                            1. re: misseatalot

                                              I shell it out, since I live in North San Diego! and it is worth every penny extra.
                                              For instance, I bought some large Red Pears at Bristol Farms yesterday. They are ready to eat, and delicious. There is nothing like it at any of the super chain grocery stores! Same goes for the meat, wild caught fish, and free range chickens.
                                              Another joy is finding all the specialty foods to make eating everyday an enjoyable event.

                                              1. re: nutrition

                                                Bristol's produce is fine if money is no object. What's wrong with this picture: White asparagus from Peru with exactly the same label sold for $5.95 a bunch at Bristol but 99 cents at 99 Cents Only. Think about it.

                                                1. re: bernardo

                                                  How far apart are the two places?
                                                  You have to start considering gasoline costs and freshness (quality), when you shop several places, so conviinence becomes an issue, also.

                                                  1. re: nutrition

                                                    Actually, Bristol is a mixed bag. When available, their fresh Baja scallops and Florida rock shrimp are worth a splurge, as are some of their fresh fish specials.

                                                    But the differnce between their standard beef fillets and the special reserve at Albertson's (their parent company) at twice the price is minimal. Same for many other products; e.g., cheeses with the same labels as TJ's are often 50% more costly at Bristol. In the outrage category, the preponderance of packaged hummus and eggplant spreads is a disgrace for a gourmet store that should be making their own fresh daily. Their salads are OK but often not worth the cost. TJ's potato salad puts Bristol's to shame IMHO.

                                                    Bottom line, Bristol is worth a splurge for just a few carefully chosen items and enjoying their free tastings, especially on weekends; otherwise caveat emptor.

                                          1. There are two Farm Fresh locations in the 'dena area. There's one on the northeast corner of Orange Grove and Los Robles and there's another that just opened on Lincoln in Altadena by the new 24 Hour Fitness. Just a warning, the Orange Grove is hit or miss but sometimes they get really nice produce that you wouldn't get elsewhere. That's why I'd rather go to Arcadia Supermarket.