In defense of Whole Foods!
see article at:http://www.chowhound.com/topics/407454
A recent article, see above, on the industrial nature of WF has really got my goat. Yes, it would be better if the world were a utopia where there were fresh organic in-season garden vegetables on every corner, but who believes they can live in a utopia? Whole Foods PRINTS THE COUNTRY OR STATE OF ORIGIN on the food signs, IN PLAIN SIGHT. This is great, do any other supermarkets do this? If WF has the origin, the organic/conventional nature, and the price, all in plain sight, why in the world are we criticizing them?
I HAVE stopped buying fruits and vegetables flown in from S.America, and I try to stay within the immediate vicinity,Southeast (it is hard to avoid California produce but I try). but is it really corporate responsibility NOT to offer asparagus if people will buy it? Especially when you have no idea where things come from in a conventional supermarket. Also, my Whole Foods carries local milk and eggs that are hormone free but without the organic label, this is preferable to organic as the milk comes in reusuable glass jars and is produced 1/2hr away.
Not to mention the fact that the food invariably tastes better from Whole Foods, that the shopping experience is a joy instead of a drag or depressing. They don't use those horrible shopper's club cards that every other store in the area uses, sometimes to your huge financial detriment if you forget the card. They have prepared food that is actually edible. They throw away food that is no longer fresh, a HUGE plus. They sell bread that I cannot live for very long without. No other supermarket here sells real bread (we have about 4 different supermarkets, one "coop" which does have good bread but cheese that is spoiled.) The chese- they actually know how to store it, much better than any chain supermarket I have EVER encountered. And most "gourmet" groceries outside of NY ruin the cheese before you get it.
Yes, you pay for all of this, but what is more important than food and your sanity on Saturday morning? Shopping at a "regular" supermarket (i.e. the grossness of Kroger's) will be almost as expensive, and much much more depressing (both while in the store and after you've eaten the food.) Also, WF has grown out of free market demand, with more and more options to stay local and to stay away from pesticides/hormones. This is a trend that will continue. It will be at our expense,again, but do you know how cheap food is in the U.S. compared to other countries? The organic food sold here is on par with what's sold in Europe as regular food, in both relative price and quality.
I find that Whole Food's varies from store to store, which is not a bad thing. After all, it varies from region to region. I don't live near one these days, but my folks do. My mom shops there often since she has the money to afford organics. But I find it inevitably depressing to go there. And then I find it upsetting that I'm so put off, since they do some things well.
As a previous poster pointed out, WF notes their sources for their foods. Their alcohol section has good, inexpensive wines that go with dinner, and their beer selection is interesting. They have a great variety of breads available, like When Pigs Fly. If you are locked into a lifestyle where you are eating prepared foods all the time, their case is much better than the average grocery store. Remember what that's like? It's hard to sometimes, but go to a Pathmark or a Stop and Shop and try to buy a meal for a microwave or toaster oven with no other equipment. My dad lived like that in a hotel for 4 months in Boston on a consulting job. The things he can tell you about various grocery salad bars by now... At anyrate, your standard supermarket has chicken cutlets, 8 mayonaise-based salads and 4 plastic-flavored vinaigrette salalds, roasted chicken, fried chicken, and lasagna. Go to WF and there is more variety. And they carry no deli meats with sodium nitrate. Their employees are typically as helpful as possible, and they even hire an artist per store to design signage, a great position for recent art school graduates.
So what's the downer? Well, first of all they devote half the store (the half in the center) to books, cosmetics and ginko. Many supermarkets do this with the central 1/4, but not such a large proportion. Their aisles are narrow, creating a cramped confine. But most importantly, the people that shop there just creep me out. They seem to cater to the professional single, or the couple with a perfect replicant child, who don't make eye-contact with the rest of the world. They do not acknowlege the employees or their fellow shoppers. Perhaps I'm too idealistic, but I like talking over the produce bins, smiling at people as I maneuver around them and making faces at the kids imprisoned in their carts. I like asking what people are intending on doing with ingredients I'm unfamiliar with. I feel like food is a topic that complete strangers can discuss without worrying about being too personal. I often feel that even acknowledgement of another person is too personal to a WF customer.
re: thinks too much
Whoa, I never noticed their When Pigs Fly breads, but then, I don't go to WF for their breads. When Pigs Fly used to be the name on a really great chocolate/chocolate frosting cake at Trader Joe's. I was so sad when that got discontinued a long time ago. But yet here is that name again. Wonder if there's any connection.
I think WF is great for some things, but much too expensive for regular, general grocery shopping.
I could be wrong but I don't think there's any connection with TJs. When Pigs Fly is an organic, artisanal bread company out of Maine. If i knew how I'd include a link to their web site. They have some new specialty breads that sound delicious like Orange, Roasted Pistachio and Cranberry, Sicilian Green Olive with Hot and Sweet Cherry Peppers and Orange, Roasted Pistachio and Cranberry among others. Very dense, chewy stuff. They do mail order.
I really do not like Whole Foods at all, in my opinion, very expensive, and not worth the trip for me.
I did actually have to go to WHole Foods last weekend when I was in Chicago, knowing I could get ripe avocados there(sometimes I dont want to risk the availability of ripe avocados out where I live if I have a last minut guacamole craving to complete a menu). I wandered around the Whole Foods after finding some expensive avocados, and saw nothing that interested me. I dont really eat organics, and I never eat prepared foods( I like to cook so why would I rely on a supermarket to make my food). Also the meat there is ridiculously priced, and I prefer to go to my local butcher, and the relationship you can form with the guy who owns the butcher shop, over an employee of a corporate giant.
Obviously I am not a fan of Whole Foods
I like its 365 brand--olive oil, frozen food, etc., usually less $$$ and tasty enough. I think the Union Square nabe is like the Bermuda Triangle of food, but in a good way. You've got WF, Trader Joe's, and the farmer's market all within blocks of each other. I am very happy when I'm down there and glad to have the options.
sorry but i just don't get the whole foods prepared foods mystique and i think i've given it a fair shot over the years. at least in my local store (suburban boston) the pizza has never been more than just okay. the eggplant parmagiana and lasagna are no better tasting than the local greek pizza take out joint's. and the mac and cheese is bland, dry and seemingly cheeseless. not just meh . . . but feh. ditto the potato pancakes though the zuchini ones are pretty tasty. the steam table full of indian and chinese entrees looks revolting. the only thing i'll go in for is the salad bar. the cakes and pastries are wildly overpriced for what you get. i once picked up a lemon ricotta polenta cake for a foodie friend's thanksgiving buffet. it turned out to be a leaden, twenty dollar slab of blah that was barely touched. is everyone else loving this stuff? is it just me?
The only prepared food I've gotten from WF is their guacamole and some lentil loaf. The guacamole was far less expensive prepared than it would've been had I purchased avocados (at any grocery in the Twin Cities area) to make it myself. It is wonderful stuff. The lentil loaf needed a little ketchup doctoring because it was a little dry.
I do buy one other prepared food from WF but it's only available in the Twin Cities - Holy Land homos and Holy Land pita to go along with it. I could buy these cheaper straight from Holy Land but with gas being what it is, it's about the same if I just walk across the street and pick it up. http://www.holylandbrand.com/images/R...
I love how in the ingredients list they have to spell out "extra fresh garlic."
I used to be a Whole Foods junkie! Now, not so much. I live in Brooklyn and commute past the Union Square WF every morning. I usually stop in to get a coffee and they make a great no-fat bran muffin, I'd then make my way to the salad bar to make myself something to bring to work. However, last week was the last straw. I concoted an asian inspired salad and included a scoop of what looked like an asian tofu slaw. When it got time for my lunch break I was really excited to taste this salad. The slaw was DISGUSTING!! Totally flavorless and limp, which a slaw should not be! I was severely disappointed.
Then that night, I stopped to get some ingredients for dinner. I understand that the Union Square WF is in an incredibly busy area of the city but for a company the prides itself on local, fresh, organic produce and other groceries there was NONE to be found that night. I first tried finding a cucumber that didn't have mold or soft-spots on it, that was to no avail. I then made my way to the red bell peppers selling for 8.99/lb, you'd think that for that much they would be quite nice however they were soft and bruised as well. I was planning on making a salad and went to find lettuce but all of the clamshell packages were nearing or past their dates. This whole time I heard at least four other people complaining about the produce.
WF also claims that they work as a "team" well, I found no one who was willing to help! It was horrible, I walked out having not bought anything and went home and wrote them a letter. It's completely unacceptable for them to be delivering such low quality products as such high cost.
I'm very saddened that I will have to give up on my regular Whole Foods visits.
I really do think Whole Foods store vary by location and market. I live across the street from a Whole Foods store and I feel lucky indeed. But, then again, we have a really competitive market here and this particular Whole Foods store is located midway between two upscale groceries and Trader Joe's with a natural foods coop also nearby. Whole Foods really has to compete for our food dollars, even mine. And they do so, beautifully.
I've given Whole Foods a few chances and I just can't justify shopping there. Last time I went (on a weekday evening), it was mobbed and I started by waiting in line for the restroom for 15 minutes.
Then I went to the bulk food section and got what I came for (wanted to try the organic popcorn). I wanted to check out, but the registers had huge lines so I walked around a bit. The meat didn't look fresh and I saw cheese (gorgonzola piccante) individually wrapped in plastic that was FAR past its prime.
At this point I was hungry and also checked out their prepared foods. The soup looked decent, but 4-5 dollars for a small cup of something simple (minestrone)? I couldn't justify the expense.
The lines never got shorter, so I left my popcorn on a shelf and walked out. On a positive note, there were several decent samples being given out.
Where I am at, it's cheaper and less frustrating to go to Trader Joes's supplemented by local produce markets and the occasional big grocery store.