Whole Foods made me go ick!
So Saturday, I was on my own, and decided to make it a good day of fun and health. Hit up the Ed Hardy Sale looking for a t-shirt with a bulldog on it for a reasonable price. Scored! Found a new "Massage Envy" and got the "introductory $39 hour massage". Oh yeah. I even went to "Color Me Mine" and spent an hour or two at "craft time", just for fun.
Drive to the Wole Foods in Woodland HIlls, hoping they have something good for dinner. Picked up some things from the Olive Bar, but nothing at the deli, salad bar, hot foods bar or anything piqued my interest.
Knowing different branches have different stuff, I went to the Sherman oaks on on Sepulveda, which is on my way home, anyhow.
The hot bar was disappointing. I keep looking for those chick pea fries to no avail. I wandered around,, picking up a small thing of Butternut squash soup, and eventually settled on a "egglplant Feta roll" for a small app, and one of the burritos from the relatively new "burrito bar".
I should have known better, I guess, as the beans looked kinda tired, but the girl stirred them up and they looked good. Besides, beans cooked all day can be fabuous, right?
I asked for both black and pinto beans, and got my "choice of veggie" by asking for grilled veggies. The kid WIEGHED them, and gave me one piece of yellow zucchini. She was going to give me half a coin of eggplant, but I sort of said it was silly, so she was super duper generous and gave me the whole thing. I asked for rice, salsa, sour cream, cheese, cilantro, onion and guacamole. "Guacamole is a $1 extra" she announced. I said "well, OK, make it a dollar's worth!" and watched in amazement as she put on about a teaspoon full. She refused to put on more.
She sort of rolled it up, asked me if I wanted it grilled (no, I did not) and handed it over wrapped in foil and paper. I paid $6 for it. It looked big, but I was still sorta miffed about the guac shrotage, so I went and got an avocade which had plenty of goodness in it for less than a $1 a teaspoon.
Got that burrito home, heated up the feta thing, poured a little soup and a glass of good wine and sat to chow in front of the TV. Ick. The soup had NO flavor, not even of butternut. Really, someone had decided that seasoning was an art beyond thier grasp. Tried the feta thing. Again, no seasoning, and the cheese was obviously insalted. Ugh.
Perhaps the burrito would save me. Oh god, the beans were cold, insipid, and flavorless. Was there cheese? I think she forgot it. Salsa? Cilantro? I saw her put it on! I turned on the oven, opened the burrito, put on a litte Vallarta "FUD Queso Fresco" and some hot sauce. I warmed it, hoping that would help. Nope. It was just a large wad of bland grossness. It sorta looked like vomit, but vomit has more flavor.
I tried some of it on the dog, who eats just about anything. No way, Jose!
Eew. Everything went into the trash-the soup, the feta roll, the burrito.
What a waste!
The central office is right don the block from me. I feel like going in there and raising hell.
Whole Foods? Holy Crap. I expected, and have had, WAYYY better from them. Next time, maybe I'll go to Pasadena, or do what I was thinking of doing, and go somewhere else entirely.
Agreed here - I had the same WORST burrito experience (premade version) at the Mar Vista WF years back... Some things work at WF's but I think their strengths are with things like the OP mentioned (olive bar-like things - pretty hard to mess up) and cold items in general like some of their salads. But even then, the salads can vary drastically when using your visual sense versus your taste sense. Most things look good - I won't dispute the general quality of their ingredients. If you're eating there, grab a speck of each you're interested in, pay, sit down and sample, then go back for what truly appealed to you.
At the Whole Foods in El Segundo, I've found that the cold salad bar items are pretty consistently great, and the hot items are pretty consistently terrible. I had to find out the hard way, too.
Did you really expect to get a better than mediocre burrito at Whole Foods? I give you credit for being an optimist! On occasion I've picked up a salad from the salad bar or a made to order sandwich on the way to work; turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, 1/2 avocado, some sort of aiole etc. for $7.49. A nice change from my usual almond butter/cherry spread sandwich! But any ethnic food at Whole Paycheck, I'll pass!
Whole Foods is an excellent market chain and you are very fortunate to live in California to be able to have access to the kind of healthy selections they offer. They are not a fast food chain and you should stick to their fresh vegetables, excellent meat and other raw foods and vitamins. I would stay away completely from anything they have prepared or cooked at their various stores. You are also lucky to be able to have Trader Joe's another grocery/ market I miss, more than you can imagine, living in Asia.
Kit Marshal, http://restaurantdiningcritiques.com
As much as I agree with you in most respects, the grass is always greener on the other side, isn't it... Living in California, or for that matter, the US, I think we do take a lot for granted. We, especially we Chowhound-types, can knit-pick and dwell over the smallest details of who has the best burger, xiao long bao, al pastor, salsa, shaved ice, ultimate expense account experience, etc. The choices and quality here exponentially dwarf so many other places in the world. But I for one feel transplanted in your shoes here in LA in that, the food in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are almost but impossible to recreate here. I sure can do without the humidity, the crowds, and some of the more stringent aspects of the socio-political issues one faces on a daily basis there, but living in places like Singapore, where all but the most uninitiated of tourists who occupy each precious square centimetre of space are de facto Chowhounds, that even when closing one's eyes and walking blindly down just about any hawker center and knowing that no matter where you stop, the food will seduce you to return again and again...
I don't think that's a fair criticism of the original post. Just because we might have better options than other places and Whole Foods might be good for some things does not mean we cannot critique their prepared foods. The prepared foods section of Whole Foods is growing and, in the newer, larger stores, will take up very large portions of the store.
I have routinely been disappointed with Whole Foods' prepared items (from the Sherman Oaks store). I find the flavors of their items to just be off. Their chicken salads just always seemed off (the curry chicken pales in comparison to the curry chicken salad from Gelsons) and the Mexican food items are usually pretty dry. Now, I mainly stick to sushi for a quick meal, and appreciate being able to get brown rice for health reasons. They sometimes have decent grilled vegetables, which I like for convenience, and their hummus, but beyond that, I find their prepared foods lacking. When I want a quick prepared meal, I much prefer Gelsons' deli counter.
Alright, I will give you that one. It is probably unfair to judge every store in the Whole Foods chain by a few less than stellar prepared food experiences. I did not mean it in that way. What I meant to say, if I did not get it across, was that they are basically a market first and the prepared foods are a service to their customers aside from being a money-making operation as people are becoming less willing to cook these days. Compare them to other market's prepared foods and they will probably win.
I've been going to Whole Foods since the mid-80's, when I lived in Austin and shopped at the original stores. I have never been satisfied with their prepared foods, because (1) with a few exceptions, they're overcooked, dried out (especially poultry), and taste lousy; and (2) to counter the poor taste, apparently, WF adds sugar or other sweeteners to far-too-many dishes.
Of course, I have similar feelings about the hot prepared food at most grocery-store takeout operations. If I need takeout from WF, I'll get an assortment of cold items at the deli counter -- long-stem artichokes, anchovies, cheese-stuffed chilis, roasted red peppers, prosciutto, etc. Added to their good selections of cheese, bread, and crackers, it makes for a fine cold meal, especially if I top an organic, whole-grain cracker with a slice of artisanal cheese, a cube of artichoke, and a piece of WF-forbidden-well-cured bacon from Bristol Farms or other den of iniquity and shame!