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What do you like at Bristol Farms?

Cinnamon Jun 17, 2009 06:31 PM

We aren't too far from the Westchester one, but I rarely go. I'm wondering what anyone loves them for - what's worth a special trip?

I recall they seemed to have a nice bunch of more exotic pancettas and salamis and things like that.

Lately have tended to buy more from Vons (for cost/convenience), Ralph's (I like the produce at the one on Sepulveda in Westchester), Gelson's (for a few certain things) and these days 99 Ranch and Marukai (for Asian stuff and fresh veggies).

  1. Will Owen Jun 17, 2009 06:42 PM

    The guys behind the meat counter, at least those in the South Pas store, are honest-to-Pete butchers who know meat, and who have a terrific customer service ethic. The meat ain't cheap, but in my estimation it and the help are on a par with Howie's and Marconda.

    They also have the best deli potato salad I know of, though it's expensive,

    2 Replies
    1. re: Will Owen
      Phurstluv Jun 17, 2009 06:52 PM

      I agree, Mr. O., I used to frequent that store for 6 years before moving west, and miss that deli & meat market. Always went there for special meat & fish dinners. Their produce was always good looking, too.

      1. re: Will Owen
        attran99 Jun 18, 2009 08:17 AM

        Totally agree with the meat counter rec. I've been able to find garlic cheese there, on ocassion...great in grilled cheese sandwiches!

      2. SaltCod Jun 17, 2009 06:44 PM

        They sell bresaola, which I love and Whole Foods won't sell.

        1. j
          JudiAU Jun 17, 2009 07:32 PM

          Their meat, in general, is a cut above the other supermarket in Los Angeles. Gelsons has better veal but only better veal. At least some of the staff in the meat department have some decent meat training.

          1. a
            azibo Jun 17, 2009 08:02 PM


            7 Replies
            1. re: azibo
              maudies5 Jun 17, 2009 08:12 PM

              When one has Vicente Foods in the neighborhood, and their great butchers, I find no need to go to Bristol Farms. Bristol Farms failed at the Brentwood Country Mart (before City Bakery tried and failed). I recently visited the Westwood site and was unimpressed. The market was nearly empty. The food in the prepared food section looked very tired. As well, the produce section smelled nasty..too much old produce in the bins. I walked in and walked out .

              1. re: maudies5
                Phurstluv Jun 18, 2009 08:53 AM

                I am not as impressed with the Westwood location as the one in South Pas that I used to frequent. My local Gelson's is better the BF in W'wood.

                1. re: maudies5
                  TomSwift Jun 18, 2009 09:00 AM

                  Vicente Foods is superb. I'm in Brentwood at least twice a week, and have been eating a lot of Berkshire pork as a result. Their butchers know their stuff AND they work late. I found Let's be Frank dogs there, which I couldn't find at Bristol. But, since I work 1/2 mile from the Westlake Bristol, I end up going there for higher end meat and seafood. With a few limited exceptions in meat an seafood, Gelsons is just as good.

                  1. re: TomSwift
                    bulavinaka Jun 18, 2009 08:08 PM

                    In regards to comparing the Westchester Bristol Farms to the Marina del Rey Gelson's, I find the beer and cheese selection to be far better at Bristol Farms. The "gourmet" cheese counter at the Gelson's is pretty sad. But I like Viktor Benes much better than Bristol Farms' bake section. Also, Gelson's "supermarket" portion of the store kicks but on Bristol Farms.

                    1. re: bulavinaka
                      TomSwift Jun 19, 2009 08:53 AM

                      You're right that BF's cheeses are superior to Gelsons, but I find that the Woodland Hills Whole Foods cheeses are superior to Westlake BF. A wider selection and WF has a very, very good cheese woman. She knows her cheese. Benes dances all over the pastries at both Gelsons and BF. What is the "supermarket" portion of Gelsons?

                      1. re: TomSwift
                        bulavinaka Jun 19, 2009 09:05 AM

                        I find cheese depts at WF in general to be very good. Te personnel obviously varies from store to store, but if you know what you want, it's not much of an issue.

                        The "Supermarket" portion of the store is what I consider to be non-department/counter areas, like dry goods, canned products, etc. You know, the stuff in the aisles. Gelson's always seems to have a great broad inventory and the product is almost always faced up for maximum impact - I like this just because it's easier to find stuff...

                      2. re: bulavinaka
                        westsidegal Jun 20, 2009 05:17 PM

                        i agree with every word of your post, bulavinaka.
                        perfect summary.

                2. b
                  bulavinaka Jun 17, 2009 08:38 PM

                  I go to the Westchester Bristol Farms because they are an easy one-stop for many things that one would find separately at certain specialty stores. They have a respectable cheese department, wine department, and decent selection of beer. It's easy to find things like decent pimenton, rose water, orange water, certain kitchen tools etc., there as well. The baked goods are just ok for the most part, and the meat department has nice cuts of Choice, but I don't know if the guys behind the counter are true butchers - most I've seen look to young to have picked up the trade. I think most Whole Foods carry a broader selection of specialty and gourmet goods, but I don't like the crowds there (and the kind of kooks WF draws), so I choose to go to Bristol Farms if I know they have what I want.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: bulavinaka
                    ElissaInPlaya Jun 24, 2009 03:39 PM

                    The wine sommelier (used to be Lisa) at the Westchester Bristol Farms is really good. I also have had decent luck with ordering speciality meat at this store.

                    1. re: ElissaInPlaya
                      Yes Please Jun 24, 2009 04:58 PM

                      The wine sommelier I think is now guy named Sean. At least he was a couple months ago. He is extrememly knowledeable about vintage, origin, pairings etc and I've never had such a thorough explanation!

                  2. Dommy Jun 17, 2009 09:59 PM

                    I also frequent the Westchester Bristol Farms...

                    San Marzano Tomatoes
                    Apple Beer
                    I also like their soup bar better than any other supermarket.


                    1. westsidegal Jun 17, 2009 10:14 PM

                      their cheeses are good.
                      generally there are at least a few good produce items which is more than can be said for any of the other 'general' grocery stores in the area.
                      they may still carry some zyliss kitchen gadgets.

                      1. J.L. Jun 17, 2009 10:26 PM

                        NY ribeye steaks
                        Stewart's root beer
                        Brougiere milk
                        New Zealand Free Range eggs
                        Haagen Dazs "Five" brand ginger ice cream

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: J.L.
                          Cinnamon Jun 18, 2009 08:03 AM

                          Is Brougiere milk amazing or something? (Don't think I've ever had it.)

                          1. re: Cinnamon
                            latindancer Jun 18, 2009 08:20 AM

                            Yes Brougiere milk is amazing.
                            It's all I use.

                            1. re: latindancer
                              Dommy Jun 18, 2009 09:13 AM

                              Third... it's also a VERY local product... And their chocolate milk makes us happy like very few things do... :)


                              1. re: Dommy
                                bulavinaka Jun 18, 2009 08:08 PM

                                My kids second that!

                        2. ipsedixit Jun 17, 2009 10:32 PM

                          Meat and seafood.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            J.L. Jun 18, 2009 12:05 AM

                            Oh yeah, I forgot to mention their wild salmon also.

                          2. l
                            latindancer Jun 17, 2009 10:41 PM

                            Spicy tuna bowl, prime ribeye, the best produce outside my local farmer's market, chicken/matzoball soup, burrata, fresh toasted panini (several variations), olive bar...
                            Just to name a few.
                            On Beverly.

                            1. j
                              jaymor Jun 18, 2009 07:32 AM

                              french baguette and their regular deli bacon is cut thick, occasionally chilean sea bass .....i go to the one in palos verdes, so am not certain if other stores have the same source/stuff.

                              1. l
                                latindancer Jun 18, 2009 08:23 AM

                                Brougiere milk is amazing but it also comes in a glass bottle.
                                One of the reasons I buy it is because the plastic/milk isn't appealing to me any longer.
                                Somehow I always taste the container it's in.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: latindancer
                                  Cinnamon Jun 21, 2009 09:44 PM

                                  I gave this milk a try - it's nice but I still prefer the Meyenberg goat milk in a carton.

                                  1. re: Cinnamon
                                    latindancer Jun 24, 2009 07:37 PM

                                    Great...I'm glad you at least tried it.
                                    I'm not a goat milk kinda person so I've been very pleased Brougiere's selection of chocolate milk, whole milk, 1% milk and the eggnog is, without a doubt, EXEMPLARY.

                                    1. re: latindancer
                                      bulavinaka Jun 24, 2009 08:33 PM

                                      In regards to goat's milk, I'm like you. The huge exception is goat's milk ice cream. I know the Westchester BF carries Lalu's goat's milk ice cream, which I've never tried. But I can vouch for the goat's milk ice cream at Delicieuse on Artesia in Redondo Beach. I know it's off-topic but Westchester is kinda the straddle-point between the Westside and the South Bay, which I think you and Cinnamon venture to. Their ice creams are also available at Surfa's, but only in tubs that are about $18-$20. Give them a try if you're in the South Bay.


                                      2503 Artesia Blvd, Redondo Beach, CA 90278

                                2. OC Mutt Jun 18, 2009 08:33 AM

                                  the meat counter, and deli counter offer far superior products. The rest of the store isn't worth the trip unless you don't have a farmer's market as a source for good produce.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: OC Mutt
                                    latindancer Jun 18, 2009 09:07 AM

                                    I find the Bristol Farms where I shop to be far superior to any of the others. The produce is superior and the produce people will find me what I need if they don't have it.
                                    This includes the farmer's market near my home.

                                    1. re: latindancer
                                      hboy Jun 18, 2009 09:24 AM

                                      good housemade sausage
                                      good cheese selection

                                  2. b
                                    burgundy1 Jun 18, 2009 09:27 AM

                                    Amazing produce, meat counter and cheese selection at their Doheny store.. They have speciality items that are accessible and really good!

                                    1. Kitchen Queen Jun 18, 2009 12:50 PM

                                      I go for the take out sushi esp. the poki. It's really great. I take the poki home and make my own saladw/greens and avocado. YUM! Have had some great cheeses there too. Oh and the chocolate chip challah -OMG!

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Kitchen Queen
                                        TomSwift Jun 18, 2009 01:19 PM

                                        The spicy poki is dynamite!

                                      2. t
                                        traumahound Jun 18, 2009 03:36 PM

                                        I remember getting some great frozen sticky toffee pudding when I could. Delish....

                                        1. j
                                          JimN Jun 19, 2009 07:03 AM

                                          I occassionally hit up the Westchester one for items that I can't find anywhere else, including Whole Foods. Those items include:

                                          Smoked Mozzarella
                                          Good selection of dried chiles

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: JimN
                                            Wolfgang Jun 19, 2009 09:04 AM

                                            I guess I shouldn't have judged BF just by the Westwood Store. I went once and was completely underwhelmed. I bought some top sirloin for a bbq and it was just okay.

                                          2. p
                                            PandanExpress Jun 19, 2009 03:35 PM

                                            I only go to Bristol Farms for their poke. I like to mix the tuna and salmon one. Stay away from the cooked shrimp and octopus one though. I had it once and it was less than fresh.

                                            1. David Kahn Jun 19, 2009 05:27 PM

                                              I like their sour dough raisin walnut bread (baked in house, I think). Some of their prepared foods, like their turkey meatballs, are good too. And their thick-cut bacon is one of my favorites.

                                              1. c
                                                Cinnamon Jun 19, 2009 06:05 PM

                                                OK, thank you all - finally popped back into the store and grabbed lunch (pastrami sandwich). It was a quick trip, so just picked up some goat milk and that brand of milk a few people mentioned. Will do a taste-off.

                                                Here's what I noticed that looked particularly interesting:
                                                - Great cheese idea - for about $5-6 you get a little under-plastic-wrap package of cubed cheese - a whole bunch of different kinds from their cheese bar along with a small wedge of brie.
                                                - Biscuits. For $1-2 apiece (not cheap) they had HUGE biscuits (baking soda I believe) that I'll bet you could put in the oven and then slather with homemade spicy pork gravy and have it pass for the honest-to-goodness real Southern breakfast kind. These were near the front on a round table, sold two to a package in plastic clamshell containers.
                                                - Lots of nice vinegars and oils. I think this is a good place to shop when you're looking for esoteric noshables or ingredients.

                                                Generally I'd say they mainly have higher-end things and basics - the kind of food collection that could let you ignore how much processed stuff is actually out there and available in the world, and return to a (fictious, OK) time when there were more fresh ingredients and there was more of a select selection... and when people had more $$.

                                                So far there's nothing there that makes me HAVE to go back there. I'll try to stop by more when I need just one ingredient or two, and try more things from them then. The fresh veggies and fruits were in just perfect condition. (But having discovered 99 Ranch I'd have to look at prices to see whether I'd want to consider Bristol Farms for my main fresh-produce shopping. I'm kind of coming around to the idea that wonderful fresh things can indeed be really inexpensive.)

                                                15 Replies
                                                1. re: Cinnamon
                                                  J.L. Jun 20, 2009 04:24 PM

                                                  Can't beat 99 Ranch when it comes to produce.

                                                  1. re: Cinnamon
                                                    westsidegal Jun 20, 2009 05:21 PM

                                                    i'm not really sure what you meant in your reference to 'processed stuff,' but be aware that every item in their deli dept contains some sort of chemical or other (sodium nitrite, sodium nitrate, etc.)

                                                    1. re: westsidegal
                                                      Cinnamon Jun 20, 2009 06:15 PM

                                                      Oh - just meant that they seem to have far less of the rows and rows and rows of frozen TV dinners and snacks, and cereals, and a bunch of other things, vs. say a Vons. The total item count they carry has to be much less.

                                                      I'm sure a lot of things there are of the heavily-processed variety that one sees at other supermarkets, but it kind of looks like they've hand-picked a selection of it to fit in with their other items and not have stores two or three times the size they are.

                                                      I'd say they seem to have mid-to-midhigh-end things, and the selection is well-edited.

                                                    2. re: Cinnamon
                                                      bernardo Jun 20, 2009 08:54 PM

                                                      So many better options for fresh produce it's to laugh. For example, Wholesome Choice beats the pants off BF at a mere fraction of the price with oodles of atmosphere thrown in for good measure. And why bore yourself silly at BF when you can have real fun at Wholesome? C'mon, get in line with the locals and wait for the baker to extract the next batch of Sangaks fresh from the large oven. Fun and incredibly yummy too.

                                                      Wholesome Choice
                                                      18040 Culver Dr, Irvine, CA 92612

                                                      1. re: bernardo
                                                        Cinnamon Jun 21, 2009 09:20 AM

                                                        You're in Orange County. So is Wholesome Choice. For me that would be 46 or so miles away from the Westchester Bristol Farms in my vicinity. I'll stick with 99 Ranch. :)

                                                        1. re: Cinnamon
                                                          bulavinaka Jun 21, 2009 09:39 AM

                                                          Yeah, I was going to mention something similar - not to be snarky, but to keep this thread on-topic. It's great to hear about Wholesome Choice - hoping they migrate up this way as well - but in the mean time, I think this general part of LA has enough decent options to hold us over.

                                                          I think the produce at 99 Ranch in general is a great deal as well. Almost always very fresh, and the prices are rock-bottom. I can't imagine what the margins are for 99 Ranch (or their vendors). Compared to BF, there is no comparison on a broad level, but I do give BF credit for carrying certain produce items that may be harder to find, as well as having an organic section. The only problem is that the prices on their basic produce items are not competitive with other markets, and one can grab the more special/organic items at the various farmers markets, usually for around the same price or cheaper, and the quality is usually superior. So the accessibility of BF's strength, since they are a brick & mortar with regular hours.

                                                          1. re: bulavinaka
                                                            latindancer Jun 24, 2009 07:30 PM

                                                            I agree 100%.
                                                            It's interesting to me that people have a tendency to automatically assume Bristol Farms is much more expensive than other markets.
                                                            Several times I've found their produce to be competitive, if not lower in price than certain items at Whole Foods or even Gelson's.
                                                            I'm very selective when it comes to freshness and there's just no comparison when it comes to consistency at the Bristol Farms I shop at.

                                                            1. re: latindancer
                                                              Cinnamon Jun 24, 2009 08:53 PM

                                                              I'd put them in the general ballpark with Whole Foods and Gelson's though they may have deals on some produce - I do agree it's beautiful but from experience of having price-shopped at Bristol Farms in the produce department, I just think unless it's a one-off of 'must get this for tonight' I'm going to opt for 99 Ranch etc.

                                                              1. re: Cinnamon
                                                                bernardo Jun 25, 2009 11:37 AM

                                                                Hmmm, more than a few cognitive biases in play here -- a tad of choice-supportive bias (the tendency to remember one's choices as better than they actually were) and confirmation bias (the tendency to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms one's preconceptions) perhaps? You just can't convince some folks of finding orange Pellegrino at 99 cents only for 4 cans/$1, incredible Stilton at Grocery Outlet for $4/lb, fresher produce than BF at WC at a fraction of the price, large containers of Earthbound field greens for $1 at 99 cents only, buffo Pinot Noir at $3/bottle from Grocery Outlet, etc, etc. Why, one poster kept insisting I must be mistaken because no decent Pinot could be had for under $10. Fine, less competition for the rest of us.

                                                                1. re: bernardo
                                                                  latindancer Jun 25, 2009 11:36 PM

                                                                  After cutting through the psycho babble your comments gave me pause.
                                                                  The original question, "What do you like at Bristol Farms?" made me begin to think about other things besides the food that I've come to look forward to.
                                                                  For me there are many things about the Bristol Farms where I market.
                                                                  I'm within walking distance. This market is my neighborhood constant. They know my name, they know my family and they are eager to please.
                                                                  I've swapped ideas with personal chefs who market for their clients...it's always fun to see what they're purchasing and what they're planning.
                                                                  The produce is stellar...I've not found anything that compares. The price may be a little more, or a little less depending on what it is, somewhere else but I figure the cost of gas and the drive doesn't pay off in the long run.
                                                                  I love the idea of a market in my neighborhood....there are things that are much more important to me than driving miles and miles to find a deal.
                                                                  When Albertson's took over there was no change at this market...had I not read it somewhere I still wouldn't know it happened.

                                                          2. re: Cinnamon
                                                            bernardo Jun 21, 2009 01:22 PM

                                                            D'accord, just have to believe there are viable alternatives to BF for produce in many areas, not just central OC. BTW I used to shop BF in PV & MB on occasion in the days of yore before the Albertson takeover, when BF was still endowed with a dollop of individuality and a modicum of pizzaz if not sizzle, the chef's meal of the day was often worth anticipating. and many a weekly special softened the blow to the pocketbook. That was then, this is now.

                                                            1. re: bernardo
                                                              latindancer Jun 21, 2009 03:17 PM

                                                              Doheny, apparently, is much different than the other BF.
                                                              I'm reading these threads and the Bristol Farms elsewhere don't seem to compare to the one I'm used to. I've heard this from other foodies and chefs I know who wouldn't think of shopping for produce unless it's BH Bristol or local farmer's market. The meat is incomparable and the seafood is consistently superior to SM Seafood. I do miss the cafe, however, that was in the area of the old Chasen's.
                                                              I've never been in the other locations so I guess I'm lucky.

                                                              1. re: bernardo
                                                                Cinnamon Jun 21, 2009 09:50 PM

                                                                If I'm ever down in your area, I'll try to stop in at that market. I'd already mentioned preference for 99 Ranch produce, and Mitsuwa and a certain Ralph's - and there are tons of other choices around here. What's been in question for me is whether Bristol Farms would be a viable place itself for produce (that is, whether for convenience of proximity I could bring myself to pay what they'd want for things I know I can get for far less elsewhere, even when it's just that I need to pick up one or two items) - not whether there were any viable alternatives TO Bristol Farms. :)

                                                          3. re: Cinnamon
                                                            ElissaInPlaya Jun 24, 2009 03:45 PM

                                                            Have you tried Marina Farms for produce?

                                                            1. re: ElissaInPlaya
                                                              Cinnamon Jun 24, 2009 06:19 PM

                                                              Yes, it's a good option although ideally I'd like to get other grocery shopping done along with produce. I do go there occasionally. And the El Segundo farmer's market is another option.

                                                          4. A5 KOBE Jun 20, 2009 05:08 PM

                                                            Snake River Wagyu Beef Hot Dogs and Ribeye Steaks, and Seafood

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: A5 KOBE
                                                              bulavinaka Jun 20, 2009 05:13 PM

                                                              Snake River Wagyu Beef Hot Dogs - now that's something unique... How would you describe and rate them? Are they usually in the meat case or...? TIA!

                                                              1. re: bulavinaka
                                                                A5 KOBE Jun 20, 2009 05:21 PM

                                                                Usually across the meat case on the ends of the aisles they have those cold cases with different bacons and hams. This is according to the one in Newport Beach.

                                                                Definitely better than any name brand dog but they do cost $8.99 per package/LB.

                                                                Comes 5 per pack and I enjoy them alot. Great taste.

                                                            2. b
                                                              bscheckel Jun 21, 2009 10:21 PM

                                                              They have wonderful brisket in South Pasadena and a beautiful selection of cheeses.

                                                              1. wienermobile Jun 21, 2009 11:21 PM

                                                                They make the best fresh Hamburger buns.

                                                                1. y
                                                                  Yes Please Jun 22, 2009 06:44 PM

                                                                  I go to the one in Westchester as well! And like everyone else has said, the meat is very very good. Seafood too, they have really yummy scallops and shrimp. The large ones! And the dessert counter is great too. I prefer the fruity desserts because the chocolate ones tend to be too sweet. And they have the one thing I never find anywhere. Orange San Pelligrino!!

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