Santa Cruz County needs more high-end grocery stores......
I had the good fortune of spending last weekend in San Francisco and am so jealous of their high-end and natural grocery stores. A friend of mine took me to Rainbow Co-op on Folsom. What a food mecca! Their bulk selection of herbs, spices, teas, pasta's, whole grains, nut butters, honey, beans, misos, olives, etc.... is phenomenal. I stocked up.
We then went to the Mission district's Bi-Rite Market where I purchased the best pork chop I have ever eaten. Becker Lane pork is heritage pork that's humanely raised with respect for the animal, and respect for the land. It was a thick chop, about 3" tall and sold for an unbelievable price of $10.99 a lb. The two chops I purchased came to a total of $24.00, and fed four people easily. The chop was well marbled, delivering a rich, old fashioned taste. I haven't tasted a pork chop like that in decades.
Bi-Rite has a nice selection of organic produce mostly from the Santa Cruz and Hollister areas and one of the best deli meats and gourmet cheese selections I've ever seen. They also carry an amazing selection of packaged, marinated meats like Vietnamese pork shoulder, Chipotle rubbed chicken, etc...Their sauerkraut and pickle selection made my mouth water for the traditional bratwursts and imported mustards they also carry.
So why don't we have stores like this in Santa Cruz where so many people are foodies? Not everybody in Santa Cruz is a vegetarian, but even our vegans and vegetarians would appreciate more variety. These two stores, Rainbow Co-op and Bi-Rite Market puts Whole Foods, New Leaf and Shopper's Corner to shame. Our grocery buyers need to hunt for more varietal foods, more sustainable meats and poultry that taste good and a better and varied selection of deli meats and cheeses. I'm especially surprised at New Leaf. I think their buyers should take a field trip north and see what real foodies are eating.
Why don't we have stores like that? Because that is San Francisco and this is Santa Cruz. If there are so many foodies in this county, why aren't there more good restaurants? Why would you be surprised at New Leaf? I'm sure they have a better idea of what their goals are and who their customer base is than we do. Aside from the Westside location, where are they going to fit more expensive or niche products into their little stores?
Look how long it took for Whole Foods to make it's way into town. I too wish that we had a market akin to Bi-Rite, and Berkeley Bowl. I'd be happy with an Asian market as well! We certainly don't need another Italian, Mexican, or Thai restaurant. An authentic bowl of pho, bibimbap, and ramen would be great but Lee's Sandwich couldn't even fly downtown. No choice but to make that drive over the hill.