Just Moved to Redmond from Boston -- Food Shopping Help Please!
Hi, My husband and I have just moved to Redmond from the Boston area for sixteen months due to his job. We've settled in a rented house with a fabulous kitchen so I'm anxious to start cooking with as many local ingredients as possible.
Would my fellow chowhounds fill in me on their favorite sources for great ingredients? Who are your preferred local meat producers, dairies, cheese makers, bread and pastry makers? What local stores and markets do you frequent most? Which farmers markets are considered the best? What about stand alone farm stands? Are there websites and blogs that focus on the Eastside food scene? Where do you go for the best prices on the everyday staples?
In my first week I've visited Metropolitan Market (Kirkland) and Whole Foods, TJ, QFC (three of them), Safeway and Albertsons (all in Redmond). Also found Uwajimaya in Bellevue.
Thank you in advance for any and all advice -- I'm looking forward to this culinary adventure!
Welcome to the area! After a few months here you may find you won't want to leave!
For everyday staples, obviously Costco is best in terms of prices and also quality. There are several regular Costcos on the eastside, and there is a Costco Business Center in Lynnwood, which has different stuff and is worth a visit.
Uwajimaya is fantastic but there is a cheaper Asian grocery store called 99 Ranch -- there is one in Edmonds near the Lynnwood Costco Business Center, so you can make a day of it if you go up there. I do this weekly. They consistently have the best, crispiest, juiciest, most reasonably priced crispy Cantonese Roast Duck in their food court that I've ever had. Not true Peking Duck but close enough. My 12-year-old and I frequently go up there for an early dinner and demolish a whole duck.
TJ's is great but has turned into a place where if you're not hooked on cake, candy, cookies and boxed and frozen processed food, there isn't much there for you. I go there all the time but increasingly come out empty handed. At this point any Costco has a better selection, and better prices, on dairy, deli, wine and cheese, which used to be TJ's specialties.
Met Market is great but heart-stoppingly expensive. QFC is more reasonable and they have some great sales, but regular grocery-shelf items are still pretty steep there. Safeway and Albertson's are low-end, but okay for canned and boxed staples. Albertson's does well with produce that's sourced locally as they are based in the Northwest. Stone fruits are especially good. I would avoid the meat and seafood.
Another good place for pantry staples and the occasional fresh produce sale is called Fred Meyer, and odd sort of hybrid everything store that's owned by the same people as QFC (Kroger).
There's another terrific chain in the area called Central Market. The closest locations to you are in Mill Creek and Shoreline. They have incredible produce, seafood and meats. Groceries are ungodly expensive but if you need oddball ingredients or very high-quality fresh stuff, they are the place to go -- just like a huge Pike Place Market under one roof.
One other chain, Top Foods/Haggen (same) happens to have a very good bakery for a supermarket. Huge selection and always very fresh. A huge surprise to me.
A recent article in the Times suggested a strategy for getting the most bang for your buck -- get everything you can at Costco, then go to Fred Meyer and get everything else there, and what they don't have, go to Top, Safeway and Albertson's. Shop at QFC for their specials but don't buy anything else.
For really great bargains you should check out Big Lots and Grocery Outlet. They have oddball discontinued stuff but the occasional gem. There is one of each in Lynnwood and I usually hit those on my Costco Business/99 Ranch loop. There is also another Restaurant Supply place in that area called Cash & Carry that serves as a good complement to Costco Business. There are multiple locations of all these last three but they're all in the same area if you decide to venture into Lynnwood/Edmonds.
Obviously you will want to check out Pike Place Market, but go early in the day, early in the week, and avoid at all costs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Their Big Board Buy prices are generally pretty good. But note I was specifically referring to Grocery items (the stuff in the middle aisles of the store) which are usually double everyone else's regular prices.
But I do love the place anyhow. They do have some good buys, particularly in their bulk foods sections, but to pay three bucks for a can of tomatoes -- or thirty bucks a pound for salmon and twenty a pound for lobster -- is the very definition of ungodly.
You've nailed most of the food places in the Redmond area. Haggen in Bellevue would also be worth going, though for that price point Whole Foods is probably better. (Off topic - Haggen is based in Bellingham near the Canadian border. Why does everyone there pronounce it "Hagen's" as if there's only one "G"? It seems like people are doing it down here now as well).
Bellevue and Redmond have farmers markets in late spring and summer. Though the ones across the pond (Ballard esp.) have better selection.
For bread, I like going to Columbia City Bakery, Macrina, Grand Central (I think WF carries at least Macrina and Grand Central if you don't feel like crossing the bridge).
Fred Meyer, as mentioned, has above average quality for produce for their price point (Safeway / Kroger) and plus you can get pretty much anything else you can think of while you're there.
Also, Redmond / Bellevue has several smaller Indian and Asian groceries too should you need specialty items.
Check out the Puget Sound Fresh website. They have a list of every farmer's market in the county (it seems like most Eastside towns have one, though I don't know how good they are), as well as lists of U pick farms and farmstands (many of which will be on the Eastside, esp in the Snoqualmie Valley area, and there are some in Redmond).
Besides the other stores mentioned, there is chain of co-ops called PCC Natural Markets, and they have stores in Redmond and Kirkland. I don't love PCC anymore, but since there's one in Redmond, you should probably check it out at some point. You've already visited the chains so you've probably already decided what you like and what you don't, but I'll throw out the fact that I think Safeway and Albertson's are nasty. I do not think you find quality products there.
All of my favorite markets, cheese shops, etc etc, are in Seattle, so I'm not sure that helps you. Do try to get in to town sometimes, and visit the Ballard Farmer's Market (Sundays), Melrose Market, Pike Place of course (it's almost cruise ship season so expect horrid crowds there through the end of summer). The Uwajimaya in Seattle's International District is much larger than the one in Bellevue. There are quite a few great pastry shops and bakeries in Seattle--try to check out Bakery Nouveau in West Seattle, Cafe Besalu and Honore in Ballard and Dahlia Bakery in Belltown.
I'm no fan of either Safeway or Albertson's, either. Their meats and produce are generally lousy. There's one exception, though: Albertson's is one of the few remaining moderately-priced local stores (that is, excluding Metropolitan Market and the like) that hasn't fallen to the Boar's Head juggernaut. Their service deli still carries Dietz & Watson meats, which I like far better. QFC and Fred Meyer used to carry Boar's Head and other brands as well, but Boar's Head likes to lay exclusive claim to a store's deli counter, and at a lot of stores, they've won.
Crossroads Mall is a pretty good stop. They have a Farmer's Market May-Oct. they have a QFC and Top Foods which are both pretty good. The French Bakery there near QFC is also worth a stop. The Cultural Crossroads event is a fun time in Fall.
The Fred Meyer is a good place for good prices on day to day items and Fred Meyer stores in general have a surprisingly good wine section at good prices. The big one at 148th is great and also near some good side trip dining. Sichuanese Cuisine across the street by Sears or Udupi Cafe right around the mall corner from Freddie's. It's the place where one side of the street is Redmond and the other is Bellevue.
Any Cash n Carry is good for dairy. 1/2 and 1/2 or heavy cream for half the price of the grocery stores. Great place to pick up the King Oscar sardines on the cheap and good quality coconut milk is a bargain. Stash or Bigelow teas, Dave's Killer bread, fresh mozzarella, and stuff like green peppers, cauliflower, cabbage are all great bargains.
I'm also a big fan of Costco for a lot of items: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, smoked paprika, eggs, cheeses. While the selection is more limited they have some good beers for bargain prices. The meat at Costco is IMO much better than most grocery stores and they have Prime beef. I've bought the prime grade rib steaks and roast which are excellent but the prime sirloin is the best bang for your buck. The choice meat is what I usually get and it's much better than the meat at Fred Meyer, QFC, Safeway. The chicken breast or thighs either regular or Organic are much better priced than the grocery stores. Get the French butter with sea salt crystals, it's worth the price.
Metropolitan Market can be good if you kind of stick to the sale items. The do have a good seafood department and a good meat department with grass fed and wagyu. They have been having a good price on Pomi Italian tomatoes in a tetra pack for quite a while and they are really good. The snake river farms kurobuta ham they carry is great. They also try to support local suppliers so you are more likely to find local gourmet items: Hempler's ham, bacon, sausages and deli meats, Snoqualmie and Whidbey ice cream [try the Snoqualmie Mukilteo Mud].
Uwajimaya is my other favorite for seafood [one of the only place I feel I can get really consistent quality fresh seafood] and all the Asian items I really need. They also have good meat and it's great to get thin sliced meat for sukiyaki or hot pot. Uwajimaya is a great place to get sausage at a good price. They have Hempler's lower than others in the area. The andouille is good. The Taylor's chorizo is very good. The Fall's Brand Basque chorizo is another good one. Not a huge selection but they have some good stuff for a couple bucks less than the other places and I have not idea why. Produce quality is good. The Memorial Day weekend BBQ is worth a stop. not gourmet but it's fun. They usually have Kobe beef burgers for about $3 more well done than I like but still pretty good and totally worth $3. They also often have kalbi ribs and a grilled mackerel plates for about $4. It's not worth a trip out of your way but it you are near the store that weekend it's a nice lunch while you are shopping.
>>>[try the Snoqualmie Mukilteo Mud].<<<
Ooh, good call! I'd forgotten to mention that. Snoqualmie Ice Cream's Mukilteo Mudd -- their cute name for their regular chocolate ice cream -- may be the best ice cream I've ever had. Intensely dark and chocolately, not too sweet, not too bitter. The best ever, I think, way better than B&J's, which I always think are way too sweet.
I can't help much with the East side per se, but you should visit Big John's PFI (the retail location of Pacific Food Importers, wholesaler and purveyor to a number of local stores and restaurants) for anything imported in bulk (cheeses, olives, flours, specialty canned goods, dried pastas, etc. etc.) Seriously, it's worth the drive from Redmond; I'm not aware of any other outlet like it. (http://www.bigjohnspfiseattle.com/)
I also buy my spices at World Spice Merchants (just west of Pike Place) whenever I can - in my experience their product is usually much fresher than what's in the bulk section of the supermarket (or those wretched little pre-packaged jars...)