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...)
Wow! A big thank you to all of you for your insights. I'm sure it will be very helpful. I do plan on going into Seattle proper for some of the farmers markets, bakeries, etc. but that will likely only be a couple times of the month. It will take a while to get comfortable with the respective strengths of each market but that is part of what makes this adventure fun.
Hadn't even thought about Costco. I belonged a long time ago in the Boston area but found the quantities were often too large for a two-person household. Will definitely give it another try though. I'll be in Lynnwood today so the timing is perfect.
It's interesting to compare the selection and prices here to what I experienced in Marblehead. Overall, I'd say that produce is better and cheaper here -- probably due to proximity to the source and lower shipping costs. (I found terrific artichokes at Whole Foods Saturday for $1.50 each. That would have been at least $3.50 back east.) On the other hand, staples seem much more expensive. King Arthur Flour was almost $7 at Metropolitan Market and not much better at Fred Meyer, QFC or Safeway. Found it at Target for under $4 which is comparable to the Boston price. (I bake a lot of bread and go through a lot of flour monthly.)
Still underwhelmed by the meat selection at most places. Metropolitan and WF are the most promising but pricey. What is the general opinion on Bill the Butcher? I recall hearing about an independent butcher in Bellevue as well. Does this ring a bell with anyone?
Really looking forward to the farmers markets and the berries. I belonged to a CSA for years in Marblehead so didn't have to source much locally grown produce myself.
Thanks again. Chowhound is the best!
Small world -- my wife grew up in Marblehead.
If you do a lot of baking and you have the storage space, you'll definitely want to check out the unbleached high-gluten artisan bread flour at Costco Business in the 50 pound bag -- works out to about 30 cents per pound.
Note that regular Costcos have mostly Choice and some Prime, while the Business Centers have mostly Choice and some Select. Your best selection for meats and Seafood may be at Central Market, but they are likely in the same price range as WF and Met. Bill has several locations and I've heard the quality (and prices) are quite high. Not sure about their selection in-stock, but they can likely order anything you need. Don & Joe's at Pike Place is another great place but again, not cheap.
I don't think "Bill" is part of the day to day butcher shops now. I think he sold his interest and it is now a corporate chain. As many othes here have suggested, Costco offers a great selection of truly good choice and prime meats at good prices. Their select beef (as with all select cuts) needs at least three hours braising on the stovetop or in the oven or many hours in your slow cooker. You'll also find great selection at Golden Steer Meats, 15225 Bel-Red Road, Bellevue, 425.746.1910, www.goldensteer.net. Prices match the quality.
One of my go-to places for good local produce during the season is Yakima Fruit Market,
17321 Bothell Way, NE, 425.486.6888, www.yakimafruitmarket.com. This place has been family owned since 1938. It's open from the first Wednesday in March through October. Don't miss the local Skagit Valley berries during the brief (2-3 weeks usually) time they're in the Market. Absolutely yummy!
Should have also mentioned a good independent fish monger, I love Tim's Seafood across the driveway from the QFC in Kirkiland Parkplace. Fish is impecably fresh daily and almost exclusively wild (not farmed). Scallops are the light tan dry pack rather than the snow white wet pack which are injected with preservatives and fluids.
Ivory and red King salmon is readily available although still quite expensive. You don't need huge quantities of this rich fish. You can easily round out the meal with starches and fresh vegetables, Halibut, sole, mahi mahi, black cod, mussels, tiger prawns, ohno and so much more.
Enjoy your searches, redbird, and keep us posted on what you find.
+1 on Fuji Bakery. Excellent quality traditional french viennoserie and some pretty interesting japanese-french fusion offerings (mini brioche "cube" filled with red bean and raspberry....yummmmm)
Although not nearly as clean or as organized, I find I prefer the 99 Ranch down in Renton next to Ikea.
For Asian grocery stores, Uwajimaya is excellent but can be a bit expensive for essentials. Two other ones worth checking out: Jing Jing market in the same strip mall as Top Gun restaurant in Factoria and the other one (forgot the name) is in the strip mall on the southwest corner of 148th and NE 20th in Overlake. Both are less expensive than Uwajimaya and have a broader range of asian (chinese) groceries.
H-Mart in Lynnwood mentioned above is an excellent source for Korean groceries. Their meat selection is especially good. The produce is very good quality (about on par with Uwajimaya IMO) and much less expensive. It's huge so they have a lot of variety.
One other supermarket for Filipino specialties is Seafood City which is oddly enough attached to the Southcenter Mall in Tukwila. Decent meat counter (seems pretty pork oriented) and moderately priced seafood; the selection tends more towards what's cooked in Filipino cuisine.
If you make it into Seattle, Mutual Fish would be my go to choice for a fish market. Uwajimaya in the International District would be a good choice as well.
I really enjoy the Issaquah Farmer's Market (starts this weekend). It blows Bellevie out of the water.
My favorite grocery is Your Local Market across Bellevue Way from Bel Square. It's local and features locally grown produce and meats. It is very community oriented, which I like. It's similar to Whole Foods for 75% of items, with 25% the more familiar brands. For me this = convenience. I get my grass fed beef there as well as veggies grown in Mt. Vernon or closer. Pricing also seems to be more in line with QFC than WF.
I'd suggeset coming to Seattle on Saturday morning's for the University District Farmer's market. My favorite vendor's there are Willie Green's (try the spring arugula!), Stokesberry Farm (chicken sausage), Olsen's (ham), Nash's (their carrots and other root vegetables will blow your mind) and Muir Taki farm for sour cherries in June and squash late in the summer and fall. Also Mt. Townsend cheeses and Skagit River ranch for meat.
You should also try the PCC (Puget Consumer's Co-op) for produce. They are a local institution of amazing quality. You'll never feel the same about Whole Foods again.There is a store in Redmond.
I agree that Met Market is expensive but their meat is the best of any grocery store for routine shopping. It is always amazingly fresh.
Costco = meh for meat or produce in my opinion. Exception for the NZ lamb they have most of the time. It is good for buying some organic staples in bulk (eg, chicken stock, canned tomatoes) and coffee.
If you find a calming sort of familiarity in Asian markets where all the food is really cheap, all the produce / meat is "conventionally grown / raised," and much of the shelves are interesting, pay a visit to Asian Food Center at 148 Ave. and 22nd St.
If the previous qualities are utterly unappealing, it's still excellent for pantry staples (vinegar, sesame oil, dried noodles, hot sauces).
I also like Top. Giant candy section + fun yogurts! There is an existent Farmer's Market near Redmond Town Center.