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Jul 17, 2012 03:53 PM

Place for organic bulk foods in Silicon Valley?

I've just moved to Mountain View from Austin, and I try to buy my staples from the bulk section as much as possible. I've been to Sprouts, Whole Foods, Nob Hill, and a few other small stores, and the selection of bulk foods has been surprisingly bad. I can understand mustard powder not being available on every street corner, but the WF in Los Altos not even stocking bulk peanuts or bread flour??

I know I got spoiled in Austin, with the gigantic mothership WF being a mile from my house, but still. Can any chowhounds out there give me the inside scoop (haha) on where to find the best bulk selections -- preferably organic -- in Silicon Valley? Or am I doomed to have to go to Berkeley Bowl or Rainbow Grocery for such things?

Thank you!

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  1. I agree that the WFs in this area give lie to the name. WF made a conscious decision to emphasize prepared, ready-to-eat foods and eliminate or reduce bulk products in its expansion here.

    Not something I've paid attention to, but I wonder if the Sigona's store in Redwood City or the smaller one in Stanford shopping center have much in the way of bulk products. I know you can get bulk olive oil there.

    You'll want to keep an eye on the soon to open Miki's Farm Fresh Market in Palo Alto. The owner is ex-Berkeley Bowl/Monterey Market. Maybe send him a note pre-opening that you want more bulk goods?

    5 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      The Sigona's store in the Stanford shopping center has many bins of dried fruit and some nuts, but no real ingredients such as beans or flour. I really like Willows Market on Middlefield road in Menlo Park, but it doesn't have bulk items. (It does have organic produce and quite a selection of beer, chocolate, and some good imported groceries.)

      It's interesting that you say the WFs in the area deliberately emphasize prepared food. I've noticed that at other places such as the Safeway on Sand Hill Road. I recently bought some sausages at Schaub's in the Stanford shopping center (inspired by the Chron article on sausages) and was amused to see frozen stuffed baked potatoes! They looked like brains. A whole lot of people just don't cook. My son's interning at a place that gets lunch delivered from a restaurant every day. Can't anyone make a sandwich?

      1. re: Glencora

        Actually Sigona's in the stanford mall does have beans and flour in bulk - right by the cash registers near the olive oils - not where the bulk nuts and fruit are...

        And right now there is 20% off the bins/bulk area at Whole Foods....

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Thanks, Melanie - I remember him from Monterey Market, nice guy - good luck to him!

      2. After a number of years in Mountain View in the wake of many more in SF, I look forward to trips to SF just because I know I'll get to go to Rainbow, both for the pleasure of being there and to stock up on all sorts of things I'm not likely to find in the south bay. It's a good excuse to make the trip up to those spots fairly regularly. I wish we had places like that in Mountain View and environs, but that's just not what it's like here.

        I'm looking forward to seeing what Miki's turns out to be. It could be a great addition.

        How's Mountain View after living in Austin?

        1 Reply
        1. re: maigre

          Thanks for the info, everyone! I've emailed the Miki folks asking about bulk, and will check out Sigona.

          As for Austin vs. Mountain View (and I'll keep it food-based, lest I come off like a boor), I know it's unfair to expect that the South Bay is going to be on par with Austin or SF, but I was so in love with the food scene in Austin (especially what has been popping up in the last few years), with all the amazing food trucks and unpretentious eateries serving innovative, affordable, locally sourced fare, new farmer's markets, etc. And going back to the bulk food issue, I can't wait to visit Austin in September and visit In.gredients, the country's first and only package-free/zero waste grocery store: !!

        2. I haven't been down that way for awhile, but there is, or maybe was, an overpriced health food store on California St. in Palo Alto that had lots of bulk stuff that was less overpriced. It was kind of a mini WF, called Sunshine or Sunflower or something like that. Right near the California St. Caltrain station.

          2 Replies
          1. re: JoyM

            It's called Country Sun Health Foods on California Ave

            1. re: takuhead

              It's a pretty good store, but, yes, quite expensive. The local Whole Foods have brought a lot to the area given the dearth of certain things down this way, foodwise, but I feel bad for a store like this that's probably taken a pretty serious beating as a result. I'm impressed that they've managed to keep things going given the lack of crowds in the store. I hope they can keep it going.

              Was anyone there in the more distant past? I probably never went there before ten years ago? What was it like then? It maintains a mildly hippieish vibe, a good thing since it's something distinctly missing from the area.

          2. The Cupertino Whole Foods is very big, bigger than any of the others, AFAIK, in the general area, though not so big as the flagship store. They might have a wider selection than Los Altos.

            For some reason, lots of WFs, at least around here, don't stock organic peanuts with the rest of the bulk items. You have to get them out of the machines that dispense fresh peanut butter. When I need to do that, I always get someone who works there to help so as not to give the impression of desanitizing the peanuts.

            1. Try the Milk Pail at 2585 California Street in Mountain View. They have several bins of bulk items, but I don't know about organic, likely not. Very friendly, good produce.