Sunday, May 29, 2011

I Love the Grocery Store

Hooray!  It's Rainier Cherry Season!
For me, going to the grocery store is like taking a six year old to Kay-Bee (well, when Kay-Bee actually was still in business).  I don't see grocery shopping as a chore, but, rather a place to discover new things and get myself a treat.

I tend to gravitate towards stores that put a lot of care into their produce sections, as well as offer whole grain breads, pastas and sides.  Also, stores that offer soy-free vegetarian products and packaged foods that don't have a ton of additives are a plus.

Thus I tend to spend a lot of my quality shopping time at the following places:

Empanadas, mango salsa and vegan crackers!
Grosvenor Market: This is located right next door to us, so bonus points for convenience.  They also have a decent produce section, a great prepared food and deli counter, lots of whole grain products and very helpful staff.  They carry Wild Harvest Organic and Culinary Circle products, both of which are high quality brands.  The downsides - due to its size, selection can be limited, especially when it comes to some of the specialty produce items I like to play with.  Also, they put their grape tomatoes on the wet rack, which is a no-no (never refrigerate whole tomatoes).

Balducci's: We have a Balducci's that's a mile away on foot or about five minutes in the car.  Since I'm vehicularly impaired (read: I don't like to drive), I enjoy walking down there.  Their produce section is incredible - a huge variety of lettuces, greens, and cut and whole fruit.  There are also hard to find tropicals (dragon fruit, mangosteen), as well as golden raspberries.  Their sandwich bar offers a variety of options, and they also have a nice selection of prepared foods, pastas and grains, spices and cheeses.  It's bigger than the Market, but some might consider it to be to small still (I don't personally).  The biggest downside for me is the price - think $9.99 for Cava Grill Crazy Feta Spread, $5.99 for those golden raspberries I love so much.  But, I think it's worth it for an occasional culinary indulgence and for hard to find items.

Whole Foods: We are fortunate to have multiple Whole Foods Markets' in our area, a number of which are metro accessible.  I alternate between the Friendship Heights store (metro accessible) and the brand new Rockville store, with an occasional stop at Dupont or the Kentlands.  Whole Foods carries a number of staples in my kitchen that I can't find elsewhere in my mostly pedestrian state - Westsoy seitan strips, Daiya cheese, Quorn products, Sunshine Burgers, Field Roast Grain Meat Company sausages, Earth Balance soy-free spreads, Vegenaise soy-free mayo, etc. Their produce department is also outstanding, and even bigger than the one at Balducci's.  The Rockville store also a has a neat area where you can buy spices in bulk, so if you only need a few spoonfuls of say, Zatar, you can get as much as you need.  You will pay a premium to shop there versus Safeway or Giant, but given the access to the vegetarian options, it's well worth it to me.

On that note, I did get a few treats last night at Balducci's that I wanted to share:

Rainier Cherries: Rainier Cherries are here!  They are yellow cherries with a blush of red.  I find them to have a lighter and more pleasant flavor than a Bing.  Also, they're super pretty to look at.

Panas Tamal EmapanadasPanas is an emapanadas shop on P Street in Dupont.  They are also available in the prepared foods section at Balducci's.  I tried the Tamal flavor, which has corn, onions, farmer cheese, scallions, and roasted jalapenos.  After five minutes in the toaster, they were ready to eat.  They have a nice kick and the ingredients were very fresh.

Mango Salsa: I'm a sucker for mango anything, so naturally, I couldn't resist Balducci's mango fruit salsa, which has fresh mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, onions and jalapenos.  It had a nice kick and paired well with Mary's Gone Crackers.

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