Sunday, November 23, 2008

Now THAT'S a Grocery Store

If you're from the Northeast then you've probably heard of a little slice of foodie heaven that goes by the name of Wegmans. Hailing from Rochester, NY, this 'grocery store'--although I find it blasphemous to refer to this jewel as such-- has now spurted up in several locals around the Northeast.

The interior, seen above, is pristine and beautifully decorated. It's calming and a joy to do your weekly food biddings in such an environment. It stands in stark contrast to the cold, uninteresting, unimaginative, and, frankly, boring options presented by other grocery stores. Wegmans stands in a league all its own.

They make their money in the prepared foods section with an Asian/Indian Bar, Soups, Sushi, Crabs, meals to go, pastries, oyster bar, etc. It's not your typical prepared foods section if you couldn't tell. This enables them to lower their prices on your day to day foods-- canned products, produce, rice, cereals, etc. And the cheese section. My Lord. Gruyere, fontina, pecorino romano, parmigiana reggiano, brie (3 different varieties, in fact), feta. I could go on and on. They actually send representatives from the cheese departments of their various stores to visit the producers in France and Italy and wherever else it's produced. Wegmans knows who produces their cheeses and just how it's done. Not to mention they have the best variety available. While some stores have one brand and one size of pumpkin puree available, Wegmans has fully stocked aisles of multiple brands, sizes, and options.

About this variety thing. At a recent outing for ingredients at Whole Foods I found myself highly disappointed in the options, or lack thereof. I needed shells for a stuff shells dish I was making that night and Whole Foods had not a box in sight. And no, they weren't out of stock-- they simply didn't carry it. I understand that not everyone has an olive and hummus bar with dolmas like Wegmans, but this is shell pasta for crying out loud. Italian food is very much intermingled with American cuisine and culture. And you're telling me you do NOT have shell pasta?! Oh, and ricotta. One tub available in one size. No whole milk, part-skim options. If there's one thing I hate, it's my grocery store dictating how I'll be cooking that evening.
I appreciate Whole Foods' approach to wholesome and organic fare, but veritable options cannot be sacrificed entirely for quality. And I don't believe organic beans need to be triple the cost of normal canned beans. That is what turns so many families away from this organic 'trend'. While I don't find it to be a trend, it does need to include a selection of high quality ingredients to be sustainable.

In case you're not sold yet: Wegmans is reducing prices in this challenging economic environment to 'put...customers' needs first'. How about that for a grocery store?

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