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Whole Foods Market

In a word: Not really digging this Whole.

The specs: #0738  
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Yum Butter, Yelp; Facebook, official web site.

Latest Whole Foods Market news and reviews

JM and Nichole each got lunch at the deli bar plus a piece of cake, a bit of cheese, a jar of plain YumButter peanut butter, and game snacks (a tub of two-bite brownies and some bulk wasabi peas and rice crackers).
The bill was $45 (thanks for the 1/2 price voucher, LivingSocial!)
JM and Nichole gave Whole Foods a B- (see our grading rubric).

So we'd never shopped at a Whole Foods before. Those of you that do, where is their sweet spot? How does a savvy shopper make the most of it? Please share in the comments, because we're not sure we found out with our prepped deli food and snacks - luxury food from what we've always seen as a luxury grocery store.

Whole Foods haul

Anyway, deli food is $7.99 per pound. For Sunday lunch, Nichole got some balsamic beets, baked sweet potatoes, raw cukes, vegan Mediterranean kale salad, zucchini au gratin, poached chicken and mushrooms, and couscous. It was more interesting to eat than to read about, trust her.

JM got the mac & cheese, mashed potatoes, and a piece of beef brisket. It was just fine. The brisket was tasty, though he prefers Noodles' mac & cheese. The potatoes were whipped smooth and pretty good.

After lunch we headed to a friend's house to play Dwarf King, Elder Sign, Focus, and Hey! That's My Fish. The game snacks went over well - though the WF store brand brownie bites were about what you'd get at Copps (dry nubbins). Bulk-bin rice crackers were salty and coated in an umami glaze, the wasabi peas not overly hot (but very tasty with a Crispin cider - thanks, D!)

For dinner, some smoked cheddar from WF's impressive cheese counter was delicious broiled on open-faced sandwiches with UFC deli meats and Sheboygan-style rolls (thanks, S&B!)

The next day we split the slice of salted caramel cake from WF's bakery case. It was three layers of pound-cake consistency pastry and a fairly bland frosting. Sharing that slice taught us a lot about what the other considers "dryness" in cake (him: more dry than a Twinkie = too dry; her: loves crusty leftover birthday cake smooshed in a bowl with milk. Neither of us is proud but at least we are honest.)

So while it was fun to stretch out this visit and share the bounty, when we looked at Whole Foods as a "restaurant," we couldn't find much reason to pay a premium for what is basically a schmancier Copps salad bar and processed snacks available at Wal Mart. We think we saved a buck over YumButter's farmers market price (that stuff is delicious, by the way). Even that, though, is an extra dollar we're willing to give directly to a local producer.

Comments

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I shop at Whole Foods twice a month, but I tend to get certain staples there, like olive oil, vitamins, and coffee. If I'm there, I almost always grab lunch from their buffet, which I really like. It's also a good opportunity for me to try something new and different to see if I'd like to make it myself or order something similar at a restaurant.

For the most part, I do all of my regular grocery shopping at Brennan's Market. I recommend the Mineral Point location if you're looking for service (good cheese and wine recommendations).

I go to Whole Foods once in a while, mainly because it's walkable from our house and because they take #5 plastics for recycling. My favorite indulgence is their strawberry shortcake from the bakery. They have a few good value items, but you have to search for them-- my favorite cereal is cheapest at Whole Foods (even less than Woodman's), and their 365 peanut butter is a good deal too.

They're the only place I've seen that carries Rushing Waters (Palmyra, WI) smoked trout spread. It's ridiculously good.

In general, Whole Foods can be counted on if you really need quality produce and a farmers' market isn't readily available, or if you've got a party to go to and didn't have time to make that dessert you said you'd bring; their fruit tarts always go over well.

I like their lump charcoal quite a bit, too.

The last time I was in the Whole Foods on University I was waiting at the meat counter when a tiny man in a very expensive suit stepped in front of me and proceeded to request some steaks just as the butcher was approaching. Not the first time something like that had happened to me in a Whole Foods, but easily the most blatantly rude.

When I pointed out that I had been waiting for the same service before he arrived he explained that he was in a hurry and I would simply need to get over it. I don't think he understood just how close he came to suffering significant injury that day.

Great meat, worth the extra expense, but that was the last straw for me and Whole Foods. I don't have a temperment that's compatible with some of their more aggressive shoppers, and those people seem to be a mainstay at WF outlets all over the country.

Definitely the most bourgeosie place to shop for food. That said, their ingredients are incredible, and incredibly expensive. Agreed about their prepared counter which is basically decent yet extremely overpriced. Their empanadas are a revelation, for some reason, but don't buy them unless they're on one of those half off sales. Pasta salads are a nice option on the run and usually filling, less expensive, and easy to digest.

WF in Madison can be a source for hard-to-find ingredients. For example, Whole Foods carries cans of truly spicy Hatch NM green chiles. Cannot locate these fresh or frozen or canned elsewhere in this county -- though I have tried supermarkets, supermercados and small ethnic grocers. Plenty of mild canned green chiles (meh) and other types of generic fresh hot peppers are around, but Anaheims and jalapenos are NOT a substitute for this elusive flavor.

During the market's first year or so in town, they sold a killer dark chocolate-covered ginger in their bulk bins. Yum. Don't know if it is still stocked.

IMHO the Whole Foods stores in the Chicago area and especially the mothership store in Austin, TX have more variety and much better inventories, including prepared foods.

My mom is from New Mexico and loves Hatch green chiles as well. My parents have been able to find them at the Target in Sun Prairie in the past, but not at the Janesville store where they live. Not sure if they still have them, but it is worth a shot.

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