Trader Joe’s

2014-01-14 15.28.13I hate lines. Seems like every time something new opens in Austin, the whole city goes at once. So now like Pavlov’s dogs we believe if it is really cool, we have to stand in line for it. Deep dark secret, I have never stood in the usual 9am line for Franklin’s. The first time I went was before the lines started and I’m probably one of the damn bloggers that talked about it so much you soon had to queue for the ‘cue. I apologize. I’ve had it a dozen times since then but either at a special event where lines are much shorter or one time I sent an intern. He was always sexting with his girlfriend instead of working anyway. Might as well do it while picking me up some meatopia!

2014-01-14 15.30.03Anyway, the lines a month ago were outside the new Trader Joe’s. As the city gets ready to focus its queue-mania on the new Whole Foods opening at the Domain tomorrow, I took it as an opportunity to check out the much-less-busy but still-very-shiny Trader Joe’s. My one visit prior to today was at a location in Chicago. I was already late to a conference but had to stop in to see the fabled store for myself as well as pick up a couple of bottles of the 2 buck chuck when I ran across it on the way to the hotel.

2014-01-14 15.30.21In case you are not familiar with Trader Joe’s, it is a chain of grocery stores that started in the late 60’s in California. They started dressing the employees in Hawaiian shirts and leis when Tiki fever had gripped the nation and it stuck as the Trader Joe laid back style. They are most famous for high quality, organic and fresh, especially with their in-house brand of products. Many of the Trader Joe’s brand are manufactured under super-secret contract in the same factories where the more expensive, well-known brand name goods are made. Many of the creations are their own and they are not the generic crap. The list of the top 25 Trader Joe’s products is a much anticipated list for those looking for the hottest trend to join in or copy. The Triple Ginger Snaps that tops this years list edged out the fabled Speculoos Cookie Butter that has ruled for several years. Other exotic sounding top products include the Cranberry Goat Cheese Log and the Rosemary Marcona Almonds.

2014-01-14 15.40.58Always popular on the list are the Charles Shaw line of wines launched in 2002. Its easy drinking reputation and $2 price tag soon earned it the nickname 2 Buck Chuck. While it is not a wine you will ever see aging in the cellar of your favorite wine snob, for the ridiculously low price, originally $1.99 now $2.99, you get a not-too-terrible table wine in your favorite hue. It is worth having on hand just for the next time friends drop by that might not appreciate that bottle of Northstar you have been saving for a special occasion.

2014-01-14 15.42.17As you can see from my cart, I picked up goods from each of the food groups: Fruit, Wine, Chocolate, Cheese and Butter. That is what I get for going with no list just to look around. I couldn’t help it. Everything in my basket except the bananas was a house brand at shockingly low prices. It is like shopping at Whole Foods with HEB prices. They also carry a large selection of excellent produce, meats and check out the wall of cheeses!

2014-01-14 15.33.10The current Rollingwood location is on the opposite side of Austin from me but fortunately 2 more possibly bigger stores should be opening downtown and in the Arboretum area sometime in 2014. So while I am waiting on stores to open and the lines to die down at the oyster bar at the new Whole Foods, I guess I will try to figure out which wine goes with cookie butter. I’m guessing the answer is any.

Localvores

eat-localMy boss asked me the other day to send him a list of local farmers market.  Even the Republicans are going local!  OK, granted, this is Austin, notorious for its liberal leanings, so maybe the Hippies have gotten to him.  But hopefully it is because even more mainstream consumers are seeing that the local movement makes sense.

John said he was looking for a good source for grass fed beef.  He said he preferred the taste and was willing to spend a little bit more and eat less meat if it meant he could get better quality.  With his family of four, he said he might not be able to afford to eat that way all the time but he was willing to dedicate part of his food budget to local meat and veggies if he could find them without a huge hassle.

Austin has a ton of options to shop local.  The premier foodie shopping happens at the Austin Farmers Market which has recently moved to 4th and Guadalupe at Republic Square Park on Saturdays from 9AM to 1PM and at the Triangle at 46th and Lamar from 3PM to 7PM.  Here is a link to the rest of the markets in the area.  http://www.austinfarmersmarket.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=49&Itemid=65&lang=en

Another options is to buy a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  One of the farms in Austin that offers this is Rain Lily Farms through Farmhouse Delivery http://www.farmhousedelivery.com/order.html.  For $35 per week or $37 for a biweekly delivery plus a one time $20 set up fee you get a bushel of farm fresh produce either delivered or you can pick it up.  The bushel contains 7-10 items that are the best of the harvest that week.  You do not get to pick the items in the bushel but through Farmhouse you can choose additional products to add to your order like Loncito’s grass fed lamb or Richardson’s Farms ribeye steaks. 

Even a biweekly delivery is a little more produce than I can use as a single householder, so I opt for Greenling Organic Delivery service http://www.greenling.com/.  No weekly commitment and you can order whatever you need for the week.  Delivered to your door!  You can not get any easier than that. 

So come on, Austin.  There is no excuse not to at least explore your local options.  If for no other reason than taste, you cannot beat seasonally harvested fresh produce.    As a baker, I can tell you that the difference between farm fresh eggs and the ones you buy at the grocery store are miles apart in quality.  And as for grassfed meat, try a perfectly seared sirloin from Betsy Ross’ and tell me if you wouldn’t give up a trip to Starbucks once a week to have that on a regular basis.  Local does not have to be painful.

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