What was probably one of the worst-kept secrets in Ottawa, American grocer Whole Foods Market officially confirmed their plans in mid-February for a market location at Lansdowne Park. For those who are unfamiliar with Whole Foods, it is a high-end grocery chain offering specialty groceries, organic food, and sustainable fish. With a planned opening in 2014, the store will take up 40,000 square feet.
My previous exposure to Whole Foods was from watching season one of Top Chef Masters. In this series, competing chefs had to purchase all their ingredients from a Whole Foods store, many setting foot into a grocery store for the first time in years. Watching them racing through the store with their shopping carts, the selection of foods and the general appearance of the store itself seemed quite grand. It was not until March 2010 when I visited Toronto that I realized the sheer variety of foods and merchandise available to consumers.
Last March, my girlfriends convinced me to join them for a girls-only spa day in the ritzy Yorkville district in downtown Toronto, an occasion we all saved up for beforehand. After a very relaxing (and expensive) morning of massages, manicures, and pedicures, we decided to stop by Whole Hearth Bakery & Cafe (owned and operated by Whole Foods) for a quick bite and then some shopping at Whole Foods Market.
[These photos were taken this past December. It had changed little.]
The Yorkville location was the first Whole Foods store in Canada. Opened in 2002, it is located on the lower level of Hazelton Lanes Mall. Shoppers are treated to a wonderful bird-eye view of the store as they go down the escalator.
[This photo was taken this past December.]
Since it was winter and I was traveling by car, I decided to pick up some surprise treats for Don. After some careful consideration, I chose to buy fresh bakery, cheese, spreads, and some healthy snacks.
Unless you bring your own bags, all purchases are placed in heavy duty paper bags. Not only can they be re-used several times, they are also perfect for the green bin.
One of the first things I selected was a box of curried cashews made in-house. Although Don is allergic to peanuts, he is very fortunate he can eat other nuts, cashews being his favourite. In keeping with the hot and spicy theme, a small chunk of jalepeno cornbread (also baked in-house) accompanied. For something sweet, a pear pecan loaf for Don to bring to the office to share with his team. How did they all taste? Quite delicious, especially the pear loaf.
The cheese, a hard parmesan found its way into many dishes of pasta. The jar of cashew butter, I would later discover available at any Ottawa supermarket, allowed Don to have his first nut-”butter” and jelly sandwich.
The sweet potato chips were very addictive. The honey graham cookies were not overly sweet, tasting of real honey. But, as Don and I grew up eating the Nabisco brand honey-flavoured Teddy Grahams, we sadly found the more natural tasting honey cookies sadly strange. As a result, it took us a while before we finished the bag.
New Year’s Eve 2010
With the end of 2010 quickly coming to an end, Don and I decided to run away from Ottawa for a few days and celebrate the start of 2011 in Toronto. Wanting to share the “Whole Foods Market” experience, I took Don to the grocery store so long as he took me to my favourite Yorkville restaurant, Pangaea (more on that in a proceeding post). Wanting it to be a surprise, I did not mention what he would find.
Walking Through Whole Foods Market
After overcoming his initial shock at the high prices, a tour was in order.
[Don was shocked that even the bakery was sold $2.99-$3.99 per 60g or 100g.]
[Macarons sold for $1.99/14g]
[Rounds of Eschaugette were on sale at $9.99/100g]
[Seasoned Chicken Wings were on sale for $1.39/100g; Stuffed Turkey breast $3.99/100g; Lamb kofta was on sale for $1.59/100g]
In total, there are ten departments in a typical Whole Foods Market. Its Ottawa store will look quite similar to the one in Yorkville. When it opens in 2014, I am sure it will receive some fanfare.