Thursday, March 19, 2009

Opening day at Whole Foods Market in Paramus

Vegetables in Whole Foods MarketImage by Masahiro Ihara via Flickr
Vegetables galore at Whole Food Market.


I arrived at the new Paramus store shortly after 10 in the morning and found customers milling about the entrance. 

It had opened at 8 and in two hours, the store had run out of shopping carts. Luckily, I remembered to bring an insulated bag from Trader Joe's and reusable bags from other stores.

Some people call the store Whole Paycheck, because of the perception that it is among the most expensive. But no other store has anywhere near the selection of poultry and meats that are raised on a vegetarian diet without antibiotics and growth hormones. 

Certainly not Fairway in the city; at the Harlem store, you'd be hard put to find much more than Murray's drug-free chicken and organic, grass-fed beef from Australia that fetches more than $20 a pound for the best cuts. 

Berkshire pork? Yeah, we get it once in a while, but don't have it now, the guy behind the Fairway meat counter told me a few of weeks ago.

Great fish counter

Fairway has great fish, but shoppers at Whole Foods in Paramus were mesmerized by an enormous, gorgeous opah from Hawaii that was nestled in the ice -- resembling a tropical fish with its red tail, bright skin colors and huge, clear eye. 

Next to it was a whole monkfish landed in Barnegat Light, one of New Jersey's great fishing ports. 

Yes, there was farmed salmon, which I usually avoid, but these fillets were raised without antibiotics. 

Another unusual offering were fresh, whole sardines from Portugal ($5.99 a pound), which you usually see only at Portuguese fish markets in Newark.

For meat lovers

I moved over to the meat counter, where a long, refrigerated case was completely filled with meat that was raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. Behind the counter was a large cold case with dry-aged beef. 

I bought six center cut pork chops for $4.99 a pound (on sale). I was looking for a rack of fully cooked St. Louis-style pork ribs in sauce from the Niman Ranch that I bought at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago for $5.99 a pound. 

Whole Foods had smaller sections for $7.99 a pound. I passed. I did find turkey necks, again without antibiotics, for $1.99 a pound, and ground venison from New Zealand that I sampled a few minutes earlier. Delicious.

Prepared food

What you notice at Whole Foods is all the food that is being prepared before your eyes, including four-pound, drug-free chickens in rotisserie cases that are selling for $5.99, a two-week special, and people talking with strangers about food and how it is prepared. 

At the fish counter, I had a brief conversation with another shopper about fishing at the Jersey Shore, triggered by that monkfish.

Near the rotisserie chickens, sushi was bring prepared at a Genji stand and I asked for a tray of eel rolls to avoid the farmed salmon and high-mercury tuna in most of the completed trays. Pricey at $10.49.

Rare cart

Without a cart, it was hard to spend more than an hour in the store, so I headed to the checkout, only to find an empty cart there; I gave it up as soon as I left the store to an employee helping a customer find one. 

All in all, I liked shopping there today and will rely on the store for pure pork and chicken, but I will still have to go to Costco for organic salad greens, wild smoked salmon and other items.
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