06 September 2008

Venice Whole Foods Market is finally OPEN


The Venice Whole Foods is now open for business and it is huge. With a wine tasting bar, make your own peanut butter section and an in-store smokehouse, there are a lot of new and exciting foods to get from this store. But the real question is - how local is it?

For me, the ultimate local aspect is the store itself. It is about a 10 minute walk and will hopefully soon increase my walkscore (check out how walkable your neighborhood rates). Lets get down to the products. The sign BUY LOCAL was in almost every aisle, but you had to keep your eyes peeled. Here are the ones that stood out to me.

Produce: Everything from apples to greens to fruit was local California. It wasn't all organic, but there were plenty of local options.

Fish: Based on their signage I saw NO local fish. I'll have to stick to the Farmer's Market or Santa Monica Seafood for that.

Meat: Mary's Free Range (Fresno) chickens could be purchased whole or by the part. There were also prepared chickens.

Wine: An entire section of the wine department was dedicated to local wine. Some were from wineries I had been to in Santa Barbara, such as Beckman Vineyards. Among many brands they sold San Antonio Winery (Napa Valley) and Red Truck (Sonoma). The price of wine seems to stay consistent and only goes up in price because of quality not origin.

Dairy: Straus Family Creamers is sold in most Whole Foods Markets around here and comes direct from just 60 miles north of San Francisco. Plus the glass bottles are reusable - $1.50 deposit. And there is a local option for eggs: Chino Valley Ranchers.

Frozen Pizza - Full of Life (Los Alamos) Flatbread uses all local organic ingredients within a 400 miles radius. And I found a new company, Vicoli. They come from Hayward, CA. I haven't tried their product, but it looks tasty.

Cheese - One of my personal favorite items in the store. There are a bevvy of local options including, Cypress Grove (Arcata), Winchester Cheese Company (Winchester), Vella Cheese (Sonoma), and Point Reyes Farmstead (Point Reyes Station). As you can see, just like wine all of these local options are from North of Los Angeles.

Condiments - Alexander Valley Pickles (Healdsburg) look tasty and are packaged in recycled plastic containers. There were several dressings/marinades/sauces that were local vendors, but unfortunately none of them were made with local ingredients.

Honey - Honey Pacifica (SoCal) sells several flavored honey varietals, along with the classic that comes in a pour bottle.

Aside from their products the VWFM is doing a lot for the local community. If you shop on September 10th, 5% of your grocery purchases go to the Venice Family Clinic. Also before it opened I was invited to tour the store. Once on the tour I found out all of the local Venice non-profit organizations had been invited. WFM is not looking to take over our community, but instead they want to be welcomed in and give back. It might sound a little cheesy since it is a big corporation, but the idea is in the right place. Hey, even the guy who runs the Venice Farmer's Market was on the tour.

The only downside - the whole neighborhood got the memo. Donny and I went the first night it opened and the bike stand was packed. I couldn't believe how many people were walking around, but it just goes to show how much we needed/wanted it.

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