We were lucky enough to join in on the Blogger Sneak Peek of the new Whole Foods Market in Friendship Heights one day before its public unveiling. This sparkling new store is located just off the Friendship Heights Metro stop making it convenient for all of you Red Liners out there.
If you're like us and are used to shopping at DC's P Street Whole Foods, the first thing you'll notice about Friendship Heights is that it is BIG. Lots of space in the aisles and plenty of room to maneuver.
Immediately upon entering, you'll see the coffee bar that opens at 6:00 a.m. daily for your very early morning coffee and breakfast needs. If you happen to crave gelato and fancy house-made popsicles for breakfast, you're in luck. I'm happy to report that I was able to refrain from breaking into the gelato case... at least on this visit.
We're told the coffee bar will also serve up hearty oatmeal with a variety of toppings. I don't know about you, but I can eat oatmeal every day of the week.
Have a recipe that calls for a hard-to-find nut? They've got you covered with bins and bins of nuts and even a make-your-own nut butter station. Would it be bad form to stick my mouth under the chocolate chip peanut butter machine?
The produce department was fully stocked with beautifully stacked fruit. Jill, our enthusiastic tour guide, explained the Whole Foods "Whole Trade" program that ensures that suppliers meet tough standards regarding working and environmental conditions.
We drooled over the specialty department which featured everything from cheese from around the world to chutney made by a local Virginia family.
Unique to this store is a specialty salt bar where you can fill your own bag with fancy salts that promise to liven up even the most ordinary dish.
Also in the specialty department is a fresh pasta station serving family-owned Severino Pasta. That is Pete Severino telling us about the yummy pasta and sauce combos that will be available.
In the prepared foods section, I was excited to learn that they have implemented a $7.99 flat rate box that you can stuff to the brim (as long as it closes). Gone are the days of spending $15 on the salad bar because you have a fondness for the heavy items such as quinoa (speaking from personal experience here). Woo hoo!
One department that I often overlook is the Whole Body section. After seeing the locally-made soaps and huge variety of natural body products, I'm tempted to start purchasing my bath products here.
Like yogurt? This was the most comprehensive selection of yogurt I have ever seen. Forget that HFCS crap. This is the real deal.
In the meat department we learned about the new Whole Foods meat rating system that grades suppliers on the way that they treat the animals. A "1" means the animals are not kept in crates and a "5" means they live in luxury penthouses with limo service. Or something like that.
In the seafood market we learned how service-oriented this department is. Only cooking for one? Ask the fish monger to cut you a 4 oz piece of fish. They'll cut it any way you want it and every purchase comes with a free marinade. They've also partnered with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute to develop a color coded system to ensure that you know that the seafood you are buying is sustainable.
For me, the highlight of the tour was the bakery section. Not only did we get to taste selections from the bulk candy bar and freshly baked brioche, we got to marvel at the gorgeous cakes and baked goods.
Loved the quote on the sign in the bakery that reads: "Research tells us fourteen out of any ten individuals likes chocolate."
And the best for last . . . the Friendship Heights store has implemented a "New York style" checkout system where one line feeds into a bunch of registers and computer screens tell you which register is ready for you. If you shop at the Trader Joe's in Foggy Bottom, you've probably realized that this way of checking out is light years better than the individual lines you find at most stores. No more picking the longest line!
Getting to chat with the Whole Foods staff gave me a new appreciation for the company and their commitment to selling high quality food. While Friendship Heights is a bit of a trek for every day grocery needs (which you can read about here), I would love to stop in and visit (and get some chocolate chip peanut butter and popsicles) when we're in the neighborhood.
Second Thoughts from B
If you couldn't tell by now, J drank from the Whole Foods Kool Aid and liked it... the local and organic Kool Aid, that is.
It was like being a kid in a candy, er, grocery store. A really beautiful facility which was smartly presented to us. Still, in the long run, what did I learn? Not much more than what I already knew... Whole Foods serves great products in a great environment. They emphasize local and organic foods along with customer service. And of course, you pay a premium for the pleasure of avoiding Giant. Basically, they are the Nordstrom of grocery stores (that's high praise coming from me).
So will the experience change behavior? Maybe. I'm now far more aware of the services that Whole Foods offers and convinced that the Friendship Heights location is a jewel among their stores. Would I make a point to drive 30 minutes when I have another store within walking distance? Perhaps no. Would I plan a shopping trip to coincide with another venture out to Friendship Heights? Absolutely.