Saturday, July 11, 2009

A newcomer's review of local groceries

As a sort-of-foodie (claiming full-blown foodie status is a bit much for someone who actually enjoys boxed shells-and-cheese), finding a grocery routine to replace my Austin routine has been hard. Central Market in Austin was my reliable stop. It, partnered with Costco, Whole Foods, the farmer's market, and local grocery, provided perfectly for my family.

Now. Where to go? How to feed my family? My review of some groceries in the western Boston burbs:

Trader Joe's. Love. Love. Love. I don't think I've bought anything from Trader Joe's that's disappointed. We love their boxed shells and cheese, hummus, frozen dumplings, deli cheese, Joe Joe's cookies, pasta sauce, salsa, tortillas, cereal, etc. The cons? It's small. In one shop particularly, the aisles are so tight that it's difficult to negotiate (especially when one has multiple children clustered about the cart). The shops closest to me don't sell alcohol. The produce section is small and doesn't offer much variety.

Speaking of produce, that leads me to A Russo & Sons in Watertown. Ah...the classic love/hate relationship. What a delectable assortment of produce! Not as many exotic fruits as my old love Central Market carried, but an even better variety of Asian vegetables. And fresh flowers and plants splash colorfully across the entrance. Enticing. But the traffic flow! I thought the Austin downtown Whole Foods had a confusing layout (I never did get the hang of that place...even after countless visits). The store is (again) small and crammed with a jumble of aisles. The aisles are so narrow that in spots, it is difficult for two carts to pass. There is no defined flow (well...not that I could figure out) so it's a headache-inducing struggle to get through the store. I'd bet that it would be less headache-inducing without the three children, but...well...with no preschool/babysitter, it is what it is. Having said that, I still stop there at least every couple of weeks and load up on produce.

And Costco. I discovered that each Costco has slightly different merchandise. I was so disappointed with the Dedham store. I had relied on my Costco for a variety of organic foodstuffs, including pasta, canned tomatoes, soups, and chicken. The Dedham store had none of these. I luckily discovered the Waltham store which at least had the organic chicken breasts and thighs. Whew! Other than that, it doesn't have much organic food at all, leading me to believe that Austin, unlike Boston, must really purchase organics.

Baza. What a great little local market. And fun to hear a Russian greeting or good-bye. But aside from the exotic flavor, we've bought our favorite salami, decent deli meats, and breads. A nice place to stop by for last-minute menu fillers.

What about Shaws? Stop and Shop? I'm embarrassed to admit that I haven't gone to them yet. I rarely shopped the regular grocery stores in Austin so I've carried that habit here. I'll probably stop by one soon.

Note the recurring theme through this blog is the use of the adjective "little." I've come to realize that there will be no Central Market here. That giant purveyor of gourmet produce, wines/beers, bakery, deli/cheeses/meats/seafood, bath and body care, dry goods, snacks, and so on. It's a different culture. A different use of land. Smaller places. Smaller spaces. But thankfully not smaller taste.


  1. We have Whole Foods here too, you know! You'll find plenty of organics there.

  2. Thanks, Karen! I love Whole Foods, but I'm always a bit shocked by the cost. I should stop by our local one more often. We don't have Trader Joe's in Austin. I wonder if that's one reason the Austin Costcos offer such a large organic selection. I'm looking forward to exploring the possibilities of local farmer's markets and CSAs here too.


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