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My mind is blown.
Tonight while I was waiting for a sample of the Black Mission Fig gelato at the new Lower East Side Whole Foods, this girl behind me said aloud, "Yum-meeeee." She was exclaiming to herself, but she definitely spoke the minds of everyone around.
My store, all 71,000 square feet of it, opened today, and I gleefully went an hour before closing time to check it out. I practically skipped towards the large, green glowing sign on Houston St. Inside, it was a lot to take in at once. Along with the Il Laboratorio stand, there's a section for homemade granola and hand-spiced nuts, and next to it, an extensive chocolate counter with at least three kinds of Turkish Delight and a larger selection of handmade chocolates and truffles than the other stores.
Whole Foods has definitely latched on to NYC's recent barbecue craze with a bar devoted to it and all its fixins. There was pork and chicken, ribs and loose, plus three kinds of chili with all the right toppings. I started to get out a pad to note the different chilis, but then decided to revel in the glory of the moment. I sound like I just got saved. And maybe I have been.
Two more unique areas in the store are the pickle station and the Fromagerie. A wide variety of Rick's Picks and a few of Gus' Pickles were bucketed up and ready to be tonged out. The Fromagerie contains whole wheels of cheese, and a serviced yogurt and butter bar. You want your fresh butter mixed with truffle salt? Just say so and a nice team member will mix it up for you on the spot.
I'm not sure how popular this service will be, so just in case it isn't there next time (who am I kidding, I'll be back on Saturday at the latest!), I felt the need to order a parfait. I didn't catch the name of the upstate New York yogurt producer, but apparently they only strain their yogurt for Whole Foods. The parfait was topped with silky canned peaches and fresh berries, and I asked for a sprinkle of truffle salt just for kicks. Amazingly, I wasn't charged the $5.99 that the parfait ended up costing. Again, not so sure this feature will make it. The yogurt was tarter than the Fage brand I usually eat, but also thicker and creamier. At home I added more of my own truffle salt and some honey, plus a little of the granola.
Unlike so many other things in NYC, shopping at this new store is going to be easy. The aisles are astonishingly wide and the ceilings are high. It will readily handle the masses who yearn to eat organic. And, there's seating and classrooms upstairs.
As excited as I am about the store, I also wonder how it will affect the small neighborhood businesses. Will Whole Foods do LES better than the LES? For example, there's also a pommes frites stand, which clearly pays homage to Pommes Frites, the much-loved chip shop on 2nd Ave. Will the pommes frites stand draw dollars away from yet another local business by emulating it? Or will Whole Foods' presence bring even more traffic to the neighborhood, therefore benefiting all?
Lastly, I wonder if there's an explanation for the graffiti over the logo that's next to the main exit. Are they trying to show they're down with the LES by tagging themselves? My check out lady couldn't answer that one. She did say it was a little less busy than she'd expected today, but I think people were probably scared to go on the first day.
I, however, have no fear of Whole Foods. Only love, and a belly full of expensive, truffled yogurt.