Category Archives: Grocery

A Few Words About Country Boy

I tried to think of a title playing off John Denver’s Thank God I’m A Country Boy but in fact I am not a country boy, I am at best ferally urbane, more likely just a recovering suburbanite. Also just not feeling it this morning. And so I gave up on a punny title.

However, thank goodness there is a Country Boy (Market), not really in Wheaton, but hidden up there in the northeast quadrant of Georgia-meets-Randolph (2211 Randolph), not that you can see it from either road, especially not from Georgia.  You have to use the force (or maybe just stretch out with your feelings, Luke) to zig zag across parking lot driveways and bad drivers flouting erstwhile one-way traffic patterns.  Or you can just follow the sweet stench of mulch.

Country Boy specializes in mulch, with good variety and reasonable prices.  If this were The Most Interesting Blog in the World (which clearly it is not), I might say that I don’t often buy mulch, but when I do, I go to Country Boy.  They have little bins out front where you can see the different kinds, you can touch it, sift it through your fingers, I suppose taste it if that’s your thing.*  And then you go inside, tell them what you want, don’t forget to pay for it! – and then one of their employees will load the mulch-bags into your vehicle.  Piece of cake mulch.

* We had a bottle of wine the other night that smelled a little mulchy, not in a bad way.  Terroir!

Other reasons to visit Country Boy: above-average beer selection, although with hit-or-miss pricing. Wine selection is not as good.  They carry a huge variety of delicious jarred food products from McCutcheons, a Frederick, Md. company specializing in apple and other fruit spreads, but also pickled things and salsas and whatnot.  They had me at pickled things.

CB also has plenty of fruits and veggies, of varying quality, but did not have any limes when last I visited a few weeks ago.  The Brussels sprouts were tasty but no substitute for limes (literally). But when the shopping list involves mulch and pickles and apple butter and beer, boy howdy, Country Boy is the place.

There is probably no truth to the rumor that John Denver opened for Led Zeppelin when they played Wheaton in 1969.  There is probably not even a rumor. Nevertheless:

It Came From H Mart: Tako Chips

Junichi the Hexapus says mmmm, Tako Chips

Jiro the Cannibal Hexapus?

There are many things to like about Octopus Flavored Tako Chips, made by our friends at Nongshim (“Taste NONGSHIM, Feel the Difference”) and available at H Mart.  Most of those things involve the adorable anthropomorphic octopus on the bag:

  • He is pink and cute;
  • He has an open-ended cylindrical nose like Q*Bert;
  • He has only six visible legs, making him a hexapus? He would not be the first;
  • He is wearing a mask and snorkel, which is supercute but raises a few questions, like (a) why does a hexapus need a snorkel, and (b) why does anyone need a snorkel underwater,* and (c) what does the hexapus think of octopus-shaped,** octopus-flavored snack foods?  Is he offended? Honored? Nonplussed? Is he a cannibal? Can’t tell from the bag, the snorkel and mask hide his expression and true intentions.

* bubbles are emerging from the snorkel, around the corner of the bag not pictured here, so we know we are down in the depths, rolling in the deep, with our friendly (?) pink hexapus

** the chips look more like Clyde, the orange ghost from Pac-Man, if he were wearing a girdle, slouching, and his mom accidentally bleached his sheet

not your mother's goldfish crackers

not your mother’s goldfish crackers

Tako chips do not appear to be made from actual octopus (or from tacos)*; they are wheat-based.  “Octopus flavor” is a listed ingredient, just behind whey powder and before paprika; I don’t know you get octopus flavor without extruding some octopus, but we get no details.  Yellow corvina, a fish, is also an ingredient.  I don’t think corvina tastes like octopus though.  So many questions.

* “tako” is the Japanese word for octopus and has nothing to do with the Mexican taco, although I bet somewhere around here someone is making delicious grilled octopus tacos, or should I say tako tacos.  Just to add to the confusion, there is an also-unrelated Peruvian dish called tacu tacu involving steak, rice, beans, plantain, and a fried egg, some fine examples of which can be obtained at multiple Wheaton Peruvian restaurants but none of which to my knowledge involve either tako or tacos.

What about the chips themselves?  It is my scientific duty to taste this stuff. There is a hint of octopus, or at least the sea (or the H Mart fish counter), in the nose, although if I weren’t already thinking about it I probably wouldn’t have been able to pinpoint it.  Mostly they just taste like bland, slightly salty wheat puffs. After an initial pleasing crunch they dissolve into nothing, like Pac-Man when he runs into Clyde. The tako chips might be a tolerable bar snack, paired with a crisp lager or pale ale.  I won’t be craving them.  But if I find out that Nongshim is giving away free plush pink snorkeling hexapi if you send them a dozen proofs-of-purchase, in that case, I would probably buy more bags.

The Other New(ish) Wheaton(ish) Grocery Store

I don’t know if Shalom Kosher is technically in Wheaton anymore, in its new(ish) digs in the Kemp Mill Shopping Center off Arcola (1361 Lamberton, officially), but it came from Wheaton, its sister Kosher foods purveyor Max’s is still in Wheaton, and it’s so close to Wheaton you can still smell the challah in the morning, so…close enough for me.

The new space is much larger than the old, allowing them to sell a range of products similar to, say, Safeway, only more kosher.  Maximally kosher, as far as I know.  Shalom has a pretty good selection of meats and poultry, although prices are on the high side (kosher isn’t free).  Fish selection is less good, and the produce section also seemed smaller than expected, though not bad, and they did have good quality limes at 6 for $1, so that’s a plus.

If you keep kosher — I don’t — Shalom Kosher must be a welcome, fantastic source of food.  Among other things, they feature an impressive selection of kosher wines, many from Israel.  As you might imagine, their selection of pork products and shellfish is more limited.  Overall, there are enough products that I want that they don’t carry, that I don’t expect to add them to my grocery store rotation.  But they’re still the local go-to source for challah (best french toast ever), and I suppose it is comforting to know that in the event of an Israeli shiraz emergency, I can get that too.

Wheaton Safeway is a Safeway

Wheaton Safeway has limes, so it must be okay

Wheaton Safeway has limes, so it must be okay

Now that our long local nightmare is over and the Wheaton Safeway is open, you may ask yourself, how is that new Safeway?  And you may say to yourself, my God, what have they done? Then again, maybe not.

Wheaton’s Safeway turns out to be perfectly Safeway in its Safewayness, with a few quirks.  First, I like the parking garage, spacious and well-signed and well-lit, but then again I have already heard complaints that it is too tight to navigate comfortably.  I had no trouble,* but it was mostly empty when I was parking. I don’t know if the garage will be big enough at busy times, and they need to work out some vertical kinks: the escalator, including the cart-mover, isn’t always working, and the elevators are spacious but the doors like to close before you’re fully past them, which seems dangerous but, who knows, maybe it’s part of Safeway’s master plan.

* Some fool did leave a cart right in the middle of one driving area, forcing me to take a longer route out – why do people have such trouble returning carts to appropriate places? Not an unusual occurance.  It’s things like that that make me hate people. 

The store itself is laid out unusually, with the deli (and Starbucks) immediately to the left inside the front doors, the checkout lines ahead and to the right, dairy and frozen foods immediately ahead, and the rest of the store continuing back.  Now that I’m typing it, it doesn’t seem so different than usual, but when you’re there it feels a little odd.  But the decor and the products and everything are exactly what one expects.

In these initial weeks, they’re overstaffed, offering lots of samples and being super-helpful.  We will see how long that lasts.  On one of my visits, the number of Starbucks employees (six) nearly exceeded the number of shoppers (in the whole store, not just Starbucks).  That may be the biggest danger with this store: I hope Safeway is prepared to be not super-busy for a while, until all those apartments above the Safeway are lived in and other Wheatonians internalize the fact that Safeway is open for business again.

Oh, and there are limes at the new Safeway, 4 for $1 (“Every Day!” allegedly), good price but mediocre quality, mostly small and hard.  Of course it is not currently lime season, and most other sources struggle from November through March.  Hung Phat remains the current lime go-t0 of choice.

That’s about it.  As Freud said: “Sometimes a Safeway is just a Safeway.”  Or if you prefer Gertrude Stein: “Safeway is Safeway is Safeway is Safeway.”  But would a Safeway by any other name still shop as sweet?  Okay, stopping now.  The important thing is, it’s there across from the Metro, shiny and clean and new, open 24 hours for Wheaton’s collective convenience. And now I will stop writing about it for a while.  Probably.

New Wheaton Safeway Opens, Gets the Led Out

dancing days are here again

dancing days are here again

Wheatonians of all ages were stunned Friday morning, not only by the renewed availability of citrus fruits, canned goods, and other sundries at the Georgia-Reedie intersection, but also (secondarily) by the unannounced reunion of the English rock band Led Zeppelin, who regrouped in a decreasingly quiet corner of the new Safeway for their first live show with John Bonham* since 1978 and their first concert in Wheaton since 1969.**

Zeppelin ripped through a short set of hits, starting with Celebration Day, ranging from Kashorkreditmir to Custard Pie to The Lime Song, and finishing with a blistering The Safeway Remains The Same (But Now With Starbucks Inside). MoCo Executive Ike Leggett joined the crowd of hundreds dancing throughout the shiny new store, uprooting shelf displays and causing cleanups on aisles 3, 7, and 9.

“I’m really just here for the photo op baked goods,” said Leggett, “but these guys sound pretty good, don’t they?”

Few had previously known the true extent of Zeppelin’s connection with Wheaton.  Aside from the legendary 1969 show at the Wheaton Youth Center, singer Robert Plant also noted, over the opening riff to Escalator to Heaven, that the classic song was originally inspired by a post-WYC-show, adrenaline-and-drug-fueled premonition of Wheaton Metro’s longest-in-the-Western Hemisphere trio of moving staircases, which were completed in 1990.

“I’ve been wanting to return to Wheaton for decades,” said Plant, “and finally there was a suitable occasion, with the opening of this fine modern supermarket.”

The band also unveiled a new song, Feral Urbane Blues, hastily written Thursday night over vegetarian kaprow and several cases of Singha in a back room at Ruan Thai.

“I always fondly remember our ’69 show in Wheaton. whether it really happened or not,” said guitarist Jimmy Page as he purchased a cup of pre-show mulligatawny from the Safeway deli. “Who’s to say? I mean it’s no Machynlleth, but still quite wonderful.  This soup is bloody tasty, innit?”

Plant and company refused to answer questions about possible other gigs, and after their performance the band was quickly swept by management into a large van in the Fern Street loading docks and whisked off to an undisclosed location.  MoCo and Safeway officials also refused to comment.

Nice to have a grocery store there again.

* I can’t explain it, but there he was in the dairy section, banging away on the skins, looking somewhat moldy and less manic than before, but otherwise no worse for wear.

** Just like Woodstock, and just like today’s Safeway show, you only remember it if you weren’t there.

Substantial reporting on this story was done by Mrs. Me, for which I thank her profusely; however, any factual inaccuracies are mine alone — though I don’t think you’ll find any.

Coming Already Safeway Swag

New Safeway, Free Stuff

New Safeway, Free Stuff

It is Safeway Week here at GEIW, how am I supposed to resist posting about the onslaught of swag appearing on my doorstep?  I am a sucker for swag. Coupon books upon coupon books, and today a FABULOUS NEW CAR reusable grocery bag, branded with the Wheaton Safeway at The Exchange logo.

But wait, there’s more: another coupon for ANOTHER FABULOUS NEW reusable grocery bag!  That’s two bags — NOW how much Wheaton Safeway at The Exchange shopping will I do?  Dunno about “will” but I am certainly well equipped in the event.  Well played, Safeway, well played.  Although the free bag coupon asks me “Have you checked out our new Safeway yet? There’s so much to explore and discover…” No, I have not, because it is not open yet.  Or should I be reading between the lines, breaking into the building and doing a little pre-shopping shopping?  I don’t think so.  So they’re ahead of themselves.   Must…wait…Friday…

All ready with the mood lighting

All ready with the mood lighting

I now have two copies of the fat Grand Opening coupon book.  One for Mrs. Me and one for me equals double the savings!  The coupons are pretty good actually, a bunch of free items with $20 purchase, which will be no problem.  I just hope they don’t immediately sell out of the potentially free items in the first few hours.  Rain checks are a pain.

Anyway.  Looking forward to the Friday grand opening, in spirit if not in person.

Coming Soon Friday Safeway

Coming Very Soon, Safeway

Coming Very Soon, Safeway

Hear me now, believe me later — I’m still not sure I believe it yet, myself.  Wheaton is about to have a Safeway again, no more “coming soon” teasing.  The store is set to open on Friday (October 25) morning at 8am for a “special preview” “sneak peek” to which I assume every sentient being in a three mile radius has been invited.  There will be tastings!  Of what, specifically, I’m not sure.  Will there be MoCo or Wheaton dignitaries on hand to cut ribbons, stock yogurt, bag my groceries?  I don’t know, and I may never find out because of having to be at work on Friday morning instead of at Safeway.  I will check the new digs out next week, just on the off-chance there is any feature distinguishing it from all other new Safeways.  It is, after all, just another Safeway.  I don’t want to oversell it.   But it will have been three years, ten months, and six days since a grocery store was open for business at the corner of Georgia and Reedie, and (as one might expect from my obsessing over it throughout that period) I am looking forward to that desolate streak ending.

If it is in the coupon flyer, it must be true

If it is in the coupon flyer, it must be true

Coming Soon Safeway

I think they’re serious this time.

Safeway building nearly done

Safeway building nearly done

Once construction finally began, the new Safeway/apartment building across from the Wheaton Metro developed quickly, and the Safeway might be open by “the end of summer” — maybe by Labor Day, maybe by September 21, or maybe not even that soon, but it does look like they’re getting close.   The December 2009 closure of the original Safeway seems so long ago (probably because it was).  I am looking forward to being able to pick up milk or sundries, on foot, on my way home from the Metro after work.  Not to mention being able to visit Starbucks without having to deal with mall traffic.

Until recently Safeway was hiring for many positions in the Wheaton location, from manager to checkout clerk to night stocker (presumably not to be confused with night stalker, which Wheaton does not need any of, thanks anyway).  But the positions evidently have all been filled.  Hope some locals got some of the jobs.

Lots of reWheatoning going on, between the Safeway and the sudden/rapid reno of the office building tucked amongst Archstone on Georgia near the Metro, and the new apartment building going up just a bit further south on Georgia.

Momentum!

Chicken Paws

Chicken Feet
Fried + Sauced = Nom Nom?   (image: avlxyz/flickr)

Last weekend’s Washington Post article on the developing chicken “paw” trade war between the U.S. and China caught my attention. I have never eaten chicken feet but am getting intrigued; I know many Chinese restaurants sell them (for sure Hollywood East and probably others in Wheaton too), and I believe H Mart* and other local Asian food purveyors carry them in case one wants to cook ‘em up at home.  Which apparently is fairly easy to do. It is nice to know that U.S. chicken feet are most coveted in China due to their relative meatiness. I eagerly await the stateside marketing campaign in 2012… More on the freakonomics of chicken feet here.

* Odd and amusing: if you search the H Mart website for “feet” you get a list of mostly hair curlers.  A search for “chicken” gets a list of mostly not-chicken-related items, led by Aveeno Baby Soothing Bath Treatment.

Safeway In Ruins Retrospective

So much for Zombie Safeway.  Kids these days are much too young to remember the golden age when Wheaton’s Safeway was open for business:

The Way We Were

…but then it closed…

Don't Come Around Here No More

…and zombified…

BRAINNNNNSSSSS

…but finally has found peace.  Or at least is in pieces, which is all I ever really asked for…

Ashes to Ashes, Dirt to Dirt

…and someday we will have this:

Artist's Rendering: Do Not Try This At Home