Category Archives: Grocery

Rubble Rubble

Flintstones? Hamburglar? Or the sweet loud sound of a crumbling zombie grocery store?  Down goes Frazier Safeway!  It took nearly two years to get started, and the entire edifice has been pretty much destroyed in less than a week.

What else?

  • Sounds like the latest Wheaton culinary tour was a success, Patch has the story.
  • Dungeness crab season off to a crabby start.  I still wish I were there to buy a bushel fresh off a boat…
  • This may not be real, but allegedly In-N-Out is not the only “secret menu”.

Zombie Safeway From Undead to Just Plain Dead (and Eventually Alive Again)

To paraphrase Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, Wheaton’s Safeway has been mostly dead since December 2009, but this month finally will be put out of all of our misery so that a newer, better Safeway may rise in its place.  Demowition…twue demowition. We have the technology.  We can make it bigger..stronger…faster…the Six Million Dollar Safeway!

Groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for this morning.  Already work has begun tearing out the insides and collapsing the ceiling, and uprooting the sidewalks. In fact, as of 8am today, a giant yellow back hoe* was grinding away at the store’s innards, only a shell remained — I guess they decided not to wait for the ceremony. I know not everyone is excited about fourteen stories of whatever, but I’m glad the project is finally moving forward.

* Maybe not a backhoe, I don’t know my construction equipment — any 3-year-old could have told me, but I didn’t have one easily accessible this morning.

I was hoping for something more spectacular, like what they did to the Vegas Stardust, but I’ll take what I can get.

For Realz?

Those of you holding your breath will have to hang on another week or so, but this is good news.

Save the date?

Greater Boston Groceries

A recent long weekend in the Boston area revealed that the grass is sometimes indeed greener on the other side of the fens.* Specifically, the fruit and vegetable paradise known as Russo’s transcends anything I know of in greater DC.

* sorry.

Russo’s isn’t really all that big, but it seems huge, thanks in part to the rows of lovely fresh flowers, pumpkins (October!), and rows of apples and squash and potatoes in the outdoor courtyard.  Also, in part, due to the interior arrangement, where the dry goods are on shelves underneath the bins of produce, so you can see clear across the entire store.  And then there’s the quality: uniformly high.  Prices are generally low, though that can vary: five limes for a dollar is good (and especially at Russo’s high quality, I wonder who is their lime source?), these days, but green onions were crazy expensive, I think over a dollar a bunch.  Just for example. Overall, great selection and value.  They also have a bakery and limited deli, but no butcher or fishmonger.

After Russo’s, we visited the H Mart in Burlington, Mass., a bit north of Boston; I don’t think it is the H Mart mothership but it was huge, twice the size of the Wheaton H Mart, with similar stuff but even more of it.  And some stuff was different; I was particularly envious of all the sashimi-grade seafood on offer, like a dozen different kinds from salmon to tuna to scallops, etc.,  none of which is carried here.  Limes 4/$1 just like here, but marginally better quality — not like Russo’s, though.

The H Mart up there also has a glorious food court, with little shops selling dishes from Vietnam, Korea, Japan (one for sushi, one for ramen and other items), a couple of others; apparently the Indian counter closed recently.  We went for Korean (when in a Korean-owned store, eat as the Koreans eat?) at Woo Jeon (I had thought it was all H Mart-owned but maybe the storefronts are outside franchises like in a mall food court? Anyway, they all have names) and it was fantastic; I scorched my palate on a steaming bowl of spicy shrimp-and-tofu stew; my lunching companion enjoyed some great-looking bibimbap.  Big portions, served in nice stone bowls, and a decent value at around $10 per entree.  Not everyone thinks a big bowl of soup/stew/stuff is a good value at $10 or so, judging from some folks’ reaction to all the attention Ren’s has been getting for their $12 bowls of (awesome) ramen.  But I thought it was worth the price.

I wonder if the once and future Wheaton Safeway will carry sashimi-grade tuna? HAHAHAHAHAHA.

Springtime for H Mart

I guess it’s summer now but whatever, H Mart seems all springy, happy, bunnies and leprechauns and fresh air.  Perhaps it is because the limes are back to consistently high quality, and most recently were six for $1?  I wonder who is in charge of lime procurement and price-setting?  I assume the Lime Manager has to sample the merchandise, for quality control.  How much is the pay? I might like that job.

The Lime Index

The Wheaton H-Mart has a big banner up advertising their sponsorship of the “Kimchi Chronicles,” apparently a Korean food show coming to national PBS television in July, featuring (incongruously) Jean-Georges Vongerichten — turns out his wife is half Korean and she will host, he will sidekick.  Looks like celebrities like Hugh Jackman and Heather Graham will also narrate or make cameos.  Star-studded!  Not to mention someone billed as “The Julia Child of [a town in Korea I didn't quite catch].” The photography looks brilliant based on the preview.

That’s high-brow. This is low-brow:

pepero nude

Live Nude Pepero!!!

Pepero Nude!  Lotte makes a whole lotte good stuff.  They also have Pepero Almond, but not Pepero Fully-clothed. The subtitle for Pepero Nude is “Chocolate filled bicuit sticks” which seems more truth-in-advertising but less fun. Is it fair to say H Mart is a clothing-optional shopping environment?  Maybe only if you are filled with chocolate?

Thomas Market

I somehow missed Thomas Market (2650 University, near Viers Mill) when I wrote up Wheaton’s bodegas last summer (Part I and Part II).  From the outside, Thomas is nondescript, unassuming, and I confess that even after someone left a comment recommending Thomas, it still never captured my attention.

Finally last week I got there, and it was worth the visit. Though one of the smallest of Wheaton’s markets, Thomas has been in business since 1965 so they must be doing something right. Indeed, their collection of Middle Eastern food, broadly construed to include not only Greek and Turkish but also Armenian, Persian, and Italian, is very good, lots of interesting fresh nuts and legumes and spices from banal to exotic, and mostly at rock bottom prices.  They have the assortment of Middle Eastern dried and canned goods you would expect, plus a well-appointed freezer holding phyllo, spanikopita, sausages, etc.

The place is so small that there isn’t much room for fresh/prepared foods, but they do have some, and about half the deli counter is given to six varieties of fresh feta cheese (Greek, Bulgarian, French, American), plus olives and a few meats and cheeses. If you’re hosting a feta tasting anytime soon, this is the place to go. Looks supertasty.

I will also note that they have for sale a small but colorfully eye-catching assortment of hookahs and hookah accessories.  In case you want to liven up that feta tasting.  As though feta alone weren’t enough!

It Came from H Mart: Potato Flavored Snack

When potato chips are just too much potato, when you want that potato flavor without so much potato content…our Korean friends at Nong Shim rescue us with their Potato Flavored Snack, “fresh” from the snack food aisle at H Mart.

what could possibly go wrong?

Potato Flavored Snack

So many things I love about this product. No trans fat. Potato is the second ingredient, after wheat flour and just before wheat starch.  Given that, the disclaimer “Contains wheat, milk and soy” is unsurprising (milk due to whey powder and soy due to “non-fat soybean” I guess).  I also like the second disclaimer, “manufactured in a facility that processes egg and shrimp.” Also, ingredients are listed in Korean, English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese — but disclaimers are in English only.  Sucks to be egg-intolerant in Brazil or Western Europe!

Especially love the slightly anthropomorphic potato flavored snack guys on the package. Cuteness that must be eaten, and soon, since the expiry date is March 14, 2011 — seems an awfully short shelf life for this kind of product.  And they don’t make it easy: package is impossible to open without using a sharp object; there is a helpful “open here” arrow at the top right but you still need scissors or a knife to open there.

Thank goodness Mrs. Me allows me to have sharp objects. Once you get past the packaging, the Potato Flavored Snacks are like tiny, airy, corrugated french fries and after an intitial crunch practically melt on the tongue.  Not much flavor, potato or otherwise, though I can taste a little onion or garlic.  Maybe they should try transposing the potato and wheat flour percentages. Or maybe I should try normal potato chips. But what fun would that be?

The Social Wegmans

WaPo on looking for love at the PG County Wegman’s.  Is that an organic turnip in your pocket or are you happy to see me?  How long before they’re conducting weddings in the marketplace section? They may have the Social Safeway beat. Meanwhile, we wait for Wheaton’s Zombie Safeway to return to its maker, dust to dust, so a new shiny Safeway may rise in its place (plus 14 stories of housing).

This is the definitive supermarket pick-up, though. “Vegetables are sensual, people are sensuous.”

Bad Times for Limes

Sweet Fancy Orange Scab Moses

The Lime Index

The lime situation is off to a terrible start in 2011, with Bethesda Giant offering four limes for $3. Ripoff! Especially at mediocre quality. Wheaton H Mart has been stuck at 3 for $1 for months now, not a terrible price but again quality has suffered lately. Wheaton Giant and Kensington Safeway were both 3 for $2 last I checked.

We felt a bit better this past week when we found St. Petersburg (Florida) Publix limes were also 3 for $2, and the quality was no better down there.

What’s the problem?  Partly it’s just that prime Persian lime season is late spring through fall, so trying to get great limes in winter is like trying to downhill ski in Virginia in August, or to get great Tex-Mex in DC anytime. This Fresh Plaza article suggests Mexican production has been cut due to falling wholesale prices (about half of all limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico). But perhaps more significant, heavy rainfall in Mexico, especially Veracruz (aka Persian Lime Central), ruined much of the Q4 2010 crop, or at least caused it to fail to meet export-quality standards. Plus, according to this USDA report:

in December 2010, new U.S. import requirements put in place to prevent the entry of Sweet Orange Scab (i.e., Elsinoë australis) are stopping Mexican limes from reaching the U.S. market.

Not helping! Apparently those requirements were modified later that same month, just in time for Santa to put wizened, substandard, chemically-treated Mexican limes in our stockings. Disaster averted. Sweet orange scab. Sweet fancy Moses!  All I want are high quality, affordable limes — is that so wrong?! Maybe by April-May things will improve, just in time for margarita season.

On the bright side, we have a fab new lime index logo — thanks P!!

365 Days Held Hostage

Wheaton’s Safeway closed its doors on December 19, 2009, never to open again.  If all goes according to plan, it will finally be vaporized in a few months with mixed-use development (including a new Safeway) to arise Phoenix-like from the rubble.


Darkness Falls on Zombie Safeway