Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I want Wegmans!

Oh, how frustrating is food shopping in Charlottesville!

Here are the perambulations I made last week in order to prepare for a party we had last Friday.
Monday: 1.) Whole Foods-- for their bulk section because I needed a variety of nuts. I bought pecans, walnuts and almonds, with which to make candied nuts. I also bought several spices I needed from the bulk section. I stocked up on hormone-free meat, since I was there, and bought a gallon of milk, since Whole Foods, which is very expensive for many things, has cheap, hormone-free milk. I also bought vegetables, because I planned to make pickled vegetables, only Whole Foods didn't have okra, so I went to....

2.) Harris-Teeter--for okra, paper plates, napkins and cups. Also lemons, which I did not want to buy at WF because I figured they'd be priced higher for exactly the same product. Canned baked beans, more vegetables.

Thursday: 1.) Feast--for local, salmonella-free tomatoes. Also for fun party treats that can't be found anywhere else: chocolate covered figs, locally made cheese, quince paste, truffle mousse, but not crackers because why pay $85/pound for something that is just a vehicle for truffle mouse and quince paste, so I went to....

2.) Giant--for the crackers and for cold cuts because their deli is less of a pain-in-the ass than Harris-Teeters, and probably cheaper too. I need eggs, so I went to...

3.) C'ville Market--because they carry local free-range eggs that are also packaged in cardboard egg cartons. Harris-Teeter and Giant carry free-range eggs, but they are in plastic egg cartons and they aren't local, and I don't like plastic egg cartons, so I always have to make a special trip to C'ville Market just for eggs. (Reid's now carries the same local, free-range-cardboard-packaged eggs as C'ville Market. I have not yet done a price comparison.) Bought more fancy cheese and was pissed to discover that they carry the same "red wine salami" as Feast, only for $2 less. Not everybody drinks alcohol so I went to...

4.) Food Lion--for soda, because why should I pay Harris-Teeter prices for the exact same product? Milk, for some reason, is super-expensive at Food Lion--something like $4.99/gallon. What's up with that? Also, clear plastic wine cups because Harris-Teeter's were outrageously expensive, and more plates. Oh, and chocolate chips, because Food Lion sells Ghirardeli chocolate chips cheaper than anywhere in town.

Friday: 1.) Giant (again) for rolls and decent bread for the party. Giant has the closest thing to my idea of a proper grocery store bakery, but it is still woefully inadequate. I bought two dozen rolls from the bulk bins in the bakery. I had been under the impression that Giant sold decent bakery sliced bread, but I was wrong. They don't. Don't talk to me about all the great bakeries in Charlottesville. I'm supposed to buy artisan bread for fifty people? What is this, Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous? I also needed olives for my Greek salad, but do you think Giant has a fucking olive bar? Of course not! Sometimes Charlottesville is really crappy.

This is why we need a Wegmans. Wegmans started out in Rochester, NY, but had expanded to Buffalo some time in my early childhood. I have no memory of a life before Wegmans. It is now creeping into the south.

Imagine this shopping experience: a produce section bursting with fresh, quality produce at reasonable prices, and with plenty of organic and locally grown foods to choose from. A bakery that has both fancy artisan breads, and a *fabulous* array of buns, rolls, bagels that you can choose for yourself from bulk bins. A deli with good quality meat! With Sahlen's hot dogs. SAHLEN'S HOT DOGS!!! A large natural foods/organic section. A bulk section bigger and better than Whole Foods'--and cheaper. Eggs in cardboard cartons! Cheeses! Olives! Reasonable prices!

Every summer we go home to Buffalo to visit family, and every summer I go to Wegman's and eat my heart out with envy at what the people of Buffalo--all people, there is none of this grocery store elitism you see here--can enjoy. I remember last year, gawping at the dairy section, in which, just in yogurt, there was a selection of brands and flavors unheard of in C'ville.

If you remember the Cold War, you probably remember that every once in a while there'd be a propaganda piece in a magazine or newspaper about an exchange student from the USSR being taken on a tour of an American supermarket and the student's dazed reaction to the abundance of food in the United States. When I am at Wegman's in Buffalo, after having spent an entire year shopping in Charlottesville, I feel just like those kids from the USSR.


  1. I've never been to Wegmans but now I'm curious.

    I'd love a Trader Joe's here in town, but suspect I'd end up only going every couple of weeks.

  2. Wegmans is slowly inching its way here. There's one that just opened in Woodbridge, near Potomac Mills (approx 90 minutes away). And another is opening in September on the "south" end of Gainesville up 29 North, also about 90 minutes away. I'm hoping that the grocery store slated for the 5th Street/Avon Center project just south of town and north of I-64 will be a Wegman's.

  3. I visit Wegman's from time to time in NJ and I'm just not impressed. For starters, they don't label ingredients on any of their deli items or food bar items. I have food allergies, so that's not kool. Their prices on organic and gluten-free stuff is iffy. They carry very limited brands in some departments, like orange juice and tortillas. I'm picky about my OJ and tortillas. And god forbid I want to ask someone a question about stock or when stock is replenished.

    The produce is often pretty nice, I'll give them that, but I can find more local produce by driving 10 miles out of town (and this is in the Philly suburbs) and locating a farm stand.

    As for eggs, I buy those at the city market. I have a standing order and they're held back for me each week. :)

    For soda, I take five minutes to scan the online circulars to see who has a deal on 12 packs of cans. Last weekend, Giant was selling coke 12 packs 5/$12.

  4. I've heard wonderful things about Wegman's and anxiously await the arrival of a store in town. But maybe I won't live that long.

    Food Lion milk is $4.29 (just bought some yesterday) and now claims that it is hormone-free. And yet, somehow I don't believe the label. I hate grocery shopping so MUCH that I shop at the closest store - Fud Leon - even though the food is crappy. Sloth wins again!

  5. As a foodie really interested in high-quality, healthy, and organic ingredients, I am feeling your pain regarding poor shopping options in the C-ville/Shenandoah Valley area. This area is beautiful and offers many, many good things (e.g. wonderful people, a refreshing and slower-paced life, etc.), but shopping leaves sometime to be desired!

    I moved to Waynesboro a year and a half ago from Northern Virginia where I had all the chain groceries at my disposal (Wegmans, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter, Trader Joes, Giant, etc). Here in Waynesboro we have Martins, Kroger, Food Lion, Sharp Shopper, and Walmart (ugh! I get hives thinking about the place!) so it's a very different grocery landscape. I can't find a lot of ingredients that I'm used to cooking with, the organic sections are very limited, and I often find the quality of items available at the local grocery stores to be lacking. I'm learning to adapt and, when I go back to NVa, I stock up on certain items.

    BUT HARK, I bring good news to C-ville and points surrounding!!! My parents were in the Fairfax Wegmans yesterday, and mom was lamenting the fact that they will be moving out of NVa next week (heading to Staunton) and will no longer have their beloved Wegmans nearby. She told a manager that she thinks Wegmans should open a store in Staunton or Waynesboro, and he responded that WEGMANS IS COMING TO C-VILLE! He gave no indication of timeframe, but it sounds like it's already a work in progress. She didn't think to ask where exactly the store will be located. My guess is that it will likely add to the already hellacious 29 corridor traffic.

    Trader Joes would do very well in C-ville. I think the UVA students alone would make it a profitable store. Then add the rest of us -- yeah, it would be booming. So, to any Trader Joes execs out there that are reading this blog... hop on it!!!