Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Grocery shopping / New Seasons.

Love letter to Fred Meyer:

I love grocery shopping. After we'd been settled here in Portland for awhile, I decided I loved shopping at Fred Meyer--a chain owned by Kroger, and affectionately known as Freddy's--the most, although specifically, just my local Freddy's at SE 82nd and Foster (such an illustrious intersection!). The newly remodeled Freddy's at Hawthorne is all fancy and colorful and stuff, but I can never find a damn thing--or a parking space--there, but my trashy Foster one seems like home. We all know, with silent acknowledgment, that where you buy your food is one of the biggest indicators of social class. It commonly goes as thus:
Discount/whole-sale food chains (Food 4 Less, WinCo, Grocery Outlet): Poor people
Fred Meyer: lower-to-middle class
Safeway/Albertsons: middle-to-upper class
Whole Foods: richies
Living in Portland, for the eco/food-conscious, I believe there is a whole different strata:
Trader Joe's: lower-to-middle class--"Listen, just because it's Trader Joe's, doesn't mean it's LOCAL!"
Whole Foods: again, richies, and also way mainstream--"Whole Foods is for the bourgeoisie!"
Farmers Markets/Co-ops/CSA's: the only 'real' option for many hardcore folks, many of whom are richer, but who are constantly telling you that poor people can afford it too--"Look, supporting your local farmers is the only sustainable way!"
Truth is, I actually love all of them on different levels, and constantly try to be a more conscientious food consumer and buyer, but I felt the most comfortable walking around in a sweatshirt without a bra and pajama pants with holes all over them and with my hair half falling out of a sad state of a ponytail (which I haven't bothered to touch since waking up) in the Foster/82nd Fred Meyer, so, there's your winner.

At work, in the world of inspiring corporate coffee lingo, we are told that Starbucks is meant to be the "third place"--a place that isn't work and that isn't home, but a place where you can go to escape the stresses of your daily life, which can often assault you at both of the other two. The grocery store is my third place. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in my own headspace, but I feel relaxed and happy and blissfully, numbingly mindless as soon as I walk through the automatic doors and am surrounded by overpackaged food and assaulted by air conditioning. I especially like going there by myself in the early morning or late at night--essentially, when the store is full of ancient people, or college students/strung out overworked people. I love wandering the aisles listening to whatever horrible easy listening satellite radio is playing. This horrible music always positively delights me. I love the awful neon lights. I always spend entirely too much money.

Love letter to New Seasons:

So, now that I have said all that, I have to get this off my chest: I'm sorry, Foster Fred Meyer; I have neglected you recently, and it's nothing personal, but, you see, a new New Seasons store just opened on Hawthorne. And while we had heard plenty about this store previously, there was never one within such close proximity to us before, but now that there IS, and now that we have BEEN THERE...well...well, you really can't blame us. Because holy crap, this place is awesome!

New Seasons is a local grocery chain which combines the best of both worlds. You get your fresh produce and local brands, but then you can also buy Oreos and Ritz crackers, if you want. It is way Portland-y, but in a good way; not all the shoppers are Completely and Utterly Cooler Than You (as most of the people just outside on Hawthorne probably will be), and it doesn't scream pretentiousness--just awesomeness. The Hawthorne location is a bit smaller and the aisles can definitely get cramped, but I'm still chockfull of happiness every time I'm there. Have I mentioned that they also have an awesome sampling counter? They have an awesome sampling counter.

Some of my favorite local things which you can get at New Seasons include:
  • Bottles of yummy saucy deliciousness from: Fire on the Mountain; Podnah's Pit; and Cafe Yumm
  • Healthy bread from the violently named Dave's Killer Bread, along of course with the local yet larger Franz, and New Seasons' own freshly baked carbohydrate treats (we normally get their sourdough, which we can all agree is the best sort of bread ever invented--thank you, San Francisco!)
  • Although there are crazily enough a few brands of local hummus you can purchase, the best is of course King Harvest
  • A variety of yummy grains and flours and things from Bob's Red Mill
  • Alden's Ice Cream, which I believe is based out of Eugene. We all know how much I love ice cream (see prior entries: Haagen Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Cookies & Cream) and with my vast experience, I can tell you their Chocolate Chocolate Chip is some of the best ice cream I've ever had.
  • Although we haven't actually gotten it, you can get local milk--in a bottle! Like, just like the bottles they used to deliver on your doorstop! How retro!
  • Probably so much more I haven't even discovered yet. I know areas all around the country are tapping into the local-food craze, which is so super neat-o, but I really feel like there's almost no better place for it right now than Portland--there are just so many great independent companies everywhere you turn.
  • (It should be noted that you in fact can also find a bunch of these brands at Freddy's, although they hide in the Organic/For Froofy People aisles, and who wants to spend much time in those? [Froofy people.] Still, the selection at New Seasons is much better and somehow just seems more fun.)
After perusing their website, I was also overwhelmed by how many good things they do for the community (donating over a million dollars to local schools over the last decade; regularly delivering healthy meals to the elderly--on bike, of course; hosting barbecues for non-profits, and a host of other things, not least among them trying their best to educate people about local farmers and food resources) until eventually my brain melted. 

Another highlight includes their fresh meat counter. There's no frozen/pre-packaged meat aisle at New Seasons (except for a small lunch meat section)--you order everything at the counter. I've been making monthly goals for myself for awhile now (which, if you are ever for some reason interested in, I keep track of here) and, very surprisingly, one of the goals I've been continually making for myself and continually being successful at is cooking a new meal each week. I've cooked a few meals which involved meat, and when I first shopped at New Seasons, this whole ordering-everything-at-the-counter thing weirdly intimidated me. But then I discovered that they wrap everything up in brown paper--again, like the olden days!--which strangely excited me, and now it's my favorite part! Really, it does not take much to excite me! Also, this week I had to buy some chorizo, which is the greatest type of meat ever known to man, and they had TWO different chorizo options (chicken or pork). Life is good!

(The recipe I made was this one: Sweet potato and chorizo enchiladas, from one of my favorite food websites [except I think I, like, doubled the amount of chorizo]. Seriously, this woman is awesome. She's from New Orleans, so you know she's got to know what she's talking about. I'm currently writing this from a computer at school in between classes but there is nothing I would like better than to be home eating some of these leftovers. Mmmm.)

As a final note:

For those unfortunate souls who have seen me in my crazy-hair/holey pants/sweatshirt combo at Fred Meyer: I'm sorry. (But not too much.)


  1. I love your attire for the grocery! hahahaahaha. You know what else is a third place? The library. So there.

    Also, does this mean you have gotten over your fear of touching raw chicken?

  2. Jill! This was SO dead on about Portland food shopping -except I quibble with you over the classy ranking of safeway. A visit to the NE 82nd ave safeway (groceria of choice to hookers and drug dealers) would bump it down your list real fast... But I do love the new seasons and have to check out the Hawthorne one!!! And back in the day in Allston, I would say only one out of every 7 trips to the comm ave Star Market did I have clean hair and wore a bra. Now I hit the safeway by PSU (also dicey clientele) so I'm usually in work clothes, otherwise it would be sweats all the way!

  3. Sam--I hadn't really thought about it, but YES, I think I have gotten over my fear of raw chicken! I mean, I don't LOVE it, but I can handle it...I find it's easier to chop up when still slightly frozen, so you don't have to deal with all that slippery gross fat/veins/stuff as much. And yes, the library is WAY a third place, too!

    Megs--Ha, the NE 82nd Ave Safeway is definitely a unique place. I guess I was more thinking of the 39th/Powell one, as well as the downtown one--dicey clientele in both for sure, but the store themselves seem slightly higher class than Freddy's somehow. Sometimes I walk to that one from PSU too and I really enjoy the walk--past the art museum and some fancy shmancy looking apartments, it's always just quiet and clean and nice.

    And ugh, getting on the B line after making a big trip to the Comm Ave Star Market was a nightmare--particularly when it was snowing.

  4. There is this grocery store in Maryland called Wegman's - have you ever been? I was in awe the first time I stepped inside. It was like Whole Foods, but with way better prices and way less pretense. I can't handle Whole Foods. The prices alone stress me out! I would love to give New Seasons a try!

  5. OMG WEGMAN'S!! WEGMAN'S IS SO GOOD!! There's none here on the West Coast, I don't think, but there was one in Pennsylvania, in Scranton, and when I was a kid we'd go to their fancy food court they had inside for like, exciting nights out. lol. And then we'd go and buy pounds of Jelly Bellies from the candy aisle.

  6. If other markets offered grass-fed land protein, I would shop there for meat. Next time you come to Philly, we have to take you to the Chinatown shop I found on Cherry St. You can come away with bag upon bag of produce for under 20$. It is insane. However, since animals aggregate hormones, pesticides, etc. I am still of the opinion that shedding the extra cash for such products at a Whole Foods type seller is advisable.

  7. Mr. D. Allen, I agree, and I actually have no problem with the types of products Whole Foods sells, and also don't disagree that they are probably worth even more than the price they're sold for; I am simply poor and sensitive to things making me feel poor, as Whole Foods does. :)

    PS. We will be in Philly in June. In fact, able to hang out with you (hopefully) on the afternoon/night of June 5th, in fact. We'll discuss.