Special Feature: Products Sally Recommends
Whole Foods Market--Austin, Texas
In the spring of 2005 Whole Foods Market, the world's leading natural and organic food supermarket, opened a landmark store in Austin, Texas, their world headquarters. The new store is at the corner of Sixth Street and Lamar Boulevard, near downtown, and is the company's largest, at 80,000 square feet. This location is a few blocks from where the first Whole Foods was located 25 years ago. But this store is quite different from the original.
I was lucky to have Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Community Relations Coordinator, give me a tour of the store. I was amazed at what I saw and was like a kid in a candy store. Even more than any other Whole Foods Market location, this landmark store represents a fresh and often surprising approach to the grocery shopping experience - as cooking demonstrations, food sampling, sit-down dining and takeout selections mingle with thousands of fresh and all natural ingredients in every department. And talk about departments…there are many. Atop it all is a rooftop, park-like plaza and community meeting place for gatherings and live music. Read on…
The new store's selection of fruits and vegetables are hand stacked colorfully high in dazzling displays, with about 30 percent of selections coming from Texas growers.
Even before you enter the store, the Market Hall, reminiscent of an outdoor farmers market, greets you with the freshest fruits and vegetables in season, along with lots of local products, fresh-cut flowers and gardening essentials.
Inside, you will find peak-of-the-season selections in traditional bushel baskets, and an on-site juicer for fresh carrot-based vegetable juices and fruity citrus blends, such as orange with pineapple, strawberry or grape infusions.Smell the hot-roasted and candied nuts from the roasting machines at the hot nut bar, which also features a variety of nut butters.
Bakery: Fresh-Baked, Sweet and Savory Delights
From three different types of ovens (deck, hearth, and wood stone), 50 fresh-baked breads are available daily, along with dozens of chef-prepared pastries, candies and desserts. Knishes and empanadas are featured next to focaccias and artisan breads, all baked fresh and warmed in their wood stone oven.
Candy Island features a chocolate "enrobing" fountain and barks, brittles, fudge, toffees, clusters, S'mores, handmade lollipops, popcorn balls, caramels and many other all-natural alternatives to some of your favorite chocolate candy bars.
The seafood case features more than 150 of the freshest in-season catches, whole fish, crabs, and oysters, with on-the-spot shucking, cooking, slicing, and frying.
Seafood is cured right in the store, using a special blend of kosher salt, brown sugar and lemon peel and smoked over hickory and mesquite hardwood. The in-house smoker is available for custom orders, too.
Wine and Beer: Something for Everyone
More than 1,800 types of wine will include a wide selection of local and organic varieties. Along with wine-tasting flights every day, wine specialists will be on hand to answer questions, backed up by an extensive computer database of wine information.
Thousands of beers from around the globe will be stocked in the walk-in cooler that measures almost 400 square feet (a perfect spot to spend hot summer Texas days). There is also a beer-tasting area.
Meat and Poultry:
Daily all natural and organic meat and poultry choices will include more than 70 cuts of fresh meat, 32 varieties of fresh-made sausage and 50+ chef-prepared, oven-ready selections. Choose from eight varieties of soups, stews, and chilies, as well as barbecue with all the trimmings. You'll also find an extensive selection of fresh poultry, including turkey, game birds, chicken and a full selection of lamb, pork, veal. They even have buffalo.
Coffee and Tea:
The hand-selected coffees and teas Whole Foods Market features come from farms across the globe, and the in-house coffee roaster features their own Allegro coffee blends. Early bird? Pick up your coffee at the walk-up window, beginning at 6 a.m.
A tea bar has bulk teas for every day as well as special occasions. For a peak sensory experience, they display the teas in flat aroma bowls. You can sample them freshly brewed, too.
Two full-service cheese cases present Whole Foods Market's largest-ever selection of cut-to-order cheeses -- hundreds of the world's best varieties of fresh, soft, ripened, hard and aged cheese. Frequent cheese tastings and cheese flights for lunch and dinner will help customers taste the diversity.
The prepared foods area includes a large array of ready-to-eat dishes, three food bars, two dine-in eateries, four made-to-order counters and three specialty shops. They've even got a raw food and fresh-made juice bar.
Grab lunch-on-the-run from the island chock-full of conveniently packaged foods that are perfect for snacks and lunch. Or, stick around for a while and linger over the more than 60 dishes the chefs prepare daily. A hot food bar will tantalize with 12 chef-made soups and a variety of warm self-serve dishes. Two self-serve cold bars hold freshly prepared salads and make-your-own-salad trimmings.
Grocery and World Foods: From Staples to the Most Exotic
The grocery aisles, bulk bins, dairy section and frozen foods present an extensive variety of world foods, staple items and their own private label products. The bulk section alone offers more than 500 selections, including a new section for large-size bags of rice, grain and flour.
Regionally and nationally recognized culinary and ethnic food experts on their World Food Council advise Whole Foods Market on authenticity and quality in product selection of world foods, beverages, fresh ingredients, as well as the cookware and house wares necessary to authentically prepare ethnic cuisines.
Whole Body: Spoil Yourself and Your Family
Personal care items including shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, lotion, deodorant and cosmetics made with natural ingredients (and never tested on animals) fills the Whole Body area. A sports area provides sport drinks, powders, bars and nutritional supplements and aids. Practitioners from The Crossings, a Hill Country spa, offer full-body massage and nutritional counseling.
In the new Whole Baby area, baby food, diapers, wipes, shampoo, lotion and other necessities are placed together to make shopping for and with small children easier. A three-foot tall, interactive section along the bottom of the Whole Baby aisle is filled with toys-just for fun and not for sale-that children can play with while parents shop from the shelves above. This area also is home to a private nursing station.
What else? How about linens and towels, some of which are made of organic cotton apparel for both adults and kids? There is even a dressing room where you can try on the clothes.
And if you decide all this food has made you hungry, there are options here too. One of the truly distinctive concepts at the new Whole Foods Market is the wide array of eateries sprinkled throughout the store, where customers can sit down and enjoy freshly prepared foods on the spot. They've given each of these eateries an Austin "landmark" name, to help customers locate them and to honor their hometown. Each one features a sit-down counter and a menu, in addition to dynamic daily specials. Wine will be available by the glass to complement the food:
Lamar Street Greens
Fifth Street Seafood
North Side Trattoria
Living Foods And Juice
Sixth Street Sushi
Need I say more? The store’s 600 employees are there to help you, just in case you get lost for the day. And this is a store where you can actually spend the day.
Austin - Landmark Store
Whole Foods Market
525 N Lamar
Austin, TX 78703
Store hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week