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A Year of Whole Foods

June 17, 2015

Holy cow. Whole Foods has been in Albany for an entire year. I can’t believe it. Actually, I can’t believe it on a lot of levels.

For starters, I was still in New Jersey on sabbatical when the Whole Foods opened in Albany so I missed the whole thing. Does that mean I haven’t even been back in the Capital Region for a full year? That seems impossible.

And even though the market has been here a year, I still can’t believe we have a Whole Foods in the Capital Region. Never in my wildest dreams did I entertain the notion that we would be able to attract such an upscale market to this old corner of upstate New York where change seems to come at a glacial pace. That said, Crossgates Mall is getting a lululemon. This is definitely not the Albany I moved to eight years ago. So maybe it’s not so glacial after all.

Anyway, in advance of the official one year anniversary, Whole Foods Albany invited a bunch of bloggers back into the market for a local vendor tasting on Tuesday. There I saw old friends and made some new ones, and even found one local producer who was completely off my radar.

It’s not easy to stay on top of the local food scene. There are a lot of moving pieces and I try to do my best. Occasionally, something falls through the cracks.

Nani’s Iced Tea of Delamar is one of those. It is a 16 ounce mason jar of shelf stable tea that Maria Gallo modeled after her grandmother’s recipe. The classic version is sweetened with cane sugar, and includes both mint and lemon. But she also makes an unsweetened version, which I preferred. And Maria was kind enough to send me home with a bottle.

Although in hindsight, perhaps a bottle of the sweet would have been better to bring home and try out in some easy summer cocktails. Oh well. It will be easy enough to buy one on my own.

Then there was the old standby, Beth’s Farm Kitchen that I came to know and love through my workings with the Chefs’ Consortium. I do enjoy their jams. And I was even able to dig out this old post from the Consortium archive, although the pictures seem to have vanished. The jar I brought home of black raspberry jam will surely be put to some good use on toast with some grassfed butter.

Bilinski’s was there with their newish organic chicken sausages. It’s good to hear that this newish line is outpacing their original all natural antibiotic free sausages. This may not be a small brand, but these are made right here in Cohoes and are delicious. I can’t believe I actually enjoy chicken sausage myself, but whenever they are sampling the product, it’s both juicy and flavorful.

I’m eager to bring home a box of their frozen chicken meatballs to see if Young Master Fussy will go for them or not. He’s the tough one in the family. We’ll have to wait and see. The coupon we got for a free 12 ounce package of sausage, doesn’t cover the meatballs. So those I will have to buy, but I will do so gladly.

We were also treated to a display from Gatherer’s Gourmet Granola out of Schenectady. I’ve been long aware of this local granola maker and remember when they used to produce their stuff out of the All Good Bakers kitchen. It’s good to see them grow. They have also expanded their line beyond the three original flavors I tasted back in 2013. Now I’ve found a second flavor that I enjoy, and it’s called Bee’s Knees. It’s made with local wildflower honey, walnuts, and pistachios. It’s fantastic, and I especially appreciate that it contains no brown rice syrup (which I’m avoiding because of all the problems with rice these days).

After years of seeing her at local farmers markets, I finally met Pika of Pika’s Farm Table face to face. Usually when I’m at the farmers market I’m looking for produce and not products. But she was there to sample her soups, which come frozen and are ready to heat and serve. She gave me a lentil soup and a tomato parmesan to bring home, as those might prove to be favorites with the family. But I really thought the leek soup was something special. It was so vibrant and had such a rich, silky body I thought there might be a touch of cream. There wasn’t.

And for “dessert” Linda from Bake For You was there with stacks and stacks of her creative cookies. Perhaps my favorite of the bunch was the Earl Gray tea cookie, which makes me even more excited about the next iteration of her pop up dinner series Three Chefs and a Baker. This next one is being held up in Ballston Spa, and the theme is tea. Brian Bowden, Mark Graham, and Mike Niccoli are the three chefs. It’s eight courses and BYOB. Naturally, when having a mystery dinner, the obvious choice is to bring champagne since it goes with everything. I hear there are only a few tickets remaining. By now they may even be gone.

Anyhow, Linda stuffed a selection of her cookies in my gift bag to take home, which Mrs. Fussy asked that I keep hidden lest she eat them all.

Thursday is the big day at Whole Foods Albany. To celebrate the one year anniversary, they are offering some crazy $1 deals. Ground beef patties, cupcakes, wild salmon sliders, Italian sodas, and more are just a buck. I do have to say that I enjoy the sales at Whole Foods. I know they have a reputation for high prices, and it’s a reputation that’s well earned, however the savvy shopper can find some great values on great products.

It was a pleasure to get to speak with these producers in person, to see old blogging buddies and meet new online friends. Thanks to Whole Foods Albany for putting this all together, and for coming out to our neck of the woods in the first place. Happy anniversary. I hope it’s the first of many.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. llcwine permalink
    June 17, 2015 11:16 am

    Here is a great value from the seafood department at Whole Foods…for anyone making a fish stock…Whole foods sells the fish carcass after making fillets for 99 cents a lb. A few weeks ago, they had halibut on sale…I went in early on a Saturday morning and asked if they had any of the collars left…the fish monger brought out 2 gorgeous ones and charged me the ridiculously low price of 99cents a lb…I marinated and grilled those collars, and had enough delicious meat off of them to feed 2 of us a couple of dinners, made a ton of fish salad with the leftovers. They will also clean fish to your specifications…they did so with the whole red snapper I purchased last week. (also on sale).

  2. Michelle Matsui permalink
    June 17, 2015 12:44 pm

    Hi Daniel,

    It was great to meet you last night! We’re so glad you enjoyed Bilinski’s new Frozen Organic Pineapple Teriyaki chicken meatballs! I’m pretty sure the coupon for a free 12 oz. package of sausage should work for the meatballs as well, which is also a 12 oz. package. We meant for them to encompass our full product line. Try it out and let us know!

  3. June 17, 2015 11:14 pm

    Great to see you again! It’s funny, I ended up going home with the sweetened Nani’s Tea….hmmm maybe we should swap?! The leek soup was fabulous and I cannot wait to have it again :)

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