Two Years After The Impossible
Two years ago, the family was still living in Princeton, and we were coming to the end of our stay at the Institute for Advanced Study.
June was the last month of the program. We watched some of our other friends return to their home countries throughout the month. Saying goodbye was hard. And looking back on my Google calendar as I write this, I find myself getting homesick for our New Jersey experiences. For the people. For the places.
Back then my mantra was, “Let’s choose to be glad it happened, instead of being sad it’s over.” Somehow, that seemed to work. There was no fighting it, because leaving this utopian community was inevitable.
Which isn’t to say there wasn’t anything I missed about the Capital Region while I was gone. Because it was also two years ago that Whole Foods opened in Albany. And I was not around to see it happen.
But I was here to help Whole Foods Albany celebrate its first anniversary. And on Saturday, the store turns two. To get ready for the celebration, they brought in a bunch of local producers for a product sampling. Naturally, I had my favorites.
Saratoga Juice Bar was there with its cold pressed juices.
Not only were these beverages all super tasty, but I learned so much at their table. The truth is that I’m not much of a juice guy. I’d rather enjoy my fruit in its whole form. That said, the Big Shot is a blend of apple, ginger, lemon, and cayenne, and it’s potent stuff. I was excited to get a bottle of it to take home with me, since these juices typically cost $8 for a 16 ounce bottle.
But there is a lot of fruit, and a lot of effort squeezed into each of those bottles. Cold pressing juices is no joke. What I found truly amazing was the high pressure processing (HPP) that the bottles undergo before heading to market.
Somehow HPP was entirely off my radar, but it creates a high pressure environment, without using heat, in which bacteria cannot survive. And it does this through the packaging. This process gives these cold pressed juices a 45 day shelf life.
What I found even more exciting was a product that’s not available on the market locally yet, and those are the bottled shots. For about three bucks a pop you get an intense two ounce jolt of cold pressed juice. I tried the hot beets and turmeric blast. That turmeric blast packed a punch. It would be a great pick-me-up and hopefully Whole Foods Albany will pick it up down the road.
Drink More Good from Beacon, NY was there with its syrups.
I don’t know what it says about me that most of my favorite things were drinks. Really, this isn’t a drink in and of itself, rather it’s a flavored sugar syrup that you can add to seltzer or cocktails.
Now I’ve been known to make my own syrups. In fact, I encourage people to make their own syrups. But I’ve also kind of stopped making my own syrups because it’s kind of a pain in the ass. Also, these use some hard to find ingredients like Kola Nut (in their excellent cassia kream bottling) and gentian root in their spring tonic.
Currently you can only get three of their flavors at Whole Foods Albany, but I’m hopeful that will expand.
Since these syrups are so concentrated, you don’t have to use that much to flavor a seltzer. As a result, Drink More Good is now also sells smaller sized bottles, which you can buy direct from the producer online.
Last but not least, Maple Hill Creamery had some of its yogurt on display.
Wow. That’s good greek yogurt. Creamy and dense with just a subtle sweetness. It’s made using organic whole milk from 100% grass-fed cows. The strawberry flavor contains organic strawberries. And there is no coloring. Not even from beets. Which is why it’s just the faintest shade of pink, as it should be.
This is just about everything that I want a yogurt to be. Brava!
And believe it or not, but I had never tasted this before. The yogurt aisle is jammed with so many great local and regional producers. I’m thrilled to have found this. I’m definitely a newly converted fan.
Now here’s the thing. Sure, it was fun to be invited into Whole Foods, meet some of the people behind the products, sample their wares, and take home a gift bag of goodies. But there is something else going on that’s more important.
Whole Foods is thriving in Albany. They’ve stuck it out two years, and the store seems to be hitting its stride. Is it expensive? You bet. But there are most certainly deals and values for the savvy shopper.
When I first arrived to Albany, there was a general refrain that people in the region didn’t care about where their food came from, and weren’t willing to pay a premium for cleaner food. And that may have been true at the time. But Whole Foods Albany has two years under its belt proving that this is no longer the case.
More importantly, it hasn’t put the Honest Weight Food Co-op out of business either. That operation is also thriving. My hunch is that the arrival of Whole Foods has simply expanded the market. And that’s worth celebrating.
The official celebration starts at 11a on Saturday the 18th. Happy anniversary.