This is the day I’ve been waiting years for. I have been waiting ever since Martha said on nearly every episode of my favorite show of all time, The Martha Stewart Show, that all the delicious produce she was cooking with was from Whole Foods. I’d never been to Whole Foods, but from that moment on, I made it my holy mission to visit one of these oasises of culinary culture.
Finally, I found myself at the doors of one of these hallowed institutions in Sarasota, Florida. It was everything that I expected it to be, it was more than I dreamed it could be. There was a machine that made fresh peanut butter! Now, I rarely use peanut butter, aside from the occasional peanut butter/chocolate chip cookie, but I still wanted to grind a quart for my own amusement, but I didn’t. Not sure what the TSA would have thought about that.
Last year, when I was in London for the Royal Wedding, I stumbled onto another shop in the bewitching area around Kensington Palace. That’s on my list of places to live before I die. Also somewhere around the British Museum. J’adore! Anyway, that Whole Foods was absolutely marvelous as well–there was a literal tower of Parmigiano-Reggiano. I died.
But now, oh happy day, Whole Foods is opening in Des Moines, and as if this weren’t a treat enough, they are neighbors with one of my very favorite stores in town: World Market! Two magnificent structures so close to each other is further evidence that Des Moines has made it. We’re quite obviously destined to be the next great cultural destination in the Midwest…if only there was something to do besides shop, that is.
I’ve watched the store go from speculative rumor to confirmed to the demolition of the old Best Buy, then finally to the glorious white tower, the architecture recalling the understated elegance of other Whole Foods across the globe.
And now, it’s here! I couldn’t sleep but two hours last night, not so much because I was overexcited, which I was, but because I got into one of my interior decorating frenzies. I have finally finished designing the first room of my penthouse, which I’m not even close to owning. Moulding, moulding, moulding! Herringbone floors, a recovered mantle, pressed ceilings, an overstated chandelier, warm green walls. Oh, it’ll just be too divine!
Anyway, I clamored out of bed and marveled at how great my hair looked. It’s bizarre, I never have good bedhead. I also didn’t have bags under my eyes, which is so strange that I’m starting to wonder if I sold my soul to Satan for everlasting youth and beauty–which is something I’d totally do! “What does one wear to the opening of such a wonderful place?” I asked myself. Then another question popped into mind, “Are sexy sailor stripes ever out of place?” We all know the answer, nauticals are ALWAYS in vogue, so I threw on a boating inspired outfit and got in the car.
I didn’t have time for breakfast, so we went to La Mie for a quick nibble. Ma and I go there often to judge them. They make fantastic croissants and croissant-based pastries, but the rest is very hit our miss. And honestly, they make the worst macarons I have ever had in all my life. I’ve sampled macarons in many countries around the world. A mutual friend spoke to the owner about me and he wanted me to come in for an interview, but I was wary. I like to think that the macaron situation wouldn’t be so abysmal had I worked there, but that’s not the case. Macarons are small, the size of a fifty cent piece, not a small flapjack. They are delicate and yield to the slightest pressure, they aren’t frozen lumps. Their colored shells notify the nibbler about what they are about to consume, not circus colors that are chosen at random. I’m a macaron freak. Do not look at La Mie’s macarons. Do not acknowledge their existence.
I had a spinach and feta croissant, a decent lemon meringue tart and an espresso.
Once finished, we went across town and Ma tossed me into the parking lot, sure that she would be unable to find a spot, but there were a few. I didn’t quite realize the extent of the line at first, it went on and on and on and on.
The heat was excessive, even for me–I’m cold in a sauna, but the line was moving very quickly and I was given a very nice tote bag to distract myself from the weather.
Not long after, I finally was at the front of the line and could get a good look inside–chaos! I couldn’t wait to go in, but there were nibbles to be had first.
As soon as I was inside, I was in love, even more in love than I dreamed. I wanted the entire selection of kale. So many gorgeous vegetables. The workers were scurrying around arranging plums and figs making sure that they looked their best. It was gorgeous, like living art.
A few moments later, I was interviewed for WHO radio. They asked me why I was there, what I was excited about, why I recommended Whole Foods, my advice on keeping cool. I like to believe that I was exceedingly charming the entire time. I’m not sure if I made the cut, though, or not. I hope so!
There was an entire wall of flours and grains and dried fruits. I was obsessed! I need some crystallized ginger.
And the peanut butter machines were there! I WAS SO FREAKING EXCITED! I had a sample of it, delicious.
There was chicken broth with no dead chicken in it, which gladdened my vegetarian heart. I’m curious about it, though. What in it tastes of chicken if there’s no chicken? I’ll just stick to mushroom stock and vegetable stock.
Taboulleh in a box!
Are these the bath salts that you do somehow and then eat the face off a hobo? If so, no thank you.
I don’t know what this is, but I was intrigued by all the sprouted cereals. I’ll get a bit on my next trip into town.
I about died when I saw the butter selection. Not only do they have Plugra, which is delicious (but commonplace in Des Moines now), but Smjör (which I’ve been dying to try), Président (which is my favorite butter when I’m living in Paris), and vegan baking sticks from Earth Balance. I’ve been wanting to make vegan croissants for ages, I’ll finally get the chance!
Vegan Parmesan? This must be bought.
So many Indian foods! I love Indian food. I’m going to spend so much money here.
Seitan and tempeh! I can’t even get this at Trader Joe’s! I have so many recipes that call for tempeh that I have to try! I’m going to be doing so much cooking.
DUFOUR PUFF PASTRY!
The cheese shop was wonderful.
Then, my heart stopped, a lump came to my throat, I wept. I love Parmigiano-Reggiano so much. So much that it doesn’t make sense. One of these trips to Europe, I’m going to Parma and bringing home an entire wheel, even if I have to set it on my lap for the plane ride home. Worth it!
I was excited by the pastries. As a pastry chef, I consider it my duty to try everything at least once. The miniature tarts were my favorites. The others look a bit too big. I’m a snob, though, maybe they’re just right. I was thrilled with a case of meringues I saw. I adore meringues. They’re so light and delicious.
A worker highfived me because we share the same name: Benjamin. I then saw these adorable gift cards.
Then, floating on a cloud, we left. It’s a wonderful shop, and I’ll be going often. I already have my next trip planned and I’m trying to pare down my shopping list. I suppose I don’t really need everything in the shop. (I do, though, desperately.)
When we got home, I had a package from Joan Fontaine waiting for me. Yes, Joan Fontaine, celebrated Academy Award winning actress. She was kind enough to send me her autograph. What a wonderful day!