First, I thought I’d share with you the fact that one of my more popular Google hits is the search term “tasty sandwiches.” This means I’m doing my job.
OK. So, much to my annoyance and irritation, and in spite of my repeated requests via the “suggestions” form, Whole Foods has still not yet opened a location in the entire state of New Hampshire. What’s a Manchesterite to do?
As I’ve mentioned previously, A Market in Manchester is a pretty decent option if you find yourself in desperate need of Daiya, Field Roast, nutritional yeast, seasonal Silk flavors…you know the stuff I’m talking about. But, recently I’ve found that I prefer the Concord Co-Op even more!
Entrance to the Concord Co-operative Market
I am not a member of the Co-op, but if I weren’t planning on moving to Massachusetts soon I would seriously think about joining. It’s a wonderful way to support local farmers as well as the local economy. There is a one-time cost of $100 per household to join (and you get it back if you ever decide not to be a member any more, so there’s really very little to lose and a lot to gain). Check out the conditions as well as the perks of membership here.
The Co-op offers many of the things I like best about Whole Foods, with the benefits of being closer and more locally supportive. Some examples: a wide array of natural and organic products as well as locally-grown produce; an impressive bulk foods section; catering services; a calendar of events, classes, and tasting events; and — one of the best things about WF of course — a hot food bar and prepared foods section, rounded out by an area where you can sit and eat your food after checkout! They also offer a sales/coupon flyer called Co+op Deals, similar to the “Whole Deal” flyer.
The area is open and, with the exception of the natural healing section, never feels anything but spacious (a nice change, since most health food stores in New Hampshire are tiny and make me feel a bit claustrophobic).
SPACE in the aisles!
Lately, the incentive to take the short trip up the highway to the Co-op has been what is probably the best variety of non-dairy dairy options I’ve seen this side of the Mass border:
Just a piece of the Co-op dairy case -- and unfortunately, YES, much of what's pictured is cow dairy, so don't get your hopes too high.
Here you can see the milk and yogurt options, including my favorite yogurt, Wildwood Probiotic Soyogurt, which is nearly impossible to find around here outside of WF. But check it out — not all the vegan options even fit in the picture! Outside of the picture’s scope to the left is the non-dairy cheese including both kinds of Daiya, FYH, and all the single-sliced kinds, as well as soy-, almond- and coconut-milk based coffee creamers and Soyatoo whipped cream. To the right of the picture is all the Tofutti, Vegenaise and EB varieties I could think of, so probably all of them!
Prepared foods case at the Co-op
The prepared foods case at the Co-op can usually put the case at any small WF to shame, though it was a busy Sunday afternoon when I snapped this photo so it looks a little understocked. There are always plenty of vegan options here, including stellar mini-versions of Cafe Indigo‘s award-winning cakes, ready-to-go combo meals from SamosaMan, and delicious-looking sandwiches (in the mood for a vegan BLT? egg-less salad sandwich? how about broccoli-tempeh wraps?) made under the name of their in-house cafe, the Celery Stick.
Don’t expect a WF-sized salad bar at the Celery Stick — it’s a small operation. Still, they manage to fit in a hot bar, a salad bar, 2-3 soups and a decent-sized bakery case!
Offerings at The Celery Stick Cafe
Celery Stick bakery case -- typically contains 2-3 vegan options
The one complaint I have about the Celery Stick is that generally only one option in the hot bar (and sometimes no option!) is vegan. There’s usually plenty of tasty stuff in the prepared section to take care of me. But, if you’re planning to have lunch here, I’d still recommend you check their Twitter feed first (@celerystickcafe) to find out what’s on the hot bar menu. The bakery case always has something vegan, though — the last time I went, there was a vegan blueberry muffin as well as cookie bars from Cafe Indigo. At least they’ve got those of us with a sweet tooth covered.
Though A Market is closer to my house, I think the slightly longer drive up here is worth it. I’ve never compared prices, but I do know the selection is better, the prepared foods are better, the overall experience is just…better, and knowing I’m directly supporting the local community seals the deal. In the wintertime especially, when all but a few farmer’s markets go into hibernation, this is a great way to show our New England vendors some love!
The Concord Co-Operative Market and the Celery Stick Cafe are located at 24 South Main Street in Concord, NH. Check Web site for hours and menu. http://www.concordfoodcoop.coop/