Category Archives: Grocery Stores

Cafe Indigo’s treats head south!

Good news for those of you in the South End: a new mini-market and sandwich shop called Maax Market (named for the owners’ dog!) will be opening in the old Lambert’s spot sometime in the next few weeks.  (They picked a difficult time of year for new business, no?  But I wish them the absolute best of luck!!)

According to various reports, the store will stock conventional grocery products as well as natural and organic foods, and the sandwich selections will include vegetarian and vegan choices.  The best part is that the market will be peddling treats from Cafe Indigo, so you can get a cookie bar to go with that cruelty-free sandwich!

Here’s my favorite quote from the South End Patch article I linked above:

“You can come in here and get Pepperidge Farm cookies or you can get a vegan cookie or gluten free,” Gretchen said. “Residents have made it clear they really want vegan, they really want all-natural.”

Yay!  A similar bit from the MySouthEnd article:

“We’re nervous, of course,” Gretchen said, though she added the focus on low-cost, non-organic and organic foods would help in drawing a wider range of people in.

I find this really interesting, since even I am old enough to remember the days when advertising natural, organic, vegan food would certainly NOT help a store draw a wider range of people — and in fact actually might hurt business with its associations of hemp and granola (both of which are things I love, incidentally).  So that’s exciting!  People are starting to care about this stuff.  It’s a good time to be vegan!  And it’s a good time to realize that cheezy poofs aren’t really food.

The Maax deli is open for sandwich business already, though no word yet on when the CI stuff will get there.  If you’re in the area, though, stop in and say hi to the owners, Gretchen and Carl Blomendale.  They’re welcoming menu input, so if you’ve got any killer vegan sandwich ideas, why not put in your two cents?  And while you’re at it, let ’em know they made the right choice in stocking vegan cookies!

Maax Market is located at 682 Tremont Street in Boston.  No Web site yet but of course I’ll keep you posted!

Advertisements

Co-operating

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/

Gnu it all along

Ouch, I know.

I’m almost always on the hunt for a really tasty, really healthy go-to nutrition bar.  I rarely eat bars, but when I do, I want one that’s vegan, delicious, and of some nutritional value (and preferably minimally processed).

There are a few that fit the bill.  Larabars and Raw Revolution bars are good but so greasy (not added, just naturally from the nuts)!  So I have to be in the right mood for those (read: have napkins handy).  Clif bars are good but a little calorie-heavy for a snack, unless I’ve been working out hard that day.  Their Zbars (marketed toward the kiddies, but good for us too!) are lighter, but careful — several Zbar flavors contain honey.  Sadface.

My favorite bar of all, though, is the Gnu bar.   By far.  These little buddies have a lot of things going for them.  All-natural, all-vegan, minimally processed, and packing 12 grams of fiber per bar (nearly 50% of the RDA, so make sure you drink lots of water with these!) — plus many of the ingredients are organic.  And on top of that, they taste REALLY, REALLY GOOD.

Gnu's 7 flavors! Image from Gnu Web site

I first discovered the Cinnamon Raisin and Chocolate Brownie flavors at Trader Joe’s when I was in school in Chicago around 2006 or 2007, but I just recently found out that they sell many more flavors at Whole Foods and on the Gnu bar Web site.  The site is pretty sexy — along with both individual and by-the-box purchasing capability, there is a “Joy of Fiber” club (a similar idea to Amazon’s Subscribe and Save) that offers a 30% savings and free shipping if you sign up for at least one month of bar delivery, commitment-free.

I was so excited to discover that there were more flavors than the two I’d been buying that I immediately ordered the 7-bar sampler, which is just what it sounds like.  It cost me $13.95, but they recently dropped the price down so just $9.95 will get you one of each bar (plus free shipping!  one-time only).  This is a super deal, since the bars regularly retail at $1.99 each.

Here are my thoughts:

  • Chocolate Brownie – My absolute favorite.  I am so impressed with how delicious this tastes for something that is such a health food!  This can pass as dessert for sure!
  • Banana Walnut – A little more dry than the other flavors, but very banana-bread tasting!
  • Orange Cranberry – Not my fave — surprisingly super-orangey.  Might be good to kill the occasional scone or muffin craving, but I wouldn’t stock up on these.
  • Cinnamon Raisin – JUST like an oatmeal raisin cookie!  This is coming from someone who loves oatmeal raisin cookies.  This flavor especially is good with tea!
  • Lemon Ginger – Eh.  Not great.  Wrong taste for the texture (the psyllium and flaxseed especially), I think.
  • Peanut Butter – Not quite peanut-buttery enough to satisfy a PB cookie craving, and a little dry.  Still tasty in its own way.
  • Espresso Chip – I love this one!  It definitely tastes like coffee, though, and does contain caffeine, so this one is best saved for the A.M.

Overall: My faves were the Chocolate Brownie, Cinnamon Raisin and Espresso Chip.  Without being gross, it’s also worth noting that the Gnu slogan (“It works!”) may be cute but it’s also TRUE — so if your body’s not used to lots of fiber at once, maybe start with just half a bar a day, or split the bar between a.m. and p.m.  I’d also recommend NEVER eating more than 2 bars a day — eek!

Stock up on Gnu Bars (or try the sampler!) at http://gnufoods.com, or purchase them individually at most Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s (and I’ve seen them in other stores too! — so check out your local grocer or health food store).

11/30 NOTE: I discovered JUST TODAY while I was perusing Gnu’s About page that the company is open about the fact that the sugar in their chocolate chips (found in the Brownie and Espresso flavors, which were my faves — boo!) is processed with bone char.  Bad that they use it, but good that they post a warning about it on their Web site so you can eat with full consciousness, whatever your decision.

HEALTHY. DELICIOUS. VEGAN. CINNAMON. ROLL.

I KNOW.  Sounds impossible, right?  But oh, is it possible!  I have a new obsession…

Our friends at Zen Bakery have done it again!  Well, OK, they’ve presumably been doing it for a while since the cinnamon rolls aren’t a new product, but I’ve just discovered them so they are new to me babe.  And I am making up for lost time by buying bags of them at once.  …And I will tell you to your face that I do not have a problem.

miraculous cinnamon roooooll!

I discovered these things at TJ’s on the West Coast, but back here at home I’ve only been able to locate them at Whole Foods, and not all of them at that.  For example, I know for a fact that they ARE at the WF on River Street in Cambridge, and they are NOT at the WF on Washington in Brighton.  I keep forgetting to check Whole Foods Andover (which is, ironically, the one closest to my house).  In any case, you can find them somewhere near you; and it’s worth it, I promise.

OK, now to extol their virtues.  First, let’s look at the ingredients (there are only nine, and none of them are sugar!): Whole wheat flour, unbleached wheat flour, water, white grape juice, raisins, canola oil, yeast, cinnamon, salt.  As if that weren’t good enough, somehow these few ingredients manage to pack in four grams of fiber and SEVEN grams of protein!  Serving size is a whole roll (none of this “1/2 muffin” stuff) and it has less than 9% calories from fat.  Winner in my book already, but if that weren’t enough, they are delicious!

They are also HUGE.  Hello breakfast.

I don’t know what Zen magic they’ve used on the white grape juice to give it such sweetness, but it did the trick!  I usually don’t even miss the icing, though there have been times of serious sugar withdrawal when I’ve made my own to pour on top.  It’s got the texture of a whole-wheat dinner roll (the kind you might get in a classy restaurant’s bread basket), light yet chewy and doughy.  The cinnamon layer is just right too – not cloying or artificial, just plenty of sweetness and cinnamon flavor.  And the whole thing is chock full of raisins.  Also, know how conventional cinnamon rolls taste way better the closer you get to the middle?  None of that nonsense here.  It’s consistently yummy from start to finish.  And they are still peelable, layer by layer, providing just as much fun as the far-less-healthy (yet still somehow vegan?) Pillsbury ones.

The one thing you MUST take note of for proper enjoyment of these cinnamon rolls is that they are NOT to be eaten un-heated!  Please, do yourself a favor and pop them in the toaster oven for a few minutes first.  I’ve had a few bites of cold, untoasted roll and it is basically just cinnamon-raisin bread.  I think the heat brings out the sweetness somehow.  I guess it might still be good if you ate it cold, but it’d be so boring…  Boring is not recommended!  The good news is that these freeze and reheat just fine, so if you live far enough away from WF that you need to buy multiple bags at a time to stock up (*ahem*) that’ll work just fine for me.  Um, I mean you.

So go get some!  Pair with chai tea and a fall day for best results.

Zen Bakery cinnamon rolls can be found at select Whole Foods and (possibly) Trader Joe’s.

(As a disclaimer, I swear I am not a Zen Bakery rep and I did not receive a cent to write this post.  Though… if they wanted to hire me, I’d seriously think about it. ;)  Think of the perks!!)

Split pea gladness

Split pea has always run a close race with lentil in the race for the title of My Favorite Soup Ever.  I know, I know — here we are in the middle of August, and she’s talking about soup!  But thick, creamy soups like split pea are good comfort food, too, and God knows the need for comfort food can arise any time of the year.  (Plus, if you live in a place like I do where the air conditioning actually makes it unbearably COLD in the summer, you may welcome a hot lunch from time to time.)

It’s not often you find a good, tasty split pea soup that’s also vegan and low-fat.  A lot of restaurant varieties have ham, bacon or even cream added (weird!), and most canned varieties have added oil.  Luckily, when a split pea craving struck me recently, TJ’s had just the (katy-approved) thing: this!

Organic Split Pea Soup from TJ's!

Ingredients: Filtered water, organic green split peas, organic onions, organic celery, organic carrots, sea salt, organic basil, organic garlic, spices, organic cracked black pepper.

nutrition facts

Check out those nutritional stats!

Warmed up for a few minutes on the stove, this soup is every bit the comfort food you want it to be; creamy and filling with the perfect mushy texture provided by the peas, carrots (which seem to be pureed in) and cooked celery bits.  I usually don’t even like celery, but there is no identifiable celery taste here — it’s purely for texture. The spices are nothing special, either, but they give the soup just the flavor it needs.

tasty tasty comfort food!

Split pea soup proudly joins hummus in the Hall of Fame for Foods Which Taste Much Better Than They Look

I ate it with a few pretzel bites I picked up from the farmer’s market on Sunday (baby pretzel bread!  my new favorite thing!).  They were the perfect croutons.

yay!

Pretzel bread! So hard to find vegan but so worth it when you do!

It’s definitely a simple dish.  So simple, in fact, that what I most wanted to do after tasting it was sit down and figure out a recipe to make it myself!  It seems easy enough and the results would be well worth it.  I love to cook but I’m not intuitively good at it; that is to say, I’m great at following recipes but not so hot at inventing them.  Maybe once I’m back home and into an apartment with an Actual Kitchen, I’ll give it a try.

Healthy cookie option at TJ’s

Can I just say how much I love being in L.A.??  The healthy eating options here are virtually endless, and there is a grocery store with edible food in it around every corner.  Tomorrow I’ll be at a blogger meetup organized by Lynn at The Actor’s Diet and attended by other generally-healthy-type food bloggers around the L.A. area.  The other bloggers have been around the blogosphere longer than I have, to be sure, so I’m hoping to pick up some bloggy tips there as well as having a good time and enjoying the food!

On to other delicious things…

I was in Trader Joe’s a few days ago when a craving for cookies struck me.  Lately I’ve been quashing sweet cravings, when they strike, with Whole Foods’ “Health Starts Here” brownies and chocolate chip cookies, but I was in the mood for something a little less chocolaty and a little more…oaty.  Luckily TJ’s carries just the thing: Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookies!  I’m 99% sure that these are the off-label version of Zen Bakery’s oatmeal-cranberry cookies.  Zen Bakery makes pretty good stuff — a huge variety of vegan, high-fiber, (relatively) low-fat baked goods without refined sugar or Questionable Ingredients.  Zen Bakery stuff is practically omnipresent at health-food stores here in L.A., but we East Coasters can find their stuff in Whole Foods or, like I’m sayin’, off-label at TJ’s.

Oatmeal-Cranberry Cookie from Trader Joe's

Ingredients: Whole wheat flour, rolled oats, white grape juice, cranberries, raisins, canola oil, walnut pieces, sodium bicarbonate, vanilla, spices.

While the cookies are not fat-free (they contain some canola oil and a very small amount of walnuts), they were still low enough for me to buy them (200 calories, 30 from fat = 15%).  The serving size, however, was ridiculous — 1/2 a cookie?  Who eats half a cookie when they are that size?  Of course, I’m not a big fan of 1/2-item servings anyway; I feel like it’s disingenuous labeling.  Granted, they are pretty filling, so maybe if you have more self-control than I do you could get away with just one “serving.”

I think the “cookies” would be more accurately described as “large globs of granola,” or perhaps “very oaty scones.”  They are extremely dense and filling, but super-dry — they easily crumble apart in my hands if I’m not careful.  What I really wanted to do whenever I ate one was dip it in my tea, but it always fell apart too easily and I was afraid of drinking oat chunks (ew).

As for the taste, which is what really matters anyway, right?: I’ve really been enjoying them.  They’re plainish, not too sweet but with the right amount of dried fruit and spices to give them a pleasant flavor that pairs well with my post-meal tea (usually rooibos chai or chamomile).  Since I wasn’t totally floored by them, and vegan cookie options are so numerous these days, I doubt they’ll be a staple in my pantry — but I don’t regret buying them and I would eat one again if someone were to offer one to me!  :)

Select Zen Bakery items can be found at Whole Foods all over Massachusetts, and may be purchased at TJ’s off-label.

A Market: Kind of Like Whole Foods, But More Expensive

Those of us unfortunate enough to live in the awkward, politically-undefined space between liberal, neo-hippie Concord and liberal, college-town-heavy Massachussetts have precious few choices when it comes to natural-type shopping.  (Hyphens!)  Even the non-healthy vegans are frustrated by this, as it means a crippling dearth of Daiya cheese, Gardein patties and Follow Your Heart sour cream.  This was never a problem for me when I lived in Chicago, or even Houston for that matter, because I could always depend on Whole Foods — pricey as it is — to fill the gap in my diet that no Kroger, Jewel, or Shaw’s could touch.

Now, I for one would love to have an explanation as to why there are 10 Whole Foods Markets in the greater Boston area yet none in the entire state of New Hampshire (there’s even one in Maine, for goodness’ sake).  But until WFM cleans up its act, or at least brings it filthily to Manchester, we NHers will have to rely on my dear old standby, A Market.

A Market Natural Foods in Manchester

A Market Natural Foods in Manchester

A Market Natural Foods is a solid alternative to Whole Foods in that it fills just that gap I was talking about earlier.  Various fake meats like Tofurky, Field Roast, and Gardein abound, and there’s enough non-dairy dairy to stock any vegan’s fridge with a wide selection of cheeses and milks.  A small coffee bar and modest selection of prepared foods offers a quick choice if you’re in a rush.  They’re also the only store I know of that sells certified fair-trade bananas.  And yes, they do carry both kinds of Daiya.

They’ve really stepped up their game lately, too, as evidenced by the surge in new products carried (e.g.: Daiya, Tofurky’s new line of pre-seasoned tempeh strips, So Delicious coconut milk kefir) and the food sample displays at the end of nearly every aisle.  It’s nice to see that they’ve retained their country store charm while operating, business-wise, more on par with a larger chain.  Granted, you can’t do all your shopping here, unless you’re the sort of person who can afford to live in The Flume, but bounce back and forth between here and Hannaford and I think you’ll be all set.

My personal favorite recent discovery at A Market is We Can’t Say It’s Cheese by Wayfare Foods.  It’s a soy-free cheese alternative that comes in four flavors — 2 dips and 2 spreads — and it tastes like cheese!  It’s made from pureed oatmeal (weird, right?) but they’ve really got that nacho-esque, drippy, goopy orange cheese flavor right on.  And a hell of a lot healthier to boot.

 

We Can't Say It's Cheese by Wayfare Foods

We Can't Say It's Cheese varieties -- image from Wayfare's website. Would have taken a picture of mine but it is all gone! :)

All that said, I will probably continue to make monthly pilgrimages to Whole Foods Andover (the closest one to me, at 37 minutes away) to pick up some essentials that A Market has decided to price laughably high (nutritional yeast at nearly $10 per pound comes to mind).  And, of course, for that unbeatable salad bar.  For most specialty items, though, save the gas and just bike to South Willow instead.

A Market Natural Foods is located at 125 Loring Street, Manchester off of South Willow Street.  http://www.amarketnaturalfoods.com/