Publix is pathetic. And Winn-Dixie’s been wack. Even your neighborhood Milam’s will get a disinterested “meh” from local grocery shopping connoisseurs now. The brand spankin’ new Whole Foods in Coral Gables just opened, and the store owners have spared no expense in making it the most ridiculously awesome shopping experience for organic-hungry patrons. At a special sneak preview on Monday night, guided tours were given through the store’s sprawling 48,000 sq. foot expanse. There were samples galore and plenty to gawk at.
Organic Steve, the produce team leader, promised free samples every day, as visitors were given tastes of organic orange juice, and a fruit cup containing the yummiest apple slice we’ve had in years, a sliver of a Thai banana, and an exotic fruit called a longan, which hails from China and southern Asia, and tastes like a squishy coconut-meets-grape hybrid. While discussing the way Whole Foods salmon is farmed, the fish department handed out samples of smoked fish dip made with mahi mahi and wahoo – to die for. The meat department gave out samples of bomb-ass smoked beef, and explained that each Whole Foods has new and special in-store features that none of the other 300 stores have. At this new branch, customers can choose any cut of meat from the butcher’s display, choose spices or sauce, and have someone grill it up before their very eyes at an enormous grill within the meat department itself.
The free-stuff bonanza continued -- in the store’s enormous cosmetics, bath, and body department, employees handed out bars of organic lavender glycerin soap, there were cookies and milk in the grocery section, samosas in the deli, fresh-made Sushi Maki rolls in the sushi department – the local chain has joined forces with the largest organic and natural grocery in the country, in what could prove to be a beautiful friendship. The chocolate and vanilla cake in the bakery was delicious enough to bring tears to a gourmand’s eyes. It was hard enough to concentrate on each team leader’s verbose presentation on their respective departments – we lost the deli dude in the middle of his discussion about the fancy chartucerie the minute the samosas came our way – but the store’s selection speaks for itself. We ended the tour with a visit to the wine and cheese department, which boasts 450 different cheeses, 1000 bottles of wine (three in-store sommeliers to help navigate it all), and all the antipasti, olives, fancy salts and sugars anyone could want. Happily chewing on hunks of just-carved parmesean and sipping the samples of wine at the lengthy tour’s finale, the tour group looked dazed, overwhelmed, and very, very full.
The store is now open to the public, so you can score a sample feast of your own. --Patrice Yursik