I Feel Really, Really Terrible About How Much I Like the New Gowanus Whole Foods
I can't believe I'm going public with this, and I may well regret it, but here goes: I visited the new Gowanus Whole Foods (214 3rd Street, 718-907-3622) the other night and I really liked it. God help me.
Photo by Mehera Bonner This is a real sign at the new Brooklyn Whole Foods.
I need to emphasize: I'm not being paid to say this. I don't even write for this blog usually; I'm just a regular old news reporter, and I don't know anything about restaurants or chefs. I eat a lot of mac and cheese at home on my couch. Also, stale doughnuts and other stuff out of the terrifying staff refrigerator because hey, really, is no one going to eat these three-week-old baked goods? Snobs.
But despite my terrible taste, I do know something about groceries, and spending money on them, and then schlepping them home and putting them in my face. And that's what led me to walk 20 minutes from my apartment the other night, past the much closer Union Market and Trader Joe's, to the shiny new Whole Foods, a grocery store whose CEO I find odious and whose presence in the Gowanus area is a bad, bad sign. And I will be going back. Maybe. If I can get over my crushing guilt and ambivalence.
Here's my food deal, very briefly, because nothing is more boring than other people's diets: I was a strict vegetarian for ten years, and I still eat a lot of fake meat, as well as fish, but no red meat or chicken. I'm concerned about touchy-feely hippie crap like overfishing, and I try to eat seafood that's responsibly sourced. (I'm also aware that there's a vanishingly small chance that one of my favorite foods, calamari, might secretly be a pig's anus, but I don't really give a pig's asshole if it is, because it's delicious.) I lived in California for a long time, and as a direct result, I love kale. That place will mess you up.
My boyfriend was a line cook at one point, and still possesses a magical ability to turn out really great food in a very short amount of time, provided he has good ingredients and somebody willing to do the dishes. He eats red meat, but he'll also happily make some fish or a nice vegan Field Roast, because dear God, those things are made of magic.
So that means we both like to eat, and we like fresh vegetables and good meat and also fancy-ass cheese and ingredients we recognize and can pronounce. (As I type this, I'm starting to see where all my money goes. This is the definition of a #whitepeopleproblem.) We live near downtown Brooklyn, and the closest grocery store by far is that Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's, I think we can all agree, is a bewildering mixture of amazing deals and just utterly disgraceful crap. The produce is awful, encased in plastic and frequently on the outer cusp of being edible. The bread is meh. It tastes like it's seen the inside of a truck. The meat, I am told, is fine, if you are hungry. And the frozen food, while delicious, often has enough sodium in it to kill a stable of stout-hearted horses. I'm not trying to get sued here or anything, but the only time I got Exorcist-style food poisoning was, I'm pretty sure, from a TJ's pizza and salad.
But man, it's cheap. It's so cheap. I once bought everything I needed to make a hearty stew from scratch for twelve dollars. Then I framed that receipt and brought it everywhere, showing it off like a saner woman shows off a grad school diploma or a newborn.
The other grocery stores in the neighborhood are the Met Food and Union Market. Met Food, well, I'll let its Yelp reviews speak for themselves. But Union Market is amazing: It's got great produce, great seafood, fresh pasta, a damn olive bar, and tiny cheese samples with toothpicks. They make me feel like a fancy lady at some art opening where I don't understand a single thing that's going on.
But the prices are alarming, and the fake meat selection is not that stellar. My gaping maw requires a steady supply of faux chicken patties. So the other night my man and I strolled across the super-fragrant Gowanus Canal and into the gleaming spaceship that is the new Whole Foods, and God dammit, it was like the promised land.