Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Really? Giant Eagle?

Normally, I like to post about places that I have eaten and fill you in on my own personal opinion – not necessarily shared by everyone. However, today I have opted to instead talk about grocery shopping.

I am not a terribly efficient grocery shopper. I don’t clip coupons, wait for sales, or scour the paper for deals. I don’t plan the family meals a week in advance and then collect all the necessary ingredients so that I don’t have to keep running back and forth to the store.

Rather, I’m the one who ,mid-afternoon, is hit by the realization that two hungry teenagers will actually be expecting dinner at some point. So, I open the fridge and take a gander. 12 types of mustard, 8 jars of miscellaneous Indian concoctions, Thai chili sauce, hoi sin, sesame oil, nuoc nam, sambal oelek, sweet pickles, sour pickles, gherkins…oh you get the gist. There’s no food in there – only condiments.

Anyway…..the kids are expecting some kind of chewable food-type item for dinner – not just a selection of condiments. So, I ponder the options. More often than I care to admit, this particular need is satisfied by the culinary delights offered at Costco. Not terribly healthful, but so completely convenient.

Sadly, we cannot live on fat and sodium forever – so I gird up my loins and head to the grocery store. I have a fairly large Weis right in my neighborhood. And I do shop there on occasion. Although it has improved over the years by adding new items and brightening up the place - shopping there is less than thrilling.

And then there’s my sweet little find. It looks like a complete dump from the outside. Plopped on the Olden Mile, outwardly it is as inviting as Fredericktowne Mall. It’s in that kind of rundown looking strip center that has a pet store, a dollar store, a diner and some other non-descript storefronts.

I’m not sure why I ever stopped there in the first place. I think that maybe I was in desperate need of dog food and so just kind of ran in on my way home from visiting the shoe repair guy in the mall.

Anyway, in I went. What???? Are you kidding me??? Where the heck am I? 10 different types of lettuce, 6 types of greens, 8 types of peppers – and they are all beautiful! Not the wrinkly skinned soft types I often find in my store – but beautiful, enticing oblongs of poblanos and jalapenos. Every single vegetable or fruit I wanted was not only available, but was presented in a clean, accessible and enticing manner.

So, I loaded up the cart. As I left the citrus behind, I lifted my head. There before me was the cheese department. Not just an unattended oblong display case with the same cheeses I can normally find at Costco (only more expensive) Oh no – this was a REAL cheese department. 400 types of cheese, fig jams, company- ready spreads . And….a real person working behind the counter! You want to try the smoked eggplant dip? No problem…here ya go. You want to taste how the fig jam works with the manchego….here, take a taste. I was completely impressed.

And could the cheese girl been any nicer? No she could not not. So I bought a bunch of cheese to go with all the peppers and arugula in the cart.

Next up: the “ethnic” aisle. Unlike other grocers I visit – the ethnic aisle in this Giant Eagle is an entire aisle. Not just a few feet tucked away at the end of canned beans. But the whole darned aisle (even though they do take some liberties with some of the so-called “ethnic” Italian items) . You want Mexican? No problem, there are a multitude of different salsas to peruse – and not just Pace and Old El Paso either. Plenty of flavors and options I’d never heard of. (Note to self: sometime this summer, I HAVE to do a jarred salsa tasting. I don’t have high hopes that I will like ANY of them – but I can dream). They’ve got Indian and Hispanic and Italian and British and Kosher. British is ethnic?

After adding 80 pounds of condiments to the cart, I was about done shopping. My three major food group needs were fulfilled: produce, cheese , condiments. Before I left though, I did take a gander at the meat and seafood departments as well. Nice. Not Trouts …. But nice…

Oh, and by the way....for all of you busy guardians of children - they have an on-site child care area where your kids can frolic while you shop. And... you can earn "Fuel Perks" that are good for a discount on your gas purchases at the Get 'N Go on Rt 40.

At the end of my excursion, I was just delighted with my “find” of a grocery store in Frederick. And I hope you find it a “find” as well. Now, if I could only find room amidst the condiments to put all the groceries away…..