Friday, December 30, 2016

Food Feature Friday #10: New Grocer On The Block.

For as long as I can remember, my neighborhood has been a tight-knit community when it comes to businesses. If we don't like what you've done or are about, we simply don't encourage you. We also tend to lean more towards smaller businesses, to better help those who we feel truly deserve it. 

I could be speaking for a small portion of us folk around here, but it's very evident when you hear the stories of big businesses trying to swindle our "city-like" buyers. You may think that we are all pompous natured, but in reality we try to take care of our own.

I will say however, that I personally am not too keen on the "pricey health food" stores, that seem to jack the prices well above average pricing. I understand quality is keen when eating healthy/organic, but I've gotten much more bang for my buck shopping at Trader Joe's compared to Whole Food's, for example. But I'm not opposed to giving people a chance either. So when I heard about a new grocer that was Southern California native and claimed to have cheap/reasonable prices for their organically healthy foods, my padawan and I drove over to decide for ourselves. 

The grocery store that I'm specifically speaking of, is called "Baron's Market". It's a family run business with the claim that their products are typically 25% to 35% less than the average supermarket, while still providing quality food with a flavor to match. 

After browsing their 12 aisles, sampling some of their cuisine, tasting a taco, and picking up a few interesting - and less interesting - items to determine price vs quality, I've come to a semi-definitive decision. I'll explain:

The first thing you walk into when venturing into the North Park "Baron's Market", is the produce department straight ahead, with the check out stands to your left. This is of course, if you're entering from their underground parking garage, through the elevator. 

The produce is very well stocked with excellent variety and a beautiful display. How long it will look this nice, purely depends on how attentive the employees will be long after the initial opening - don't worry, I plan on making another visit to determine if it was all for opening day or it's consistently being kept pretty. Everything had the appeal of freshness, but what specifically caught my eye was the orange juice stand neatly displayed to the left. 

They were handing out samples and the kind employee proceeded to tell me about how the oranges are locally grown in Valencia, CA - which are delicious, in case you're wondering. I noticed the jugs filled with the fresh squeezed orange juice - you can literally see the machine that is squeezing these fresh oranges AND clearly taste the level of freshness with the first sip. What I was shocked to find out, was that you weren't bound to just their one sized small jugs. You could in fact, grab an empty container - that they have there - and fill up the jug to your preference. 

Behind the produce, you'll find an Olive Bar priced at $7.99 a lb. and a Salad Bar priced at $5.99 a lb. Not too shabby for their seemingly fresh greens! 

Further through our grocery store escapade, I discovered a small freezer section filled with practically anything you'd need for "pizza night". From blank pizza doughs, to fully filled pizza creations, they truly do "got you covered" as their sign suggested. 

Another interesting find, was the fact they had a little coffee stand, where you could pour yourself a cup of brew for a mere $1.69 for 16oz or $1.49 for 12oz. The coffee is 100% arabica beans, with breads and pastries surrounding the coffee stand, in case you want your breakfast fully ready to go. 

Don't want fresh brew there, but want beans to take home? They sell the beans in bulk style - you can choose the amount - closely resembling a Sprouts (formerly known as Henry's) styled bargain. This isn't the only "bulk" item in the store though. 

They also sell the sugary sweets - chocolates, gummy bears, etc - nuts, sunflower seeds, and beans, to name a few. You can find these gems in between the produce and the salad bar, to the right. 

A very peculiar find that I haven't seen before in a grocer, is their variety of bottled vinegars and oils, neatly displayed to where you can sample them as well. A very sweet employee was handing out samples of their ice cream - which was flavorful and decadent - topped with a sweet vinegar drizzle. I didn't think that there was such a thing, but with a nice Mango White Balsamic Vinegar on top of Vanilla ice cream, you'd be pleasantly surprised with it's powerful yet sweet flavoring. Don't knock it, ti'll you try it. 

Don't worry, they aren't selling only sweet vinegars and oils. They have a beautiful selection ranging from Garlic Infused Olive Oil to Basil Infused as well. Practically anything for a scrumptious meal, you'll find fresh in their store. 

A section I was hoping would be included in the store - and was later found to indeed exist within - was their "ready made" sandwiches and lunches. Tuna salads, sandwiches, wraps, you name it. 

My son and I picked up some sandwiches, which I will later discuss in this post. 

In case you're looking for a hotter meal that's pre-made, they offer a mini "Baron's Kitchen", where - for the opening - they were handing out samples of steak and fish tacos. Let me tell you, everything melted in my mouth with the essence of fresh cuisine. It was well deserving of being on a restaurant menu, which shocked me that the extent of their service was indeed living up to the claims on their website. 

They also have hot ready made soups at their Soup Bar, with prices ranging between $1.99 for an 8 oz. and $6.99 for a 32 oz. cup of soup. The smell was intoxicating and I will be back to purchase a bowl. In fact, I plan on going back to create an entire lunch picnic, using mostly their ready-made meals and bars. 

Speaking of ready-made meals, another food I want to test out, is their low priced rotisserie chickens, going for $4.99. They didn't look overcooked or overly seasoned, which can be a good or bad thing. The price is excellent, but I couldn't comment on it's quality, as I didn't try it first hand. No worries though, I plan to do just that in the near future. 

Something that utterly pleased me, was the extent of their gluten free products. They didn't have a tiny little area, shoved off to the side that made you feel like you were in the outskirts of town around shady characters. No, it was smack dab in the center of excellence and they mean business. My padawan nor I are gluten intolerant, but to see the quantity of selection for those who are - or by choice going gluten free - was pleasant to see. 

The rest of our tour consisted of browsing the neighboring aisles, which were filled with a nice selection of frozen food, dried fruit, a gorgeous array of teas, and an aromatic display of spices. I picked up two teas - which I'll review next week - along with a poultry spice. 

As I previously mentioned, my padawan and I picked up a few sandwiches to taste, for our lunch yesterday. We both chose a turkey breast kids meal - that's right, a kids meal - which included NUT FREE honey graham crackers, 4 - yes precisely 4 - gummy bears, a rectangle of cheddar cheese, one organic juice drink, and a turkey sandwich with white bread. 

There aren't any condiments in the sandwich, nor are they included - which kind of sucked since we like mayo and mustard, but can make for an easier time for those who don't like condiments or are sensitive. It wasn't too big of a deal for us, seeing as how we were eating them at home, but I would suggest being prepared in case you were planning to take it on the go. I'm not sure if they have packets separately in the store - I would imagine so - but I will check soon and update this when I know for sure. 

Every single item in the kids meal was fresh, delicious, juicy, tender, and just plain good. My son and I both devoured our food, which gave us the feeling of a homemade sandwich. It was as if someone made us a sandwich at our house and filled the plate with more goodies to snack with. 

Overall the experience was lovely and I really enjoyed how straight forward the grocery store was. No crap to fill empty space or unnecessary aisles. It was very much like a Trader Joe's and Sprouts mixed, with prices more on the Trader Joe's spectrum. 

We spent about $60 for all of our grocery items, which comes to a little less than $4 an item. The kicker, all these prices will remain the same well after the opening has long since passed. They didn't have any special sales for the day or gimmicks to draw you in. It was set as is and you can be certain that you'll pay the same price. 

My hope is that the quality of the store, it's products, and it's services, will remain the same throughout the years and will stick around to provide them to all the locals. I predict good things for this grocer and I highly recommend you try it if you have the chance. Worst thing that will happen, is that you'll taste goodness and want to buy everything. 

I don't see myself choosing this store over Trader Joe's, simply because I'm a die-hard fan, but I do see myself returning over and over again. It seems I've only just begun to scratch the surface of this seemingly simple grocery store. 

Well there you have it guys! Another Friday, another review. The last review - and blog post - of the year! Holy cannoli! I can't believe the New Year will be hitting us this weekend. So much to be thankful for and so much to accomplish. What are your guy's resolutions, if any?

Have a fantastic weekend and end of 2016. I hope that in 2017, you find prosperity, love, and success in all your endeavors. Much love from the TWRC family and don't forget to keep on rockin' Jedi's. See you all in 2017!

No comments:

Post a Comment