This place is ginormous! The ceilings are high, the aisles are wide, and the departments are huge. When you visit the store you will not feel like you are getting jipped by the grocery gods, like I normally do when shopping at the other grocery stores in the city (although technically the store is located in Montgomery County).
When walking into the store from the street level you are immediately met with a coffee bar. Besides the obvious drink selections, the bar also offers breakfast sandwiches, an oatmeal and fresh fruit topping bar, gelato, and sorbet. The coffee bar opens at 6 AM. (I forgot to grab a picture...I was fumbling with my umbrella.)
One of many cool features...a trail mix bar! You can make any combination of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, and chocolates for $4.99/lb.
The Global Animal Partnership is working with Whole Foods to rate all meat products sold at the store. The rating scale (1, 2, 3, 4, or 5) lets customers in on the welfare practices of farmers and the well-being of the animals. You will see the rating on the pricing sign for each product.
A similar kind of rating system is also available in the Seafood department, with the ultimate goal of only selling sustainable seafood in their stores. The color coded system identifies the sustainability status of all wild caught seafood. Other nice features of the seafood department...free marinade with purchase, and free skinning, de-boning, and cutting. Our tour guide mentioned that she has all her fish cut into 4 oz. servings so that she can better control portion size and not waste any food!
My personal favorite and the main reason I will trek up to FH.....fresh cut pasta to order (and sauces) by Severino Pasta:
The prepared foods section offers multiple options (in addition to the salad and hot food bars) including pizza, burgers, hot dogs, and sandwiches. The place is going to be a hoppin' lunch spot.
Another great feature is the value packaging program for the salad and hot food bar. In addition to the traditional $7.99/lb boxes, a portion controlled slightly smaller takeout container is available for a flat fee of $7.99. The only caveat is that your lid must close completely!
The bakery offers gourmet cupcakes for $1.99 each! I didn't get to try one last night, but they looked delicious and should give the many cupcakeries in DC some stiff competition.
The candy available at the candy bar contains no artificial colors or flavors. The jelly beans are delicious!
Other cool things I did not get pictures of.....
Bulk salts, pour your own honey (with bear containers!), grind your own nut butter, Gatorade and G2 Natural (a Whole Foods exclusive product), three frozen food cases of gluten free products, and the NYC style checkout lines.Now onto the cons. Because the store is located in Montgomery County and there are weird alcohol rules, they cannot sell beer or wine. My main gripe, however, is that this will be one of three Whole Foods locations in the Upper Northwest/Bethesda area. As a Capitol Hill resident that has to drive to the P St. location or ride the red line to get to a Whole Foods, this is especially annoying.
Throughout the tour I obviously learned a lot about the Whole Foods philosophy and the vast array of features and products in the store, but I also learned a little bit about myself. I have been quite apprehensive about jumping on the organic and natural foods product bandwagon for a variety of reasons, but am now wanting to embrace this kind of lifestyle. Yes, I realize that the point of the tour is essentially to sell the Whole Foods store and their products. Clearly I am a marketer's dream. Oh well...at least this stuff is good for me!
Disclaimer: I was given food and a goodie bag for attending the Bloggers Tour.