Tag Archives: Whole Foods

Friday Flashback #48

The news that Amazon is buying Whole Foods has everyone atwitter.

Perhaps the mammoth company that delivers nearly everything except babies will now make those pesky supermarket food runs obsolete too.

What could be better than, say, having fresh milk delivered right to your home?

Jeff Bezos, meet Marty McFly. And both you guys, meet the milkman.

(Photo copyright Paul Ehrismann)

Back in the day, Westport was awash in milkmen. Ferris (on North Morningside), Wade’s, Clover Farms* — they and many other local dairies brought milk straight to your doorstep. Sometimes, they’d even put it in your refrigerator icebox.

Sounds like a great idea whose time has come.

And gone.

And come again.

If that works, maybe we can also ask doctors to come to our homes too.

I’ve got just the name too. We could call them “house calls.”

*Never heard of Clover Farms? That’s because it turned into a slightly larger business called Stew Leonard’s. You know — “the worlds largest dairy store.” They don’t use an apostrophe — but they do sell cashmere.

Stew Leonard Jr.: Amazon Purchase Of Whole Foods “A Game-Changer”

Amazon’s proposed $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods has rocked the grocery and retail industries.

An hour ago, Stew Leonard Jr. was one of the experts CNBC called on for expert reaction.

Stew Leonard Jr. (Photo courtesy/Westchester Magazine)

The president and CEO of the small but influential chain called the deal — which includes a store on the Westport border just a mile from Stew’s Norwalk flagship location — “a game-changer in the industry.”

Amazon’s technological know-how “will revolutionize how people buy food and get it delivered,” he added.

Leonard — whose grandfather Charles Leo Leonard founded the store’s predecessor, Clover Farms Dairy, and personally delivered milk straight from the farm to local customers — saw today’s announcement as a return to those days.

“The cost of the last mile of delivery has been dropping,” he noted.

Leonard also cited the growing number of millennials as a factor. Using his 31-year-old daughter as an example, he said that her generation expects every purchase to be deliverable.

However, he continued, “retailers have to get snappier” about how they present the purchasing experience.

“We try to make it fun,” he said, with plenty of animation and the chance to see mozzarella balls being made fresh.

However, he acknowledged, buying cereal and water in a store is far less exciting.

(Click here for the full 4:42 interview.)

When Amazon gets into delivery of Whole Foods products, will the animals at Stew’s be less of a draw?

Food Rescue US Sinks Deep Westport Roots

If you’re like me, you’ve probably given little — if any — thought to the enormous amount of food that restaurants and grocery stores throw away every day.

If you’re like Simon Hallgarten and Stephanie Webster though, you have.

The Westporters — he’s a founding partner of Northview Hotel Group, she’s editor-in-chief of CTbites — are national board members of Food Rescue US.

The organization — known until this past January as Community Plates — fills a simple, important, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that mission: moving fresh, usable food that would have been thrown away by restaurants, grocers and other food industry sources, to families that desperately need it.

The national Food Rescue US group has a strong local presence. Under Hallgarten and Webster’s leadership, Westport has become a big town for food donors — and as “food rescuers.”

Whole Foods cannot possibly sell all its food. It’s a leader in offering its unused goods to people in need.

Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Fresh Market are longtime donors. Many smaller stores and restaurants participate too.

Right now, 40 Westport volunteers transport food to shelters, kitchens and pantries in Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Over the past few years, more than 350 Westporters have helped.

Many bring their children on food rescue missions. “It’s an important lesson for our kids who otherwise are sheltered from the harsher side of life, and the struggles that many families go through every day,” Hallgarten — who started his career as a chef — says.

Ziggy Hallgarten — Simon’s son, an All-State soccer goalkeeper and current lacrosse player at Staples — and his younger brother Ollie are food rescuers.

Ollie Hallgarten, with a vehicle full of donated (“rescued”) food.

“It’s an easy way to give back to a large community at once,” Ziggy says. “With an hour’s worth of driving, you can change the lives of so many.”

On his first run with his dad 2 years ago, Ziggy was shocked to see some of his favorite foods — perfectly edible — about to be thrown away.

They filled the back of their station wagon, and drove “pounds and pounds of food” from a New Canaan grocery store to a Stamford homeless shelter.

“The locations of my deliveries changed during the couple of years I’ve been a food rescuer,” Ziggy says. “But the priceless smiles of the recipients when I’ve driven up with boxes of food never ceases to amaze me.”

He brought friends on runs too, showing them the feasibility — and ease — of saving otherwise wasted food.

Though Food Rescue US is a volunteer driven (ho ho) operation, there are of course administrative and other costs. So this year’s fundraiser — “Food for All 2017: An Evening to End Hunger” — is very important.

Set for next Wednesday (April 26, 6:30 p.m., The Loading Dock in Stamford), it features over 15 tasting plates from top Fairfield County chefs, along with beer, wine and craft cocktails. Every $1 donated helps cover 20 rescued meals.

Westport sponsors for Wednesday’s fundraiser include Whole Foods, Moffly Media, and the Elizabeth and Joseph Massoud Family Foundation. Fleishers Craft Kitchen and Whole Foods are among the participating food vendors.

“Hunger is an issue that can be fixed,” Simon Hallgarten says. “Food Rescue US’ goal of ending hunger in not a crazy pipe dream. It’s a reality — if we reach critical mass in the next decade.”

In Westport — thanks to so many restaurants, stores and volunteers — we’re almost there.

(For more information on the April 26 “Food for All” fundraiser, including tickets, click here.)

One More Reason To Love Trader Joe’s

Everyone knows that our strong school system keeps property values high.

But who knew Trader Joe’s does the same?

According to the Huffington Post, a recent study found that 2 years after a Trader Joe’s opens, the median home within a mile of that store increased in value 10 percent more than others in the same town.

One economic engine...

One economic engine…

Homes within a mile of a Whole Foods also gain value faster than others in the surrounding area.

...and another.

…and another.

That’s not only good news for Westport — where we enjoy both a Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

It’s also a solution to the teardown battles. Instead of building big new homes everywhere in town, we just need to erect more Trader Joe’s and Whole Foodses!

(Hat tip: Johanna Rossi)

Whole Foods Helps

If you’ve ever tried to solicit donations (funds, raffle items, you name it) from a national chain for a local event, you know it’s not easy. The only thing tougher is asking them to please stop air-conditioning all of Main Street in the middle of a heat wave.

Which is why it’s nice to report that Whole Foods is going against the grain.

They own over 300 natural and organic markets nationwide, but the Westport and Fairfield stores are empowered enough to support a special event tomorrow (Tuesday, June 26). All day long, 5% of all sales will be donated to the Westport Farmers’ Market.

That’s even more impressive because, in a way, Whole Foods and the farmers’ market compete for the same customers.

And it puts a smile on the faces of farmers’ market volunteers. This winter they trooped up and down Main Street and the Post Road, looking for help for their fundraising gala.

Not one national chain said yes.

Moshe’s Noshes

My friend Moshe Aelyon is a creative genius. A master of fashion, design and entertainment, there’s always something cool going on in his life.

Moshe Aelyon

One of his many sidelines is blogging about food. “A-la-mo” is filled with musings on memorable meals in Moshe’s native Turkey; hidden-gem restaurants in Dubai and Lebanon; stylized salmon croquettes — the blog subjects I fantasize about, if only I had grown up in the Middle East and knew everything there is to know about cooking and wine and entertaining, with culinary skills up the wazoo.

But I don’t.

So I was more than intimidated when Moshe asked me to contribute something to his blog.

I was petrified.

Yet Moshe is persistent. When he told me I could write about “anything” — so long as it had to do with food — I remembered what I always tell my writing students: Write about what you know best.

Here’s my post. It ran a few weeks ago. Bon appétit!

—————————————————

Moshe’s wonderful blog is filled with orgasmic descriptions of delectable dishes. There are stories of appetizers, entrees, desserts. I read about bok choy that “weeps a bit of water.” Emotions flow freely, for sure.

Everyone adds his or her favorite recipe.

Moshe asked me to do the same.

I have many talents. I write, I coach soccer, I walk to the planet Zork with my eyes closed.

But cooking is not one of my talents.

Still, in an effort to engage in this great conversation – and, perhaps, be asked to dine by people who can actually cook – I’ll share my favorite food story.

It’s a list of the top five places in and around Westport to score free samples.

Whole Foods’ food looks too good to eat. That’s why they have free samples.

First – that is, in fifth place – is Whole Foods. The selection is natural and organic, which of course makes me feel all kinds of virtuous about wandering around eating, but it’s skimpy. It’s like a highly regarded New York restaurant that brings you two sprigs of parsley, with some exotic sauce, and charges 24.95 (without the dollar sign). Everyone goes “oooooh, marvelous,” but you’re thinking “WTF?” You really have to dig to find samples at Whole Foods, but when you do they are good. Just not real filling.

Balducci’s is in fourth place, a drop from years past. In earlier incarnations – Hay Day, and something else that lasted 6 minutes – the place was filled with samples. Fruit slices, cheeses, entrees and sides right out of the oven, plus tons o’ pastries. Now they’ve throttled back, so like at Whole Foods, you’ve got to be a hunter/gatherer rather than a scarfer.

Sure, it’s weird eating mac-and-cheese out of a urine cup. But it’s free!

Fresh Market takes third place. I’ve had some fantastic half-sandwiches there – roast beef, pulled pork, great stuff. Yeah, it’s weird eating it out of a plastic urine specimen cup, but you can’t beat the price. Fresh Market also offers cookies and cheese platters, while every so often – random Saturdays and holidays – they turn the place into a banquet. Carving stations, steam tables, all manned by very friendly staff urging you to eat. One more Fresh Market note: There are samples at the checkout counter, but they’re hidden in little cardboard boxes you have to open. Don’t be shy!

In second place is Garelick & Herbs. Specializing in chips and dips, brownies and cookies – and lots of them — this upscale gourmet store gets bonus points for compactness. No need to wander aimlessly looking for free food; it’s all right there, between the counter and the register.

In first place – no surprise – is Stew Leonard’s. The sign calls it the “Worlds Largest Dairy Store” (no apostrophe), but it could also be the Worlds Largest Free Food Emporium. From the entrance (cookies, other pastries, and for some reason, usually spinach pie), through the winding aisles past rice cakes, pomegranate juice, and on and on and on, Stew’s is sample heaven. More often than not, there’s even something like jelly beans at the customer service counter after checkout.

What’s wrong with this picture? There are no other customers pushing the guy aside to get their free samples.

But that’s your normal, weekday, early morning and evening free fare at Stew’s. Saturday and Sunday afternoons make those offerings look like Oliver’s gruel. Weekends are when vendors pour in, handing out their wares in a free Norwalk version of an Arab souk. The latest yogurt bars, salsa dips and ice cream flavors – they’re all there. And more.

Saturdays and Sundays are also the days Stew’s sets out cheeses, salads – even shrimp – as samples. You can eat an entire meal at Stew’s.

And I often have.

Think Outside The Candy Box

When “06880” last covered Erika Miller and Jennifer Boyd, they were taking on the Westport school system over candy in classrooms, and processed food in cafeterias.

Now they’ve got bigger fish to fry:

Halloween.

The Westport residents — calling themselves “Two Angry Moms,” after the healthy food movement of the same name — say that every kids’ favorite holiday is way too sugary, gluttonous, wasteful, and consumerist.

No way!

To that end, Miller and Boyd have hooked up with a national organization called Green Halloween.  The idea:  Move the focus from candy, and take the day back to its roots.  (Fun, not pagan worship.)

From 4-6 p.m. on Halloween Day — Sunday, Oct. 31 — the Westport Historical Society will host free entertainment and educational activities, for kids and adults.

There’s an interactive break dancer; “touch tanks” featuring Halloween-ish things like gross eyeballs, and an “Eco-Graveyard” (waste by-products of Halloween, like candy wrappers and bottles, will be “buried”).

It’s not all fun and games, of course.  Green Halloween-goers will learn that chocolate production is one of the world’s worst sources of child slave labor (who knew?).

Staples students are volunteering, and the response so far has been good, the Two Angry Moms say.

“06880” — no fan of either child obesity or gluttony — applauds the Green Halloween idea.  But the cynic in us asks:  What’s to prevent kids from going to the event from 4-6 p.m., then rushing home (or Gault, the beach or other densely populated neighborhoods) to trick-or-treat for, um, chocolate?

“That’s fine,” Miller says.  “We know that’s a deep tradition.  We just want to show everyone there’s an alternative.

“Maybe they’ll realize that getting 20 pounds of candy isn’t necessary — 5 or 6 pounds is enough.

“Maybe they’ll decide that at every 2nd house, they’ll collect money for UNICEF.

“And we’ll have healthy snacks at Green Halloween.  So maybe they’ll have some good food before they go out trick or treating.”

Green Halloween:  It’s the 2010 thing to do.

But I hope kids never lose the thrill of scooping out a gloopy, smelly, seed-filled pumpkin.

(For more information, email erikahornmiller@yahoo.com or jbdm1@yahoo.com)

America Helps Westport

As Westport suffered in the aftermath of last week’s storm, the rest of the country rallied to help.

You may not have seen this appeal circulating on the internet — how could you, with your power out and your smartphone uncharged? — but it just goes to show how generous Americans can be, in time of need.  Is this a great country or what?

We need your help!

New Orleans , Haiti and Chile have had their tragedies.  And America was there to help.  Now the scene shifts further north.  And again, you are needed.

The counties of Fairfield and Westchester, in the northern New York City suburbs, were battered by a mighty “Nor’Easter” on Saturday.  And life has not returned to normal.

Most of both counties were without power or heat for most of the weekend, and many remain in the dark and cold.  The hardships have been profound.

With only laptops, coffee, books and food to sustain them, families huddled together for comfort in the Westport Public Library.

To combat the sub-50 degree temperatures, many residents were forced to keep their North Face down parkas on all day (along with their cashmere socks and sweaters).  Stocks of split, dried Vermont firewood and Ralph Lauren Home candles have grown dangerously low.

Unable to get internet access or charge their iPhones and Blackberrys, devastated citizens drove for up to 5 miles to find the nearest Starbucks or Barnes & Noble, and then had to fight unruly crowds, as bored middle-aged suburbanites jostled with one another for a seat near an outlet.

In Greenwich, the storm struck to the heart and soul of the community as the roof was ripped off the most revered building in the town, and the center of its spiritual life:  Whole Foods.

Because crews could not remove all the hundreds of fallen trees immediately, many roads are literally impassible, forcing residents to drive their Range Rovers and Lexuses hundreds and sometimes thousands of feet out of their way around winding detours.

Unable to cook even the simplest spinach omelet at home, residents crowded into upscale bistros eager to order a simple swordfish, with just lemon, and a modest Pino Grigio, before supplies were exhausted.

We need your help.  No donation is too small, but what is needed most urgently are fully charged iPods, UGGs, hunter rain boots in all colors, and steaming hot grande mocha frappacinos.