Friday, April 18, 2008

grocery notes from all over

Yes, boys and girls, it's time for another installment in the Exciting Shopping Adventures of Meg!

The other day I finally checked out Fresh & Easy on Mountain and Arrow in Montclair. In case you missed the hubbub in the press and the local blogosphere when they opened back in the fall, F&E is a venture by Tesco, the British supermarket chain, aimed at busy people stopping on their way home from work.

After the initial fizz, I've heard a fair amount of grumbling about F&E, so I was pleasantly surprised by certain things, even if my low expectations were met in other ways.

High points: Good prices on some things (hummus -- which was much better than the usual storebought -- broccoli, fancy bread, dried pasta). Oil-roasted tomatoes like the ones that are so popular in the UK. Provenance labeling of all their fish ("line-caught in the North Sea"; "farmed in Chile"). European yogurts (but, sadly, no rhubarb flavor). Various products you'd never expect to see, like Spanish chorizo.

Low points: The same cheeses you'd get at Von's. Wine selection and prices very ehhhh. Underwhelming ready-meals (despite the fact that that's what English supermarkets do so well).

One more thing: The ingredient lists of anything prepared are a breath of fresh air. Not only are they completely lacking in what a friend calls "shampoo ingredients" (synthesized compounds that could just as easily be on a bottle of shampoo, like PGPR), but they also lack the "natural" ingredients we don't have in our homes, like guar gum and carageenan. Everything I looked at only contained the stuff I would use to make the item in my own kitchen. And I didn't find a single F&E product that contained high fructose corn syrup! Not surprising, given the UK's lack of a giant corn industry + subsidy, but it's still a welcome change.

Overall, there's a place for F&E in my shopping adventures, although only if I'm out that way anyhow. A lot of folks were disappointed when F&E opened that it didn't serve up a whole host of British delicacies (and not-so-delicacies), but I'm surprised at the little ways in which the Britishness expresses itself.


Anonymous said...

Well, we have caught the Fresh & Easy bug or at least my partner has.
I like the way the store looks & the employees are cool and helpful. I don't get ignored like Stater Bros.
Also, all things perishable (meat, pre-made meals, bakery, even veggies) are marked down 50% the day they go out of date. We stock up & freeze the meat and it's a great deal.
Also, they have a coupon that you ask for when checking out. With the coupon you get $5.00 of every $20.00 you spend. Such a deal!
Mark (I'm also Fresh & Easy)

Garrett Sawyer said...

There should be more stores like that in Pomona (especially south!)...! I think I'll go there sometime, it sounds like a good store.

Does anyone know what the plans are for the old vacant Stater Bros and adjacent businesses on South Garey (the one near MY house)?

Even though I like the one on North Garey better I still wish there would be a store around South Pomona that sold some of the same things as Stater Bros. The old one that is no more here didn't have everything that the North Garey one had. I guess it just makes sense though because of the customer base around here, but that's what Cardenas is for! lol. We actually HAD a Smart & Final by the post office, but North Pomona stole it! lol. Smart & Final isn't the best but it was a lot better than the Stater Bro's down here.

I kind of miss Smith's, why oh why couldn't they of just paid California taxes? lol. As of now, the best choices for groceries in South Pomona are Winco and Albertsons in Phillips Ranch (if it's even there anymore, haven't been in a while). We usually just go to Stater Bros NORTH, Smart & Final NORTH, and Ghetto Food 4 less SOUTH. lol.

Reg Oignon said...

I like F&E well enough, esp. the lack of "shampoo ingredients" & corn syrup in the prepared foods... but most of those things are about the same (and at about the same price) as you'd find at Trader Joe's. Overall, I find F&E has slightly worse selection for most things than TJs, including far fewer fair-trade coffees. I do appreciate the far greater selection and excellent origin labeling of seafood -- although I'm very skeptical of their little "sustainably caught/raised" labels -- as well as the markdowns on perishables on their consume-by date noted in the first comment. Their produce set-up is certainly better than TJ's, but we get most of our produce from Tierra Miguel & the farmers markets. And F&E has more organic grains (esp. rice), which I like. But those few things aren't quite enough to turn F&E into a regular stop on our shopping rounds -- esp. now that the Claremont TJ's means that we're less that far East.

PS - It's in Upland, not Montclair.