I mean, who reviews grocery stores. Really.  Well, I do.

A coworker at the day job asked me if I shop every day.  I usually have some sort of fresh green salad, fresh fruit, green smoothie, or fresh juice.  I answered yes, and she wasn’t surprised.

My obsession for fresh ingredients has me visiting grocery stores everywhere, sometimes on a daily basis.  There are a couple of standouts I’d like to mention because I noticed their offerings while I was hunting for boxed wines. And a couple of also-rans.

Of course you have the usual suspects – the Supermarkets.  Locally, those are Wal-Mart, Vons, Albertsons, and Smith’s, which is Kroger’s in other areas, I understand.  There are also the discount (more or less) markets of Food4Less and WinCo, which is fairly new in the Las Vegas area, having been open only a few months.  There’s also the natural foods behemoth, Whole Foods (motto: “Why pay less?”), the British import Fresh & Easy, and Trader Joe’s.  Glazier’s Food Marketplace (poor man’s Whole Foods, i.e., reasonable prices even if not entirely organic), Sprouts, Cardenas, and a lot of chef-focused specialty markets and tons of ethnic markets.  And Costco.  Since I’m not a member of Sam’s Club, I can’t speak intelligently about their grocery offerings, although from its fans, I gather that they have a pretty good selection of goods.

I have visited all of these markets over the years, and just like everyone else, I have my favorites.  When it came to box wines, there were a couple that stood out.  The stores that had the best selection of box wines – I mean apart from the mass market swill of Franzia, Vella, Carlo Rossi, and Almaden – were Albertsons (surprisingly good selection), Whole Foods, Glaziers, and Fresh & Easy.  Trader Joe’s only carried one brand of box wine, and all of the others were more or less the typical selections.  I will write more on box wines after the Vegas Wineaux Wine Club box wine tasting next month. (insert evil gleeful cackle here)

While I’ll go anywhere to find fresh ingredients and foods, I prefer to get my leafy greens from organic or sustainable providers such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe’s, or Costco. Yes, Costco.  I’ve found the absolute freshest citrus, nopales, onions, squashes, peppers, and apples at Cardenas Market at Meadows Lane and Decatur.  That’s where I get my cactus pears when they’re in season. They are also one of the cleanest markets, right up there with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

I like going to various Asian markets to get unusual foods such as purple yams, white coconuts in bulk, and bat nuts.  The occasional strange smell that’s encountered when shopping at some of them can only be attributed to Durian. Pew.  Because I love the unusual, I will visit them regularly and sometimes can find baby bok choy (and other Asian vegetables that I haven’t a clue what to do with) for a bargain price.  They also have the freshest fish at amazing prices. Seafood City, 99 Ranch Market, 168 Market, and Greenland are some of my favorites. Many of the ethnic markets have food courts where you can greedily partake of indigenous fare. Yum!

Village Meat & Wine and The Butcher Block are two of the best places in town for chef-inspired ingredients.  Village Meat & Wine has a monthly wine tasting (recently on hiatus, apparently), and I purchase my veal bones for stock at The Butcher Block if I can get there before the chefs do.  Of course, our old friends Valley Cheese & Wine also has great ingredients, including having the distinction of being the only place where I’m able to find duck salami. Yum again!

I’ve talked to a lot of people about their favorites, of course.  And Trader Joe’s is the only store that people love.  I mean, really, truly love!

Well, as I write this I’m suddenly hungry for some of Costco’s rotisserie grilled chicken. Good, tender chicken at a great price.  It should pair well with the Kirkland Chardonnay I picked up last week. Hey, we can’t always drink Montrachet!

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