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Priscilla

New Whole Foods Open in Tustin

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A new Whole Foods is open in Tustin, the first purpose-built freestanding store in OC I believe -- the short-lived one in the lower level of Triangle Square in Costa Mesa and the old one in a different part of Tustin remodeled existing structures. (The original Tustin one replaced a Mrs. Gooch's after WF bought that small chain, the CM some mainstream supermarket.)

The new store is in the breathtakingly massive The District at Tustin Legacy (and we resolved to always say the whole thing), adjacent to the local progenitors of breathtaking massivity, the WWII-era Tustin blimp hangars. Makes for a nice bonus to emerge from a giant store and be gobsmacked anew by the close-up view of something way bigger than the Costco, or the Lowe's, or indeed the WF, one just exited.

A visit a few days after their opening revealed armies of undertrained but cheery new workers, and a cheese counter that disgorged the very best French goat cheese, a largish crottin, that we've ever had outside of France. I predict it will not be long before the very extremely long cheese counter, filled with thousands of dollars of pre-cut, pre-wrapped inventory the cheery workers know virtually nothing about, is reduced to a quarter of its present size.

Or maybe the the prepared food area, which seems to be about a third of the giant store and has enough be-hatted staff to put one in mind of the kitchen stadium shot from the opening of the original Iron Chef, will support the cheese department. As well as all the other departments.

It was surprising to see boxes of organic avocados bearing the name Stehly Farms, of Valley Center, CA, a long-time farmer's market friend. If the relationship with WF is good for Stehly than that will be good enough for me.

Anyway, OC has been long overdue for this sort of attention from WF, and if the groaning shopping trolleys leaving the store the day I was there are any indication, the corporation will be wondering too what took them so long.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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That Triangle Square monstrosity in Costa Mesa was WF's downfall. I drove by it last month while I was in the area and was not remotely surprised that every single business I remember being there was gone. I used to go there every Monday for 12 years when I lived in SoCal and practically no businesses had a staying power of more than two years.

The place should be gutted and turned into a park or something.

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The basement location of Whole Foods Costa Mesa was truly horrible, but I wish more than anything they'd come back to my area. The Vons at 17th Street & Orange Avenue would make a PERFECT location for a Whole Foods Costa Mesa come-back. That poor Vons never gets much action and on the rare occasion I stop in, it feels like she's on her last leg. Mother's Market, although a beloved institution, doesn't really cater to the gourmet food crowd. They don't offer any decent cheeses, they don't have a butcher or seafood department, and beer/wine is nowhere to be found. It's a great place to buy vitamins, body-care, organic dairy, and bulk grains . . . but it hasn't changed much since the day it opened and doesn't offer a complete shopping experience for serious cooks.

We actually tried to shop at the newly opened Tustin/Irvine Whole Foods just this weekend. I parked (after driving around the mega-mall structure for five minutes looking for empty spaces), walked in one of the three main entrances to the store, spent a couple of minutes staring in awe at the massive and Costco-like crowds, and turned around and left without buying a single item. I really can't imagine going back for any reason. Parking in a huge outdoor entertainment mall facility in a soul-crushing area of Orange County then trying to compete with the unruly masses is not my idea of a fun time. I'll stick with Pearson's Port for seafood, the Irvine Farmer's Market for produce, Hi-Time for wine, Promelis for snacks, and, in general, I'll continue shopping at smaller and more specialized shops the old-fashion and European way.


R. Jason Coulston

jason@popcling.com

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... I wish more than anything they'd come back to my area. 

... in general, I'll continue shopping at smaller and more specialized shops the old-fashion and European way.

At first I thought maybe your second statement contradicts the first, but I think what you really mean is that you will continue to shop locally as opposed to driving to the most soul-crushing part of OC. Which is good. As for the folks who live and work in and around the most soul-crushing part of OC, they no longer have to sit in soul-crushing traffic on soul-crushing Newport Ave. and soul-crushing 17th St. and put up with all the soul-crushing arts-and-crafts vendors at the IFM just to get a decent head of escarole or a nice bottle of something, not to mention the beef dry-aged in-store and all that nice pampered poultry. If everyone stayed in their own respective soul-crushing areas of OC, it might keep the crowds down.

Now, if only Martin had stayed in Tustin, I wouldn't have to make the soul-crushing drive to Costa Mesa for the best coffee in the world. But such is life in OC.


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As a singlemindedly ingredient-obsessed cook, I think the new behemoth WF will prove useful at times, as the little one over on Holt was, esp. when I lived nearby, but even now in combination with other habitual Tustin destinations, Cream Pan and Claro's, which are themselves usually adjunct to Japanese noodles at Kairakutei or banh mi at Zon Baguette.

Not a store to singularly rely upon, but a good arrow to have in one's quiver.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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I'll chime in here to share my experience with the new Whole Foods in Tustin/Irvine last Saturday.

Parking is a nightmare, crowds are at a retarded level and the store is *too* big. You heard me, TOO BIG. I wish they would have simply bagged the idea of having "restaurants" within the store. Their "wine bar" was a joke.

That being said, I'll undoubtedly find my way back in the near future to pick up certain ingredients that I might have difficulty finding elsewhere. As mentioned previously, the charcuterie and cheese areas will no doubt be diminished in due time. I would actually prefer if WF never left the "quaint" spot on Irvine Blvd. I could go about my business without having to fight with folks over sherry vinegar. The verdict is still out on the butcher section. I purchased some decent dry aged rib eye steaks that were very nice. Outside of a little bit of lamb, veal and chicken feet, there was nothing *going on*. I would also probably stay away from the Fish section since sisefromm has introduced me to Pearson's Port.

It'll be interesting to see how long it takes for the crowds to die down and what changes they will make. Hopefully the horrendous "ethnic" eating spots will be out of the picture, but I think that might just be wishful thinking.

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Well, count me in the pleased camp about the move. The old store was just too inconvenient for me to shop there.

As others have noted, I think the parking/entrances suck. I won't be shopping there during peak times. (And the piped-in parking lot music -- ugh). Too many prepared foods, most of which are not worth buying. 6/7 items at the prepared foods counter were undersalted and completely lacking in flavor. Pepperoni pizza was too greasy with a too sweet sauce. I did kind of like the pizza bianca (w/ ricotta and roasted garlic). Meat department didn't thrill me, but it's so much better than buying meat at Gelson's or TJ's that I'm fine with it. Organic baby back ribs were great and I've got a dry-aged steak in the fridge I'll be cooking today. Ice cream section has some interesting ones -- Vosges, Palapa Azul and a kulfi line.

The wine bar is a bit lame, but they do have a list of first growth Bordeaux vintages that you can order by the ounce. Not a bad way to try them.

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Meat department didn't thrill me, but it's so much better than buying meat at Gelson's or TJ's that I'm fine with it.

What was better?

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Has anyone been back recently? I was considering going this weekend.

I am curious, are there things that warrant going there that can't be sourced at my local farmers market (corona del mar), Bristol Farms, and the like?


"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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We were in there on the wknd. ... very manageable level of humanity, easy shopping.

Not a replacement for farmer's market produce, at least for me, (in fact I had been to the Irvine FM that a.m.), but useful for good-quality salad greens on non-farmer's market days, and other things similarly difficult to find in a regular supermarket.

Would be simple and pleasant to assemble all the ingredients for a good meal with the one stop, which I have never been able to do at Bristol Farms, at least the Mission Viejo store.


Priscilla

Writer, cook, & c. ● #TacoFriday observant ●  Twitter    Instagram

 

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Thanks for the info. i was mainly curious as to the current weekend crowd level.


"A man's got to believe in something...I believe I'll have another drink." -W.C. Fields

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Meat department didn't thrill me, but it's so much better than buying meat at Gelson's or TJ's that I'm fine with it.

What was better?

Just the fact that it's an actual meat counter where everything isn't pre-packaged and starting to decompose in it's own juices. I find it a bit gross unwrapping those chickens that have been sealed in plastic for who knows how long. Plus, WF seems to put a bit more emphasis on organic/humane and that's great with me, even if it's not perfect.

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I think the cheese department is pretty darn good. I was delighted to discover a few selections of cheese from Andante Dairy. Last time I had one of her cheeses was at the Ferry Plaza Market. The Piccolo which we ate last night was perfect -- runny along the rind but soft in the middle. I also spotted a triple creme from France that won some gold medal in Paris 2007 (I'm not sure who awards these medals and haven't been bothered to do a search -- anyone know?). I also picked up a Vacherin Mont D'Or which looked perfect, but turned out to be overripe and horribly bitter.

I do find the unavailability of some items odd in a store of this size, though. I haven't yet been able to locate arugula in the veggie department. Last night there were absolutely no bottles of cream available (except for a brand that looked like Knudsen). And no frozen artichoke hearts, which I'll have to get at TJ's, I guess.

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I am driving down to Orange County this weekend for a week of visiting with my best friend in Yorba Linda (I usually spend the holidays with them but not this year due to illness) for a belated Christmas and to see her new basenji puppies.

If I feel up to it, I will try to visit the market. We have a TJ's in the Antelope Valley, but as yet no Whole Foods, although there is a rumor that a Fresh & Easy may be opening a store in Palmdale sometime in late '08.

O.T. - I am giving away my Bron mandoline and if anyone in the area, or along my route (210, 57, Imperial Hiway) wants it and can meet not too far from the freeway, or can come to my friend's home, please PM me. It is old but I take very good care of my things and it has new blades!. I will have it in my van in any event. Everyone I know, who is a serious cook, already has one.


Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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