EEF33646-832E-47C7-9329-A006153AD436 Produce | Baghdad By The Bay

Posts Tagged 'produce'

Amazon? For Groceries?

Amazon Fresh?Apparently Amazon didn’t get the memo and is planning to start grocery delivery in San Francisco this fall. With one exception every company that’s tried to do this before has failed. Something tells me that for San Francisco Amazon will fail like the others, but at least it has a another side of it’s business to fall back on.

Few people remember back in the 90’s when there was a company called PeaPod that operated in San Francisco delivering groceries. They actually were buying their groceries from Andronico’s which meant you were getting top shelf fresh produce and meats, but it was a bit higher. Granted if you wanted top quality food delivered to your house it would cost you a bit more, but overall it really was maybe around $5 on a $100 order of groceries. Wife and I used to use them a lot because my family stopped going grocery shopping and just told us to pick it up for them when we went shopping.

This caused a few problems as we would now have to lug around two shopping carts and confuse the checkers as to why we would be paying for two carts separately which for some reason seemed strange to them. PeaPod changed this since we could order my family’s food online and have it delivered to them all paid in full. This worked out fine until one of the deliveries refused to bring the delivery up the stairs so my Mother assumed that they would never do this again which led us to have to go back to shopping for them.

It wasn’t too bad since PeaPod decided to close up shop around the same time, but a new company called Webvan had started up just a little before. Webvan wasn’t as good as PeaPod. I don’t know where they were getting their groceries from, but the couple of times we used them they would substitute something we ordered that they didn’t have with something that wasn’t even close to the same. Like you order six apples, but they’re out so they send over a watermelon. I’m not sure who did the thinking on the substitutions there, but they also didn’t last long.

Safeway is the only store that delivers groceries for a flat fee, but at this point it’s just as easy to go to the store for them since both of us aren’t working 40 hour weeks anymore. There’s no word yet on where Amazon is getting their supplies of groceries from or where they’re planning on stockpiling them, but the idea of bring back a Web 1.0 concept that didn’t work figuring you’re so big that you won’t have a problem is, well, a problem. I have a love for some of the old Web 1.0 companies. I used to use Kozmo all the time to rent DVD’s and then started added other stuff like ice cream and snacks in with the DVD. I especially loved that all I had to do was walk down to the corner from my house to return the DVD. That’s kind of like what Amazon is planning on doing, but with groceries as the main item and then you can supposedly add in some of their other products as well. Keep in mind that Amazon invested over $60 million dollars that it lost in Kozmo.

Good luck to you Amazon. No wait, not good luck to you. Amazon makes it’s employees wear ankle monitors like prisoners released to house arrest so that they can track them and data mine their workers to make them more efficient and fire them if they aren’t. That is not the kind of thinking that San Francisco has ever liked unless your home was Alcatraz.

Shhhh…A Shopping Secret

La Playa SafewayI was tempted not to share this one because I do like to shop here even though it’s a drive from my house [3 miles isn’t much of a drive for most people outside SF], but I figured that young hipsters who don’t usually have cars and live in the Mission or Haight won’t bother going all the way out to this place. What place am I talking about? The Safeway at the beach. I honestly hate shopping on weekends and the closest Safeway to me is on Noriega and 30th which I hate because it’s always crowded even during the week and in the evening it’s not crowded, but understaffed. The Safeway at the beach isn’t anything like that.

It’s kind of a hidden mystery for many because it’s a large Safeway, one of the largest in the city and they put it out at ocean on top of what used to be Playland at the Beach. Because of the exposure to all the salt air and fog from the ocean the outside looks a little dumpy, but when you go inside it’s a different story. The typical crowd is a bit on the rough side. I don’t mean fights will break out, just that to most people tossing on a t-shirt over your pajamas and grabbing your flip-flops is considered well dressed to shop here. I suppose a small part of this is due to the few homeless people who hang out in front and the large number that live in Golden Gate Park who go there to buy their food and cheap booze. They’re pretty harmless, but to the uninformed they can look a little scary.

The best part is the aisles are large, very large and it tends to be a very well stocked Safeway, but like many others the staff is a little short in the evenings. There is a Wells Fargo branch at this location where you can get all your banking done even on Sundays [side note, if you’re a real San Franciscan you bank at Wells Fargo]. The deli and bakery are sufficient and a little better stocked than many others around town, but for the general groceries you can find stuff here that is hard to find in other places just because they have lots of room and need to fill it. The butchers are one of the few at Safeway’s that you can pull over and have them cut some meat up for you.

When you finish your shopping and go to check out the wait can be stupidly fast on weekends and it’s not unusual to find a few checkers just standing there talking to another checker waiting for someone to show up. When I used to live a bit closer we used to go here all the time, but now on weekends it’s just kind of refreshing to get some morning air and walk around a store where there aren’t thousands of people pushing you all over the place. It’s even better when it’s a sunny morning which contrary to popular belief we do get more frequently than people think.

Have Farmer’s Markets Become Superfluous?

Farmer's MarketMy wife and I took a trip past a farmer’s market yesterday and as we walked around we began to notice something that I remarked to her about. When I was a kid my parents used to go to the farmer’s market out on Alemany Blvd every few months. My Mom was into pickling and she could buy large flats of cucumbers and wax peppers to pickle and can up because they were cheaper. What we found yesterday wasn’t exactly the case.

Today there’s more than produce at farmer’s markets which makes them kind of more interesting to visit. While it used to be though that you would go to farmer’s markets to get things you couldn’t find anywhere else and to get them cheaper this isn’t really the case today.

Many of the non-produce packaged foods can be found in local upscale grocery stores usually at less price than at a farmer’s market because they just have to deliver the product and not stand around all day to hock their product. With the produce, I’ve seen the same trucks that work the markets at our local produce markets unloading larger amounts than they bring to the farmer’s markets and they are the same quality and cheaper.

So I thought for a second about why would you go to an outdoor market to buy your vegetables and other items when you could get them any day of the week for less at a produce market? I have yet to figure that out. I think it’s nice that there are a few food trucks there because they’re something different, but I just can’t bring myself to spend $20+ to feed my family when there are local restaurants that I can get it cheaper.

While I find them fun to walk around and see what’s available I usually don’t drop more than about $5 and that’s usually at one of the booths set up by a bakery. Frequently we’ve found that the produce we’ve purchased at a market doesn’t last more than a few days and you can never tell if the same business will be there next week.

So if you enjoy purchasing at farmer’s markets please comment and tell me why because I’d like to know.

Why Does Our Produce Suck?

If you had asked me that question 15 years ago I would have said, who cares. I didn’t eat much in the way of vegetables. You’d be lucky to see me eat a potato or have a salad. Most of that changed when I met my wife who was practically a vegan when we met and today I have to ask what happened to the quality of our produce.

I used to be proud when my in-laws came to visit. Going to a grocery store here was like walking into Saks Fifth Avenue. Their eyes would widen at all the fresh produce that was available and how nice it looked. I didn’t realize what it was like for them until I took my first trip back east to see them. The produce sections were scrawny and lettuce meant iceberg lettuce only. Iceberg is to lettuce like spam is to prime rib. It crunches, but has no flavor of its own and should be relegated to being a garnish rather than the base of a dish. I’d need another hand to count the types of lettuce we have available to us out here, but suddenly we’ve discovered a problem…it’s all turning to crap.

We’ve gone to the local grocery stores and produce markets lately and the cucumbers feel like they need a viagra to firm them up. The lettuce is wilted with brown spots inside near the heart. The tomatoes are mushy, the apples aren’t as crisp, etc, etc.

What happened? We’ve even gone to farmer’s markets where we’ve bought organic produce only to come home and find upon closer inspection that most of it is dirty and starting to rot and has to be thrown out. While California is the Golden State, it’s really packed with lots of farmers in the central valley and they grow a lot of what we consume, so why are our fruits and vegetables getting so bad? I talked with one friend of mine who has her own garden in her backyard where she grows her own produce which comes out quite well. She suggested that it’s the travel time from farm to store, but I don’t think that’s as much of a problem when it’s California grown. It could be due to the odd weather we’ve been having that’s throwing off the crops or it could be that we don’t have enough farm workers to do the job properly because the farmers don’t have the money to pay them. All I know is that the quality is getting worse.

Good thing I don’t live in a place where it has to be shipped in. I think I’ll feel sorry for my in-laws now.

Failing Easy Market

This morning there was a big hoopla in the papers and online about the opening of the new Fresh & Easy market in the Richmond District. Now I like to go to openings of things around the city, but don’t like the lines and crush of people. I figured, this is a grocery store. There shouldn’t be any problems right? WRONG!

As it turns out the people at Fresh & Easy decided not to give the newspapers or online journalists the time that they were opening up. My wife and I drove by and saw people going in and out of the store so we found a parking place not in their lot that was already filled with cars and their upstairs lot that was cordoned off and walked the couple of blocks to check out the new store.

Once we got up there we saw they had a table where they were handing out little cups of apple juice and a crowd of people standing around NOT going into the store. I walked up to a lady who was blocking the entrance and asked her if they were open. She said, no we’ll be open at 10am. We’re having a kick off breakfast right now for the staff and people from corporate. OK, here’s something Fresh & Easy needs to learn about doing business here. People in San Francisco like something called convenience in their shopping. We don’t like a store that shows off their large parking area by not letting you park in it. We don’t like that you’re posting your opening time at 8am out front only to find that you aren’t letting people in until 10am and we sure as hell don’t like it when you’ve got staff and corporate coming in and out of the store enjoying their private breakfast inside.

We were hoping to try some of their goods, but to no avail since we weren’t going to wait an hour for the store to open. I hope they get their act together since the outer Richmond district needs another grocery store after the Lucky’s closed there some time ago. It would not be a good thing if Fresh and Easy became known as Failing Easy.

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Squeezing the Cucumbers @ Parkside Farmers Market

If you live in San Francisco you learn quickly that big chain produce needs a major overhaul. Thanks to my wife who gives me a kick in the head everyone once in awhile she got us to go into some of the local produce marts in San Francisco. I’m going to just talk about one, but they’re in every part of the city and the best thing is that not only is the produce fresh, but it’s cheap.

My wife, hereby referred to as wife, one day suggested we pull over and check out the Parkside Farmers Market. It’s at 16th and Taraval. I figured we didn’t have anything else to do so why not. We’ve traveled into a fair amount of stores that we wouldn’t have normally gone into just to see if we were missing anything. This place was pretty cool. I learned a lot from our trip in there.

The Parkside Farmer’s Market has in addition to produce a lot of rarely seen Mediterranian fare, Russian fare and some Asian fare [Irving street is better for Asian fare]. For those of you familiar with a candy called Aplets and Cotlets, they actually come from a candy called Turkish Delights. If you like them, then you need to go here as they are better and cheaper. You can also find lavash bread which is used in making wraps and shawarmas and pita bread and god knows how many types of feta cheese.

Then as you travel down the aisles you’ll find odd spices and grains that I had no idea what they were, but the people working there had no problem explaining to me how to use them. This was one of the places that turned me on to cacahuates, those Mexican candy coated peanuts dusted with chili powder. I learned about pickled turnips and how actually while the name doesn’t sound so good they’re pretty tasty.

Now wife is a stickler for fresh produce since I brought her out here from back east. When she sends me out to the store for produce I receive proper instructions on how to check if the produce I’d getting is fresh. This is a big point when it comes to cucumbers since it’s a food our daughter loves. I have learned that you have to squeeze the cucumbers to make sure they’re good and hard. A cucumber that isn’t is kind of squishy when you eat it and you don’t get the crunch. So I walk in and head to the cucumbers, specifically the smaller persian cucumbers and pick one up and start squeezing it. As I’m standing there squeeze the cucumber I suddenly hear a woman’s voice, can I help you? This is one of those points where you realize that you’re standing there squeezing a cucumber when a woman walks up and you start hearing this 70’s waka-waka music [Let’s Get it On, by Marvin Gaye if you need some help] in your head and think you’re in a really bad porn movie. I replied, no just checking that the cucumbers were fresh. To which I received in reply, our cucumbers are fresh and hard. No need to worry. OK, cue the waka-waka music again. [I’ve been really tryin’, baby. Tryin’ to hold back this feelin’ for so long]

I was able to shake off the fact that my mind was telling me that Larry Flynt was in charge of directing this portion of my life for a minute and got to continue shopping. Persian cucumbers, like regular cucumbers are best when they are fresh and hard, all jokes aside. I bought ten of them for about $1.69. I also picked up some of the finest English peas at $1.29/lb that were huge and also fresh. The Parkside Farmers Market only takes credit cards if you are buying more than $10 and it’s been hard for us to reach that amount sometimes.

If you get a chance to drive out to the Sunset definitely check this place out and make sure that even though it’s a small store to take your time to look up and down. You’ll be surprised at some of the things you’ll run across….and now I have to go wash out my brain with soap.

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Andronico’s: The Foodie’s Grocery Store

I’ve always said that some day I want to have a job where I can make enough money that I could shop only at Andronico’s. That doesn’t mean I would only shop there, but this is the store that has the biggest selection of foods that you won’t find at your local Safeway or Lucky’s and to top it off the quality of their foods are much higher than at regular chain grocers.

The outside is fairly plain and unassuming, but when you walk in from the street you get this kind of heaven’s opening, angel’s singing kind of feeling and you’re just looking at the produce, but the way it looks even a die hard carnivore would want to dive into it.

Make a right turn and you get to see their serve it yourself take out area where they have the usually comfort foods of fried chicken and mashed potatoes mixed in with ribs, thai curries, indian curries, soup and more. Whoever planned this layout deserves a medal because the smell of food that surrounds you just makes you salivate and want to eat.

They have a special cheese section across from the wonderful deli where a cheese specialist can match you up with the right cheese for any occasion. The deli is no slouch either. They’ve to top shelf deli meats, handmade sandwiches on ciabatta rolls and caviar out on display. Yep, this will cost you. Not in a Whole Foods kind of way, but it’s still a couple of bucks more than the major chains.

I have to say though that it’s worth it. I’ve been to Molly Stone’s and Whole Foods and while they’re nice, they’re small and usually crowded with hipsters. Andronico’s is big so they get to carry a lot of stuff and when you’re walking around the aisles it’s kind of like a treasure hunt to see what new you’ll find there. They have what seems like hundreds of different types of olive oil as well as other oils I never knew existed [cold pressed organic avocado oil anyone?] Expect to see labels with words like organic, artisinal, free range all over the place.

The spices and sauces aisles are mind boggling. I didn’t know there were that many different types of salt. I knew about french grey salt, hawaiian salt, but I stopped counting after finding salts from over 15 different countries. If you like hot sauces you’ve got a huge selection with Ass in Space being an interesting name for a hot sauce.

So what do you get for this higher price? Space. No one’s pushing you around or the people at my local store who I want to scream WALK DON’T BLOCK at who need ten minutes to decide which can of condensed milk they want to buy. You get top quality meats and produce [which the produce lately at the major chains has been severely lacking.] You get clerks and checkers that remember you and that English is a first language. Every time I go in there Bobby in the meat department still remembers me when I had hair down to my waist and he always asks how Becca is doing. The people are friendly who work there without the smugness that they work in a gourmet food center like two other places I’ve mentioned.

Andronico’s is one of the few markets where I can casually walk around at ease without feeling like I’m in a Soviet era store where people are fighting over the food. Check them out please and be sure to tell them I sent you.

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