The first of four planned Whole Foods Markets was unleashed on Hawai'i last week at Kahala Mall. Swarms of foodies with pent-up desires were there, as I was, at the jamming opening. Every fifth person had a "Media" button on interviewing earnest managers and customers with a pleased, yet dazed look on their faces. So many new choices!!! Ho! Foods! I had to jockey with a professional photographer to get that one perfect shot of the whimsical frosted rose cupcakes in the display case.
Combine a raucous country fair with an elegant gourmet deli and that about sums up the atmosphere. The mainstream shopper has discovered what natural, organic and/or vegetarian devotees have known all along-that unadulturated, natural foods equates to healthier, cleaner and more defined flavor. Cooks behind the pizza counter were loudly hawking their samples with great gusto. A caveat. Many of the canned and boxed products can be gotten elsewhere on O'ahu at better prices. However, it's the freshly made food counters of pizza, plate lunches, fresh fish, sushi, et. al. that line the perimeter of the Market that sets it apart from others.
The Market has the largest array of specialty butters as well as a hefty selection of bar chocolates and cheeses. A few local producers are in evidence. Natural soaps from Maui, produce (e.g.,'ulu and herbs) packaged cookies, honey and jams. Throw in an in-house bakery of tempting pastries, recently baked breads, organic and natural meats and produce, a coffee/tea bar and a natural bath and body department and you've got the complete organic shopper's dream.
If you've ever been to a Whole Foods on the mainland you already have an idea of what to expect. The three destination places that I head to in any city while travelling includes a Trader Joe's, a Target and a Whole Foods. I have literally one duffel of omiyage I bring to my family from Hawai'i and the same duffel for bringing omiyage back home. That is a great time to find future birthday and Christmas gifts as well.
Forget the ripe bananas and yogurt smoothie smell we've come to associate with natural food stores. Whole Foods is the Valrhona of organic foods. I will still faithfully patronize the Kailua Down to Earth for their local-tastes savvy and the wide selection from their bulk bins. You just cannot beat the freshness and prices of their loose spices, teas and grains. I'll continue to be a faithful consumer at the two beloved Thursday Kailua Farmers' Markets and KCC's. Whole Foods just adds another welcomed option to the bountiful food offerings. Here's hoping they expand the local foods presence in their stores.