A Nip and a Nosh
Saturday night at Whole Foods
by Bix Engels
Published in December, 2008
Okay, it's a Saturday night and neither of you feels like cooking, so your sweetie proposes a big night out at . . . the grocery store?
Not exactly the height of romance. Or perhaps it is, if your idea of romance includes a fondness for a glass of very good wine at a very reasonable price. That's what we found on a recent Saturday at the wine bar in the Cranbrook Village Whole Foods.
Whole Foods Market Wine and Beer Bar is a glistening U-shaped counter nestled between the cheese and wine sections. The drinks menu is simple: a couple of beers, including a local one from Arbor Brewing Company, and a selection of wines-several midrange as well as high-end reds and whites, and always a few from Michigan. We splurged-it was, after all, Saturday night-and went for the Bogle Phantom Petite Sirah for $5 and the Ken Wright Chardonnay at $9 for a four-ounce pour. I enjoyed that Wright Chard, but what I really liked was that this is the same wine for which I grudgingly paid $18 a glass on Main Street a few months ago. To go with, we chose cheeses from the dairy case, splurging again with a Jasper Hill Farm Bayley Hazen blue cheese that was a superb little bundle of tanginess, and a sliver of creamy Brillat-Savarin, named for the secular saint of French gastronomy, as well as some fancy crackers (the barkeep set us up with plates and utensils). Although I love a bargain, the overall experience was a little flat with nobody but us at the bar.
We went back during the week for a "rush-hour-relief tasting." These are held Thursdays from five to seven o'clock and often feature a particular varietal or theme as well as a foursome of cheeses. We hit the Sauvignon Blanc trial-$17 for four two-ounce pours and paired with a superb cheese quartet that included goat's Gouda and Cheddar, chèvre with fennel pollen and lavender,
and a creamy soft cheese from Cowgirl Creamery.
For dinner, the Cranbrook Village Whole Foods has multiple hot and cold bars offering eighty-plus dishes and ten hot soups, as well as sushi and cooked-to-order rice and noodle bowls. In general, I find the food fresh, of very high quality, and often too bland. The vast selection requires experimentation, but there are rewards for diligence-in my case, tender, spicy teriyaki chicken and Vietnamese spring rolls with peanut sauce. For dessert, try the gelato bar; every flavor I sampled was very, very good.
[Originally published in December, 2008.]
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