Thursday, September 4, 2014

DOING DISHES: Lettuce Entertain You! - Whole Foods in Colonie, NY

Last week Foodie Friend and I scooted over to Whole Foods in Colonie, NY to do a lunch of their salad offerings. It was a very virtuous outing.

There are (2) salad options: make your own, or buy something that's been prepared already. If you wear a really bright halo, or don't want cilantro in anything, then make your own by all means! Either way it's $8.49/pound, and that's a lot of arugula if you ask me.

For the make your own crowd there was a beautiful and amazing selection of vegetables to choose from (including radicchio, peas, green garbanzos, tomatoes, onions, and on and on), as well as cubed meats, artichoke hearts, stuffed grape leaves, giant beans, etc. We counted 16 prepared dressings (including blue cheese, carrot ginger, pomegranate vinaigrette, and sun dried tomato), as well as six different vinegars to choose from. The colors were dazzling and everything looked very fresh. Staff were attentive to keeping the area well stocked and clean. There were no stray ingredients left lying around near the serving trays, which I appreciated. Actually, it was immaculate. 

But we went there specifically to try their creative selection of prepared salads. We had a good look around but the only containers were salad bowls or large cardboard take-out boxes that almost assumed we would be buying a lot of one thing, or that we didn't mind our flavors getting jumbled together.  We went to the deli counter and the server graciously gave us a bunch of small plastic tubs with lids (which FF virtuously took back with us to wash and re-use). There were some salads in there that we thought were worth trying as well, like the Caribbean Shrimp Salad and a Summer Squash, Ricotta and Pasta salad that was very pretty.

So OUR halos are a bit rusty, but they definitely glowed brighter after we selected (10) to test as part of our series on take-away salads. First we tasted the Thai Mango Slaw. It smelled like bell peppers, and had way too much cilantro for me (I'm special: like 1/1000 to me it tastes like soap, AND I have superpowers, which maybe goes hand in hand, not sure on that, but I digress). Flavors included onion and vinegar and cuke, as well as a bit of heat. It was lacking in mango and literally had no salt. How virtuous is that? Since I'm the Goddess of "I can't unsalt" my food, I appreciated it.  It was very tasty.

Next was the Cabbage Crunch Slaw - not tart, a bit greasy - it had nut oils in it for sure, but it was a clean, nutty flavor.  No salt. FF started adding at the table. Then we tried the Three Bean Salad (chickpea, white beans, green beans), which was NOT pretty, and the green beans should have been cut down to bite size, but it was delicious. The green beans especially were slightly sweet, crunchy and cooked to perfection, a bit of red onion. Lovely. No salt.

Number 4: Broccoli Salad, with a hint of ginger, sun dried tomatoes, and red chili pepper flakes. This was a bit of a miss but good. Maybe the broc could have used a bit more time marinating. Garlic? Salt needed fer sher, so I reached for a bit at the table, and it was good. OK then we tried the Chicken Quesedilla Salad, which was a great idea - corn, black beans, tender chicken, red onion, chopped tomatoes. It was spicy but it tasted "off", like sour somehow. I'm going to work on this at home.....

Then the Carrot Salad, with currants, almonds, and, er, more cilantro. Very good, not too sweet but sweetened, we thinks, more than just with carrot. Then the Green Garbanzo Bean Salad, which was very strange, with odd textures, mint, just a bit bitter. Even salt didn't help.

Then we tried the Mediterranean Crunch Salad, made with kale (very virtuous), garbanzo beans (which were in almost everything), red onion, red bell peppers (peppers were also in most everything as well), and some kalamata olives. This was one of our favorites, and I'd go back for more. The kale was nice and tender with a pleasant tartness. Then we tasted their Antipasto Salad, made with a nice selection of smokey meats, provolone, olives, roasted red peppers, onion and artichoke hearts. This was very rich and garlicky, and very different from the other selections available to us. The meat was cut to just the right size and it held together well. Not health food exactly, but top quality, and the protein was a welcome addition to our meal.
Thai Beef Salad without the beef because someone picked it all out, Thai Mango Slaw and Antipasto Salad on the right

We finished up quickly because we needed to get back to our "real lives", with the Herb Chicken Salad that had like NO herbs, but it did have tomatoes, red bell peppers, halved cherry tomatoes, and carrots. The chicken was a bit dry, but overall the salad was crunchy and bright. Lots of peppers.

In the end everything started to taste the same, but maybe that's due more to what we selected than what was being offered. I think I would have liked fewer chickpeas and peppers (these were actually hard to avoid, I think), and a few more protein options. Maybe a few different types of legumes would be in order, but that might come as fall/winter approaches. There were NO potato salads, which was interesting, though we didn't miss it. To summarize, everything was very fresh, there was a nice selection to choose from, and it wasn't at all salty, or greasy, OR garlicky. Several were absolutely wonderful. We smiled as we raced back to work.

The eating area was a bit noisy but communal, with worker bees, families, and other mortals enjoying their meals. We thought it was definitely worth returning on a regular basis to see what Whole Foods  can concoct for us. Again, like in our first salad review at Market Bistro, there are NO excuses for that drive-thru burger. There are GREAT options in our many local grocery stores and delis that are good eating, and good for you. Unless, of course, you are trying to take out an arch-enemy superhero, then a burger at Mickey Dees is in order. But, I'm sorry to say, then there will be no halo for you.

Lunch was just over $20, with two bottled beverages.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

PS: Even the shoppers move about with an air of the angelic. Good food will do that to you.


Capital Dishes said...

Waiting for the Garden Bistro review...
Calamari, salads, beef, PEI mussels...

Zena G.O.F. said...

Calamari started but waiting to try a few places before I write. Also two reviews of Garden Bistro (mussels) at