I've long said that Whole Foods--or at least the mammoth WF flagship store here in Austin--is not a grocery store, it's an 80,000 square foot amusement park. Known to many as Whole Paycheck, it's not the place to go if you're looking for a bargain. It is, however, the perfect place to find new and interesting foods, especially if you're a vegan, and pick up those treats you love but can't get your hands on everyday.
This is doubly true for me, as I live at the far South end of Austin and WF is downtown. I make it there perhaps once every two months, usually when I need inspiration or am looking for something new and weird I've seen online or in a magazine...or when I absolutely have to have a Big John Cookie.
What can you say about a 99-cent, saucer-sized chocolate chunk oatmeal cookie almost an inch thick that eats more like a cake--or an entire breakfast--than a cookie? Oh, yeah, here's what you can say: YUM. OMG YUM.
Whole Foods also sells vegan brownies (delicious) and donuts (never tried them but I hear they're awful), vegan peanut butter fudge, and in the dessert cooler, vegan parfaits, mousse, and cakes. Today I was feeling frisky (and I made the mistake of shopping hungry) so I picked up a cookie, a pint of their wonderful pomegranate sorbet (store brand, so it's not as outrageously priced as, say, Nadamoo), and a slab of something called Cookies 'n Cream Cake.
I love the parfaits, but the cake slice...well, it tasted good, but it was throat-searingly sweet. It's two layers of somewhat dry dark chocolate cake sandwiched with buttercream and cookie bits, and like I said, it tastes great, and overall had a good texture, but was so sweet it nearly turned my face inside out. I think maybe one layer of buttercream would have been sufficient, maybe with a dark chocolate ganache in the center. I think in the future I'll stick to the parfaits, which are chunks of chocolate cake, raspberries, and a luscious vegan chocolate mousse (probably the same general formula as the filling for my Mooless Mocha Pies**).
Never go to Whole Foods hungry unless you're planning to sit down in one of their food courts and enjoy something from the many prepared meal bars. I understand the tofu breakfast tacos are to die for, and I've had several tofu dishes from the buffet line as well as the hot bars and they've all been fabulous. Occasionally they offer Field Roast's hazelnut crusted cutlets, which are in my opinion one of the best vegan foods on Earth; they didn't have any today, but they did have at least half a dozen vegan main courses in addition to the international selections, taco bar, sandwich bar, and pasta bar.
I also advise against going to WF when you're in a hurry. It's best to take your time, wandering the aisles and looking for exciting new ingredients. Wear good shoes, bring your reusable bags, and get into the flow of the crowd, seeking the Zen of grocery shopping (and ignoring the screaming yuppie larvae who tend to run around the Healthy Living section chasing each other with organic cotton stuffed animals). Make a list, otherwise you'll forget half of what you came in for, overwhelmed by the sheer vastness of the selection.
And above all, set a spending limit.
** - Mooless Mocha Pies, along with many other tasty recipes, are available in my ebook Bell, Book, and Spoon, available for $5 from Lulu. This is a shameless plug. But I'm quite proud of my little cookbook, so please check it out.