Saturday, November 18, 2006

Whole Foods

After work and a workout on Saturday, I like heading to Whole Foods to sample their buffet. It's burned me before - I've gotten sick on a less-than-well-cooked buffet from either of Baltimore's locations before. But at least they each have a microwave to heat it up, and I do strongly advise that you do heat it before eating.

That said, the temptation is too great to avoid it. The buffets there are good, if mixed in good and okay dishes; they just need to be heated before you eat. The buffets differ from location to location. Plus, each has a salad buffet - and all buffets are $6.99 per lb. There are two Whole Foods in the Balimore region. Both offer a pretty hearty and good buffet breakfast buffet, until around 11ish (the grits and cheese grits are heavenly). The WF on Fleet Street, by the Inner Harbor and Little Italy, usually produces a better hot buffet than the one in Mount Washington, on the other end of I-83 (well, the part that's in Baltimore City limits). Usually the Mount Washington buffet can be summed up in just a few dishes: tofu something and some variation on chicken wings. Black cherry chicken wings, buffalo chicken wings, marinara chicken wings, all these chicken wings! I don't like chicken wings that much, unless they're free and dipped in generous amounts of Ranch dressing. But I digress.

Today I opted for Whole Foods Inner Harbor, which has free parking with two hours validation (as opposed to Whole Foods Mount Washington, beside the beautiful Jones Falls, and has a big, free parking lot. It's in the same building as a hotel and the international headquarters of Sylvan Learning Center. Today they had some okay stuff and some delicious stuff on the menu. Recommended is the apple crisp - simply scrumptious, and a FAR better one than one what I had out last night (more on that in a future post) - that one just seemed like cinnamon-stewed apples with warm oats thrown on top. Yum? Um, no. But this one was all together, delicious crump topping with oats mixed in, crunchy and sugary, partly mixed in with the apples. Yum! Also good was the stir-fried asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. I am not a big fan of asparagus, but this asparagus was good. In the above-average category was my main dish, black pepper steak on white rice. This was edible, but not worth remembering. They also had some tofu-stuffed bell peppers, which I almost sampled, but put back when I noticed how nice and hard the tofu filling actually was (tofu is supposed to be hard?). To that I added some crunchy cauliflour (the actual name of the dish) from the salad buffet to my plate - hell, it costs the same, why not?

I must urge you to try the cakes and cupcakes there. One more thing I love about the Fells Point location over the Mount Washington one is that the Fells Point WF often cuts up their unsold cakes into slices and sells them individually (a small vanilla buttercream yellow cake costs $13.99, individual slices are around $3, and only available on occasion; they won't slice one for you). The Mount Washington location almost never slices their cakes up for piece-by-piece sale, which is a shame. Each location also has chocolate and vanilla buttercream cupcakes. The decorations they put on them are fun and HUGE. I bought one today that had five smiling "people" of various races, all in a mound of "grass" and other icing objects. I haven't eaten the "people" yet, but I bet they will be tasty.

One MORE thing the Fells Point location has that the other does not is an assortment of gourmet chocolates and truffles from Knipschildt Chocolatier. These things are, again, scrumptious, but expensive as far as candy goes, at least on my budget. They are $12 per dozen, and $1.29 per each. I got three, of varying memorability. The least memorable one was the heart-shaped Antoinette, a mixture of white chocolate and rosewater. I got it simply for the rosewater, but tasted none. It was all delicious white chocolate, don't get me wrong. But it wasn't what it said it would be. Even a little rose water leaves a strong rose scent. There was none. More memorable was the Aisha, a white chocolate coating around a Turkish coffee ganache. Didn't taste like Turkish coffe - didn't taste like any coffee, actually. The one that was most memorable was the Helena, a syrupy caramel-centered milk chocolate candy lightly covered in (gasp!) sea salt. I am not that crazy about caramels, but this one was great, and the sea salt, most unusual on a chocolate, was the thing that made it memorable.