Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Trader Joe's

Last week, a couple of girlfriends and I took the second in a series of road trips to Richmond to shop at Trader Joe’s. Joe’s is a different kind of shopping experience. The first time I stumbled upon one, by myself, I was a bit confused by the seemingly random selection of products. With experienced friends by my side for a little orientation, I got into the swing of it. It’s not really the kind of supermarket where you could do your weekly shopping. Instead, its claim to fame is specialty and gourmet foods, natural and organic foods, environmentally friendly products, and a great wine shop. There’s also a huge selection of Trader Joe’s store brand items, and the ones I’ve sampled have been excellent. And prices are surprisingly low.

The vibe at Trader Joe’s is decidedly anti-corporate. It feels like the kind of store your aging hippie friends would open (not to be confused with your deadly serious, all-too-earnest, strictly vegan, gluten-free friends). Maybe it’s the small size, or the hand-written signs, or the gray-haired men with ponytails who work there. And I understand that marketing has a lot to do with this—this is exactly the impression Trader Joe’s is trying to achieve: that they are the socially-conscious, eco-friendly, all-natural “little guy.” In reality, they are as corporate as any other supermarket chain. Still, it’s a fun place to shop, and I wish there were one in Fredericksburg.

Plenty of fair trade coffee, of course.

And now you know where to go to get your organic blue agave.

A good selection of thoroughly drinkable $4 wine.

Here are my Trader Joe's goodies. Love their "Better'n Peanut Butter" (lower cal & fat) and their chipotle salsa, but my favorite product is the orange muscat champagne vinegar. Mixed with nothing but olive oil, it makes a delicious, refreshing vinaigrette.