|Fill a Wegmans truck with your favorite food|
I had planned on waiting a few weeks for the rush to slow, but then I had Monday off work and focused on food. And I was excited. I drove over at 8 am and ended up wandering around for much more than an hour.
What should you expect at the new Wegmans? I appreciated the pre-opening publicity, but sometimes journalists get a little caught up in detail like square-footage and the number of check-outs and miss the way that things feel.
But it's not exactly four stores stitched together. Some items are scattered around the store. There is bread in the bakery. There is more way in the back. There are sodas in a half dozen aisles -- including San Pellegrino next to Italian cookies on the aisles with pasta sauces. It's more broken-up than a grocery store, which just means that you can walk around and make discoveries around any corner.
The food and the people are unusual. For my first visit, the hot spots were cheese, bakery and fish. They're just varieties and qualities that I can't find in any single store around here. They all range from the good quality regulars -- like a nice cheddar block or a good $2.25 Italian loaf -- to exotic pushes like $22/pound European cheese, diver boat scallops, and enormous whole rockfish.
|Sausages and hot dogs|
The prepared foods are a big draw. Just to the right of the entrance is a small food court -- sushi, sub shop, coffee shop, and row after row of prepared foods on the buffet. But Wegmans goes one step farther. The fish and meat sections have all kinds of "semi-prepared" foods like fish with a marinate or a topping, packaged up with directions printed on the front. Produce sells already-chopped vegetables. The cheese section sells ready-made tasting plates with four varieties and some dried food, ready to just put out for a party.
Those kinds of meals makes Wegmans a great place if you have an appetite, but not the time to start all the way from scratch. Wegmans wants you to eat in the store. There's seating in the cafe with more outside overlooking McGaw Road. It's a real place to go for lunch or dinner, then pick up your shopping as well.
Overall, I go for excitement. I'm not the best at price-watching. I cook, and I cook with just a little meat. So it's easy to splurge when you're buying vegetables, beans, cheese, and one thing from the meat counters. I noticed that Chobani yogurt was $1, and that's a draw. But I don't know how your bill will add up, and I'm suspicious about every chains and their claims about beating all the local competition.
Overall, the Wegmans lives up to the hype because the food is exciting. I saved a real exploration until Mrs. HowChow and I could wander through together. But bulk candy looks fun. Bulk grains look interesting. I saw five loaves of bread that I wanted to try. We have bagels for this morning, and I'm excited to see if they live up to the New York billing.
Not that Wegmans replaces everything else. I love Whole Foods' sausages, and I was bummed to realize that Wegmans' meat department doesn't offer anything similar. Similarly, Mrs. HowChow needed Clear Jel for a pie, and that isn't on their shelves. At some point, I want to grill and can sweet and hot peppers for the winter, and I'll go back to H Mart for spectacular, cheap vegetables. In the same way, Howard County was full of markets and bakeries before Sunday, and I can list off the fun -- like cookies and nougat and crabs -- that will keep me shopping around.