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Georgetown Throwdown: Trader Joe’s versus Whole Foods.

June 13, 2009

Welcome to the ongoing series that is Georgetown Throwdown: Trader Joe’s
versus Whole Foods.

Trader Joe’s is the Mecca for the poor hipster and young parent. They
carry a wide variety of frozen foods that can be thrown in the microwave
for a pseudo-ethnic experience, and you will walk out with a bag of
groceries for less than $30. Whole Foods is the province of aging WASPs
and young, stipended students. Their produce is outranked only by the
farmers market, and it will cost more than you ever imagined. Each has
a distinctive personality, an out of the way location, and pretentious,
brightly colored, reusable tote bags.

BUT WHICH WILL REIGN SUPREME? (Part 1 of several dozen)
Today’s focus: Which store can get me drunk faster?

The wine selection at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s (hereafter, TJ’s) is
a clutch element of their grocery-store-hood. If, like me, you come
from a state where blue laws are still in effect, it throws you to see
alcohol right next to the cheese. In fact, the mere presence of alcohol
in a store where food is sold can be frightening enough to ensure you
walk past it – but no more. I have adapted to life in DC and the
presence of wine and beer in grocery stores is a difference I have come
to accept and enjoy. Why? Two birds with one stone, my friends – 5
layer dip AND Sam Adams, brie, baguette AND Pinot. Life is good. But
how does one determine which store to frequent for this alcoholic
pleasure? Whole Foods and TJ’s both carry cheese, bread, and that guac
stuff with the salsa and beans and whathaveyou, I’d actually rather not
know what’s in it. Both stores can feed and demolish you – so how to
choose? Thankfully, I’ve done the thinking for you.

TJ’s wine selection is cheap, varied, and quirky. Their 3 Buck Chuck is
no joke – for $3 you get a bottle of wine (red, white or rose) and it is
pretty drinkable. Would I recommend it for a date? Not if you’re
looking for it to last all night (ZING!). For sangria, wine spritzers,
or cooking? Definitely. However, if you are willing to spend $5-$8,
you will undoubtedly walk out of the store with a very passable, quite
possibly tasty bottle of vino, one which you can share with your 6
roommates as you “ironically” watch repeats of the Duggars. This great
price point also makes TJ’s ideal for parties – buying bottles of pinot
will not empty your wallet nor cause you terrible headaches in the
morning. Additionally, you can stock up while you still have that extra
$40, because god knows when you finally run out of money because your
summer internship is hardly covering your transport and your parents
have already refused to contribute to your bank account despite your
best efforts at imitating a starving child, what you’ll need most is a
drink to get you through the night. But don’t worry, we’ve been there,
and chances are you most likely won’t become an alcoholic, a shell of a
human being whose sole purpose in life has become kneeling in a dirty
alley behind Thirds, looking to score just another $10 to feed the
monster in your head, the one you can hear calling your name, ever so
softly… Most likely, that won’t happen. But if it does, TJ’s will be
able to get you that next bottle of wine, at the lowest price you can

The beer selection is an amalgam of heavily hopped Belgian imports and
IPAs with various WASPy sounding names. You know these people: “You
know, I love Dogfishhead, you know, ever since my semester abroad I’ve
really only enjoyed the hoppy, heavier kinds of beers. I just can’t
drink American.” Yeah, fuck you. We know your type, though, and we all
have one or 6 friends just like you, and may in fact be you ourselves.
You can definitely find a beer for that one guy who only wants a Sam
Adams, and you can also find some fruitier concoctions for the girls,
because get it? Girls can’t drink real beer. The best thing about TJ’s
selections, though, is that you can pick up either a 6 pack or a bottor two of wine simply for the smiley face graphic or funny name and you
won’t feel as though you’ve wasted your money. It’ll most likely be
yummy, and you will probably enjoy drinking it.

The Whole Foods wine selection is grim. There is no way around it.
They have several racks, and yes, chances are that most of the bottles
are quite delicious, but I am 21 years old. I refuse to throw down more
than $10 on a bottle of wine. My cash is strictly reserved for the
necessities – sushi, haircuts, fro yo and the Metro. I do not fool
around with “floral”, “tannins”, “oaky”, or any of those adjectives that
old people used to disguise the fact that they are aging rapidly, the
best years of their life are behind them, and all they’ve got left to
look forward to is a slow decline into decay and irrelevance. But
what’s that you ask? Doesn’t Whole Foods have a “Great Value!”
selection of wine? Why, yes. Yes, they do. And it is of the quality
that may lead you to find yourself standing on a street, wondering what
just happened to your life, yelling, “Stella? Stellaaa??
Stellaaaaaaaaaaaa!” You may find an $8 bottle of white and think, well
how bad can this be? Whole Foods carries it, it’s cheap, it seems
perfect! But, my friend, as you will come to find out, Whole Foods also
carries soy nuggets.

Soy nuggets are Satan’s abortions.

Just because Whole Foods carries an item does not mean you should buy
it. Everyone missteps. However, a misstep in Whole Foods’ wine section
will either cost you $20 or your dignity. Please, do not buy a cheap
bottle there without first tasting and checking to make sure that it
does not have a screw cap. The beer selection is quite lovely – there
are many cold and room temperature 6 packs, as well as a range of
interesting, imported choices. From the lightly refreshing and crisp
lagers to the hoppy ruinations, they’ve got it covered. But recently a
friend of mine spent $17 on a six pack, and a place where that is
possible is not a place that is a friend to the college student. And
let’s face it – none of us are planning on “just having two really good
beers and calling it a night”. Fucking n00bs.

Winner: Trader Joe’s, because it feeds the twin addictions of college
life: getting drunk, and doing it on the cheap.

Look forward next week to a digression on the merits of the bakery
section, an article that is sure to surprise and delight, create and

3 Comments leave one →
  1. alexandrajmiller permalink
    June 13, 2009 7:40 pm

    dear god. you are crazy if you think anyone’s going to read a post this long. what is this, a newspaper? no wonder they’re failing. that said, i’m off to read it since there is nothing to do in PA…

    • alexandrajmiller permalink
      June 13, 2009 8:42 pm

      wow. previous post was a lie. this was an excellent post chefhooles and i hope to see many more in the future. also i’m really craving some 7 layer dip and a cold sammy right now. thanks a lot.

  2. ksawyers permalink
    June 15, 2009 6:37 pm

    Chefhooles, you are my muse. I love you in a way a straight woman should not love another straight woman.

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