Marin’s awesome, odd new grocery
It takes me precisely 11 minutes to get in and out of my local Trader Joe’s with my haul for the week, assuming there are no long lines to hold me up. After years of practice, I don’t think and I don’t impulse buy. I know exactly which products are worthy and which are better found elsewhere.
But visiting a new grocery store is like being dropped in the middle of a foreign city without GPS. And when that store happens to be the new Good Earth — which recently opened in Mill Valley’s Tam Junction (201 Flamingo Road) — let’s just say the all-organic, all-natural, allergy-sufferers’ mecca could hold someone hostage for hours.
I can’t figure out if I’m totally sold or totally weirded out by this market, which has another location in Fairfax. It’s the kind of place that could prompt you into completely overhauling your diet while also making you wonder why you live in a place where grocery stores devote entire sections to cultured drinks or seaweed.
On that note, here are eight reasons you’ll either be real excited — or real cynical — about the new Good Earth.
1. DIY heaven
If you’re a person who likes choices, the prepared-food aspect of this store will blow your mind. You can make your own wok bowl. You can make your own burrito. You can make your own smoothie from the base liquid to the addins. (I concocted a particularly special blend that included oat-covered dates, cacao nibs and pineapple ... because, no restraint necessary.) The smallest size is only 8 ounces and less than $5. Sometimes that’s all you need.
2. The container situation
OK, I get it: It’s nice to have the option to dine in at the grocery store. But glass plates and bowls next to the hot bar and salad station? It’s a little much. There’s something about seeing fellow shoppers winding through the store with overflowing plates of food that feels strange and almost voyeuristic. I actually watched someone pick all of the fricos (Parmesan chips) out of the community Caesar salad to top her own creation, and she couldn’t even shadily hide it. On the to-go note, however, the straws are worth a trip alone — you really haven’t lived until you’ve sucked a smoothie through a thick cardboard tube the diameter of a pencil.
3. The chocolate and candy selection
New brands of candy, from sour worms to Tootsie Roll-copycats to lollipops? That’s always a good thing — I’ve never met something chewy and sweet that I didn’t like. Plus, there’s gum that’s naturally flavored and doesn’t contain anything scary (even if it looks like rabbit pellets). But cold-pressed chocolate bars that have labels with phrases like “Be Rich,” “High Vibration Food” and “Made with Love”? Yep, insert eye roll here.
4. Snack game is so strong
And by strong, I’m talking salty binges you can totally get behind: wasabi popcorn that’s popped in coconut oil; purple potato chips; and the most addictive crispy rice snacks you can imagine. Brands you know (Lundberg) feature snacks you won’t see elsewhere (thin stacker rice-cake crackers, which are better than I just made them sound — perfect cheese vehicles), and you’ll be introduced to brands you never knew existed. Also, the gluten-, sugar- and anything-else-intolerant will not feel like the sad stepchildren shopping in a separate area of the store — the options are seamlessly integrated into the layout.
5. Seaweed, kraut, kefir.
All that stuff. In so much excess. Plus the woman wearing the sunflower leggings who said to her friend: “I would love it if we lived in a wheatgrass world. It would be so soft.” Enough said.
6. They have $6 cashew milk
I actually feel neither here nor there about the cashew milk situation. Except, it’s pretty cool that they have nut milk that doesn’t cost your last month’s rent. There’s the expensive stuff too, but if you’re really willing to look, you can find some good deals here. (And if you’re not, be careful: I spent $110 on snacks alone.)
7. Medicine made fun
Head over to the health section of the store, which has carousels of liquid herbal supplements and tinctures where you can fill your own glass