Marin’s awe­some, odd new gro­cery

San Francisco Chronicle - - FOOD + HOME - By Amanda Gold

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

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