Friday, November 7, 2014

Whole Foods Thanksgiving Meals, Nationwide

The Whole Foods Columbia, Maryland store invited local food bloggers to a taste testing party to sample their Thanksgiving meals. 

Our invitation included one guest each, so we asked our Grandma Alberta and Grandpa Charles to join us. 
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a warm welcome by Whole Foods Chef Patrick, Katie Malloy and Mia Hinckle. The cafe was transformed into a private dining area for us with a gigantic table with printed name plates, menus and Fall decorations.

(left to right) Charles, Chef Patrick and Thomas 
Tasting menu  
The Holiday Taste tasting took place in the cafe area overlooking the lake
Before the event started, it was exciting to hang out with some very cool food bloggers including @theunmanlychef, @3beansonastring, @HoCoBlogs co-founder Jesse Newburg and @thebaremidriff and @hudsonandemily.

Then, Chef Patrick introduced the appetizers and the parade of holiday food began.....
Chef Patrick introducing the appetizers 

Coconut shrimp (left) and shrimp dumplings with dipping sauce  

We started with appetizers - a coconut shrimp and a shrimp dumpling with sweet and sour sauce. While the dumpling's thin skin was fork tender filled with a tasty, well seasoned mixture of shrimp filing, the star, for all of us, was the coconut shrimp,  It was a huge, pump shrimp lavishly covered in sweet, coconut flaked coating. The right amount of sweet and salty. We washed down the shrimp appetizers with a sweet apple cider that was another stand out. 

For the first course,  the Organic Triple Squash Soup was "smooth and tasty" with "a very faint hint of cinnamon", the "perfect Fall soup"  The  Organic Cream of Mushroom Soup  had a "strong earthly mushroom flavor." We spilt on which one we liked best - Grandpa and I  liked the Squash Soup and Grandma and Thomas the Mushroom Soup. 
Roasted Free Range Turkey with Gravy, Organic Biscuit & Mushroom Stuffing,
Butternut Sweet Potato Casserole,  Mashed Potatoes,
Cranberry Orange Relish, Roasted Brussel Sprouts, and
Glazed Carrots with Pecans

Then the second course came out - a gigantic plate of mouth-watering Thanksgiving classics.  We all agreed the Organic Biscuit & Mushroom Stuffing was star of the plate. "Much better than regular stuffing"(Grandma) and "biscuit added a depth of flavor and texture" (Grandpa). Both potatoes -  Butternut Sweet Potato Casserole and Mashed Potatoes, were well seasoned with a smooth and silky texture but "had a thinner consistency than we make at home"(Grandpa).

Cranberry Orange Relish was "very good and sweet" (Charles), "not a jelly more of a jam (Grandpa) and "very flavorful with a hint of orange" (Grandma). 
Roasted Brussel Sprouts - "tender, easy to cut" (Thomas), but "needed a bit more seasoning or salt" (Grandpa). 

Roasted Free Range Turkey with Gravy was sliced thicker than we are accustomed to at home but the turkey was "very flavorful" (all of us) and with it lathered in the chunky mushroom gravy it was a real hit. 

Glazed Carrots with Pecans -  although "tasty" (Grandma) and "tender" (Thomas) we would prefer the carrots be a bit more sweet.
Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie 

Grandpa and I are not pumpkin fans, so only we let Thomas and Grandma give the 411 on this Pumpkin Pumpkin Pie - "clever play on the classic pie with the two different layers of pumpkin pie (the top layer a mouse and bottom layer was the classic pumpkin pie custard)" (Thomas) but "the crust was thicker than we preferred" (Grandma).

As the dinner ended, we were stuffed. It felt like Thanksgiving. You know that feeling when, even though you want to eat more because it tastes so good, but you just can't eat another bite. That was us.

When we left we were given "Yum" goodie bags stuffed with 365 (Whole Foods house brand) Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake cookies, daelias Biscuits for Cheese (almond with raisin flavor) and Hammond's Mitchell Sweets (vanilla caramel & marshmallow).

In summary, this was a VERY cool event. It's our first taste testing and hope its not our last.

We decided to incorporate some of the items we tasted into our Thanksgiving meal. We're definitely ordering the coconut shrimp appetizer, organic biscuit and mushroom stuffing, mushroom gravy and pumpkin pie cheesecake cookies.

Check out all of WF Thanksgiving meals here (Columbia store here). There are so many items to choose from including kosher, organic, vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian. WF offers its Thanksgiving items as package dinners (serves 2 people or up to 16 ) or as single servings. From sides, breads, game birds, soups, gravy, relish, cheese platters, pie crusts and even holiday flower arrangements, there is a big selection to choose from.

Thank you Whole Foods. We had a great time.

- Charles

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