Sunday, April 26, 2015

"The Counter" at Whole Foods in Columbia, Maryland

Whole Foods in Columbia, Maryland recently debuted their new menu at "The Counter", the in-store diner-like area, open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Charles and I were invited to a private taste testing party for bloggers to try some of the new menu items. We were allowed to bring two guests. We choose two of our favorite Centennial High School teachers, Mrs. Bagley (Independent Research) and Madame Doff (French).

Charles and I with our teachers

You might look at The Counter pictures and say "wait, hasn't that spot always been there?" Yes, it has but now it features new menu items to enjoy.

Chickpea Fries with Truffle Salt
Here's some of the items we tasted -

At quick glance, the Chickpea Fries looked like regular steak-cut fries. The taste, however, is completely different. It's much more bland.It doesn't really tastes like chickpeas. It's hard to really compare the flavor to some other dish, it is just so unique. On the bright side, these fries are healthier than normal fries, and you won't notice the difference if you dunk them in ketchup.
Sweet & Spicy Brussel Sprouts 

Although the Brussels Sprouts were billed as"sweet and spicy", but they were more sweet than spicy. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of brussels sprouts, but this dish changed my perspective entirely. The brussels fluctuated from being initially crispy to a soft state, which made an interesting quasi crunchy texture.

The Stack

"The Stack" (wheat-less pancakes served with apple butter and maple syrup) was surprisingly good. I wasn't too sure how wheat-less pancakes  would taste but I was pleasantly surprised. The pancakes were delicate and fluffy. I've actually never tried pancakes with apple butter before, and after tasting this, it certainly won't be my last time.
The Counter Fave

The Counter Fave consisted of braised kale, caramelized kielbasa, fried egg, and aged cheddar on a whole wheat english muffin. Although this sandwich has many similarities to The Biscuit (see below), the kielbasa sausage is what gives this dish a true distinctively sharp taste. Madame Doff ate kielbasa as a child and thought the potent sausage was a great choice for a breakfast sandwich. If you don't like kale, don't worry. It didn't stand out in the sandwich, it just complemented the other ingredients.

The Biscuit 
The Biscuit breakfast sandwich consists of fried egg, sautéed spinach, chipotle remoulade, and American cheese on a biscuit. I'm a huge fan of sautéed spinach, so this ingredient made the dish all the better. However, the biscuit was just a bit too flaky for my liking. I enjoyed the Counter Fave the best, but The Biscuit came in a close second.

The Scramble 
The Scramble includes southwest tofu and aged cheddar scramble. The tofu tastes like egg whites, which I very much enjoy. If they had a choice, both of my teachers would prefer regular eggs instead of tofu. However, I think the dish is a nice change up from the traditional eggs for breakfast, definitely worth a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        One world to describe the Currylaska soup -  inferno. This is the spiciest soup I have ever tried in my life, and I don't mean spicy in a good way. I mean it can send you to the hospital spicy. I couldn't even take two sips without running to get an entire glass of water. My teachers had the same reaction, waaaaay too spicy. But, hey, if you like VERY spicy foods (can't emphasize this enough) THIS is your dish.

Chicken & Biscuit
fried chicken thighs, buttermilk biscuit with sausage gravy 

The Chicken & Biscuit photo doesn't do it justice. The aesthetic of this dish can be quite deterring. However, you'll be in a state of serendipity when you indulge in this dish. It satisfied all my taste buds - crispy, buttery, sweet, salty and flakey. If you like fried chicken, I'd give this one a try.

Avocado Tacos:
deep fried avocado, cabbage slaw and chipotle remoulade

I've dubbed these tacos "The Bomb" because they explode vegetarian goodness in your mouth - the combo of the avocado, crunchy on the outside & velvety ripeness inside, with sweet slaw and tangy chipotle sauce. Perfection!!!!

Tuscan Kale Salad
The salad is comprised of shredded kale, cranberries, sunflower seeds and citrus vinaigrette. In all honesty, I can't eat kale by itself. The vinaigrette proved that all you need is the right dressing to make a dish taste amazing. The dressing made each kale leaf radiate with zest. In additions, the raw onions' firm texture acted as a foil to the pliable kale. Whole Foods knows how to make a salad. 

The Columbia Burger
1/2 lb short rib blend, brioche roll, caramelized onion, mushroom and
special sauce

Doesn't this picture look beguiling? Just look at the beauty of this burger. It tastes exactly as it looks - big, juicy, sautéed golden onions, gooey warm cheese on buttery brioche. Incredible!!! It deserves to be called The COLUMBIA Burger. Hail to the CB!!
                                               My brother Charles (left), one of the amazing WF chefs, and me                                                  
Cacio e Pepe
Spaghetti, Pecorino Cheese, Butter and Cracked Black Pepper 

The Cacio e Pepe Italian pasta dish is something we make at home often. Although we don't call the dish anything special, just pasta with butter and cheese, it's a feel good meal. Cheesy sharp pecorino melted with sweet butter over warm pasta. This is comfort food at its best and WF does a pretty good job (and it's not even an Italian restaurant).                                                                                              


The Counter is a great place to chill whether you are eating alone on a counter stool watching your food being prepared or with friends at the very long wooden communal table. It's open for breakfast through dinner - serving breakfast all day long (how cool is that!)

We've been back since we attended the taste tasting party. If we see us hanging out at the counter, come say hi.

Thank you Whole Foods for inviting us "Dudes" and our high school teachers to this special party. It was a great night and we loved trying all the new menu offerings at The Counter.

 - Thomas

Gift bags for the taste test participants