Sunday, August 24, 2008

Foodcellar & Co.: Three Strikes and You're Out?

Foodcellar & Co. Market
4-85 47th Road
Long Island City, NY
(212) 606-9786

Back on August 13th, the highly anticipated Foodcellar & Co. opened in Long Island City, giving local residents an alternative to ordering groceries for delivery from Fresh Direct and to shopping in the C-Town Supermarket on 21st Street. While I love the idea of ordering groceries for delivery because the idea of schlepping heavy bags full of food back from the store is utterly unappealing, you are beholden to Fresh Direct's delivery schedule and aren't given too many choices when it comes to certain products.


C-Town, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Allow me to digress. During my sophomore and junior years of college, when I didn't have a car on campus, one of my favorite weekend activities was having Stephen (my boyfriend) drive me to Superfresh so I could restock the kitchen. He'd patiently walk behind me, pushing the shopping cart while reading a magazine (typically something relating to automobiles) and drinking his coffee as I walked up and down every single aisle. Grocery shopping was always an epic adventure for us, and while I know a lot of people despise the task, I love it. I always have. In an odd way, shopping for food relaxes me.

Digression over. C-Town is not the type of store in which I like to dawdle away my afternoon. The aisles are cramped; the floors are dirty; and I sometimes wonder who the heck is supplying their products because, well, quality control doesn't seem to be a major concern. When I first moved to the area, shopping in C-Town made me long for the days when I lived a mere few blocks from West Side Market. Honestly, if this particular C-Town were a restaurant, the health inspector would shut it down and the owner would have to call in Gordon Ramsey for a serious makeover. The news that Foodcellar was finally open was music to my ears.

Since its opening, I've had the opportunity to shop at Foodcellar three times, the first being opening day. I had to pick up some items for dinner that night, so I figured opening day was as good a time as any, so I dropped by after work. Mistake! I expected the store to be somewhat crowded because I knew I wasn't the only person who was curious about what the store had to offer. But I was not expecting to be flanked on all sides by couples. I know, I know. An odd thing to say after I just got finished telling a story about how I loved going grocery shopping with my boyfriend. But this was different. Stephen knew better than to get in my way while I shopped. He stayed within a reasonable distance in case I needed to put something in the cart but never stood in the way of the shelves. The people I encountered at Foodcellar shopped in pairs but held hands while they did it. Extremely irritating because they seemed to know exactly when to step in between me and the item I was reaching for. I almost felt like a leper because I didn't have a guy suction-cupped to my free hand! That shopping experience was, by no means, relaxing. But I didn't want to rush to judgment and chalked it up to the shared excitement we all felt about the store's opening. The couples were so excited they couldn't see that they were getting in my way.

The second time I went to Foodcellar involved an office trip to pick up lunch this past Friday. We all wanted to explore the options being offered in the prepared foods section and at the hot bar and salad bar. I was surprised by how uncrowded it was during the lunch rush until I remembered that most of the people who were at the opening probably worked in Manhattan and would be getting their lunch elsewhere.

Foodcellar & Co. Market Aisle
Foodcellar & Co. Market Aisle

It was nice to see the store when it wasn't so chaotic, and I loved seeing how much room there was in the aisles. Unheard of in a New York grocery store where space is usually tight. When we made our way over to our destination, I think we were all a little overwhelmed with all of the choices! I wound up getting a chicken burrito from the prepared foods counter and a bottle of something called GuS (Grown-up Soda). The burrito was delicious and the seasoning was just right, but I think for the price they charged, they could have thrown in some cheese. After all, what's a burrito without cheese? The GuS, on the other hand, was a miss for me. But I'm not going to give up on it since the flavor I chose was probably the reason I didn't like it, not the product itself. This experience was infinitely better than my first time at the store. So, the idea of shopping there more often was looking more appealing.

The real test, however, came this weekend. In need of litter for the cat, I went during a peak grocery shopping time -- Saturday morning. I was not prepared for what I encountered when I got there. Absolutely nothing. Not including the store employees, there were less than five people in the entire store. Golden! The selection of cat litter offered was not so golden, as they didn't have the specific item I was looking for. I made a mental note to stop by two other stores on my way home to look for litter before making my way over to the produce section. Without people obstructing my access, I wanted to take a look at the selection and bring home some healthy snacks. Major fail on this one.

When I went to scoop up some sugar snap peas to put in a bag, I scooped up the ripe ones and discovered the brown and shriveled rotten ones at the bottom of the bin. I did not bring home sugar snap peas. When I went to grab a bunch of broccoli rabe to toss with some pasta, crumbled Italian sausage, garlic, and olive oil, I came to discover that broccoli rabe was out-of-stock. I did not bring home broccoli rabe. And, when I went to test the white peaches for ripeness, my thumb went right through the skin and got lodged in the overripe flesh. I did not bring home white peaches.

I didn't bring home anything from Foodcellar that day. *sigh*

I want to believe that they're still working out the kinks. But I'm concerned that the store was so empty on a weekend and that, while the walls are freshly painted, the floors are clean, and there's enough room across the aisle to fit two of me, I'm disappointed that the quality control wasn't there. Aside from lunch, I'll probably give them a couple more weeks to work out the bugs (thank goodness I didn't see any of those!) before going back for a more substantial shopping trip.

For now, it's back to Fresh Direct.

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2 comments:

john tan said...

3 strikes and your out....right, but its a new season. I went to a BBQ a few weeks ago, was expose to some great products at foodcellar meat dept. The burgers they have are excellent.

Michelle said...

John - You are right. It is a new season. And much has changed about Foodcellar since I first wrote this blog post nine months ago. They've made some admirable improvements and I pick up lunch from their salad bar and hot bar on occasion since it's so close.

Thanks for the head's up about their burgers! Now that it's grilling season, I'll have to check them out.