I don’t remember where I was when I first heard that Wegmans would be opening a store in Massachusetts. Driving to my friend Kelly’s house over the past year, I was apathetic to the billboards advertising its arrival. After all, a grocery store by any other name…right?
I have nothing good to say about the policemen directing traffic around the establishment, as I think they only created more problems thank they solved. On the other hand, how many grocery stores have you been to that require a detail with 40+ traffic cones? After parking well across the way and hiking across the main drag, the first thing Ed noticed was the carriage corrals. They are ornate structures of oxidized metal. With roofs. So the carts won’t get wet. Then there are the carts themselves. Made of the same oxidized metal with beautiful sweeping sidebars. But these are all surface enchantments.
Approaching the establishment, we encountered an army of smiling, helpful women of a certain age signing new shoppers up for loyalty cards. Our transaction was swift and smooth and we soon found ourselves shuttled through the doors. To heaven.
All my senses were immediately overwhelmed starting with the multitude of self-serve bars (Thai, Dim Sum, Chicken Wing, Pretzel…seriously…PRETZEL). There was an entire vegetarian section for those who eschew the cow & her companions. There were packages of freshly-made, multi-flavor gyoza. There was a plexiglass booth that churned out ‘popped’ bread every 10-15 seconds.
After taking in all of these tasty take-out opportunities, we ventured into REAL FOOD country. The fish station with the enormous Opah on ice. The butcher shop with Waygu filets. The enormous lobsters. And the ducks…oh, the ducks! Whole ducks. Duck breasts. Duck leg confit. And tubs of reasonably-priced duck fat.
But beyond all of the ingredients that were causing my senses to salivate, Wegmans differentiates itself from the other ‘foodie’ stores by also providing access to regular, mainstream products. In other words, my ability to purchase both duck fat AND Diet Coke in the same establishment produced in me the 39-year-old equivalent of a child setting foot on Disney territory for the first time.
For me, a good Saturday involves sleeping as late as possible, constructing a complex grocery list and stopping at a minimum of three stores in order to check off all the items: Whole Foods, Stop & Shop and Grape Expectations (our local wine shop). After discovering both duck fat and Diet Coke at Wegmans, my blood was already pumping, but then Ed lead me to the back of the store.
In addition to sugar and spice and everything nice, Wegmans also houses what can only be described as a cavalcade of cocktails. Beer, wine, liquor…it’s all there at tremendous prices and with a friendly, helpful, ID-checking staff. And a guy who sells cheese to be paired with the wines featured at that week’s tasting. Being impulse buyers, Ed and I fell for all of it, leaving with one bottle of white, two bottles of red and one bottle of bubbles, complete with a free insulated wine bag and ornamental ‘stick on’ crystals for which we have yet to find a use.
By the time we returned home, we had all the ingredients for morel-crusted short ribs and roasted garlic soufflé (plus some breakfast items that were slept through and subsequently parlayed into a Sunday night quiche). There were also two bottles of Pinot Noir, of which the Oregonian varietal was judged to be superior.
One stop for all the ingredients has cured my apathy. Get thee to a Wegmans!