Archive for June, 2008

A Morning at Whole Foods Phillips Crossing

Breakfast at Whole Foods Phillips Crossing Grand OpeningI awoke at 6am this morning to be down to the new Whole Foods Market store at Phillips Crossing here in Orlando. Located at the intersection of Sand Lake Rd and Turkey Lake Rd, it has prime visibility from several of Orlando’s most trafficked roads. It’s also not so fun trying to get into the parking lot during morning rush hour. My efforts were rewarded, though, in the form of a parking spot right near the front doors – “rock star parking” as my roommate likes to call it.

She wanted to be there early enough to partake in the advertised “free breakfast” that started at 8am. The store passed out several flavors of croissants, such as raisin and chocolate, along with coffee and your choice of pulp or no-pulp orange juice. Delicious it was…orderly it wasn’t. Even though we were only forty or so people back from the serving area, set up near the front doors, it was word of mouth that alerted us to the presence of the food. We then had to decide between saving our current place in the entrance line or stepping out into a second line to get our breakfast. My roommate and I took turns going, but since the two lines were right next to each other, it turned into a big glob of people near the entrance.

At 9am, Whole Foods opened the store with speeches and a ceremonial bread breaking, and we slowly filed in. In addition to the breakfast, the store had advertised free reusable bags to the first 250 people inside. Unfortunately, like the breakfast, it wasn’t clearly announced where to get the bags, so we were left to find them ourselves. Minor glitches, I guess. At least we were finally inside away from the growing heat and humidity of the day.

Inside Whole Foods Phillips Crossing during the Grand OpeningNow, I’ll admit…I’ve never visited a Whole Foods before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. The company said this was the largest store in Florida to date, and it was indeed huge. Approximately 1/3 of the store is dedicated to the deli and prepared foods area. Set up like a huge buffet, trays and trays of already made foods ranging from the traditional chicken, mashed potatoes and vegetable medleys sat alongside more international fare like Asian noodle dishes and four kinds of lasagna. You could grab a quick slice of several varieties of pizza or take home a container of one of the over 15 types of soups and chilis. Vegan and vegetarian options co-existed with meat and seafood dishes, and as one who lives with food allergies, I appreciated that most had ingredients lists clearly posted.

Meat, dairy and seafood occupy the back aisle of the store, while a large produce section occupies the wall opposite the deli. In the center of the store, frozen, prepackaged and health and beauty offerings filled several rows of shelving. Maps of the entire store are handily placed near the doors so you can grab one and shop.

In fact, there was so much food to check out, it was a bit overwhelming, especially with the large crowd of people milling about. Thankfully, the sampling was plentiful this morning.

Gelato at Whole Foods Market Phillips CrossingI tried prosciutto, salami, three kinds of cheeses, vegan roasted red pepper soup, hummus made from edamame and another made from sweet potatoes, and organic pineapple, oranges and strawberries. I ate tender smoked beef brisket covered in a deliciously sweet, not too-smoky BBQ sauce that actually had me sucking my fingers. My sweet tooth enjoyed fresh coconut and mango gelato, several flavors of cookies and more pastry nibbles from the bakery. And I washed it down with samples of Rainforest Crunch coffee and a health drink made from almond soy milk and a chocolate-flavored greens-infused protein powder (actually not too bad, but it would have been better if it was mixed together more).

Considering the fact that Whole Foods sells organic foods and prepares its precooked offerings in-house, the prices were very reasonable. Most pre-made offerings were priced between $7.99 and $9.99 a pound, with soups/chilis starting at $3.95 a container. Prepackaged items were competitively priced with other supermarkets I’ve visited around town. And I was excited to find that they do take coupons (hey, these days, that extra 50 cents or so can really help when multiplied by several coupons).

Will I go back to this store? Definitely, though I might wait a week or two for the opening crowds to thin out a bit so I can peruse at my leisure. But if you want to check out the store this week, our previous post lists all the special events that will still be happening through this weekend.

Have you been to the store yet? What did you think?

Whole Foods Opening Dr. Phillips Location This Week

It seems like the signs have been up at the intersection of Sand Lake Rd and Turkey Lake Rd in the Dr. Phillips area forever, with not much evidence that the newest Orlando-area Whole Foods Market store was actually going to open. But open it finally will this coming Wednesday, June 25th.

whole foods market coffee sectionFor most of the last week, I’ve been so inundated with advertising touting pre-opening tours (completely booked up every time I checked) and a huge grand-opening party, that it seems as though this is the biggest thing to hit the southwest side of O-Town since the theme parks. Of course, all the hype only serves to fuel my curiosity about the place, so I guess it’s doing its job.

Strange then, that when I went to the company’s website to find out more specific details about the opening, I had to click through several layers of pages to actually find any information on it.

At any rate, it appears the grand-opening celebration actually extends through the weekend, though the bulk of the celebrations are happening on opening day. To save you the time of digging for the info, here’s what I’ve been able to uncover:

  • On Wednesday (June 25th), Whole Foods is offering up a free breakfast starting at 8am on the patio. At 9am, the doors open and the store welcomes its first customers. The first 250 customers will receive a free Whole Foods Market reusable shopping bag, and the first 150 kids get a free kid’s pack (no mention of what that includes). Enjoy samples and product demonstrations throughout the store and cooking demonstrations in the lifestyle area, as well. From 11am-2pm and 4pm-7pm they’ll also be serving up free BBQ. Sounds yummy! I’m also told there will be live music performances throughout the day.
  • On Thursday (June 26th), the store is hosting a sampling session of their chocolate, desserts and Allegro coffee from 7-8pm. Friday, there’s another sampling session from 7-8pm, though this one is wine and cheese.
  • Saturday (June 27th) and Sunday (June 28th), enjoy more BBQ samples from 11am-5pm, kids cooking demonstrations, live music and product sampling. First 100 customers of each day also get one of those reusable shopping bags.

For more information on the new store, visit the Whole Foods Market website.

I’ll be there a few of the days with my foodie roommate, who is super excited there’s finally a Whole Foods near us. I’ll report back with photos. Of course, if any of you go, feel free to drop us comments on what you thought or give us links to any blog posts you might do.

Orlando Weekly Weighs In On New Performing Arts Center

For those interested in the various performing arts groups that call Orlando home, an article in this week’s Orlando Weekly takes a look at whether the groups the new Dr. Phillips Performing Arts Center will be aimed at housing can actually afford to be in the venue once it’s open.

Writer Billy Manes profiles the three biggies in town – the symphony, the ballet and the opera company – and looks at what the new rents will cost each one, along with commentary from people involved as to how that cost will probably be passed onto the city’s patrons of the arts.

From the article:

“The Orlando Opera Company, the Orlando Ballet and the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra will be the primary residents of the new performing arts center’s secondary, 1,800-seat hall when it opens in 2012. But their transition from the relatively humble Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre won’t be as easy as it might seem on paper. Increased rental rates, production costs and expectations could make or break these niche organizations, which are supported primarily by grant money and private donations. And United Arts of Central Florida, which is struggling with governmental funding cuts and diminishing private donations, may no longer be able to shore up local arts groups.”

If you can’t find a copy around town, OW has the article online for reading. And thankfully, they’ve restrained from Manes’ normal overuse of bold type that permeates his regular print column.

I think it brings up some really good points. Sure it’ll be nice to see these groups in a nicer venue, but will the people of Orlando be willing to pay more to do so? What are your thoughts?

Radio Station K92FM Giving Away Free Gas

In the vein of yesterday’s post, I was alerted that K92FM is giving away $92 gas cards during its morning show with Doc and Grace later this morning (Friday) and next Friday as well.

To win one, listen to the station and call 407-424-9236 or 1-800-749-9292 between 7am and 8am. If you get through, you’ll get one of the gas cards mailed to you. Doc says he and the morning crew plan to give out as many gas cards as they can during that hour.

Visit K92FM.com for more details.

I know other gas giveaways have been going on around town, but I like that with this one, they mail you a card so you don’t have to waste gas driving to the station and waiting in line for the free gas.

Good luck to y’all and let us know if you end up winning one.

Ride Lynx For Free Today

lynx bus orlandoWith gas prices creeping over the $4 mark, we all need to look at alternate forms of transportation to save money. One way already in place is public transportation via the Lynx bus system.

Today, Lynx is joining a national program called Dump the Pump, a one-day effort to entice new readers by offering up coupons to ride for free all day.

If you want to give it a spin, simply cut out coupons available in several local publications like the Orlando Sentinel or Orlando Weekly, or you can head on over to golynx.com and print out all the coupons you need for today. While there, you can also look up maps and schedules for all of the Lynx routes.

I’ll be the first to admit that Lynx isn’t perfect, especially to those who live or work on the outskirts of Orlando. And a few more buses along the tourist routes and out to Walt Disney World could boost ridership via visitors to the city (hint, hint Lynx).

But if you can make it work for you, a $44 monthly bus pass is a lot cheaper than filling up your tank several times a week for that amount.

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