Two more days until Whole Foods Market in Green Hills opens to the hungry hordes, and after last week's sneak preview, I'm beginning to see what all the fuss is about. Maybe it was the pendant lighting, or the metal sculpture of a trout leaping over the seafood department, or the samples of melt-in-your-mouth espresso-bean-and-chocolate-chip cookies, or the mosaic of hand-painted tiles made by kids from the local YMCA, or the Viking appliances in the demonstration kitchen. Or maybe it was the siren song of locally grown and organic foods, which Whole Foods works to showcase. But as I roamed among the hundreds of olive oils and gazed at the tasteful earth-tone-tiled walls, I could suddenly see why my friends in Atlanta refer to their Whole Foods as "Whole Paycheck."
A few highlights of the Green Hills store, which opens Thursday in the new Hill Center (after the jump):
ՠThe grill restaurant across the aisle from the seafood department. Order a fish and have it filleted and cooked while you sit at the bar and order a pint of Abita root beer on draught.
ՠ"Saute-and-tell" cooking demonstrations throughout the store.
ՠAn in-house barbecue smoker (burning oak, but they're not averse to hickory—Mrs. Pink asked only semi-jokingly if the store had a BYOW policy) and brick pizza oven.
ՠ18 flavors of gelato. (The era of the Gelato Wars begins in Green Hills.)
ՠA juice bar.
ՠA gleaming Salud! demonstration kitchen with cooking classes for adults and kids, featuring local chefs as well as staff.
ՠA sprawling prepared-food bar with two different soup bays (seafood has its own, chowderheads).
ՠMaybe the best grocery-store croissants we've ever tried—crusty and flaky on the outside, all soft buttery goodness on the inside. Also, the pecan-pie cookie caused swooning.
ՠA wall of cheeses, including a savory mimolette and a brie so gooey and delicious that it changed the way we think of cheese.
ՠ365, the Whole Foods private label, which supplies everything from pasta to nuts to milk.
ՠWhole Body, the next-door spin-off of all-natural body and beauty supplies, including handmade local organic clothing from the Bellos sisters of Nashville's ASK Apparel.
Also, the answer is no: there will be no wine sales. If that rubs you raw, call your congressman and prepare to fight a lobby so firmly entrenched it makes Big Tobacco look like the Coalition for Sweet Potatoes.
I haven't tested the waters on a regular business day, and, frankly, I'm reserving judgment until I figure out how the traffic and parking work in an already overrun Green Hills. But early word is that there will be valet service, which could solve the problem. And once you're giving over your whole paycheck anyway, what's another couple bucks?
Thanks to Lannae Long of Lannae's Food and Travel for lending Bites the photo above, and check out her own in-depth account of last week's tour on her long-running blog.