I’ve always been fascinated by the reflected glory attained by a brush with stardom, celebrities, or travel. As a lifelong marketing person and a self-proclaimed foodie and a shopper I am also fascinated by the ego boost I get personally from growing up in the town adjacent to the first Trader Joe’s, from my cultist insistence on shopping at Vien Dong instead of 99 ranch, at my (almost) universal refusal to acknowledge that I have ever eaten at a chain restaurant, or that I often drink water right out of the tap. I guess it’s like the people who refuse to succumb to email, or even voicemail, those who are too intellectual to watch television, who think that all of us non-athletic types who prefer to drive over say, running or biking or roller blading are carbon sucking maniacs.

I suppose everyone has a place they identify with, even those who insist on only shopping at consignment or second hand stores, or who eat out of garbage bins, those who make all their own clothes, and hang them on the line to dry, those that have the money and the leisure to only buy organic. I don’t think this is something new, but it always seems to arrive in little packages created by marketing types.

I think it’s OK to shop at Whole Foods, Jimbos, Henry’s, and local independent markets if you shop at TJs. I think it’s also OK to shop at Costco and TJs, but I’m not positive if that is politically correct.

Last weekend I saw a girl go into Henry’s with her brand new Whole Foods Encinitas reusable bag. I intentionally don’t use the competitor’s bags when I go into one, or the other. Perhaps I carry my support and consideration too far. I have so many of those bags- even some from England and Australia 99 cent stores- that it really isn’t a burden to be discriminating and take the extra moment sorting through them in the parking lot.

I like to shop at the farmer’s market when I have nothing better to do than mosey around on a Sunday morning, and buy things I’d never even look at in the supermarket, or a bakery. Things like frozen India Indian food, frozen tamales, limoncello cheesecake, bizarre fruits and vegetables, plants and birds. Yes birds. Maybe flowers. OK, so I’ve never bought a bird at the Farmers Market, but they sell them. I have recently discovered a Moroccan guy that sells duck pate, and I love the Sonrise Farms organic ground beef, oh and that great herb salad lady. I would shop there all the time if I could limit myself to a shopping list, but I haven’t reached that point yet in my addiction to new foods and vendors.

Used to be, in North County, secret spots like that little flower stand on Saxony, you could buy flowers cheap, from local growers- bucket loads of carnations, truckloads of roses- but I think TJs has cornered the market and a lot of the growers are gone. I’m astounded at how many flowers get sold at Costco, when the bouquets aren’t even very clever and are overpriced. Flower arranging is an art and should be thoughtful. Either grow your own, or pay for something special.

When it’s not Sunday, or I’ve got the dogs with me, or I’m in a rush, I go to Just Peachy in Leucadia. It’s a little local market. The fruit is always ready to eat, and they have weird shit like Turkish delight, unusual brands of bread, flatbread, and the great tortilla chips and salsa from El Nopalito, along with Julian Pies, a God send since Marie Callendar’s in Carlsbad closed their doors. I never forget to take my reusable bags when I go there, but I often forget every place else.

I’ve bought stuff at Ranch 99 (but not food, really only that twisty bamboo plant). To those of us who grew up in an era where Chinese and Mexican restaurants were really the only ethnic food commonly available, most of the ingredients used in both cuisines were exotic , and only for “eating out”.

Ranch 99 is an specialty Asian market on Clairemont Mesa near the 805 that also sells regular supermarket stuff. It’s very bright, light and clean, and an easy place for a non-Asian cook to pick up those funny ingredients you either can ‘t find or that are stupidly expensive at a chain grocer, or you aren’t quite sure what they are. At 99 Ranch you can always ask someone for help (another non-Asian shopper like you) with substitutions, or distinguishing one brand of fish oil from another, or curry paste best bets.

I consider myself pretty chic because I shop all over the place, at produce stands, at small groceries, at supermarkets, at trader Joes, bakeries, and a place called Vien Dong International Supermarket on Linda Vista Road just south of Ulrich on the East side of the street. They have spring roll wrappers and chop sticks and my very favorite massaman curry paste with the old lady’s head on the can. The produce department is extraordinary, all sorts of veggies and herbs you’ve never seen.

Vegans and Vegetarians, please skip to next paragraph at this moment. They have every part of every animal they sell, from chickens to chicken feet and beaks, all sorts of seafood, hooves, tails, cheeks- not that I’ve ever bought any of that stuff, but I’ve looked.

Just take a walk down the canned goods, or the bottled goods, or the dry goods aisle. Just for a laugh, find the brands you buy at the regular supermarket, or even 99 Ranch, and compare prices. I haven’t done that but I’ll bet you a dollar they are cheaper at Vien Dong.

I love ethnic supermarkets of all sorts, and individual shops in other countries selling just meat, or just fish or just vegetables, or just spices, or my own particular passion- bread. In my lifetime, this is starting to change here in the USA but from my knowledge its’ the way the rest of the world has shopped forever. Buy enough fresh food for a day or two at most, buy locally, stretch the protein, supplement with veggies and starch.

The BBQ is ready. Time for dinner.

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themonkies July 16, 2011 @ 7:41 p.m.

I had to double check the date on this article to make sure it wasn't from the past! Posted July 12, 2011, 6:10 p.m.

FYI: Vien Duong on Linda Vista Road closed it's doors back in 2008 and reopened as Thuan Phat Market under new ownership in 2009. A quick search on Yelp will back that up.


Tallsharon July 18, 2011 @ 7:11 a.m.

Thanks I never paid attention to the name change or ownership but now I know and can refer people to the right place international supermarket I appreciate it. Really! I live in north county and only make visits a couple times a year- I feel a little foolish cause I've even sent chefs there...Thuan Phat. In my notes!!!


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