I just had lunch at the new Whole Foods store on Lincoln Boulevard near Rose. There were a lot of people there, but with over one acre of gourmet and top quality produce, it didn’t seem very crowded.

First I went to the soup station and asked for a sampler cup, which I was given with a smile. First I sampled the lobster chowder. The flavor was perfect, but I don’t like potatoes in my seafood soups. Then I sampled the Manhattan clam chowder, which was very good, but I’m not really a big fan of Manhattan style chowder. Finally, I tried the chicken gumbo, and it was delicious.

While I was at the soup counter, I noticed the prepared seafoods, so I sampled the large octopus, the small octopus (better), the spicy shrimp, and the seafood mix. The soup sampler cup was just the right size for each of these samples.

Then I went to the smoked seafood counter and asked for a sample of the “Indian candy.” That’s a sweet, smoked fish with a yellow color, and it was also delicious. Then I asked for a sample of a smoked scallop, and it was even better. I’m definitely serving that for dinner soon.

Walking away from the smoked seafood counter, I walked passed the magnificent fresh seafood counter, and promised myself to come back soon to try the salmon rolled around crab salad. Then I saw a rack with a terrific selection of hot sauces. I’m a sucker for hot sauce, so I found one that I’ve never seen before, with chipotle peppers and garlic, and bought it for some leftover chicken in the fridge that could be good for chicken chili. That’s a nice feature about this market: you can find products you don’t see elsewhere.

Next I walked over to the smoked/BBQ meats section and sampled a piece of the smoked brisket. Perfect! In fact, it was so good I bought a smoked beef rib to take home for dinner. Then I sampled a smoked chicken wing, also very, very good. I love smoked meats.

By this time I was getting pretty full, so I decided to buy the stuff on my wife’s shopping list. Juice oranges came in a sack, so that was easy. Juicing grapefruits were more difficult; the organic ones come in all sizes, and I didn’t know if the bigger the better, or the smaller the sweeter, so I took some of each.

I noticed the fresh nuts and candies section. It looked really tempting, but I followed the list and went for two chocolate bars, one plain dark chocolate and one chocolate with ginger.

The next thing on the list was egg salad, so I asked one of the helpful people that seem to be everywhere, where to go. He walked me over to the fresh dips and prepared vegetables section. There a nice young lady offered me a sample of an artichoke dip, and I guess I was too obvious in my enjoyment of it because she then sampled me on a couple of other prepared products, and I enjoyed every one of them. Then she gave me a container of egg salad, but I couldn’t resist also taking a small container of hummus home with me.

I walked over to the coffee section in hopes that they had free samples of that as well, but no luck there. But right next to the coffees is the serve-yourself donut counter, and someone had already sampled half of a glazed donut, so I took the remaining half. That was just right for dessert.

I’m going to write to management about the lack of coffee samples, but everything else went nicely. There was no line at one of the counters, and I got right through quickly. The bag boy asked me if everything went well, and I told him what a nice store it was, and he beamed. I hope they give free samples to the employees. And I hope they get this coffee thing straightened out; I really enjoy a fresh cup of coffee after lunch.

Whole Foods

225 Lincoln Blvd.

Venice, Calif., 90291

Phone: (310) 566-9480

Fax: (310) 566-9487

Merv Hecht, the food and wine critic for the Santa Monica Daily Press, is a wine buyer and consultant to a number of national and international food and wine companies. He can be reached at mervynhecht@yahoo.com

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