Hope you are well and had a good weekend. Especially those celebrating the first holiday of the festive season with friends and family! I was lucky enough to spend the weekend with David and my parents Christmas shopping and we had the most fantastic time! Big smiles, lots of laughs, good fun, amazing food = great memories.
As promised, today I would like to recap on my Thursday evening. It was fantastic!
I was contacted by my local Whole Foods, who had read my blog and wished to invite me along to their big Birthday bash, celebrating 2 years in Glasgow. I was so honoured to be invited, as you all know I love my local Whole Foods so of course I wanted to attend. They were so kind and even stretched the invite out and put David on the guest list too so he could attend with me (as you can imagine, he was over the moon!). So on Thursday at 6pm we headed over to Giffnock for an evening of fun, good food and frolics!
(Disclaimer – although Whole Foods invited me to this event, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own).
We arrived to the red carpet waiting for us outside with some friendly staff to guide us in. Once inside, we were checked off the list and had the concept of the evening explained to us. Both of us were given a ‘party passport’. On this passport was a list of 6 street food dishes that we could sample while we were here, looking good! We were also told that staff would be on hand throughout to answer any questions or queries or simply if we just wanted to have a general chat about all things Whole Foods! We were then given a very nice glass of bubbly and on we went!
The bubbly supplied was Albet i Noya Cava and was delicious (this girl likes her bubbles!). Perfect being quite dry and not sweet, it would be brilliant for Christmas celebrations. Lucky for me, top ups were provided, not so lucky for David who was driving!.
Our first stop was to sample the ‘In-House Smoked Seafood Skewer’. Whole Foods Giffnock have a actual smoker in store, so all smoked fish products are smoked on the premises. The skewer consisted of one hot and spicy prawn, one maple scallop and one BBQ prawn on top of a fresh, crunchy salad. Oh wow. I love smoked fish so this really was a dish made for me!
There was a good smoke level to the shellfish, amazing flavour but not too overpowering. I must admit I didn’t detect any of the glaze flavours on either the prawns or the scallop, simply the delish smoke. However, I really liked that actually, the simple smoke meant you kept the flavour of the shellfish rather than it being overpowered by a potentially sticky sweet glaze. The seafood itself was outstanding. The prawns were from Asia and the scallops from Canada and were frozen directly from being caught. Although not local, Whole Foods look for the nearest, high quality, responsibly sourced product for their stores. So you know you are getting the best available produce. The fishmongers at the event were very open and honest about this and were very knowledgeable on where their product was from and how it arrived from boat to store. It was a fab start to our foodie experience!
The second stop was at the butchers counter where we could sample the Scottish Venison and Blueberry hotdog. I have always wanted to chat to the butchers about Whole Foods sausages and their ingredients, trying to find a sausage without gluten or rusk as a ‘bulking agent’ is a nightmare normally and I wanted to know what their stance was. So I had a good old chin wag with Ed who was great at getting me all clued up. Most of the sausages at Whole Foods do not have gluten in them, simply high quality meat along with herbs, spices, salt, pepper and water (if required). They cannot be labelled specifically as ‘gluten free’ as other gluten containing products are produced in the same environment (understandable if you have a severe allergy). However, if you want to know what is in them, just ask! I am so impressed that Whole Foods just keep to the good stuff, as it should be! The venison sausage for example just had wild venison, fresh blueberries and a small amount of blueberry juice in them. And the butchers were so proud of them, just as they were with all of the meat products on display. Ed really was a pleasure to speak to! Oh and the venison sausage (we didn’t have the bun), absolutely divine! I do love venison and this was of a very high quality (and I had mine the following day, they packaged it up for me to take home, I couldn’t have eaten everything in one go!).
Next on our travels was the cheesemonger. Whole Foods had a representative from the Cheese Cellar in store to explain to us some of the cheeses that they think would delight any cheese board this Christmas season. The Cheese Cellar is an external company that deal with both small and large British/European artisan dairy farms and work with them to supply cheeses to stores and the hospitality industry. This allows producers to interact with companies, like Whole Foods, who they may never have had the opportunity to meet and get their product out there into the wider community. A great link between producer, seller and consumer! Win win all round really!
Tracy showed us three cheeses – a brie, stilton, gruyere and a cheddar. The brie was French and imported especially for Whole Foods. From Normandy, it was produced from grass fed cows (yay!) and as a result was a delightfully smooth, creamy cheese. I’m not normally a huge brie fan but I really enjoyed it. The stilton was Cropwell Blue, a potted blue cheese from Nottingham. Oh was this something special. Noted and on the Christmas food shopping list! The gruyere was tasty, a frequent cheese on the Whole Foods cheese board recommendation list and was very smooth. Finally the Isle of Mull Cheddar, sampled before but always a pleasure. Great to find a unpasteurised cheddar too. Would definitely recommend. It was fantastic to chat to Tracy about the cheese, her company and Whole Foods in general. Such passion in her voice and an asset for Whole Foods to have her there/ to work with her on bringing these amazing cheeses to us all!
One of the dishes on the passport was a cheese fondue. Sadly when I asked about how it was made I was directed to a packet mix at the side! The ingredients weren’t great and as we had sampled some fantastic real cheese with Tracy we decided to pass on this one. (And instead went back for another small cube of the stilton!).
It was at this point that I managed to meet the marketing team leader Emili, the person who actually contacted me and invited me to the event! And what a welcome I received from her! Bright, bubbly and ever so friendly she was really keen to hear my views and opinions and what I had sampled so far, and came back for a chat later on in the evening too. As expected, she is so proud of the store and the staff and was very pleased to hear the praise I had for them all. Emili really summed up the staff attitude when she said ‘when people are happy to go to work, it shows in their work’. So true!
After chatting with Emili we moved on to the next food stop – Max’s Trio of Tacos!
I love these guys! Friendly and full of banter we had such a good laugh, especially when chatting about our love of guacamole and the only other food on par, bacon! But anyway, back to the tacos! They were happy to provide the filling without the shell which was great and I loved the fillings. Spiced haddock (outstanding and flaky), veggie beans and pulled pork (tender!), topped with mango and lime salsa and guacamole! Holy guacamole can Whole Foods make good guac! They have carrot sticks and guac near the front of the store to sample, and yes we did on a few occasions throughout the evening, we couldn’t help ourselves! But I did enjoy the taco fillings, I may even have a taco-less taco next time I am in store for lunch (fish!), something I probably wouldn’t have considered before this evening.
There were two stations left to visit. One was the bakery where they were supplying slices of spiced pumpkin cake. It was thanksgiving after all! We didn’t take any cake but instead admired the large birthday cake they had produced for the event. You could tell Findlay was pleased to be there and proud of the cake!
The other station was sushi! So we decided to go and collect it and sit down at the cafe to enjoy. We were given three pieces of sushi – one prawn and avocado, one cucumber and avocado and one cucumber. We also took a few edamame beans to have with it! It was fantastic sushi – sticky rice with delicious fillings. The avocado was ripe and smooth, the flavour of the prawn shone through and the cucumber lovely and crunchy. Pair that with some edamame and what more could you ask for!
The tables were decorated beautifully and they even had a DJ playing some great soul/ funk tunes. It really was a party atmosphere while being a great area of the store to chill out and chat in. We could have sat for quite some time chatting and enjoying the company of one and other and the staff, who all wanted to chat to us! But there were a few more things I wanted to see!
Whole Foods have a fab selection of organic skincare, make up and general health products, for example supplements. Normally when I shop I don’t have the opportunity to really look around this area properly but tonight was my chance! And what a selection they have, I was so impressed at the variety and, to be honest, the affordability of the products (I had always incorrectly thought they would be too pricey). While I was looking around I got to meet a representative from Live Native Skincare. They are a company based on the Isle of Skye that produce handmade raw skincare products from oils, minerals and botanic ingredients. It was a delight to sample their range and see all what they had on offer. David enjoyed it too! Everything they create really is unique and feels so luxurious on your skin. Something special that you can use everyday – the costings were really reasonable. We decided to treat ourselves to the unisex moisturiser and I have used it now for a couple of days and am already noticing a difference on my face and neck – so soft!
The evening, however, had to come to an end. We picked up a few bits and bobs to purchase on the way out (they had some fantastic birthday offers on!) and headed to the checkout, where we had more banter! And received our goodie bags!
On our way out, we were stopped by the team leader Darren who recognised us as regular customers! I explained that I had been invited along by Emili and he was delighted to put a face to a name on the guest list! The three of us had a wonderful chat and he was really appreciative of all our feedback. I especially wanted to talk to him about how passionate his staff are and how rare that is to find, they all make it a pleasure to shop in store. He promised to pass the feedback on which was fab, but I want to say again how fantastic it was to talk to them all and how special they made us feel, not only on the evening but every time we shop.
It was such a good evening and we both had a lovely time. You could really feel the atmosphere of ‘we have good food, it makes us happy, let’s celebrate!’. Thank you Whole Foods for letting me be a part of your celebration, it really was an honour. The ethos behind the business is one that truly should be celebrated and I don’t mind shouting from the rooftops to all who will listen! Give yourselves a big cheer – you deserve it! And long may Whole Foods Giffnock and worldwide continue to be a success.