Saturday, September 25, 2010

Off to market

When I'm out of state I like to visit local grocery stores. I'm not sure how this quirk developed, but I enjoy popping in to unfamiliar chains to see how they differ from what I'm used to and to find things that aren't available where I live. I don't necessarily go out of my way to do this, but if the opportunity is there, I'll take it.

During my summer travels I perused the aisles at Lueken's Village Foods and Marketplace Foods in Bemidji, Minnesota; an independent grocery in Blackduck, Minnesota; Hannaford stores in Oneonta, New York and Bangor, Maine; Market Basket in Portsmouth, New Hampshire; and Price Chopper in Dunmore, Pennsylvania (near Scranton).

I suppose that part of the appeal is just getting a sense of what an average place is like somewhere else. One of the Minnesota groceries had all of the dental rinses behind the customer service counter and took the requested products to the checkout line. (In other words, at no time did I as a customer handle this particular item until I paid for it.) My best guess is that some of these rinses contain alcohol, so they're trying to keep them from being stolen by teens. (I did see various signs or billboards warning about meth use in this area, so who knows.) This place also didn't do cash back on debit cards. I'm not making a judgment. I simply find these differences interesting.

Of course, the local and regional products are what entice me the most. Although Rippin' Good Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies are made in Wisconsin, I bought them in Minnesota. The purchase was motivated due to the brand name. I also bought coconut M&M's at a Minnesota convenience store under the assumption that they might be a test market item. (Nope, probably just limited edition.)

In Oneonta I was tempted by what looked to be a budget line of sodas. I picked up an adk grape soda for that evening and adk blue pop for some other time (which proved to be tonight). I mean, come on, blue pop! What could that be? This particular brand and flavor appears to be something of a mystery. I'd peg the taste as something akin to blue raspberry or blueberry. Actually, it's pretty good and better than the grape, which seemed kind of flat. But what in the world is glycerol ester of wood rosin, which is a listed ingredient, and is this common?! (Apparently so.)

The prize find of my wanderings, though, was something I was specifically looking for: Moxie. It's an unusual soft drink that tastes like a differently spiced root beer, for lack of a better way of describing it. Upon returning from Maine I regretted not bringing more back with me--distribution is limited to part of the northeast--so I must be selective in consuming the stock I have.

I also got a whoopie pie in Maine. The one I ate was like two oatmeal cookies pasted together with cake frosting. That took a couple of sittings to polish off.

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