Monday, November 21, 2011


I checked out a new health food store this weekend.  Health food stores have taken on a new importance in my life since I lost the ability to digest wheat.  If I want to have anywhere near the variety of food choices I used to have, my local supermarket will not satisfy.  I need to find my way to a specialty store.

The name of this store is Ambrosia.  It's a bit of a hike from my place.  I had a 15 minute walk to the bus station, a short bus ride to the limit of the Toronto transit grid (Steeles Avenue), and then another 10 minute walk.  I have lived close to this store for 6 years, but because it's not on any of my usual travel routes, I had never been there.

It was worth the trip. I worked in health food retail for four years when I was a student, in a few different stores.  They were all smallish, and some of them very old and grotty.  By comparison, Ambrosia is vast.  They seem to have everything, including foods and product lines I've never heard of.  Supplements, cosmetics and personal care, packaged foods, organic produce, organic meats,  fresh baked goods, bulk foods... It went on and on.  I spent around 45 minutes just making my way slowly through all the aisles, checking everything out.

Highlighted items in no particular order:
Recycled parchment paper (for baking)
Gluten-free dog biscuits
Chocolate-covered kale chips
(For those of you unfamiliar with kale, that's gross.  Kale is a dark, leafy green similar to but tougher than spinach.  I would like to know who buys that product, at $6 for a little bag.)
Organic peanut butter with "fiery hot spices" mixed into the jar (could be good)
A 1.5 oz bag of freeze-dried blueberries for $7.50 (!!!)
Quinoa-milk chocolate beverage (looks delicious but has the potential to be bitterly disappointing)

My rule of thumb if I'm shopping on foot is never use a cart.  Always a basket.  With a basket you have to pay attention to how much weight you're committing to carrying all the way home.  If your arm is tired just carrying it around the store, you'd better put something back.  I loaded up to my maximum carrying capacity.

On the walk back to the bus stop I had to stop and take my sneaker off because there was something in there bugging me, a little stone or something.  I shook out my shoe, and guess what it was?  A grain of organic quinoa.  How fitting.


LL Cool Joe said...

Ha ha sounds very appropriate.

I have to admit that I have never been inside a health food store. I've never needed recycled parchment paper or gluten free dog biscuits. But you never know.

wigsf3 said...

I hate health food stores. They always smell like, well, cripes I don't know what that smell is, but it ain't appetizing.

When I was forced onto my no-wheat diet, I spent a lot of time at Ambrosia and a couple other health food stores. I just hate being in those stores.

Jenski said...

A nice adventure! Glad you can explore and find new foods. Maybe try one weird thing each trip? :-)

Sparkling Red said...

LL Cool Joe: Never? That's unthinkable! You should go into one just for fun sometime. I'd like to hear your reaction.

wigsf: Health food stores do have a very specific, complicated smell. It's a combination of all the essential oil samplers, 20 different kinds of handmade soap, open bins of every kind of spice, baked goods made of weird grains, and probably some incense for good measure.

Jenski: Yeah, when I'm confident that my stomach is fully back to itself I'll get adventurous with some of those new foods. It's only been a week since my night of gastric hell. At this point every time I eat something I still cringe and wonder if it's going to make me barf.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

Hmmm... the closest thing to a health food store I've been in is a Whole Foods. Basically seemed very overpriced, but did have so odd or unique items to try out.

Jameil said...

ROTFL @ organic quinoa! That sounds like Whole Foods or The Fresh Market in the states. Whole Foods can swing wildly in size though. Some of them are pretty tiny (the one in my city), some are HUGE with full delis of preprepared food and seemingly endless variety (like others I've been to). It can be pricey but like all stores, there's a trick to shopping there! Sales and the bulk bins. I love food!

Lynn said...

You may have discovered this already, but I like the artichoke flour pasta that is made by DeBoles. I'm sure they have it there.

That sounds like a great store - you are right, very often those stores can be small and a little creepy.

Granny Annie said...

We have a favorite health food store called Wild Oats in Tulsa. It is huge and carries everything. The big difference is that Wild Oats has a deli. When you walk in you are hit by wonderful aromas of the foods they are cooking instead of that dreadful organic medicine smell. That would work great for you because you could have a nice meal while you are there and then not feel bad about the limited quantity you can carry on your walk home.

Sparkling Red said...

Ron: Health food store stuff is always more expensive than "regular" food, as a rule, and Whole Foods is definitely high end. Fortunately Ambrosia has (relatively) low prices: 10-15% lower than other places I've shopped.

Jameil: A Whole Foods will be opening one subway stop away from my house, probably in a couple of years when they finish building the condo and retail complex where it will be located. I can't wait! I'm willing to pay a little more for some things in exchange for convenience.

Lynn: Artichoke flour pasta? I've never heard of such a thing! Sounds intriguing. Thanks for the tip; if I see it I'll give it a try.

Granny Annie: Oh man, one of the store I used to work in had an organic deli. That was the BEST! Especially with the employee discount.

DarcKnyt said...

Health food stores frighten me. I have no idea what anything is. But lately -- just lately, mind -- I seem to be getting more sensitive to...stuff. I may have to bite the bullet and see what they've become in this area. Ugh.

Gluten-free dog biscuits? o_O

DarcsFalcon said...

Good for you Spark, finding ways to continue taking care of yourself. :)

My mother used to frequent health food stores when I was a kid - she'd put wheat germ on all my food in the mistaken belief I wouldn't notice, and she'd buy this weird chocolate pretender stuff (karob maybe? can't recall) that only served to have me swear off health food stores for life, lol. I feel about them much the way a vampire does about garlic.

But if it helps you, then I am glad there is one close by for you to frequent. :)