Recently, I found myself driving from the Jersey Shore to a backyard poolside cookout in South Jersey. I needed to pick up quality steaks for my friend’s grill — I was doing the buying, and he was doing the cooking — and as I was left with few options (this being South Jersey), I diverted to the Whole Foods in Marlton. A Whole Foods steak must be a good steak, I assumed.
There, past shelves filled with sacks of quinoa and tins of sustainable tuna, I found the meat department and its piles of bloody Whole Foods steaks and roasts, manned by facial-haired 20-and-30-somethings that looked like they all drank Pabst and played in some band together after hours.
With four adults and four children to feed, I ordered two bone-in rib-eyes and two t-bones (though one looked more like a porterhouse) for the grownups, and eight ultra-thin-cut bone-in pork chops for the kids.
I didn’t pay much attention to the prices until I arrived in front of the cashier, who announced how much money I owed her: a whopping $96 (and change) for the four steaks and eight tiny chops.
Now, I don’t mind spending big bucks on great food, but in this case, the food turned out not to be great by any stretch of the imagination.
I realize that a lot of what you’re paying for at Whole Foods is the ethical treatment of the animal that you wind up shoving down your throat, chased with a big old swig of Bordeaux, but the food should also taste expensive, right?
We seasoned the steaks with salt, pepper and garlic and grilled them over hardwood coals until they were nice and crispy on the outside and still bleeding a bit on the inside — somewhere around medium for the rib-eyes and a little less for the t-bones.
All of the steaks were surprisingly devoid of flavor, and they weren’t very tender. Oh, they were beautiful to look at, but eating them was a different story altogether. And the bland pork chops were more reminiscent of chicken (and boneless, skinless chicken breasts, at that) than the salty wonderfulness of anything that once went “oink.”
I’ve had Acme’s far-less-expensive Lancaster Brand steaks on more than a few occasions, and though I can’t speak for what they’re feeding those steer or how they’re killing them when their time has come to pass, the end result is far superior to the expensive stuff that Whole Foods is using to rip off its customers. I’ll never buy a Whole Foods steak again.