You need to go to Fairfax Whole Foods

Attention fellow Northern Virginians! The Fair Lakes Whole Foods in Fairfax has updated their bulk food section and it’s incredible!

I have a few vivid grocery store memories I don’t think I’ll ever forget: the first time I walked into Super H in Fairfax and immediately messaged Mark (on my gen 1 Sidekick to give you an idea how long ago this was), “I want to live in this store;” the first time I walked into Wegmans and saw their produce section (I had been doing a drive-by of the house we are now renting to check out the neighborhood and afterwards stopped down the street at Wegmans, and immediately messaged Mark, “WE ARE RENTING THAT HOUSE BECAUSE THIS STORE IS AWESOME”); the first time I went to a Trader Joe’s in Virginia after moving to DC from Maryland…which meant I was able to buy wine (grocery stores can’t sell wine in Maryland; I probably messaged Mark something full of wonder and awe and warned him he’d have to help me carry 5 cases of wine into house when I got home). I had no idea Whole Foods was remodeling their bulk foods section and I think that the moment I realized what they had done will be another of those enduring memories. (Is it weird to have a collection of favorite memories of grocery stores?)

Just a couple of weeks ago I casually mentioned on this blog that when I go on bulk food buying binges, specifically for my trail mix, I skip the much larger Fairfax store and shop at the Vienna Whole Foods, which despite being much smaller has – HAD – a much better bulk food selection. Well, no more, friends. On what was meant to be a quick breeze through the store tonight to grab some tofu for making jerky, I hustled through the produce section and then was stunned to see THIS:

That’s a huge wall of grains, flour, etc., then bulk spices (yay!!), then dried fruit (which I won’t be buying because I love my new dehydrator!) and mushrooms (which I won’t be buying because mushrooms are gross!), and to the right of the picture is various salts. Be still, my heart!

I was so excited I took those two pictures, then merrily turned around to continue on my quest for tofu, feeling very pleasantly surprised. But wait, the surprise was not over! Not by a long shot! Turning around, I ran right into …

That is one side of one of two beautiful wooden bins of dried beans, varieties of which I’ve never even heard of! And as you continue through the back of the store, there are more and more bins and tables full of all sorts of bulk items! THERE IS A WHOLE TABLE OF BULK GOURMET POPCORNS! I can’t believe I just ordered Mark a couple of popcorns on the internet – I should have just driven down the street! Their granola/trail mix selection, which used to be quite small, is now an entire plaza. There’s a dried pasta station, but it hasn’t been filled yet – it has labels though, and half of them appear to be whole wheat varieties. There’s an entire “sprouts” station, which all sorts of sprouted nuts, cereals, and flours. There’s a table with “liquids”, with lots of different honeys (which I wasn’t interested in), agave, Bragg’s, and tamari – I got some tamari because I needed some. I’ve never seen anything like it! It all looks very nice, too; it’s very well displayed, and the aisles are wide and open. It all gets a huge thumbs up from me. The guy in the check-out line ahead of me and I were gushing over it all; he said, “did you see all the salt?” and I responded, “SEE it? I PHOTOGRAPHED it, I was so excited!”

In addition to the tamari and some turmeric, here’s what I got (and this is me showing extreme restraint, by the way):

Applewood smoked salt. I have been buying Maldon smoked salt, and don’t get me wrong, I adore Maldon, but their smoked salt is not very smoky; I can hardly tell the difference between it and their regular flaked salt. This salt smells heavily of a campfire.

Black barley. Never seen it before!

Steuben yellow eye beans. Never heard of them, but aren’t they GORGEOUS?

Jacob’s cattle beans. Never heard of these either but they are so pretty I couldn’t not get them.

Tongues of fire beans. Okay, how am I possibly supposed to resist a name like that???

I had been getting low on beans and was thinking about placing a Rancho Gordo order soon, but this (and subsequent purchases I know I will be making to check out the tons of other beans they have) will hold me over for a while. These are some of my beans:

I’m so hopped up about this I’m not going to be able to sleep tonight (seriously, does that mean there’s something wrong with me??). Enjoy this picture of a raccoon rubbing his belly; I’m going to gaze at it and hope it calms me down. 🙂

PS If any of you have had any of the items I bought and have cooking suggestions, let me know! I need to pick one of those beans to make tomorrow night!


  1. Josiane Said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 12:00 am

    Wow! I had seen your pic of the salt section earlier today on Twitter, and you weren’t lying when you said it was just a tiny part of it! The wooden bins in which they put the beans are simply gorgeous. And the beans you’ve bought are equally gorgeous… I’d never seen or heard of those varieties either, so I have no specific cooking suggestions, but I have total faith that they will be fantastic!

  2. Pat Meadows Said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 8:09 am

    Hi Renae,

    I recently bought a cookbook (What a surprise! 🙂 ) that has many, many excellent-looking recipes for beans. It is not specifically a vegan cookbook, but many, probably most, of the recipes are already vegan and most of the rest are easy to convert. It’s called ‘Bean by Bean’ and is written by Crescent Dragonwagon. There are lots of good ideas in it!

    I already had her ‘Passionate Vegetarian’ which, for some reason, I haven’t used much (but intend to) and ‘Dairy Hollow House Soup and Bread Cookbook’ which I consider the definitive soup cookbook, and I’ve used it quite a bit. Again, neither is specifically vegan, although the same statement applies to them. I’m really impressed with ‘Bean by Bean’ so you might want to take a look at it.

    Thank for your blog, I always enjoy it! We had to re-home our cat when I became severely allergic to her (bad asthma attacks), so I’d love to see more kitty-pics! Raccoons are terrific too. And food….of course, always, food!

    I cannot remember how I first came across your blog, you don’t know me, and vice versa,. My husband and I retired to northern coastal Maine (doesn’t everyone?) and we are living there now. Let me know if you are ever up this way; we’d love to meet you and Mark and would happily put you up and feed you too! We aren’t too far from Acadia National Park – we’re about 100 miles north of it. It’s pretty spectacular but crowded in summer. Fall and spring visits to the Park would be wonderful, especially fall.


  3. renae Said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 8:17 am

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for the recommendation; I will definitely look for Bean by Bean and Crescent Dragonwagon’s other cookbooks (if only because Crescent Dragonwagon is a fascinating name). If Mark and I ever find ourselves in Maine, I will certainly contact you! And I think I can arrange more kitty pics!


  4. Caralyn @ glutenfreehappytummy Said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    i live for the WF bulk section:)

  5. Jes Said,

    August 24, 2012 @ 12:20 pm

    BAH that raccoon! Happy Budha raccoon?

    I’m super jealous of #1 your Whole Foods (why oh why can’t Roanoke get one???) and, #2 of that GLORIOUS bulk section! I love all the heirloom beans you picked up, and smoked salt? Heck yeah!

  6. Becky Said,

    August 26, 2012 @ 8:38 pm

    Love whole foods, love love love that racoon and also your beans collection! Where can I get some jars like that?

  7. renae Said,

    August 26, 2012 @ 9:39 pm

    Hi Becky, they are vintage Ball mason jars. They are very easy to find on eBay, etsy, and in antique malls.

  8. allularpunk Said,

    September 1, 2012 @ 12:58 pm

    I am SO JEALOUS.

  9. Jain Said,

    September 2, 2012 @ 8:39 am

    The Dublin, Ohio WF has expanded their bulk section, too, so perhaps they’re doing them all. The variety of beans blew me away and I’m definitely going to play with salts.

    No bulk recipe suggestions, but I got a dehydrator a few months ago. I’ve made eggplant bacon and flax crackers, it dries herbs zippy quick (no more wasted parsley!), and the dogs adore sweet potato chips – I bet raccoons would, too!

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