Wednesday March 16, 2011

Good Foods Market & Café

It astonishes me that eating locally has become something perceived as trendy. A friend of mine recently described a new eatery as, “super trendy. They list the farms everything comes from, change the menu everyday…” and then she carried on describing the actually trendy aspects of the restaurant: decor, tableware, music.

“Local and in season” could describe all of humanity’s dietary consumption for millennia. It goes out of style for a few measly decades and then comes back as a mere trend? Maybe this time it will stick.

Strangely, I’ve heard many groans at articles or a television shows promoting it. “I hate how these rich, elite food snobs get all holier than thou about how seasonal and local their food is. Yeah, I’d eat locally too if I lived in California. But this is Kentucky. I’d starve to death following their advice.”

Except, um. You wouldn’t.

Kentucky Proud produce at Good Foods Coop

Rosco took his camera to Good Foods Market & Café with me to illustrate that point.

People mistakenly think that eating locally only applies to produce. At Good Foods Market, still fondly called “the Co-op” by Lexingtonians who remember its humble origins, the local shopping just gets started in the produce section. Even now: local potatoes, yams, nuts, greens, herbs… That experience extends to a huge selection of locally made cheese from a variety of creative Kentucky cheesemakers; crusty artisanal breads from Bluegrass Baking Company; locally raised chicken, beef, lamb, bison, pork, and even locally made sausage seasoned with locally grown herbs and spices. Local applies to pantry staples too. Locally grown and milled flours, jars of everything from jam to salsa made in the Bluegrass from Kentucky grown produce, and a custom blend of coffee roasted locally at Caffe Marco just for Good Foods Market & Café. Even local soda (insert obligatory Kentucky Proud Ale 8 One shout out!).

No one should follow “going local” as a means without an end. The end should look something like this: a healthier life through better eating. Better eating because of fresher more flavorful ingredients. More flavorful ingredients because of family farms who take pride in their work.

Prime example: milk and eggs.

We have a phenomenal dairy in Kentucky called JD Country Milk. They pasteurize their milk and cream at an incredibly low temperature to preserve the pure flavor (which most people have never tasted) and they skip homogenization. I could write a book about how delicious it is, about the haunting flavor of extremely fresh milk, about the luxuriously satisfying mouth feel.

But I buy their milk for another reason: it’s healthier. For one, they bottle it in glass, so no scary BPA and plastic issues to fret about. The other, more interesting health benefit? Humans absorb less fat from non-homogenized whole milk compared to homogenized whole milk. (Explaining that goes beyond the scope of this post. To read an actual study on the issue go here or read the layman’s edition here.)

Much the same can be said for locally raised, organic eggs. Fresher, more flavorful, and more nutritional. As someone who uses eggs on a daily basis in baking, I can’t overstate the difference a fresh egg can make in any recipe. From custards like ice cream that rely on eggs for texture, to macarons which need good whites for structure, or cakes that use whole eggs for volume.

Conventional grocery stores just don’t sell eggs this fresh.

non-homogenized whole milk JD Country milk

I don’t subscribe to the militant notion of all-local-all-the-time (I wouldn’t get very far in a Kentucky-based pastry career if I had to rule out chocolate, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon…), but I do believe that you can apply the concept of locality by degrees.

Take Parmesean, for example. Clearly not local. I could buy a wedge at a national chain like Whole Foods or Fresh Market. But if I buy it at Good Foods Market, I support a cooperatively owned business that in turn supports Kentucky farmers. So even when purchasing something not inherently local, my money goes to a business invested in the community where I live.

an uncut wheel of authentic parmesean

This isn’t philanthropy on my part. A lot of amazing people out there would and do shop local just on principle, on personal ethics. I’m greedier than that. I want Kentucky farmers to thrive, not because I’m a nice person, but because I want stuff.

I want farmers to expand the variety of crops they offer, to turn more of their crops organic. I want Elmwood to carve some space for game hens to share in their chicken and turkey pastures. I want JD Country milk to branch out with other dairy products. I want Stone Cross Farm to make chicken sausage in addition to pork. I want Blue Moon garlic to offer even more heirloom garlics. I want more.

And I won’t get it if all of these locally owned businesses wither up and sell out because we won’t support the wonderful work they do.

So shopping, even for things not seasonal or local, at Good Foods Market facilitates my greedy agenda.

“The Co-op” isn’t just a granola shack for hippies (though they totally sell hemp granola. Gnarly, man!), but a full fledged grocery with everything I need. It isn’t one of my many stops when running errands, it’s my only stop. They have the standards any market should: olive oil, pasta and that beautiful wheel of whole Parmesan pictured above, and also specialty items like seaweed, sprouted almonds, kombucha, bread from my favorite bakery, and a collection of huge jars of bulk spices that leave nothing to chance.

I found the chicory root I needed to make chicory café au lait custard for Mardi Gras beignets, dried lavender for macarons, and Xanthan gum to stabilize gluten free chocolate cake. I never have to special order spices or obscure ingredients online anymore and have thus saved boat loads on shipping. Sorry Penzeys.

Good Foods Market also has a mind boggling bulk food aisle. In our house, we have several of their BPA-free containers filled with basmati rice, red sea salt, barley, split peas, and all sorts of other pantry staples. When we run out, we bring our empty containers back for a re-fill, cutting down on packaging waste, and saving time too, as we don’t have to re-label our containers over and over. When I had to make the infamous nut-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, egg-free refined-sugar-free chocolate cake, I relied on the co-op’s bulk food aisle to stock up on unrefined sugar. They also sell the biggest, prettiest curls of shaved coconut which will forever turn you against the wretched shreds of sugary sweet “Angel Fake Flake.”

When Rosco and I went to shoot these photos, we met co-op marketing assistant Nick Easterling. From the volley of e-mails we exchanged before our tour, I came away with a strong sense of his professionalism and passion for local foods. I will sound like a grandma for saying this, but when I finally met him I felt totally shocked by his age. Not so much the older, well seasoned grocery man I imagined.

Nick Easterling at the Good Foods Coop

Nick’s career at Good Foods Market & Café began five years ago as a bagger. While studying marketing at Transy, however, he’s worked his way through the ranks and now applies those studies to his work. Perhaps having someone so young assisting the marketing department explains Good Foods’ savvy use of Twitter. Their helpful tweets alert followers to daily specials, new shipments from farmers, and generally keep us posted on relevant movies, lectures, and classes in central Kentucky. (A recent tweet about the arrival of the first ever batch of JD Country Milk’s butter literally got me off my computer, into the car, and to the store to pick some up.)

In spite of the length of this post, I haven’t even touched on the other half of their business: Good Foods Café. Their chefs (including a sushi chef!) prepare an extensive daily buffet of hot and cold items, including ones for take-away if you need a hand getting dinner ready, 100% from scratch, everyday. Local eating doesn’t get much easier than that.

Since I only ever go to the co-op while on my way to or from my job in a restaurant, I have yet to take advantage of the spacious café and free wifi. Rather my experiences there haven’t strayed past things that rhyme with atte.

cafe mocha, skim latte and cupcakes

I almost never leave the co-op without a latte in hand. Their baristas use locally roasted Caffe Marco for all of their espresso drinks, which they make with organic milk. Those just wanting a cup of joe can choose from all kinds of fair-trade coffee too, including two from Caffe Marco. They even make their own cocoa “mix” for their mochachino (above left), rather than use some pre-made factory crap.

I love Good Foods Market. I’m happy that a funky little buyers club that started in someone’s living room back in the 70s has evolved into the incredible, modern, accessible store we have today. Good Foods Market makes eating locally easier, cheaper, and more convenient that most Lexingtonians realize.

“But,” as LeVar Burton always says, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” Go check it out for yourself and then tell me you can’t eat locally all year long. I dare you.

No matter where you live, that logic still applies. Local Harvest lets you search by zip code for co-ops, CSAs, farms and other locally owned food businesses. Seek them out! Invest your money in the community where you live and enjoy the rewards.

Good Foods Market
455 Southland Drive
Lexington, Kentucky 40503

Keep up with Good Foods Market & Café on Twitter and Facebook, or on Good Foods Market & Cafe on Urbanspoon

posted byStellaand filed under:  Farms  Fruit  Local  Restaurants  Sideshow Photos

29 comments and counting

Mar 16, 2011 · 10:23 AM

Thanks for taking the time to write up some well-informed information about locally grown foods! I’ll definitely be sharing this with my friends and family and hopefully make some converts out of people (including myself!).

 · Mary at n00bcakes ·

Mar 16, 2011 · 11:28 AM

A round of applause for the most adorable grocer ever!
Similar things are often said of Minnesota, but they would all be proven wrong by checking out my kitchen…eggs from a coworker’s brother’s farm, MN grown golden flax, Rogue chocolate, veggies from The Bistro Farm CSA (whose pickup site is my place of employment-YES!)…I could go on. Thanks for singing the praises of local yummies!

 · Mallowsota · 

Mar 16, 2011 · 12:08 PM

Agreed with Mallowsota! With a cutie like that making the case for local, how can I resist?

 · Harper · 

Mar 16, 2011 · 12:22 PM

Love it! I am particularly thrilled that you met Nick, my very favorite cashier (among his other duties). And effectively rationalizing the purchase of non-local items at the local coop, also a bonus.

 · Kingwell · 

Mar 16, 2011 · 12:33 PM

Bravo! Great post! We do all we can to support the local farms, shops and products from our area and are the beneficiaries of wonderful friendships and fresh delicious ingredients. It’s funny, or perhaps more rightly, sad, that local eating has become so“trendy” or elitist when it’s simply the most logical thing to do.

 · Cheryl and Adam @ ·

Mar 16, 2011 · 12:51 PM

Excellent post. I organized the sustainable america event for the Clinton/gore administration years past and this topic was just bubbling to the surface. It has traction now and should continue when people portray the benefits as you have.

On a side note one of the smartest things that the USDA did with the food stamp program was introduce a 2X or 3X the value for the stamps if produce was bought at participating/approved farmers markets. Great way to get more produce in those hands, support local farming and improve overall sustainability. If the taxpayer is paying for it we might as well get some other benefits out of it.


 · threemealsaday ·

Mar 16, 2011 ·  1:06 PM

Great post! I love all the “hippie” stores in town, and I really wish that they were more popular. The local co-op is one of my favorite places to shop for so many reasons… Their selection is wonderful, the people there are friendly and personable (also, in my experience, the guys working at these stores are ridiculously cute ), and the quality of everything (glad you mentioned coconut!) is just SO MUCH BETTER.

Thank you for the links about the milk – I’ve only been able to skim them for now, but I’ve got them bookmarked and am looking forward to reading them more in depth in the future.

You always post such awesome stuff!

 · Kaitlin ·

Mar 16, 2011 ·  4:59 PM

this post is really clever and well thought out. Your writing really flows well and I’m glad you understand the essences of locality in helping your community by supporting them. The market looks lovely. I’m glad i stopped by your blog today I’ve learned a couple new things. thank you

 · Kimberly(unrivaledkitch) ·

Mar 16, 2011 ·  8:52 PM

@Mary, thanks so much for sharing with your friends. I’m so glad the post struck a chord with you!

@Mallowsota, mmmmmm Rouge Chocolates….

@KIG, you knew it was just a matter of time until I gave in to the co-op. What was I ever thinking?

@Cheryl & Adam, I know! Or that it’s too expensive? I keep a food spending journal and in the last 5 years (when we started our CSA and made a concerted push to only shop local) we have just slashed costs. So affordable!

@threemealsaday, wow! That’s incredible. I’m proud to say the Lexington Farmers’ Market does indeed accept food stamps, though I’m not sure if they’re “double coupons” so to speak. That’s a great program though. The long term cost of a lifetime’s worth of junkfood is not as cheap as the Cheetos were…

@Kaitlin, you have not lived until you’ve made ice cream or some dairy based dessert with nonhomogenized milk. Trans-formative.

@Kimberly, thanks so much for your sweet comment. I’m glad you came by!


Mar 16, 2011 ·  8:58 PM

Lucky, lucky, lucky you to have such bounty nearby. Like everywhere else, living in the middle of nowhere has its good and bad points. On the one hand, a grocery store like yours is 1.5 hrs away. On the other, I have room to grow most of what you mention myself. Chickens, turkeys, beef, goats (for milk), pork, lamb, and all sorts of vegetables grow here. But “meal planning” takes on an entirely different dimension — while most most wonder “What’s for dinner this week?” I am thinking, “What seeds should I plant so I can have dinner in 6 mos?” Also, there are definite periods of feast (as in “I’m drowning in ______ ! How do I use it up?!” and famine (as in “I really wish the _____ had done better so I can have some.” It takes investment in infrastructure for farmers to smooth those production mountains and valleys, (and sometimes it just can’t be done) so when your local farmer has extra, buy more and help him/her use it up.

 · Sally H · 

Mar 17, 2011 ·  3:11 AM

Great post, wonderful message, and lovely photos!

 · sarah ·

Mar 17, 2011 · 11:50 AM

Nice. The writing here keeps getting more colorful, more witty, more concise, more sharply focused. And the photos … well, even more so. Thanks.

 · Mark ·

Mar 17, 2011 ·  5:44 PM

@Sally, thank you so much for your wonderful comment! As someone on the restaurant end of the equation, I always love hearing from people standing on the dirt-and-pitchfork side. I would trade a few days of “city living” (if I can say that in Lexington) for a few weeks out near you, and especially for some fresh goat milk! Goat milk ice cream is a favorite.

thank you Sarah!

@Mark, hey you! Thanks for stopping by, I appreciate your kind words. And delicious coffee. Makes a mean latte!


Mar 17, 2011 ·  6:36 PM

Stella and Rosco – this manifesto makes me love you two and Good Foods and Kentucky food more than ever. Thank you for putting so much of your time and fabulous talent to such fruitful/yeasty/meaty/juicy uses.

 · Rona Roberts ·

Mar 17, 2011 ·  7:38 PM

I continue to come back to this page to look at the beautiful pictures and to read the entertaining, sincere write-up. Thank you again for the opportunity, it was a lot of fun and I look forward to working with you again in the future!

 · Nick ·

Mar 17, 2011 · 10:14 PM

Good post! Well written.

 · egb ·

Mar 18, 2011 ·  9:35 AM

LOVE this post! Nearly everything tastes better organic, local, and FRESH! I think potatoes, like eggs and milk, are one of those things that makes a world of difference wether its fresh or not. Who cares if its trendy? Its delicious! And HEALTHY.

 · Sally · 

Mar 19, 2011 · 11:58 AM

@Rona, thank you so much for the kind words. We are all about meaty, juicy uses!

@Nick, the pleasure was all ours. It was so much fun to go “behind the scenes” and learn more about the co-op! The time Rosco and I spent doing the photography coupled with the reading-up I did on the history of the Co-op finally pushed me over the edge, and as of Friday, I’m now an “owner!”

@Sally, agreed! Potatoes, freshly dug up from the garden, with good (local!) butter and herbs are one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer. Yum!


Mar 29, 2011 ·  3:20 PM

I’m a Kentucky expatriate (born in E-town, raised there in Lexington), and I really appreciate this side of the state that I grew up in, all the things I’ve learned to appreciate since leaving, in a place where it would be ideal. Thank you for giving me so much pleasure in this blog, for showing me the things I miss, and doing interesting work there in Lexington.

And the next time I make it to Lexington, I’ll give your restaurant (and other recommendations!) a try.

 · Amanda · 

Mar 29, 2011 · 11:19 PM

Amanda, thank you for your sweet comment. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the blog. Lexington and Kentucky have a lot to offer if you dig around a bit. Definitely drop me a note if you’re ever in town.


Apr 01, 2011 ·  4:18 PM

Oh, I am near tears from this post. I moved to Germany two years ago, and, while we have some great farmers markets and Bioläden (where everything is organic) and even locally-owned regular grocery stores, there is not a culture of the food coop, like in the states. I miss my old coop (Rainbow Grocery in SF) to distraction. The knowledge, diversity and quality of foods in a good coop is something I really yearn for. What a wonderful, descriptive post…

 · Kelly ·

Apr 01, 2011 ·  9:19 PM

Kelly, thanks so much for your comment. It’s interesting to know that in spite of the prevalence of organic and locally owned, co-ops don’t abound. I imagine any co-op in SF must be phenomenal! I envy the kinds of interesting things that must show up in the markets for people who live on the coast. Hopefully, there’s lots of other interesting things in Germany to keep your mind off it.


May 20, 2011 ·  1:48 PM

Thank you for this post. I work for Whole Foods, and I think they do really great work when it comes to turning people on to the idea of eating locally, or eating organic, or eating more natural foods. In my own family, everyone eats garbage from big box stores or poor-people grocery stores (applesauce with 30 ingredients: why, god?), and every time I can get one of them into a Whole Foods Market, I am so happy to do so. However! For myself, I am trying more and more to shop farmers markets, and really explore eating locally produced foods. In my mind, I’ve been waiting for June, for the farmer’s markets to open, not realizing there are probably a dozen stores like Good Foods Market in Chicago. I think that Whole Foods is sort of a gateway to good eating, and I really appreciate that. I buy my reg. there because my boyfriend is a cheese-buyer for the company ( ), and it’s easy for me enjoy the steep discount they give me on wonderful baking ingredients, but I am definitely going to check out the grocery co-ops I just found on Local Harvest.
Also, I need to mention something. Many people think that the people shopping at Whole Foods are the same people shopping at co-ops and farm stands. Well, granola-crunching, poncho-wearing hippies do not shop at my Whole Foods. Chicago Bears shop at my Whole Foods. Professional athletes, and CPAs, and independently-wealthy people who treat me like garbage shop at my Whole Foods. The atmosphere isn’t friendly, neighborly, or welcoming. It’s hostile. There are employees who smile through their teeth at the people who say horrible, mean things to them, because customer service is our main priority. The sweet people who are trying to better their diets and improve the lives of their families often go un-nurtured during their visits to the store. They aren’t being obnoxious so no one pays attention to them. We spend so much time pacifying people who are trying to get something for free, that we have far too little time to spend helping people shop for their gluten-intolerant toddlers. I rarely have the pleasure of advising someone about which flour to use.
I have, however, never walked through a farmer’s market without being thanked by the people manning the stands, just for being there. Some of these people drive to Chicago from Michigan three times a week, and thank me for stopping to ask what type of flowers they’re selling, or for trying a sample of some cheese they’ve made. It’s a different world, I say! So, stay away from the farmer’s markets if you’re a jerk! I need some place to buy rhubarb in peace, damn it.

Wow, okay. Sorry to steal the mic. Just had to get that out I guess

 · emily ·

Dec 11, 2011 · 11:24 PM

I love going to Good Foods, my favorite part is the bulk spice section. I grew up 5 min away, worked at Hancock Fabrics, and love going to my usual places on Southland Dr. I wish more unique shops/cafes would spring up in the area to make a stronger district!

 · Katrina ·

Dec 12, 2011 · 12:23 PM

@Katrina, haha, I’m sitting in Good Foods right now, working on a blog post. Love it here!


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