Top Five Flavors Best Found at Whole Foods (This Will Save You Tons of Time)

This is a place for those who shop carefully, and with specific items in mind.
This is a place for those who shop carefully, and with specific items in mind.
Photos by John Kiely

I tried shopping at a health-food market for a few weeks, until the time I brought my friend Stephanie along. She quipped that the clientele of Wild Oats seemed split between the robustly healthy and the sickly anxious. Her astuteness made me laugh, but she wasn't finished yet. "Which of those paths do you think you will go down?" she asked. I never returned to Wild Oats.

Nowadays I live near a Whole Foods Market, where the shoppers defy categorization and seem to be just looking for natural, delicious food. While I'm still not ready to pay a premium for many organic foods, I do go there for five items I have difficulty finding anywhere else.

5) Red Boat Fish Sauce

As garlic and onions are to Italian food, fish sauce is a foundation of Vietnamese and Vietnamese-inspired cuisine. Red Boat is regarded as the best fish sauce, as it's made with anchovies and water, nothing else.

The "40° N" on the label doesn't refer to a great latitude in which to dine, but rather the degree of nitrogen in the sauce, which comes from the protein in the anchovies. A degree-rating of 35° is good, and 40° is better. Speaking of Italian food, Red Boat is a convenient replacement for anchovy paste, and its umami taste, in Caesar salad and Bolognese sauce. I even put a few drops on pizza slices, or in hamburger patties as a replacement for Worcestershire sauce.

4) Sorghum Syrup

Sorghum syrup is a classic Southern alternative to honey on hot biscuits.
Sorghum syrup is a classic Southern alternative to honey on hot biscuits.

Matt and Ted Lee are brothers who transplanted from South Carolina to New York City. They got so homesick that they started selling Southern food products online, and wrote a classic, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook. One of the foods they missed most was sorghum syrup.

After searching for the syrup everywhere on road trips through the South, to no avail, I found it at Whole Foods. Bittersweet sorghum syrup is indeed delicious on biscuits (homemade or not), pancakes and waffles. Substituting ½ teaspoon as the sweetener makes for a uniquely Southern Old-Fashioned cocktail.


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