Grocery Guide

Keeping the Change at Georgia's Farm To Market

Sandy's Market on I-10 at Dairy Ashford was long our favorite grocery store in town, even though it meant a drive not only outside the Loop but outside the Beltway. An odd sort of hippie paradise in the endless monotony of the west Houston suburbs, the spacious and richly scented Sandy's always felt like an oasis. For a quick lunch (fresh housemade sandwiches) to a leisurely brunch (healthy buffet with live music), from grocery shopping (fresh, organic produce and meats) to homeopathic shopping (vitamins and bulk herbs, the vibrant smell of which always flooded the space), Sandy's had everything we wanted in one stop. They even sold beautiful antiques.

And then one day a few months ago, the terrible news came: Sandy's was closing. We wanted to weep and rend our clothes in despair. But the tragedy didn't last for long. Sandy's had simply been sold to a new owner: None other than Georgia Bost -- she of Georgia's Texas Grassfed Beef -- had purchased Sandy's and was rebranding the store Georgia's Farm To Market. Despair quickly turned to delight.

We stopped by the store this weekend for the first time since the change in ownership took place and were thrilled with what we found.

Aside from now stocking an absolutely enormous supply of Bost's own grassfed beef, Georgia's Farm To Market has a dazzling selection of Bost's other healthy meats in stock: grassfed lamb, natural pork, pastured poultry and free-range turkey. It's the best stop for organic, all-natural meats outside of the farm itself. And that's not all.

Gone are the antiques, but the produce section has been expanded to include more fruits and vegetables than ever, as well as local produce from Gus Nawara Farms. There are also promises of an indoor farmers' market every Wednesday and Thursday. The rear refrigerated wall of the store is lined with yard eggs, homemade salad dressings, pints of fresh goat's milk and ready-to-eat meals like fajita trays and plump sandwiches on freshly-baked bread.

And, oh, the bread. Georgia's is the only place that we know of where you can purchase bread directly from the Slow Dough bakery. Their artisan bread -- the same stuff served at some of the most high-end restaurants in town -- is baked fresh daily and delivered to the grocery store. Who needs to get a fancy meal out when you can get the same bread service at home quicker and cheaper?

Along with bread, produce and meats, Georgia's still stocks the same bulk herbs and spices that made us fall in love with Sandy's when we were first searching for a cheap place to buy turmeric pills (they do wonders for your skin), and for the same reasonable prices. And just as before, there's still a wonderful bulk-teas-and-coffees section -- all of them organic and all of them delicious.

And if you're one of those who only went to Sandy's for the buffet, don't fret -- it's still there, too. Although the seating has been moved around and the live music when we went happened to feature an Austrian man in lederhosen, the food is still the same. The only difference? Now you pay for you meal in advance at the registers up front.

Although some of our old favorites are gone for good (the masseuse, for example, who was great in a lunchtime pinch), other new elements have taken their place for the better: a recycling area at the front for plastic and glass (we approve of any way to make recycling more convenient for people), expanded dried goods and sundries sections and a more accessible vibe in general.

While we loved the old Sandy's, it was difficult for a newcomer to tell what exactly the store was or was trying to be. With Georgia's Farm To Market, there is no mistake. It's striving to be a destination grocery store for the finest in organic, all-natural and local food -- without any of the pretense or heavy pricing found in other stores or farmers' markets. And what's not to love about that?

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Katharine Shilcutt