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6/13/04 -- Foodie Frenzy.

on Saturday, Bill and I went to the Wegman's grocery store that opened up in Dulles a few months ago. The coming of Wegman's was heralded as though this area had never before seen a grocery store; we got splashy, glossy, full-color ad booklets in the mail for months before the store opened, and the Washington Post contributed several breathless articles about the glorious produce and the in-store sushi bar and the hip city folk camping outside the building the week that the store opened. And while the foodie in me desperately wanted to go check the place out, the claustrophobe (and misanthrope) in me saw the pictures of opening day at Wegman's, where people were crammed into the aisles without an inch to spare between their carts, and said ugh -- thanks, but no thanks.

I hoped that by now some of the hype would have died down and the crowds would be somewhat less ridiculous. I walked into the store and realized that I had almost no idea where to start shopping, though the vast produce section seemed like the best bet. If you've never been, Wegman's is something like what would happen if someone took a Whole Foods (a chain that's a cross between a snooty fancy-food store and a snooty health-food store, both very expensive), crammed it into a Safeway, dropped a Williams-Sonoma into the middle of the whole thing, and plopped a cafe on top of it all for good measure. It's a metropolis of food and food-related gadgets. It's utterly exhausting just to walk through the place, because it's enormous and because as is invariably the case in stores specializing in wholesome, organic, healthfoodie stuff, you need to be fast on your feet to dodge the crazed shoppers who will mow you the hell down with their carts if you get between them and their whole-wheat cruelty-free pasta.

Once I realized that I was going to have to be as pushy and rude as everyone else to make it out of the store alive, I got through the place just fine. I probably could have spent hours (and our next few mortgage payments) just in that produce section alone. They had varieties of eggplants and cherries that I've never seen before. They had freshly shelled peas. They had enormous bunches of basil that looked like bouquets. They even had durians, something I've never before seen in a grocery store, and I considered getting one just to see if they really smell as gross as everyone claims. Maybe next trip. Just as I got through the produce aisles and the huge cheese section and realized I was going to need to put the brakes on what I was tossing in the cart, I turned a corner and found myself facing a rack of gorgeous, colorful, and really expensive Le Creuset cookware. And KitchenAid gadgets. I think I literally ran away from that section of the store.

One thing I didn't dare check out was the section where they were giving cooking demonstrations and handing out free samples. I'm not crazy, after all. Trust me that you don't want to be anywhere near a free food sample counter in Northern Virginia. We're in one of the wealthiest counties in the country, but give away food samples and people will leave hoof prints on your back just to get in line ahead of you for a tiny smidgen of focaccia. You'd think we were all starving to death.

Anyhow, I took my bounty home and put together a pan of Thai Spicy Eggplant for dinner. Other than that, it's been a relatively quiet weekend. Bill is recovering from a Martian Death Summer Cold, so we've both been gaping at cable for a good part of the last few days. We saw sections of "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" and enjoyed both of them enough that we might consider watching the entire movies some time. All in all, a quiet weekend.