Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Goody Goody Goodings

At long, long last the Goodings grocery store at Water Tower Place is open!

A new grocery store might not sound too exciting, but the Goodings is in an ideal location. Sure, we have a Publix located a stone's throw away (just off 192, at Xentury City), but getting there means crossing 192 and battling the tourist traffic. Water Tower Place is located right on the outskirts of Celebration, just past North Village. It can be reached by NEV (Neighborhood Electric Vehicle) and even by bicycle if you don't mind braving the world's narrowest bridge sidewalk.

Of course, the Publix is within bike reach too, at least in theory. My husband once went there on his bicycle when we didn't have our car, and somehow he lived to tell the tale. But that's not a journey for the faint of heart; Goodings is within much easier striking distance.

I had been anxiously awaiting the Grand Opening, or at least a soft opening. Rumor had it that it would happen today (Tuesday), so I anxiously watched the Celebration intranet for the latest information. The rumored time changed from morning to early afternoon to late afternoon. Then, finally, I saw the big announcement. Goodings was open for business! My husband is out of town this week, so I was anxious to zip over and check out their selection of ready-made foods. It's too much of a pain to cook for one, especially when you can pick up a nice salad, a fresh sandwich, or a chicken dinner.

After swimming laps at the health club to help offset my decadent eating over the weekend, I headed off to Goodings. It was a little after 9 p.m. when I arrived, but there were quite a few people around. The only reason parking wasn't a blood sport was that many of the other stores were closed. I can't even imagine what the parking lot will look like on Friday and Saturday nights, when cars spill over from the Joe's Crab Shack crowd. For some odd reason, a park was slotted into a huge hunk of prime parking space. Who the heck is going to come to a strip mall and sit in the park?! Seems to me that it would have made more sense to asphalt and stripe that precious land.

I also noticed a new phenomenon...shopping carts scattered throughout the parking area and left willy-nilly in front of the adjacent stores. There was a Goodings employee trying to round them up, but I suspect the Shopping Cart Rodeo will be an ongoing contest.

I headed into the store, which was big and welcoming, with fresh sushi being prepared in a large staging area (my husband's going to love that) and a huge deli section with all sorts of tempting salads. I opted for a chicken/grape/pecan concoction for my dinner. Then I sought out that salad bar and whipped up my lunch for the next day. There were lots of fresh veggies, including some less conventional ones like cold peas and cold corn. I love to slather peas on top of cottage cheese, then add some fresh cut mushrooms. I whipped up my "pea salad" and added a generous portion of alfalfa sprouts and some other veggies. It will be so nuce to have a "fresh" lunch tomorrow. I just hope that kids don't start poking and pawing the food; I tend to avoid grocery store salad bars after witnessing too many grubby hands diving into the veggies and kids licking the pudding spoons in Chicago.

I bought some ham as a treat for my spoiled cats and a piece of cake as a treat for spoiled me. Then I wandered the aisles, searching out impulse items. French Toast Pop-Tarts caught my eye; supposedly they taste like French Toast and have a syrup-flavored filling. That has the potential to be really, really good or really, really bad...we'll see. At the very least, they'll make a quick breakfast on mornings when I'm rushing.

In the very appealing candy section, which looked like something out of Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, I found fruit flavored Chiclets gum. That happens to be a weakness of mine; I've always been a sucker for candy coated gum, and Chiclets is virtually the only brand that still offers it in fruit flavors. I come from an unconventional family, where gum was consumed in the same way as candy. None of that chewing till the flavor runs out...we chomp it a couple of times, then swallow it. My brother and I have done that all our lives, and my nephews and nieces are all the same way. Chiclets is a perfect "candy gum"...the only one better was Beechies (fruit flavored or pepsin), but sadly they don't make it anymore.

I headed to the checkout counter with my booty. There were a few other people, but I found a counter with no line. As my purchases were being run up, I noticed a customer service counter (actually, Goodings uses Disney-speak and calls it "Guest Services"). Unlike the market in downtown Celebration, Goodings sells lottery tickets. It's my vice to buy a ticket or two when shopping, although this time I managed to restrain myself. The only FL lottery game that I ever had any luck with was "Corvette Cash," and that one is long gone.

I also noticed a pharmacy that wasn't open yet and a comprehensive liquor store. One of the annoying things about the Xentury City Publix is that they don't sell hard liquor. Now, when I get a hankering for a pina colada or margarita from the trusty Magic Bullet but realize that I'm out of rum or tequila, it's only a three minute ride away.

The store was overstaffed, which I think was for training purposes. The staff seemed helpful and enthusiastic, so hopefully they will carry that attitude forward into the everyday routine.

It will be interesting to see how my husband likes Goodings, since he is a major Publix fan. I refer to the one across 192 as the "Tourist Publix," but he loves it. He is very habitual, so he likes the fact that he knows where everything is. They also tend to have nice pre-made items for the grill, like shishkabobs or chimichurri flank steak or crab cakes. He enjoys their sushi, too, but the fancy sushi bar at Goodings might just win him over. But maybe not...he once visited the horrible tourist Goodings at the Crossroads, near Downtown Disney, and afterwards he needed intensive therapy to get him over the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After that inciddent, I may have trouble getting him into any Goodings.

I, for one, know that I'll be a frequent patron, if only for the salad bar and deli. I'm always looking for a quick but fresh lunch, so hopefilly they will continue to offer the same tempting selection that they had on their first day.

I'm not sure how their prices compare to Publix, since my husband is the primary shopper in our family. I just tag along to annoy him with my impulse purchases as he methodically stalks the aisles with his carefully prepared shopping list. I don't mind paying a little bit more, but there is a point of reason. I stopped shopping at the little market in downtown Celebration after paying nearly $7.00 for potato salad that sells for half that at Publix.

Actually, now that Goodings is open, I wonder if Towne Center Market will survive. I hope that they do, but the last time I was there, their selection wasn't the best. That, on top of too much "price premium," is a recipe for disaster. Now, even if I just need a loaf of bread or carton of milk, it's just too easy to continue a little farther down the road to Water Tower Place. Parking can be a challenge in downtown Celebration, too, but I'm sure that Goodings is going to have major parking headaches so neither store has an advantage in that arena.

Once my husband has analyzed the Goodings prices, I'll know if we'll be doing our regular shopping there or if it will be more of a convenience place for us. I hope that having a Publix almost right across the street will force them to keep their prices in line. It's a lovely store and a great addition to Water Tower Place. If nothing else, I'll be a regular at that salad bar!

Learn more about Celebration on my website: www.celebrationinfo.com

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