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One of Our Hidden Gems: Huntington Beach in California

With over 340 stores (and counting!), we’ve got a lot of hidden gems out there. Get the story behind the store in this eight-store series. Maybe your local store will be featured next!

Read on to find out how you could win a $50 gift card to Whole Foods Market®. UPDATE: Thanks to everyone that entered. Congrats to our randomly chosen winner, Cimbria!

Today we’re talking with Todd May, the Marketing Team Leader at the Huntington Beach store in California. The store opened 2 years ago in Huntington Beach in Orange County and is just a couple miles from the coast.


What’s the best-kept secret at your store?

The Beer Infused Dinners are a new twice-a-month tradition at Whole Foods Market Huntington Beach’s 24 tap beer and wine bar, Woody’s Surf City Grill. For $24.99 our customers get to enjoy four courses paired and infused with four beers from the partnering brewery, a list which has included Stone, Deschutes, Ale Smith, Ballast Point, and Speakeasy.

All courses are designed by our Kitchen Supervisor, Nick Echaore, who also teaches free gourmet cooking classes in the bar every other Friday.

Our latest menu featured a Kenter Canyon Organic Baby Spinach Salad with avocado, smoked paprika aioli, and roasted leeks; a Composed Cheese Plate with St. Andre Triple Cream Cheese, curried shallot jam, and spiked pecans; Roasted Pork with smoked wild mushrooms, sweet corn, and basil ragout; and a Victory at Sea Chocolate Cake with grapefruit and vanilla butter cream, and chocolate salt.

What’s the tastiest dish in your store right now?

Our Prepared Foods Team has created a menu of Huntington Beach Local Creation sandwiches, and while all are outstanding, two in particular stand out.

One is the Bonfire Panini Sandwich, stacked with roast beef, grilled balsamic onions, arugula, and blue cheese crumbles, on our fresh baked focaccia bread. The other is Francis’ Chipotle Chicken Sandwich, with grilled chicken, pepper jack cheese, tomatoes, mixed greens, red peppers, jalapeno, chipotle sauce, and a red onion marmalade.

Next on the horizon will be a new seasonal condiment station featuring produce in unique salsas, chutneys, kimchis, pickles, and beer mustards alongside a new menu of gourmet hot dogs and tacos.

Tell us about one rock star Team Member.

Our Meat Department Team Educator, Scott Hamilton, is always experimenting with new flavors and cooking techniques in the smokehouse. Whether it’s his smoked turducken sandwich with garlic aioli, smoked pork shoulder enchiladas with house-made chile verde, or his latest culinary adventure­ — beef tongue sandwiches, steamed, then smoked with a spice blend adapted from his grandmother’s French country recipe — Scott is creating exiting, flavor-forward specials unique to Whole Foods Market Huntington Beach.

How does your store kick back?

The Huntington Beach store features live music during many of the weekend events, including several local DJs that regularly spin in the bar, as well as jazz trios and quartets that perform during the Friday-night beer dinners.

In addition to being music lovers, the store practices yoga on Wednesday nights, from 6:30-7:30 pm in a free class held in the store conference room.

What’s the most crave-able thing in your cheese case?

Right now there is a “Truffle Shuffle” corner in the cheese case and the center-stage star is the Unie Kass truffle gouda — one of Specialty Associate Team Leader, Colin’s, favorite cheeses for spring.

Its characteristically rich, savory flavor makes for a perfect complement to a spicy arugula salad. It can also be paired with a sweet habanero jam and crusty artisan bread from our bakery, and gouda grilled cheese nirvana may be achieved.

505 Chardonnay, one of the knock-out Wines from Argentina selections, is a natural companion to this hearty cheese, as 505’s bright, robust body, rich mouth feel, and elegant finish with traces of minerals stands up nicely to Unie Kass truffle gouda’s buttery flavor profile.

Who’s the reigning BBQ champ?

Whole Foods Market Huntington Beach prides itself on its store BBQs, so naturally there is going to be some room for differences of opinion on methodology, technique, and spice combinations. Les Draper, the store’s Catering Specialist, and Scott, the Meat Department Team Educator, are the two reigning BBQ champs.

In November of last year, Scott’s chipotle tri-tip sandwiches and cilantro-beer marinated chickens propelled him to victory over the seafood team in a Surf vs. Turf BBQ Challenge. Les is a seasoned veteran of the BBQ circuit, having owned his own restaurant, traveled the South and Southwest by motorcycle in search of the perfect sizzle, and mastered the art of his wood-fired Santa Maria style grill.

At the store BBQs, the two can be seen heavily debating issues of sauce, seasoning, and smoke, offering back-handed compliments for each other’s creations, along with smiles of mutual respect and camaraderie.

Mark your calendars because the duo will be in action next for our Wines from Argentina Gaucho BBQ, Saturday, April 6th, where they will be grilling up south of the border specialties on the Santa Maria grill to accompany a beautiful selection of Argentine wines, alongside traditional Argentine music and dancing.


Now that you know what makes our Huntington Beach store shine in California – tell us: what makes your local store a hidden gem?

Share your comment below by Sunday, March 31 and you’ll be entered to win a $50 Whole Foods Market gift card. Enter once on each “hidden gems” blog post, running from March 20 – March 29, for more chances to win.

The fine print: No purchase necessary. Promotion ends 3/31/13, 11:59 PM CDT. Must be a legal resident of the US or Canada (except in Quebec, where it is void) age 18 or older to participate. Taxes on prize, if applicable, are the responsibility of the winner. Employees of Whole Foods Market, Inc., are not eligible. Void where prohibited.