I hated seeing Bun Penny at the Columbia Mall and Produce Galore at the Wilde Lake Village Center disappear from the Columbia food shopping and dining map in recent years, so I thought I'd put in a word about David's Natural Market. David's is a small local chain with a branch at the Wilde Lake Center. Recent discussion about plans for Wilde Lake put David's back on my grocery shopping radar. I've been meaning to get back there, too, because it seems to be currently the only local source for the line of excellent preserves produced by McCutcheon's of Frederick, Maryland. (Correct me if I'm wrong about that.) The defunct Produce Galore almost next door also sold McCutcheon's, and while browsing in David's yesterday afternoon I noticed that this company also produces a range of mustards and relishes. I love McCutcheon's apple and pumpkin butters in particular, and the Damson plum preserve which I bought yesterday reminds me of a favorite Satsuma plum preserve that I found only when I lived in Australia some years ago.
The mainstream big chain supermarkets still offer brands and items that I need, but while visits to those stores are a chore that I try to delay as much as I can, a visit to David's or one of the many other specialty gourmet and organic markets all over Howard County is more like a recreational activity. However, it looks like I could make one of these stores my main grocery place if I really wanted. (You must have non-fat, lactose-free milk regularly stocked in your dairy section before I make that commitment! And then there's the question of toiletries.) Still, I can walk around in a specialty market and come out with a bag full of good food and drink. David's Natural Market has specialty brands such as the Izze flavored beverages and the Desert Pepper Trading Company dips and salsas that I've seen in mainstream chains, but David's has a much bigger selection of flavors in these brands. As a matter of fact, the Desert Pepper has become almost impossible to find in the big chain supermarkets. David's also has great local bakery bread, though I miss buying Bonaparte Bakery bread which Produce Galore distributed. (Whenever I'm at Savage Mill now, I always make a point of visiting Bonaparte and get an extra loaf or two for the freezer.)
I'm also a licorice snob -- after trying real licorice with licorice extract and molasses as the main ingredients, I'm never going back to the artificial stuff. David's had the good Panda brand from Finland yesterday. (I actually once read in a men's fashion magazine that good licorice comes from Scandinavia!) However, I'll have to continue hitting other specialty markets in the county for my favorite strong-flavored Australian brands.
Other observations about the Wilde Lake Village Center: After shopping at David's Natural Market, I walked across the parking lot to visit the liquor store in the courtyard area. Whoa! It's gone! I think that's an exceptionally bad sign when a liquor store closes down. (They always seem to be prosperous places with happy employees.) Please don't forget Tokyo Cafe, the Japanese-Thai restaurant also on the courtyard. I think they suffer from being so out of sight, another reason for a little better signage around here as recently discussed. Tokyo has a charming ambience for dining in, and they've been good for take-out. They also have a sushi bar.