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Side Dish 

The new Whole Foods Market is a treasure trove for foodies

It's got a little bit of everything -- several varieties of salmon sausages, free-range beef, peppercorn-studded sheep cheese, pot-stickers in bulk, a coffee roaster and even some Canned Heat.

We stopped in recently at the newly opened Whole Foods Market (1601 S. Brentwood Blvd., 314-968-7744), the 16th store of its kind in five Midwestern states but the first in the St. Louis area. Whole Foods describes itself as a "natural foods supermarket," although that hardly does it justice. In addition to all the stuff mentioned, there's a significant wine selection, along with a special section for books and makeup and, as expected, an enormous array of natural health products.

And although it's certainly an upscale setting, a spot-check of prices turned up positive data, such as $7.99 a pound for boneless free-range strip steaks and $6.99 for a six-pack of Pilsner Urquell, making Whole Foods competitive with both the chain groceries and the boutique and specialty food stores locally.

But the biggest immediate impact may be another ratcheting up in the quality level of local takeout. There's a big, elaborate salad bar; a hot-item bar with a dozen or more selections; cases of prepared items ranging from several preparations of beef tenderloin to carne asada to tofu-based dishes and dozens of other entrées and sides; and many choices in sandwiches, pizza, sushi and more.

And the Canned Heat? We spent more than an hour in the store, and I don't think a single musical selection (all original artists) was dated later than 1970. The intersection of Highway 40 and Brentwood ain't exactly goin' up the country, but a visit to Whole Foods is certainly goin' to someplace that you never been before.

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