Austin has four of the country’s top 10 grocery stores, according to Food & Wine

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Austin has long been considered a grocery store paradise.

Central Market has two Austin locations, including this one on South Lamar Boulevard. Contributed by Central Market.

The birthplace of Whole Foods and Wheatsville Food Co-op, Austin is also home to Trader Joe’s, Central Markets, a handful of Randalls and dozens of H-E-Bs. We can’t forget Natural Grocers, Aldi, Sprouts, Fresh Plus, 365 by Whole Foods and, the big guy, Walmart.

Suffice to say: We like to shop for food.

Whole Foods Market has a number of Austin-area locations, as well as a 365 by Whole Foods store in Cedar Park. RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Food & Wine magazine published a ranking of U.S. grocery store chains on its website last week, and a reader emailed me to point out that Austin has a bunch of the stores in the top 10.

Although we don’t have the No. 1 store, Wegman’s, which is a regional chain in New York, Austin is home to Central Market, which took second place.

From the report:

Two years after Whole Foods went public in 1994, lucky Austin, Texas, hit the grocery store jackpot once more. This time, it came courtesy of the state’s best-known supermarket brand, H-E-B. With almost Europe-worthy retail design, an overwhelming amount of fresh produce and exceedingly good prepared foods, there should be Central Markets everywhere — sadly, you’ll have to travel to one of the big cities in Texas and see for yourself.

Central Texans can shop at Aldi in Pflugerville. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

Lidl, which ranked No. 3 on the list, is scheduled to be built in Kyle, but store officials haven’t said when. Trader Joe’s came in at No. 4, and the Florida-based Publix ranked fifth.

Whole Foods came in sixth place behind Trader Joe’s and Lidl, followed by Aldi, which has a store in Pflugerville.

WinCo Foods is a regional grocery chain in the Northwest that feels like a combination of Costco and H-E-B. Customers sack their own groceries, and the bulk and deli sections are enormous. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

WinCo, which is my favorite store to shop at when I visit my sister in Idaho, is No. 8, and Portland’s New Seasons Market came in at No. 9. The Midwestern chain Hy-Vee rounded out the list at No. 10.

I was surprised that Whole Foods was ranked lower than Trader Joe’s, which I think really needs to step up its produce game. Oh, and its bread.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ranking in the comments or on the Relish Austin Facebook page.

 

A dozen recipes that will have you singing in the rain

rainydayrecipes

All this rain got you stuck in the (culinary) mud?

I don’t know about you, but it’s hard to motivate myself to go to the grocery store when it’s raining all the time. I’ve been slacking in the kitchen these past few weeks. Sure, I had a baking project and a really delicious corn chowder, but beyond that, I’m a little embarrassed by how little I’ve been motivated to grocery shop and cook.

Since I’m on the hunt for rainy day recipe inspiration myself, I thought I’d share a dozen comfort food dishes we’ve published in the past few months.

Spring Pea Risotto

Sweet Roasted Red Pepper Chowder

Creamy Cauliflower Baked Potato Soup

Portuguese Chicken and Potatoes with Sausage

Asparagus Soup with Sour Cream

Smoked Fish and Potato Soup with Chorizo

Red Curry Salmon Chowder

Cauliflower and Mushroom Curry

Sloppy Joe Pot Pies

Slow Simmered Chicken Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Short Rib Chili

This chicken soup will cure the rainy day blues

Want to make a better chicken soup? Start with a whole chicken, use plenty of aromatics and only bring the soup to a simmer -- not a boil -- when cooking. Photo by Addie Broyles.
Want to make a better chicken soup? Start with a whole chicken, use plenty of aromatics and only bring the soup to a simmer — not a boil — when cooking. Photo by Addie Broyles.

How do you make chicken soup?

I do have a soft spot for canned chicken noodle soup from Campbell’s, but Jon Shook, a Los Angeles-based chef who will be here for the Austin Food & Wine Festival, recently convinced me that I’ve been making homemade chicken noodle soup wrong my whole life.

Despite reading over and over that you aren’t supposed to boil chickens over high heat to make broth, I’ve always cranked up the heat when I have leftover chicken carcasses. I rarely started with a whole bird and almost never took the time to simmer it slowly.

After chatting with Jon and his chef partner Vinny Dotolo for today’s lead story about why chicken doesn’t have to be boring, I made the most divine chicken soup according to his directions, following the most important rule: Do not boil the bird.

Yes, you need to simmer the chicken in order to draw out all those yummy flavors, but as soon as the bubbles start to come to the surface, reduce the heat so that the liquid doesn’t come to a hard boil. Why? A violent boil causes the skin, fat and collagen to disintegrate into the liquid, which can make a cloudy, greasy stock.

If you cook the bird over low heat, not all of the fat in the chicken skin will render out, so you’ll pull it off the bird after the meat has cooked. Also, keep a strainer nearby so you can skim any foam or scum that gathers at the top.

Jon’s Chicken Soup

1 (3-4 lb.) whole chicken (giblets and innards removed)
2 to 3 large brown or yellow onions, peeled and divided
8 to 10 carrots (roughly equal to quantity of celery), peeled and divided
1 head of celery, divided
1 bay leaf
1 bunch flat loose-leaf parsley
1 bag wide egg noodles
Kosher salt to taste

Place whole chicken in a 12 quart pot. Cover the chicken with an inch of cold water. Chop half of the onions, carrots and celery into 1-inch chunks. Add vegetables to the pot, as well as the bay leaf and about a dozen sprigs of parsley. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce the heat so that the liquid is just simmering. Cook for roughly 1 hour or until chicken is falling off the bone. Strain and toss the cooked vegetables.

Let the chicken cool enough until you can handle it and then pick the meat off the chicken. Put broth back in a clean pot over medium heat. Cut the other half of the onion, carrots and celery into pieces that are about 1/4 inch or smaller. Chop remaining parsley leaves for garnish.

Add the onions, carrots and celery to the broth and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the pulled chicken and simmer for another 20 minutes. In a separate pot, cook noodles following the directions on the bag. When done, run the noodles under cold water but keep the noodles separate from the soup. Once the vegetables are tender, add salt to taste. Serve soup in bowls, adding the noodles to each bowl. Serves 6 to 8.

— From Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo