Is It Possible That Food Could Taste TOO Good? Nah.

With all of the hub-bub surrounding the LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER show, I fell sadly behind on posting about a few other experiences I’ve had over the past couple of weeks. I’m back though, and getting back on the wagon…

I don’t keep it a secret that I love to grocery shop. Not only am I a big fan of eating, but I also enjoy the actual act of grocery shopping, especially when I’ve got the time to do it right and as long as nobody touches my meat, because we all know what happens then. (It’s not pretty).

It really helps when the store is a pleasure to visit.

Standard Market has just opened in Westmont, and I was invited to check it out one evening a couple of weeks ago. The store is designed to give you a similar experience to visiting an open-air market, selling everything from handpicked produce to expertly butchered meats to top-quality fish and seafood. There is a fast-casual restaurant called the Standard Grill right in the middle of everything, serving great food made with seasonal ingredients. A great feature of the store is their “What’s For Dinner Tonight?” section, which has a weekly menu (changed seasonally) of freshly-prepared, ready-to-serve entrees for two people for only $15.99-$16.99.

For me, it was love at first sight and since Westmont is a good half hour from my house, I’m really, really hoping they open another location closer to me. Here’s why I fell hard:

1. It’s pretty. Call me shallow, but I like an attractive grocery store. I’m talking about both cleanliness and good design. Standard Market wins on both.

2. I like wine and cheese. Standard Market’s Wine, Beer, and Cheese Shop has 500 varieties of wine, with 150 of them under $15, 150 varieties of beer, and 150 varieties of cheese, not to mention its own Fromagier. Yes, you read that correctly, FROMAGIER: a cheese expert.

3. I like cupcakes. And fruit tarts. And creme brulee’. And… Standard Market’s from-scratch bakery bakes over 35 varieties of artisan breads daily, not to mention the sweets. YUM.

4. I like taking the easy way out. Standard Market has all kinds of packages full of convenience items, but not the kinds you get at the regular stores that are full of preservatives. All natural, baby!

5. I like to pretend I can do it all. Do I make fresh pasta for my family? No. Can I act like I do? Yes. Standard Market has fresh pasta and fresh sauces in many different varieties. I brought some home and served it up the next evening: it was a big hit!

6. So many choices. I haven’t even told you about the Delicatessen, the Butcher Shop, or the Fish Market. They are phenomenal. You’re just going to have to visit them yourself, if you’re in the area!

As it happens, Standard Market owns Bakersfield, a new Patio-Restaurant-Bar that just opened on May 1 and is right across the street. My sister and I were invited to the soft opening and fell in love there, too!

The decor is simple and clean, with lots of wood accents and pretty lighting. Here’s a corner booth. (Nobody puts baby in the corner, so we sat in a smaller, more traditional booth.)

Bakersfield also has its own wine room.

The specialty is steaks that are butchered in-house and prepared on a wood-fired grill, but they had other great selections on the menu as well. When it was time to order, we wanted to sample a few things so we started with the fresh guacamole. I can’t even speak about it, it was so good.

Prime rib for lunch? Only because I was at the soft opening and was told to order whatever I wanted. And I wanted it. I can still remember how much I enjoyed it. SO GOOD.

We ordered an heirloom tomato salad and it was also delicious. Do you see a trend here?

Finally, even though we had to force ourselves (not), we ordered dessert. Mom would have been so proud. I remembered that my buddy Liz mentioned fried Oreos to me a few weeks ago and when I saw them on Bakersfield’s menu I became giddy. I ordered them and they were–you guessed it–delicious. My life was complete.

In fact, it seems like just about everyone is a fan of fried Oreos: I uploaded a picture of them to my Facebook page and everyone raved about how good they were except for one particularly cantankerous relative of a friend I tagged in the picture, who said “I’m sorry. That’s disgusting.” I replied, “Disgustingly GOOD!”

I would highly recommend Bakersfield. It’s not a place to take the family if your family has kids who are loud and don’t behave well in public, but my friend Tracey was there at the same time with her three children–who were angels–and they did just fine, so it can be done.

Follow Standard Market on Twitter here, and Bakersfield here!

Disclosure: I received a gift bag from Standard Market and a free meal at Bakersfield, neither one of which influenced my opinion that these places should be on your must-visit list. I was not compensated in any other way for this post!

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