The rolling roads of McLean outside the Beltway near Great Falls hardly qualify as food-desert territory. But that's not what Karen Sherwood thought every time she crawled in rush-hour traffic on the two-lane stretch where she opened Nourish Market on June 4.
"It could take a half-hour to go not very far, and then you'd be too tired to find something healthful for dinner," Sherwood says. The 43-year-old mother of three young boys had been a devoted customer of Kennedy's Natural Foods in Falls Church. She bought that store in March and kept thinking about what her McLean neighborhood needed and could support: an all-organic convenience store with cleaning products, pet food, vitamins, lotions and all sorts of grab-and-go fruit, snacks, drinks, dairy, flours, nuts and frozen meals as well as carryout sandwiches, soups, salads and an array of gluten-free items. Loaves of healthful breads are from the local Lyon Bakery.
When the opportunity to set up shop not far from a 7-Eleven and a sweets shop on Old Dominion Drive came soon after, Sherwood's three years of product testing and research paid off. As a result, Nourish Market carries a deep roster of good-quality organic brands.
Because the store cannot support a full kitchen operation (septic tank issues), chef Elena Hinkle cooks at the shop in Falls Church and oversees the prep and assembly on the premises. Sherwood has tweaked Kennedy's recipes but is savvy enough to leave them mostly unchanged: "I don't want to alienate that loyal customer base," she says.
The finely shredded chicken salad (sandwich, $7.29; $9.99 per pound) is an early favorite at Nourish, flavored simply with celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Sherwood sources Virginia poultry for it as well as for her chicken stock, which she is proud to describe as super-concentrated. Both the chicken ginger quinoa soup and the split pea soup (cup, $2.99; pint, $4.99; quart, $9.99) are clean-tasting and well seasoned. The Power Veggie sandwich ($6.89) is impressively packed, but we could do with fewer alfalfa sprouts; and, note to the chef: The pickles are nice, but wait for good tomatoes. Beets star in their own salad ($7.99 per pound) but were not cooked enough for our taste.
Family salad bowls ($5.50) are designed for easy pickup on the way home from work, with optional add-ons such as red onion, shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts, dried fruit and nuts (75 cents to $1.25 each). Satisfying snacks can be found in the dark, house-made granola ($6.99 per pound), which is rich and fruity with the welcome surprise of hazelnuts; Derby bars, with sprouted flour, oats, walnuts, caramel and dark chocolate chunks ($2); fudgy gluten-free "killer" brownies ($2.50); and large, chewy ginger molasses cookies ($2). For the morning commute, the fresh muffin-scone hybrids called Scuffins might do the trick, baked with organic rolled oats, organic flour, Demerara sugar, raisins, cranberries, walnuts and orange zest ($2.25). They sell out fast.
-- Bonnie S. Benwick (Good to Go, June 2010)