As a non-driver city dweller who loves to cook, I have to admit I was a big fan of Webvan. They never let me try to buy anything they didn't have in stock. The fruit and vegetables they brought me were as gorgeous as if I'd picked them up from the farmers market. Their selection was on a par with Andronico's or even Whole Foods. And their substitutions didn't suck. I truly wish they had started out charging us all delivery fees so that there would be a chance they'd still be around today.
In their absence, I've made due, OK, tried to make due, with online delivery services from Safeway and Albertsons. The former failed to deliver a good third of my order and made random substitutions (such as a beef with barley soup in place of a chicken noodle). Albertson's, on the other hand, did a little better. But each order has had omissions (including items, such as cat litter, that I've never seen their store actually be out of) and damaged or spoiled goods. Didn't anyone notice the mold growing on the red onion? Or that flour was leaking out from the bag? To their credit, they have always refunded me for these ruined items, but trying to get them replaced in a timely manner was incredibly frustrating and only partially successful.
Yesterday, while at home sick, and without any food in the house, I surveyed my options. The only delivery service I knew of that would do same day delivery is one I'd never used, in large part because they deliver during the day when I'm at work: Shop Hoppers.
Delivering exclusively from Whole Foods, and charging a sliding rate based upon the total dollar value of your order, it's not a bargain grocery solution. Given that the rainy conditions yesterday would have resulted in my spending $10 each way in cab fare to do the shopping myself, as well as the aggravation of waiting in line to pay, it seemed worth it to pay the $19.95 fee that resulted from my order.
Unlike the other online grocers, Shop Hoppers doesn't have an online store from which you pick out items. Instead, you send them your grocery list and they pick from the shelves, calling you if they have any questions or if a substitution is in order. Luckily for me, I've shopped at Whole Foods many times, and can recall my favorite brands and size options. Thus, I compiled a list with equal parts brand and size-specific requests and more generic requests to see what they came back with.
I received a call from my shopper when the coffee brand I'd specified did not have the requested Mexican Altura beans. She provided me with a list of other options, and was still nice after I ended up having her skip the coffee.
Serendipitously, I received a great new wine find as a result of this experiment. I'd requested a specific brand of CA zinfandel in a specific price range, and OK'd substituting an under $11 bottle of any El Dorado County zinfandel in its place. The wine I received --Stroth-Hall Cellars 2000 Zinfandel -- was one I had never before tasted despite my annual ZAP! wine tastings. Despite its $9.99 price tag, this unfined, unfiltered wine had the big, bold fruit flavors I love but usually only find in zins in the $30 and up range.
Next time I'm at home sick, and the weather outside is frightful, you can bet I'll be giving these folks another call.
The Grocery List
1 lg. 1/2 & 1/2 (prefer Berkeley Farms)
1 large tangerine juice
1 quart Strauss whole milk
1 6-pack Anchor Christmas ale
16 oz Knudsen Hampshire sour cream (or other full fat sour cream)
2 bottles of Rosenblum Vinters Cuvee zinfandel (it's $11 or less) or any El Dorado County zin they have in that price range
1 sweet la brea baguette
1/4 lb duck rillette
1/4 lb goat gouda
1/2 lb. turkey sliced for sandwiches from the deli
1/3 lb thin sliced prosciutto
1/3 lb. Pt. Reyes blue cheese or 1 container crumbled blue cheese
1 loaf multigrain bread (from the folks who make Great White)
3 cans san marzano tomatoes
1 lb ground beef (85% fat or so)
1 lb bacon (applewood smoked preferred)
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 small jar grainy yellow/brown mustard
5 lb bag of sugar
1 bag pirates booty
3 boxes Annies Organic shells made with Wisconsin cheddar cheese
4 fuji apples
1 butter lettuce
1 red onion
1 bunch green onions
1 head garlic
4 large baking potatoes
1 basket of sliced brown mushrooms or of sliced porcini's if they have those
1 bag Allegro Mexican Altura coffee beans
6 bottles Santa Lucia water (sparkling preferred)
6 Vitamin waters (purple "revive" flavor)