Northeast Florida is Ripe with Fabulous Foodstuffs


How many of y’all have noticed the growing number of grocery stores in the 904? If you haven’t noticed, then you are obviously a hopeless, wretched shoemaker and you should quit reading immediately. But if you are anything like me, you are fascinated by the growing diversity of our grocery shopping options. Grocery stores are one of my favorite topics.

It wasn’t too many years ago when the grocery store industry was dominated by a small number of enormous regional and national chains; in the last few years, things have changed. One company on the forefront of these changes on the East Coast was Whole Foods. This insightful organization became innovators in the grocery business by combining heathy, organic foods with upscale, high-end gourmet foods. You could say that Whole Foods created a whole new grocery segment by making natural, organic, high-quality produce and meats tres chic. Whole Foods proved that high-priced foods, if presented in a contemporary and attractive manner, were just what the Baby Boomer and Gen Xer gangs were looking for. Thereafter, it began offering premade restaurant quality meals by transforming the old salad bar concept into multiple hot and cold food bars. To up the ante even more, it began offering international flavors, for a little exotic flair.

As the insatiable consumer appetite for organic produce, free-range poultry, grass-fed beef, and non-GMO products grew, some new players entered the grocery game.

In Jax, we are lucky enough to have several of these new-style grocery stores. Naturally, I have a few favorites. Gotta begin with good ol’ Publix—it definitely sets the standard for all-purpose grocery shopping. If you’re looking for an old-style health food store, the kind with an interesting mix of throwback hippies, hipsters, and housewives as customers, try Grassroots Natural Market in Riverside. It offers really interesting produce as well as a cool beer selection. Next—for all you chicken lovers—check out Freshfields Farm; the poultry and pork sections are not only gorgeous, but the prices rock, especially the weekly specials. BTW, the produce is top notch, too.

And I’m just getting warmed up. I’m going to continue my list in next week’s column ’cause I really, really love grocery stores. In the meantime, give one of my Cheffed Up rice recipes a try: Green Rice. It’ll go great with that chicken you just bought!

CHEF BILL’S Green Rice

  • 2 poblano peppers, roasted, stems and seeds removed
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, roasted, stems and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup yellow onion, brunoise
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1-3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1-1/4 cup basmati rice
  • Salt to taste


  1. Simmer the chilis with the chicken broth for about 10 minutes or until softened. 
  2. Pour into a blender; add 1/4 cup of the cilantro and blend until smooth. Season with salt.
  3. Sweat the onions until opaque, stir in the rice and lightly toast.
  4. Stir in the broth mixture, garlic and butter. Adjust the salt, bring to a boil, cover, reduce to low heat and steam for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Rest for five minutes, fluff.

Until we cook again,

Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of the Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!

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