At first it didn’t make any sense.

Random Tuesday. 1 o’clock in the afternoon. And the place was hopping.

Like, desperately-scour-the-lot-for-a-parking-space hopping.

Then we got inside and spied the ready-to-eat sushi, trail mix, antipasto, gelato, barbecue and salad bars, the full bakery — no, really, a stuffed full bakery — and the artfully arranged produce section and thought, oh, that’s why.

Welcome to Whole Foods.

It was Bag Lady’s first time. Shopping Siren goes as often as she can, which is not often enough.

We’re not sure we could grocery shop-grocery shop here — think price, distance and the overwhelming desire to toss absolutely everything we encountered into our cart — but we had a blast walking the aisles and admiring the selection of organic foods, mouthwatering treats and specialty merchandise. We imagine it’s a fun place to splurge for a dinner party. Or, with its walk-up, made-to-order food counters and a section of tables out front, a trendy place to meet friends for lunch. Or a great place to blow a paycheck, should one ever need to.

Because, believe us, you could blow a paycheck here.

* Bulk pack chicken breast, $6.09/pound

On the label: Eco-friendly, never frozen and, the most curious selling point, “air chilled.” Must be the penguins waving palm fronds over blocks of ice that account for the price. Penguins don’t wave cheap.

* Mini chocolate cheesecake for one, $1.99

Offered a taste of their full-on bakery with so much drizzle, glitz and variety that it was like an actual stand-alone bakery was really just being held hostage inside a Whole Foods. Um. In a hostage-friendly way.

* Cupcakes, 6-pack, $5.99

The chocolate cake with white icing cupcakes have long been a Shopping Siren favorite, but she’s willing to branch out and try the yellow cake with chocolate frosting or the chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. If only there were more hours in the day (and more pants sizes in the stores). Wait, there are more pants sizes. Great news! Bring on the cakes.

* Large, fresh fruit bowl, $34.99

A giant bowl chock-full of grapes, strawberries, blueberries and pineapple. Sticker on the front touts “Extreme value!” We question whether a $35 fruit bowl constitutes a value, extreme or otherwise, but it did look delicious and contained fruit that we’d actually eat. Hey! Maybe that’s the secret to getting adults to eat more fruit: Put it in an expensive fruit bowl. And maybe add whipped cream. 

* Coconut pieces, $6.99/lb.

We’re not sure what we’d do with pieces of coconut except maybe re-enact some scenes from “Survivor,” but here they are! In Maine! In January! We are easily impressed by food.

* Fresh almond butter and fresh peanut butter, $6.99/lb and $2.69/lb.

How fresh? So fresh it has to be refrigerated. For some, that’s a plus. For others, a reason to run for the Skippy or Jiff.

* Chico Bag, $15.99

A three-pack of these produce bags stuff into an apple-shaped, apple-sized fourth bag for the most adorable produce-related find ever. The bags are all made from plastic bottles, so an eco-friendly baby seal spontaneously appears with every purchase.

* Blackbird Studios handmade felted soap, 5 oz., $10.99

Scented soap the size of a modest stone, entirely wrapped in a felt sheath, handcrafted in Gray. Use like a hippie loofah. (Huh. First time we’ve ever written that directive.)

* Spicy stir-fry mix, $2.99/lb.

Chopped mushrooms, onions and peppers sprinkled with paprika, so all you have to do is heat, toss, eat. We can do that. 

* Wellshire chicken-apple sausage patties, 5-pack, $4.99

Chicken and apple sausage. We don’t make this stuff up.

* Rosemary mint lamb rib chops, $14.99/pound

So “Top Chef” we could almost hear Padma telling us to pack our knives and go.

* Soup and chowder station, $4.99/12 oz.

Choices on this day included clam chowder and smoked salmon chowder, both of which smelled wonderful. Add a little pack of oyster crackers for 15 cents and you’ve got yourself a meal. 

* Life Factory Glass, 16 oz., $19.99

A glass travel bottle with silicone sleeve that had us fawning — so cute! so heavy! We’re hoping the silicone sleeve means it bounces rather than shatters when dropped. We weren’t brave enough to try in the store. 

* Banana Mish Mash organic fruit snack for tots, 3.17 oz., $1.49

Mmm. Banana mash.

* Simply Divine Brownie, 1.34/pound, $10.99

Pick from caramel pecan, chocolate frosted or peanut butter. We know. It’s like choosing your favorite child.

* Little Lad’s herbal popcorn, 13 oz., $5.99

Remember Little Lad’s used to be right in downtown Lewiston? Still jonesing for its popcorn? This is for you, our friend.

Best find: Football cake, 1.88 pounds, $4.99

No football-related party would be complete without this adorable, football-shaped, half-a-football-sized cake dressed in chocolate icing and white icing laces, set atop green frosting grass. This alone may be worth the drive to Portland.

Think twice: Mestemacher Fitness Bread, 17.6 oz., $4.09

Dense as a brick and just as appetizing. However, it does have at least one benefit: A long shelf life. Good until 11/11/2011, that leaves approximately 10 months to not eat this.

* Prices as of 1/11

Bag Lady and Shopping Siren’s true identities are protected by a pair of stylish, sweater-wearing Doberman pinschers (who like their cakes shaped like bones, thank you very much) and the Customer Service counter at the Sun Journal. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected]

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