Thursday, June 17, 2010

Keep your hands off the fruit, please

A row of shopping carts.Image via Wikipedia

Costco shoppers are by and large a weird bunch, and watching them during my once- or twice-a-week visits to the Hackensack warehouse store isn't amusing. Why does saving money bring out such bad behavior?

Their frenetic driving in the parking lot may be familiar to you, but they're lazy, too, leaving those big shopping carts up against parked cars rather than walking the carts a few steps to keep them  out of the way.

Now, their behavior inside the store is deteriorating. Never mind that fickle shoppers will abandon their selections almost anywhere except where they found the items, including under the checkout counter, perishable food or not. Just look over the carts employees fill with rejects near the first registers.

I've also started to notice that some shoppers open packages of produce and seem intent on examining every tomato, orange, strawberry and even blueberry. True, I hate to buy produce and discover soft or moldy pieces, but the store's return policy is so generous, you can always get your money back. The other day, my wife ate two imported tangerines she bought at Costco, said they weren't sweet and asked me to return them for a refund, which I did.

To me, opening produce and touching it is taboo. I plan to speak to the store managers next time I'm there.

Good buys at Fairway Market

The sales flier from Fairway Market in Paramus is heralding "club store pricing" on 8,000 grocery items every day. Here are examples: Florida Natural orange juice (64 ounces), two for $5; Kozy Shack rice pudding (six pack or 22-ounce tub), $1.99; and Barilla pasta, 80 cents. Among specialty items, a three-liter tin of Fairway extra-virgin olive oil is $14.99.

Punch up your pasta sauce 

I don't have the time or inclination to make my own pasta sauce, especially when there are such great bottled sauces available at Fairway Market and Costco at low prices. But I do add a few things to my bottled sauce to make it really special: olive oil, dried Italian seasoning, dried garlic and crushed red pepper. 

Still, my sauce isn't complete without adding a can of anchovies, including oil (and capers, if any), and boiling it until the fish and anchovy taste disappear, leaving behind a distinctive, robust flavor. I'm not sure why, but the sauce with anchovies is not salty at all (I don't salt my pasta water, and use as little water as possible).

Last night, I added a can of anchovies to a little more than half of a 32-ounce bottle of Fairway tomato-and-basil pasta sauce ($3.49), and added about half a package of al dente fusiloni (oversize corkscrews from Italy that I buy at ShopRite). Delicious. And  I love to have crusty bread to soak up the sauce left on the plate.

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  1. Might I suggest that you put the anchovies and capers and what ever else you're using in the pan with some olive oil(or the oil from the can) and saute them till the anchovies melt, then add the sauce and just heat it through.

  2. I agree with you about people opening the produce at Costco. I do my best to do a visual inspection before putting anything in my cart but nothing beyond that. Just as you did, if something was not right, I would just return it.

  3. Don't get me wrong, I love Fairway, but Costco shoppers ain't got nothing on Fairway shoppers in the chutzpah department. The other day I saw a middle aged gentleman pluck a chicken wing out of the hot food takeout section, and walk off nibbling on it, he didn't even look both ways to make sure he wasn't being watched. Same thing when they have shrimp dishes in the buffet. And things like cherries and grapes, you'd think they had a "taste me" sign in front of them. Fairway encourages people to taste their olives or at least tolerates it by putting out toothpicks and a sign that says please don't stick your fingers in the olive bins, but the fruit shoppers annoy me, I suppose only because I'd never do that myself. And even though Fairway puts out plenty of toothpicks for the French bread in their olive oil tasting display, people regularly reach in and grab the french bread with their fingers and dip it into the olive oil with their fingers. Yuck. Has that stopped me from giving the olive oils the ol' taste test? No. But some people just have no manners and no shame.

  4. Thanks, but that's unnecessary. It works just as well if you dump everything in the sauce, then cover the pan.

  5. That's interesting about the olives, because when Fairway first opened in Paramus, there were some pretty forceful signs forbidding people from tasting the olives. Anyway, I'm never going to pay $6.99 or $7.99 a pound for olives when I can get them for $2.99 a pound or less in South Paterson.

  6. Comments and answers don't always appear in order, but you should be able to figure them out. The "Thanks, but that's unnecessary" is in response to the suggestion that the anchovies that I put in pasta sauce be sauteed first.

  7. Thanks, Holly, and as you point out, much of the Costco produce is packaged in clear containers, so you can check the bottom for soft items and so forth.

  8. Well I finally lost it at Fairway today. No knock on Fairway, y'all know I love my Fairway. But this guy had a piece of french bread in his hand and was dipping it in the olive oil, and before I could stop myself I said to him, "They have toothpicks for that, you know." At which he promptly held up his other hand which had a toothpick with two more pieces of french bread on it. And to think I pay for my lunch.
    Then yesterday a 10- or 12-year old boy at the hot food counter filled up two full containers with "wing dings" (fried chicken wings). Two full containers! And to think, all I could get was White Castle when I was his age.

  9. Who can blame you? You ought to spend time at Jerry's in Englewood, the most generous store small or large when it comes to free samples, especially those glorious, full-fat cheeses we usually avoid because of the calories. There are salami samples, bread samples, pizza, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, etc. And there are plenty of toothpicks.


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