Sunday, May 25, 2014

Embarrassing but True Costco Exchange Experience

We ended up exchanging the Mignone dresses because the sparkles came off the first time they were washed. Costco, of course, had no problem taking the dresses back.

However, five year old granddaughter loved the Mignone dresses so much, at her urging, we bought another sparkle dress and are treating it as the finest lingerie - delicate, gentle hand washing only!  

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bluebird on the Mountain, Ravinia, and my new Costco Wagon

A few years ago, maybe ten, Bob and I and a group of friends attended Ravinia in the Chicago suburbs. At Ravinia, an outdoor concert venue, I think we heard the Chicago Symphony, but I know we saw sophisticated city folk with elegant picnics sitting under the stars listening to music.

The music was lovely, but what impressed me most was the elegant picnics, at least one of which included a candelabra, white tablecloth, and candles. 

With the memory of Ravinia, I had a reference to approach Bluebird on the Mountain, a local Nashville tradition. Bluebird on the Mountain combines the Bluebird Cafe and the Dyer Observatory of Vanderbilt University in a series of six open-air songwriter concerts. Picnics are the rule. I've been waiting for this for ten years.

Along with the picnic, I packed a handful of Costco flameless candles and purchased, and this is what was INCREDIBLY SMART, if I do say so myself, a collapsable wagon purchased at Costco for $58.

The candles were a nice touch, but the wagon was perfect for transporting wine, food, blankets, and chairs over the uneven terrain.  I am SURE the sight of us pulling the wagon sold many other wagons.  One man even said , "I've been thinking about getting one of those, and now I'm going to." 

We heard Wendell Mobley, Neil Thrasher, and Andrew Pates, who've written songs for Jason Aldean and
Rascal Flats.

The schedule for the rest of the summer is:

June 21st: Tom Douglas, Steve Seskin, TBA
July 26th: Marshall Altman, Dylan Altman, Amy Grant, 
Gabe Dixon
Aug 16th: Victoria Banks, Dave Berg, Roger Cook
Sept 20th: The Waymores
Oct 4th: Jeff Black, Kim Richey, Jack Tempchin

I'll be bringing my candles and wagon!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sriracha Sauce at Costco

Maybe your Costco has Sriracha Sauce; mine, in Nashville, just got it. 

My first question was, how do you say it? This is a YouTube video about pronunciation, but it won't play on my phone, so if you can't see it, I apologize.

Bob's son and daughter-in-law love Sriracha, I've never purchased it before but have been vaguely aware of the controversy over the Sriracha shortage and the Sriracha smell from the factory.  I figured anything with this much press must be good. (Remember, I'm someone who loves ketchup.)

The Sky Valley Sriracha at Costco is not the "rooster" brand usually referenced. Sky Vally has a Phoenix on the front, not a rooster, and is manufactured in Yanceyville, North Carolina, not California. Sky Valley is an organic foods company, but the Sriracha is not labeled organic. I paid $6.39 for 41 oz. 

To get an idea of the spiciness, when I got home, I tried some on a cracker. It was spicy. Hot, but not uncomfortably so.  I had been wanting to convert left-over bison spaghetti sauce into chili; the Sriracha worked perfectly.

I added 2 teaspoons Sriracha to 1 and 1/2 cups of very meaty sauce, and the sauce was transformed.  Served over brown rice, even with the blandness of the rice, the meat mixture had too much spiciness for us.  We both would have been happier with less heat. I forgot that spices, when warmed up, taste hotter than when served cold. Next time I would try only one teaspoon of the Sriracha.

Luckily, I now have enough Sriracha to make lots and lots and lots of culinary experiments.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Four Roses Ginger Carrots #BourbonBBQ

May is National Barbecue Month. I've posted before about the opportunity I was given by Four Roses Bourbon to participate.  Here is the marinade I developed; always looking for a way to use those Costco carrots!

Four Roses Ginger Carrots #BourbonBBQ

Four Roses Marinade

1 cup Kirkland organic orange juice
1/4 cup Four Roses bourbon
1/4 cup Italian Volcano organic lemon juice (from Costco)
1/2 cup sugar
3 cloves
1/2 tsp chopped fresh ginger

2 cups Costco organic baby carrots

Add marinade items to sauce pan and bring to rolling boil. Add baby carrots and bring back to boil. Reduce heat and simmer carrots 15 minutes, remove to glass bowl with slotted spoon. Carrots will be crisp. Chill for four hours. Serve cold. Keep in fridge for one week, flavor only gets better.   

The spiciness adds a nice contrast to sandwiches; I used them like olives or pickles. 

Reserve the marinade and use to baste when grilling.

Thank you, Four Roses.  This was really fun.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Costco can be better than the Farmers Market

This post makes me sad. I love the idea of locally sourced food. I love the Wendell Berry idea of locally produced food creating healthy societies full of meaningful employment and healthy citizens. True believers imply that corporate food production is more likely to be unfriendly to the consumer, that the small farmer is somehow going to be more ethical and treat the customer better. After all, even though locally produced food may cost more, as neighbors we expect the local farmer to care about us in a way that corporations do not.

Let me digress. The picture is a mystery plant.  What it is not, is watercress, although it was sold to me as watercress at the local farmers market.  I placed pictures of this plant on Twitter and Facebook and Plantifier, an app that crowd sources plant identification, but no one recognized it, although everyone agreed that it's definitely not watercress. I ate a small amount of it, and my stomach did get upset, but I'm notoriously suggestible.  I believe it's a type of field cress, what we used to call cressie in North Carolina, not generally considered edible, but I'm not sure.

The same young man who sold me the faux watercress neglected to make sure I took the oregano plant I bought. I've had cashiers chase me out of Costco, Kroger and Publix to make sure I had all my purchases. I was moseying slowly around the farmer's market, which was small and almost empty, so it would have been very easy to take a few steps and hand me the plant I had forgotten.  He had 4 to sell, so I'm fairly sure he realized I hadn't taken it.

Last year, another farmer short changed me twice in the same way (acting like a $20 was a $10) on two different Saturdays.

Bottom line, farmer's markets are Buyer's Beware and more like shopping on Craigslist than shopping at the local supermarket. No one is checking that what is sold is what is claimed. No one is going to make sure that you have correct change or that you have all of your purchases. No one, but you, will be penalized if you are cheated. 

The idea that a small farmer is more ethical than a large corporation is appealing but just not true.  People are the same everywhere, and corporations have many checks to make sure their employees deliver correct change and have few opportunities for malfeasance.  

I need to be less idealistic and more aware and remember the many types of regulation that are not happening at the local farmers market. In the future, I will be focusing on finding farmers I trust and buying only from them. The phrase "know your local farmer" has a new meaning for me.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Fabulous Kimberly at Addicted to Costco has New Coupons and Locations

The fabulous Kimberly at Addicted to Costco blog had two important new posts.

One is her post on the current coupon book which starts today, May 8, and runs to June 1, 2014.  To me, this is a particularly good coupon book, I need the tissues, contacts, and, of course, the frozen fruit bars. Here's her link directly to the coupons.  Remember you need the book or the app on your smart phone, don't print these off, facsimiles do not work.

Kimberly also has a Costco new locations post.  I'm so impressed by these posts and the amount of work she does to figure out all this information.  If you're wondering about new locations, Kimberly says there is good news! Please check out her blog.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Four Roses Bourbon, WWII, and Food Blog South

I received an out of the blue opportunity.

Because I attended Food Blog South, I was invited to develop a marinade using Four Roses Bourbon to celebrate May, Barbecue Month. They sent me the bourbon, and I set to work. (I'll definitely make it out of Costco ingredients.)

But, first, I have to tell you, Four Roses Bourbon has a deep and abiding history in my family. The picture is my father in Cairo. When my father was in Tobruk, during WWII, he was living in a tent and flying missions out of a dirt runway. He was also the youngest new lieutenant and assigned to develop the Officer's Club.

They let him have a tent and some money and sent him to Cairo for supplies. He was able to turn up some Johnny Walker Black and some Four Roses. He and some friends constructed the bar out of bottles laid on their sides, which looked pretty good, my dad says.  They proceeded to drink and fly.

Years later, my dad met an old friend from those days. He said, "Did you write Catch 22?"  And his friend said, "No, I thought you did."

My Four Roses experience will be in a separate post. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

BooneyHat from Costco

Putting in my Costco geraniums in my new Costco sun hat.
The first few times I saw this hat in Costco, I passed, thinking I had plenty of straw hats if I needed one. Then, having shopped Costco three days in a row last week, and having the hats placed right at the front entrance, I succumbed.

I realized that these are much more practical than my straw hats. Straw hats are very hard to take on trips. Stuffing a straw hat into an overhead bin on a plane can be the end of the hat, I discovered.

The Booneyhats are rated to 100 SPF, lightweight and crushable.  Side-vision can be blocked so you don't realize the person sitting to your left, driving the car, is laughing at you. (I saw you, Jacques.) Costco's $14.99 is reasonable compared to competing products.

An adjustable cord can adjust the size, and a cord goes under the chin to keep the hat from falling off.