Price Chopper Market Bistro

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I was invited to check out Price Chopper’s newest endeavor – the Market Bistro in the Latham Price Chopper. It’s been close to a decade since I’ve set foot into a Price Chopper, but I suppose a combination of age, time, and curiosity got the best of me, so I went.

So the Market Bistro is interesting. Fast casual dining/take out in a grocery store, kind of like a mall food court, but with somewhat better food and a centralized check out, so you can grab food from a few different kiosks and pay in one central location.

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The checkout register is located in the center of the Market Bistro underneath this tree sculpture, which I found to be rather aesthetically appealing.

Right, so here are some quick thoughts and impressions from the stalls we sampled. Other awesome local bloggers have posted their own opinions, check it out to make your own:

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This was from the Giving-Chiptole-and-Moe’s-a-Run-For-Their-Money stall. Buffalo chicken quesadilla. On the oily/greasy side for me, and the chicken flavor was pretty mild. I’ll probably stick with Chipotle for my tex-mex needs.

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Chicken stall has smoked meats and fried chicken. We didn’t try any of the fried chicken, but we did try some smoked meat.

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Ribs and brisket. Brisket is smoked ~12 hours, ribs smoked ~3-4 hours. Good amount of smoke on it. They said they brought in Tennessee hickory for a more authentic smoked flavor. Brisket was fine. The rib was pretty damn good, I’ve gotta give them that. Flavorful rub, good texture, nice penetration of smoke.

A full rack of ribs will set you back $18.99, so a little less than you’d pay in a restaurant, and I can’t really think of any place in Latham where you can walk in and out with a hot rack of ribs within 5 minutes. So that is pretty cool. It would be even better if this was with locally raised meat, but I realize that would likely not be logistically possible.

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Burgers & dogs. Burgers are cooked to 165 F. The Golubs were very proud of their buns, and it’s pretty awesome to see the head of a corporation beaming while talking about a product. They were proud of engineering a bun that they felt enhanced the flavor of the burgers they were serving. I tried some of the buns, and my first thought was “I wonder what kind of dough conditioners they use?”. It was very pleasantly soft, and had a bit of a Wonder-Bread aftertaste. Not really my jam, but I assume this is fairly popular with kids.

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Fish Fry counter, which they designed to evoke that “seaside” feeling. Pick your seaside – Jersey Shore, Cape Cod, Maine. Beachy seafood was the vibe they were going for.

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We tried their lobster roll, which uses the claws and tail of 2-1lb hard shell lobsters. They plan on using hard shell lobsers when they have them in store, but otherwise bringing the parts in. These are very generously sized. This is half of a sample sized roll. The mayo was on the (blessedly) light side, and overall I found this to be pretty enjoyable.

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The sushi stall is an independent operator in the Market Bistro, meaning it is not run or by Price Chopper employees and the fish is all brought in by the operating company. You can skip this stall, and I kind of wish Price Chopper had because it seems like it brings down their Market Bistro brand. But we are American consumers and evidently we demand sushi in all grocery stores.

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It’s not that it’s especially bad, but it’s also not especially good. It’s generic supermarket sushi with overly vinegared, chilled rice and bland fish. The flavor really paled in comparison to Price Chopper’s lobster roll.

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Then it was back to the cheese counter! Hello cheese. Tasty stuff. There’s also a beer counter. All of the staff we encountered really seemed to be enjoying their jobs.

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Fresh pasta available by the pound. This is an especially neat concept. I wouldn’t mind giving this a whirl in the future.

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Ben & Bill’s is now also in Latham. I know many folks who really like this deli, and many of the other attendees were also excited at this counter.

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Sandwiches.

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Pizza counter. They have their usual Price Chopper hot pizza, but also have a thinner NY-style crust.

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These were a lighter alternative to the original Price Chopper pies. Very crackery-thin crust.

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We finished off at Scoops & Smiles, the ice cream shop.

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Hot Fudge Sundaes and the “World’s Best” Strawberry milkshake, which uses fresh strawberries.

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As we left, I couldn’t help but grab another snap of the tree sculpture at the center of the bistro. There is something fairly calming about it, lending to a relaxed feeling. It felt both cozy and open at the same time. Despite the large space and seating it wasn’t cacophonous or hectic. They definitely managed to design this to feel relaxing and welcoming, which is a pretty impressive engineering feat given all of the metal materials in the area.

“Magnificent” was a word that was used a lot on the tour, and that is what Price Chopper is striving to have their customers thinking when they leave the Market Bistro. Props for aiming high, guys. They said they welcomed customer feedback and one of the things they felt that distinguished the Market Bistro was their dedicated detail to small aspects of production, like cold plates for salads (kept chilled), and finely shredded lettuce they shredded in-store because they thought the textural difference made a better product.

I haven’t been a Chopper Shopper for almost a decade now, but this tour may have just turned me back in to one. The Latham store will be a “trial” store where they test out new ideas before implementing them (or not) in other Price Chopper stores. I wasn’t able to check out the rest of the store before I had to leave, but I will likely return for a bit of local grocery store tourism.

Giovanni Rana Pastas & Sauces – Review & Giveaway


Giovanni Rana pasta and sauces

Giovanni Rana sent me some pastas and sauces to try that they are selling in local supermarkets. You can find them at ShopRite in the Albany/Capitol Region area. I’ve tucked into a few of these products, and so far, I’m digging them. Giovanni Rana is also going to give one reader 4 pastas and one sauce to try! See the many ways I’ve eaten their products below, or skip to the end to see how to enter.DSCF5243 The artichoke ravioli go for $4.99 for 12 oz, which is a pretty fair deal for them. The ravioli skins were pliable, and fairly thin, although they still had a decent tooth to the texture. If you roll your own pasta, imagine this on the 2nd or 3rd from thinnest setting. There was also a noticeable semolina flavor from the pasta, too.

Albany John had made some of his own marinara sauce, so that’s the sauce you see above. The artichoke flavors came out quite well – the filling itself didn’t disintegrate into the sauce when I cut into them with a fork, but it wasn’t super firm or dry, either. They also were easy to boil and none of them broke while cooking.

Giovanni Rana ravioli The next ravioli I tried were the Cheese Forte, which was a sharp cheese blend of cheeses (including parm reg). It went well with Albany John’s smoked salmon cream sauce (cream sauce cheat: he dissolves a bit of cream cheese with chicken broth so it’s a little tangy, but not too rich as a sauce base).

The cheese was pretty pronounced and sharp, held up well to the strong flavors of Albany John’s sauce. I’m really digging the ravioli as an alternative to homemade ravioli. I like this Giovanni Rana ravioli over other refrigerated pastas like Buitoni (which is  thicker/tougher-skinned and the fillings are dryer in comparison). It’s not the same as my homemade ravioli, but I’d probably pick up a baggie if it were late and I was in OMG-need-ravioli-now mode, because it’s pretty close.

Giovanni Rana fettuciniThe pesto sauce has been my favorite so far! What is not to love about pesto in the winter? It’s rich, but also bright! Albany John mixed some sweet onions and garlic with the pesto and tossed it with their Fettuccine, which, okay, I was really jealous about because this is the thickness and width that I want my homemade pasta to be, but for some reason I just can’t get it like this.

The pesto sauce is going to be the sauce one lucky reader gets to try! (And you have to tell me what you thought 😉 ) For some reason I kept thinking that this would make an awesome/impressive kind of Valentine’s day dinner if you didn’t want to go out to eat, weren’t the most confident in your kitchen skills, but wanted something satisfying for you and your dinner date. Wow, that is kind of oddly specific. Or maybe pesto just makes me all sorts of mushy and romantic.

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Okay, so you know what the marinara sauce is good for? Can you guess? It’s another one of my loves.

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Yes, pizza! Haha! Shape this baby into a heart and now you’ve got my Valentine’s day attention. I made Kenji’s Foolproof Pan Pizza dough from the Pizza Lab at Serious Eats, and I totally forgot to make a pizza sauce! Ahhh! And Albany John is not as much a fan of white pizzas as I am. I was scouring my pantries and fridge to see what I could come up with in a pinch, and… sweet! I was gonna repurpose this marinara sauce! It’s got sun-dried tomatoes in the sauce, so there’s a little sweetness in there, and since it’s in a plastic container there’s no tinniness to it. It’s a bit on the thick side, so if I were going to use it with pasta, I’d probably reserve some of the cooking water to thin it out a bit.

The dough above is in a 10″ cast iron pan, and I used about 2 tablespoons of marinara sauce.

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It was a kalamata olive pizza kind of night in our house. DSCF5300

Baked! The sauce was a nice supporting character in the pizza play that went into my mouth. Overall, I think I’m not so much a pan-pizza kind of gal, preferring thin crusts over thick and poofy ones, although this one was not the least bit dense, even though I subbed in about a half cup of whole wheat flour. DSCF5308
Interior shot of the pizza – the hole structure in the dough made for a soft and pliable crust. The bottom of the crust crisped up nicely. Cooked in a cast iron, this was like a grown up Pizza Hut pie. I think it would be even better rolled out thinly and tossed on a stone, though, if you’re more into thin crusts like I am.

So, would you like to try some of Giovanni Rana’s pastas and a pesto sauce? If so, why don’t you leave a comment and tell me what your plans are for Valentine’s day.
I’ll start: Going to an anti-Valentine’s day celebration of some sort: show your love every day, not just one day a year!

(US entries only, comments close Wednesday, February 6th)

Albany ShopRite Preview Party

The opening day for Albany’s ShopRite store was this morning. I went earlier in the week to get a peek at what the Albany store’s setup looks like, and left with the impression that it’s a pretty big deal to Albany to have ShopRite here. 

 They had associates passing out samples of food (some good, some not so good), but still. Wow. This was an event.

 Daniel B. came with, and we made a beeline to the Cheese Shop. He was even impressed with their selection (or at least disliked it less than the CoOp’s). 

 Their store made mozzarella was creamy, although I think Roma’s in Latham may just be a bit more tender.


 The ShopRite staff for Albany were all fairly upbeat, but like other ShopRite stores, some are still a bit green when it comes to understanding their products. 

 Beverages!

 They had a curry chicken salad that is unique to the Albany store at their deli area to sample.

 I’m not a chicken salad fan, but the Profussor was all about me getting a shot. 

 Sushi! This was about as good as grocery store sushi ever is. 

 Here’s the Asian hot bar section. They even had fat ribs on there!

 The fried food section. Avoid chicken cordon bleu. It was not so great. 

 But fried shrimp is always good. I’ll be interested to see if their oil stays clean with more turnover.

 Store roasted eye of round. Cooked med-rare and pinky and served with some kind of creamy sauce. 

 The guy slicing it up did an excellent job of thin slices. 

 Healthy schtuff to try. I thought their fruit platters/bowls were a good buy – the entire platter is packed with fruit. So it’s about $20, but it’s a solid several pounds of fruit in there. Daniel B. suggested I get one every now and then to appease Albany John’s head shaking around my poor knife skills.

 They have UNFLAVORED Wensleydale cheese! I’ve been dreaming of this for ages, and other places have said it isn’t made in the US without fruit. I so can’t wait to go back and buy this. 

 Gruyere with those crystalline bits in it! 

 DESSERTS

 Coccadotts is featured as a local bakery within the bakery. After talking with a ShopRite representative, she said that part of the reason they were so excited to work with Coccadotts was because their products would be exclusively available at the Albany ShopRite outside of the Coccadots bakery. 

Internet dramz that may exist aside, Coccadotts can bake one damn fluffy cupcake. The peanut butter cup one was fan-freaking-tastic, and so was the red velvet cupcake. Daniel B refused me a bite of his champagne cupcake (just a nibble!), but said it was also great.

 THEY HAVE ONE OF THESE MAGIC POP MACHINES! They are awesome – 15 calories for a disc as big as your face, and full of brown rice goodness. They’re great as crackers. 

 Aww, happy cake!

Villa Italia is also present in the bakery section. 

 The napoleon was really good. That custard inside was so creamy and smooth.

 Sarada Bernstein, ShopRite’s dietitian for the area also included tahini in a glass jar, specifically for Mr. Fussy. Sarada reached out to me earlier in the year to discuss the nutrition program at ShopRite in Schenectady, and their in-store dietitian (more on that in the near future). 
I brought Daniel B along for the ride when we first met, and (big surprise) he found a nit to pick on, specifically how squicked out he gets about tahini in plastic containers (like the brand on the right). Sarada vowed to find him something in a glass jar, and true to her word, we found it while wandering the aisles in Albany.

ShopRite will pretty much go out of their way to get anything you can think of. It’s pretty sweet. 

 Also sweet was the theater team from SUNY that they had. The kids performed some cute jingles and live ads for ShopRite. All in all, it was a nice way to involve the community. 

Even Jerry was there!

I’m really excited to have ShopRite in the area. It’s a store I grew up with as a kid downstate, and it will add to our often stale grocery store competition up here. Overall, I got a really big sense of community involvement from all of the staff present, and a desire to really make an impact in the community, especially from the nutrition standpoint. 

Groceries Delivered from ShopRite

I have been happy with a ShopRite in the area. I like their general range of goods carried and prices for said goods. I noticed they have a home delivery program, and since ShopRite is still new to the Capitol Region area, they are offering home delivery for free with a purchase over $50. Normally the delivery fee is a flax $6.95, which I find rather reasonable.


I was tickled with curiosity and a lack of motivation to drive out to their Niskayuna store. How well does the home delivery program at ShopRite work? Pretty well, actually. Not perfect, but quite well overall.

I put approximately $55 of stuff in my cart. Check out with PayPal. They want to authorize an additional $10, just in case. You can opt to let them sub things in your order without calling you, but I had them call me in case anything was out. Turns out some stuff was out; some items I was okay with substituting, and other things I just left out.

What did I buy? Some household items, which arrived just fine. The produce delivered quite well – I ordered some grapes which came unbruised; some squash which were all uniformly sized and unblemished; and two bunches of asparagus.
Oh, and about 2.25 lbs of cilantro. That is a LOT of cilantro. Online I ordered by the ounce. On their side it must have come up as by the bunch. I ordered 6 oz, they subbed 6-0.37 lb bunches of cilantro. I am guessing the delivery fee is being waived as a way to test out our area and any glitches in the system like this one. I don’t think they charged me for this, and I’m guessing it’s because of the pricing/ordering issue.

You can order off of the flyer from the Specials tab, or put in what you want to order and then select it that way. Pretty neat way to order.

Why I Don’t Shop at Price Chopper

It all started with one little tweet.

Price Chopper sent me a tweet inviting me to a baking class.

Daniel B got the pot a stirring with his tweety thread which was filled with some entertaining theories as to why I don’t shop at one of our local grocery chains.

My reply and their following response was here. Basically, a thanks but no thanks since I don’t shop at Price Chopper stores (I don’t know what it is, but I hate not responding to direct invitations). Their response was along the lines of “Bummer, sorry about that! How can we do better?”

I feel like I owe you all more of an explanation on why I don’t shop at Price Chopper, since there was so much interest in the subject. It’s actually pretty simple.

I don’t shop at Price Chopper any more because of multiple poor experiences in-store, followed up by rude customer service responses. I know that sometimes retail folk can have their off days, and that’s when having a solid customer service team can really help repair a situation.
Unfortunately, every time I’d called/emailed/passenger pigeoned Price Chopper, the response from their customer service reps were always the same. Essentially a “Well, you did XYZ. It’s your fault it happened and we fully support the decisions/actions made by the store members.” kind of response. Somehow, it seems that taking customer complaints personally isn’t something new with Price Chopper.

I’d probably still be a Chopper Shopper if their initial customer service responses had been something along the lines of “We’re sorry about XYZ, please know that we value your business and will try to make your next experience better.” Maybe even a coupon if you really wanted to get crazy with things.
Cheap, cheap words to make a customer feel valued. Who cares if you don’t actually care with what the customer said? As long as you see in their records that they don’t call up eight times a week screaming that they were possessed by a succubus you put in your products, maybe your first steps should be a little bit of chillin on the hubris and trying to ameliorate any problems.

The first tweet response from Price Chopper I thought was quite nice. It was a tone I’d been hoping for as a response from previous calls to customer service.

Then I noticed another tweet that said they’d have someone else contact me to follow up. Did I want a follow up from customer service I’d previously been unhappy with? No, but I figured I could just ignore the email any way. I mean, I ignore all of the promos I get from Albany PR for Price Chopper.

It turns out, I almost tossed it in my junk mail, but I opened an email from incredibly generically-named sender Consumer Response, and titled CASE ID:263767. I was expecting the usual flattering prose from a lady or gent in Africa in need of transferring millions of dollars to the US with a princely reward, all for the simple request of my bank account number. Or maybe I’d won the Irish Lottery I never knew I entered. These folks are getting creative, I thought.

Instead I was surprised (and yet somehow, not surprised at all) to see a generically worded and addressed:

Dear Price Chopper Customer,

We are sorry that you have experienced a problem with customer service at Price Chopper. As we do not have record of you contacting us previously, please provide us with details regarding your concern, your name, and contact information, and we will certainly look into it.

You can reach our customer service team at 1-800-666-7667 (option 3), 8:30 am to 7:00 pm Monday through Friday, and 10:00 am to 4:00 pm Saturday and Sunday, or on our website at

Wow. Really personal, hunh? Especially since I’m not a Price Chopper shopper. To be honest, this made me less likely to want to shop at Price Chopper again. Not only did they send me an email I never wanted in the first place, but it was an email with a chore. It was also a different tone than their lighter tweeting, way more Corporate Machine.

So here’s the thing – I appreciate that there is some kind of effort being made, but I’d have much preferred interacting with better-trained customer service reps right from the get-go.

Swai

Oh, what’s a single girl to do? Normally I tend to subsist on a less-than-healthy diet of refined carbohydrates, butter, and salt. I found myself cooking dinner for one one night, and picked up a Swai fillet from Hannaford for $1.65. What a steal, at $4.99/lb. I had been pining over the basa at The Original Two Cousins in Latham, but didn’t feel like going that way past the Latham circle. Turns out, Swai is pretty damn close to Basa, and is also a fairly sustainable fish.

Also got some green stuff in there. Halved brussels sprouts. This turned out to be a lot of brussels sprouts, but I don’t think eating too many veggies is that bad. Just put a pan on medium with some oil or butter and sear them until they’re blackened and crispy.

Pinky-white fresh fillet of Swai. Hello, baby! I could have easily eaten two of these fillets. But one was sufficent enough to quell my seafood hunger. Swai is a fairly meaty white fish. None of this delicate and fluffy tilapia or whiting business.

Rubbed the fillet with some paprika, salt, tarragon, and maybe just a touch of garlic or onion powder. Seared a bit, and then tossed in a bit of white wine and kalamata olives after flipping the fillet. Maybe a weird combination, but the final product was tasty to me. Although I suspect Albany John’s kitchen chicanery would have produced tastier results.

Yeah, that was a lot of brussels sprouts. They were so tasty. And man, that Swai’s got me wrapped around its little fishy fingers. It keeps a nice flavor of the sea while also cooking up moist. Maybe next time I’ll get two fillets.

Total cost estimate was about $3. Maybe a little less. Not too shabby for a seafood-based meal.

If this was too healthy for you, you could always add more butter to your seafood, or follow dinner with a fine Boone’s Farm beverage of your choice.

What is Organic?

I have a question for you guys. What makes meat organic?

After calling up the butcher at The Fresh Market yesterday, I’m left scratching my head a bit. I wanted to verify that they were selling turkeys for $1.99 per lb this Thanksgiving (they are, and no pre-order is needed). The butcher I spoke with told me they were organic, all-natural turkeys. Wow, what a low price. I asked where they came from, he said they were from somewhere in Pennsylvania. When pressed further for a farm, he said they were, yes, from a farm somewhere in Pennsylvania… No name of the farm, and only that the turkeys were a Fresh Market house brand. I would have really liked to know where they came from.

Since I had him on the phone, I figured I would ask about pork. I love pork, but I try to avoid Smithfield pork because of their production policies when I buy pork. I asked if all of their pork was organic, too. He told me that no, but it was all-natural. Now, I think this all-natural business has gotten a bit out of hand with labeling, and leaves room for vagueries. Per the USDA, the term “Natural” only means that there are no added colors or artificial ingredients, and that the item is minimally processed. That’s kind of how I want all of my food to be. The butcher then told me that no meat was organic, because all animals have to get vaccinations when they are born to protect the herd from infection/disease.

I am thinking that maybe he meant that none of the meats they sell at The Fresh Market, or at least the pork, are organic because per the USDA’s Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (as ammended through Public Law 109-97, Nov 10, 2005) Organic producers are prohibited from:

“administer medication, other than vaccinations, in the absence of illness.”

(You’ll want to scroll down to the end of page 9/ SEC. 2110. [1 U.S.C. 6509] Animal Production Practices and Materials) Hunh, right? So I’m not sure what that particular butcher was taught, but it would seem to be the opposite of what the USDA standards for organic meats are, namely that initial vaccinations still render an animal organic, but subsequent medications would not.

And yet their meat was not organic. Hm. I asked if their pork was Smithfield, and The Fresh Market’s butcher confirmed that it was. For what it’s worth, Russia has recently banned the import of Smithfield pork products, citing excessive amounts of tetracycline. Tetracycline is a broad-spectrum antibiotic. I don’t want that in the food I cook at home.

So what do you consider organic?

I am by no means saying we all need to strictly adhere to the stringent guidlines the USDA has set for organic meat (their guidlines for other food/health matters have been questioned in the past and are questioned today), but I think my experience has reinforced the idea of knowing where your food, especially your meat, comes from. If you’re picky about that kind of stuff. I am, but I know my mom will flip her shit when pork chops go on sale for $0.99/lb at a grocery store, prominently labeled with the Smithfield sticker.

To me, my ideal meats don’t necessarily have a 100% organic vegetarian diet. I mean, if a cow wants a piece of bacon every now and then, I’m not gonna say no. But I don’t want my animals to cannibals, either – no chateaubriand for the cow herd, okay? But basically, I want animals that haven’t been crammed up shoulder-to-shoulder with each other all day, and have eaten some pretty decent food. I’m all for giving an animal antibiotics when they’re sick, but not as a preventative because the conditions they live in are so poor. I’m interested in hearing what the qualifications for your ideal meats are.

This is a topic that has no easy or right answer. Some people will argue that if meat is cheap enough for them to buy it, then they should buy it. But others may want only organic meats fed an organic diet. Some people may just not care (believe it or not, food sourcing is not on everyone’s top priority when they have other things to worry about). None of these are inherently bad – they are all personal opinions. All I know is that The Fresh Market is one place I will not be buying pork from, and I am glad I did not buy pork from them prior to this call, too. They aren’t the only place I don’t buy pork from – I don’t buy pork from the Niskayuna Co-Op, or Hannaford, either.

Weekend Scrambling and Amblings

On Sunday morning, I decided I needed to go to Schenectady. I could have sworn I’d seen an African bakery, and for some reason, African baked goods on a Sunday morning sounded perfect. It turns out I was wrong, I’d mistakenly seen a West Indian bakery from afar at night and for some reason thought it was an African bakery, but that was moot because the place was out of business.

So I went to the Schenectady farmers market/Greenmarket in downtown Schenectady instead. It was around noon when I got there, and the line for Thunder Mountain Curry was running strong.

I didn’t get anything, but saw something going on at the public library, so the mister and I walked over. And saw this guy selling garlic from his truck parked just outside of the farmers market. Were they out of tables? But more importantly, were there puppies and candy in his truck bed?

It turns out there was a garage sale going on at the Schenectady Public Library, and Albany John was off. The man loves his tag sales. He took off at a good clip, and I wandered around looking at some junk.

On our way out, I MADE him pull over for this store. All it said was Cheese Bakery & Grocery (1007 State St, Schenectady, NY).

There were about 3 businesses under one roof – the first one was a take out restaurant. Then further back was a jewelry repair shop, and way in the back was an Indian/Asian grocery store. The grocery store wasn’t the freshest, and had very minimal selection, but then again I don’t suppose Schenectady has very many large Asian markets like Albany does.

So I had to order something from the food place. I don’t even know what this was, but it was a gigantic puff of fried dough. YES. And they tossed in 2 sauces. The brown stuff on the left is a sweet sauce, and the stuff on the right is a red-hot hot sauce.

There was a hardboiled egg in the center of the puff ball, surrounded by mashed potatoes and some chili flakes. I don’t like hardboiled eggs, but I liked the mashed potato exterior.


We got two of these bacalao flat bread things. They were also fried on the outside. There were some other things in the counter that were fried, but these two looked the best to me.


The inside was STUFFED with bacalao! So good! It had the chewy texture of a scallion pancake, and was shaped like a pupusa. I was really glad we got two of these. Really good stuff.

$6 for all three items, and such a great deal.

After that, we went to The Fresh Market in Latham, NY. Albany John was reading the sign for hatch chiles and started shaking his head going “Ugh, no.” Do they not have proof readers? I wouldn’t think they were the kind of store that made simple errors like that. Especially on such nice print-ups.

I picked up some Plugra (sale – 2 for $5), and Albany John got a Make-Your-Own-6-Pack ($8.99). If you put the Bug Light Lime in your 6 pack, you’re an idiot, but in what will probably ruin it for the future, they do have a Dead Guy Ale in there, and they sell for $12.99/6-pack at TFM.

Oh yeah – and they had starfruit for $0.98 each!!

I Went Camping

I am just back from a weekend, well, night, spent camping in the woods of Vermont. I went up with the Mister, Sistah, my real little sister, and another friend who is awesome.

We camped with Sistah’s Aunt and Uncle at their site. The people were wonderful, and very generous and kind.

We went to a potluck the last day we were there on a beach. Tons of food – everything was so good. Some people were nice, but other people were a little standoffish, which I think is weird, because how can anyone be grumpy when there’s food involved?

One of the highlights of my trip was Shaw’s – a grocery store in town. They aren’t a supermarket, and some prices were a little high, but everyone working there was friendly and very helpful. Albany John was in charge of cooking at night. He found non-Smithfield pork chops at Shaws and spiced them up. We put on head lamps once it got this dark.

Some of our travelling companions thought we “brought way too much shit” but hey, they weren’t complaining when they had air mattresses to sleep on and extra blankets. It was fucking freezing out there!

I’m also not the best camper in the world. I can survive no problem. If you stick me in the middle of the woods, I can find my way out no problem, but as far as enjoying nature for several hours and overnight… eh, I hope I didn’t ruin the weekend for anyone.

Best Shrimp Ever. Nature’s Place Shrimp from Hannaford

The other day I was walking around my local Hannaford and was perusing the seafood counter. It was later at night, so the counter proper had closed for the day, but I poked around the freezer counter next to it and found the best shrimp in the Albany, NY / Cap Region area.

You heard me. Best. Shrimp. Ever.

I’ve been slightly disappointed by shrimp lately, and I wasn’t sure if it was shrimp in general, or just my tastebuds changing. Thankfully, it’s not me. It’s the shrimp.

I noticed the Nature’s Place bag of shrimp next to the regualar frozen shrimp for $8.50. I skeptically looked at the front of the packaging and read buzz words like “All Natural” and “Farm Raised”. Farm raised shrimp doesn’t really strike me as something all that great, but that’s just me.

I flipped the bag over and read the ingredients list. Shrimp. Salt. Shrimp and salt. No sulfites or other added preservatives like their other Hannaford brand frozen shrimp. I don’t like Hannaford’s other frozen shrimp because the preservatives in it give it an oddly rubbery and smooth texture, and the flavor is just bland and vaguely shrimpy.

I saw it was a product of Thailand, which I’ve heard is generally not that great from a sustainability standpoint (The Montery Bay Aquarium has great info on seafood sustainability, and a handy pocket guide).

But the call of minimally processed shrimp was too great to ignore at this point. I also looked at the “jumbo” shrimp that were treated with preservatives – they were smaller than these Nature’s Place shrimp! Bigger. Better…

“JUST TRY IT!!! IT’S SHRIMP WITH ONLY SALT! SHRIMP AND SALT! YOUR TWO FAVORITE THINGS IN THE WORLD!!” my inner voice shouted.

So I marched up to the register and bought it.

The shrimp were still frozen stiff when I got home, so I cooked them in boiling water. Now here’s a test. The shrimp with preservatives from Hannaford generally take an oddly long time to cook in boiling water (3-5 minutes) and just don’t taste that good. Weird texture thing, ya know?

These cooked up in about a minute or two. Keep in mind they’re larger, too. Once I got them out of the water, the first thing I noticed was the deep pink color, and how tightly the skins stuck to the shrimp itself. Then I noticed that there wasn’t really any shrinkage in the shrimp from raw to cooked. In my experience, the meat shrinks and the peels look loose on shrimp that has been processed, and the shrimp only get a pale pink color.

See? Hardly any shrinkage. Here’s a peeled shrimp on top of an unpeeled shrimp. Once cooked and peeled, it doesn’t lose much of its size.

Flavor-wise, it reminded me of the Royal Red shrimp I ate in Mississippi. It was shrimp like it should be. The texture and flavor were spot-on. The shrimp had a nice snap to it when bitten in to, and had a slightly sweet/briny flavor of the sea. There was no rubbery texture, and no questioning that you were eating shrimp. They were so good they didn’t even need melted butter. It would have been a great addition, but these shrimp tasted so perfectly like shrimp that I couldn’t bring myself to do it this first time. Next time, I’m bringing on the butter.

I know this is post is all “I love Hannaford and this brand of product” but I promise ya that this is just consumer love and goodness coming your way for an amazing product that I highly recommend trying if you’re as crazy about shrimp as I am.