Grocery Store Review
Well goodness, September has been a busy month. I am slowly getting back to normal and will be writing about what we have gotten done. Until then a teaser picture
And this that I needed to write.
We will be traveling to the US soon. While we are gone our friends Thane and Melissa will be staying in our house and hanging out with Nerone. To make things easier for them I was thinking about writing a few paragraphs about the different grocery store choices that they have. And then I figured out that I could turn it into a blog post. This might be a little boring, but here it is.
IperCoop in Arezzo. About a 20 minute drive from the house. Large, hyper market type of store. Lots of appliances, household items, clothing and a full selection of food. Almost always crowded. Small restaurant in front. Ice cream place in front. Wi-fi. Other stores in a mall type setting. I don’t like the layout of the IperCoop. It is big, noisy, with tall shelves and poor sight lines. Many times Ben and I get separated and I get very annoyed. I only go there when they have Nerone’s food on sale and to get his dog bones. They do have a nice selection of Drogheria & Alimentari spices. The ones with a built in grinder. They also have a large selection of prepared food for take away. And pizza by the slice. Loose produce must be weighted and the price printed and placed on the bag. They have chicken thighs with skin.
Esselunga in Arezzo. About a 15 minute drive from the house. Large American type of grocery. We do the majority of our shopping here. Covered parking. Some appliances and household items but more food. Can be very crowded. But the best time to go is a week day after 1, before 4. There is a bar out front where we will have lunch many times. What’s special? Produce, a full line of tropical produce including avocadoes, limes, fresh bean sprouts, the closest you will get to green onions, shallots, (the ones loose in a bag (under a counter) are better than the pricier braided ones that are hanging near bananas). Underneath the hanging bananas are sweet potatoes if they have them. Fresh ginger and cilantro. Loose produce must be weighted and the price printed and placed on the bag. At the end of the dairy aisle (near the front of the store) is fresh milk, we get the store brand, parzialmente scremato is skim. There are only 2 choices of fresh milk. There is soy, almond and lactose intolerant also. But it might be UHT. Just behind the end cap where the milk is, is sour cream. Green and white plastic package. Crème Fraiche and whipping cream are there too. Further along that aisle is the one brand of butter that has salt in it, Lurpack. Eggs at the back end.
Then you are in seafood. We don’t eat much seafood but occasionally I will buy packaged shrimp from here.
Then meats. There are vacuum packed ‘American style’ spareribs that are pretty good. There might be some pieces of beef tenderloin. Never a whole one except by special order at Christmas. There is also ground turkey, pre-made ground turkey meatballs, ready to cook breaded chicken choices, ‘kebab’ chicken and ‘chicken salad’ (sliced cooked? breast) both packages say that you have to heat them up before serving. Sometimes there are chicken wings. Chicken breasts are always skinless and boneless unless you buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself. Chicken thighs are skinless. No boneless chicken thighs anywhere. If you buy a whole chicken pick the pale anemic looking ones, not the ones that are yellow with their heads still on. Those are stewing hens. There is rabbit, whole or cut up and whole duck. Turkey breast (again, boneless, skinless) turkey thighs, turkey legs. Pork chops. Towards the end of this section is ground pork if there is any. The next section starts with lamb, then pork loin, sometimes medallions of pork tenderloin, rarely a whole one, ground beef, a lot of choices of types. I go by price per kilo (remember roughly 2.2 lbs is a kilo) to make my choice. In the free standing case are the giant steaks, some veal and some more pork.
Turning back and to the left, towards the front of the store in the 5 or 6 aisles since dairy on one of those end caps will be cranberry sauce. It is in jars. About 3 Euros a jar. It will be with other seasonal specialty items which is why I don’t know where it is now. At the front of the store on two end caps are the exotic, foreign foods. One end cap is mostly Asian the other has Mexican. There are some Old El Paso items. The salsa is good. There are more taco chips with other chips rather than the ones here. Also available on the aisle with olive oil is Heinz catsup, Kraft Mayo, French’s mustard. No sweet pickles or pickle relish.
There is a small prepared food section and deli and good already cooked chickens. The bakery items are okay. A little further on is commercially prepared bread, including a sliced whole wheat (red, white, blue and yellow package, called American) that makes good toast and sandwiches and stays soft and lasts more than 1 day. Crackers are at the end of that aisle. In the frozen foods there is a brand of frozen shrimp, yellow and red orange package, from Argentina, big shrimp. They are good. There will also be frozen lobsters in December.
DeSpar just down the road from the house. Small store but some fresh produce and meats. Some already prepared food. Okay if you have forgotten something basic. Don’t expect limes here!
COOP in Monte San Savino. About a 10 minute ride from the house. Dirty, nasty store. I only go in it when I have no other choice or they have something we use a lot on sale. Small bakery, deli. Okay produce but not much selection. Sometimes they have limes. Loose produce must be weighted and the price printed and placed on the bag. They do not carry Nerone’s dog bones. Not much selection of most things. However they do have chicken thighs with skin.
Di Piu in Monte San Savino. Newish, clean, good prices. We have friends who buy most of their wine here. They have sour cream. I’ve never checked their chicken.
Lidl in Sinalunga. About a 20 minutes ride from the house. We go there about once every 4 weeks. It is the only place that we have found the bottled water that is produced in Monte San Savino. (go figure). [There is a good seafood place in the next parking lot. Some prepared items, mostly raw for take home and cook. Excellent fried calamari. Very nice looking fresh seafood.] Back to the Lidl. Very good prices. Very good bakery. (they use salt!!!!) We also go there for the specialty weeks. Asian, German, British whatever.
There are 2 produce markets down the road from us. Both of which I buy things from. The Indian man speaks English and has cilantro and okra. He might get in sweet potatoes. You might have to ask for these things.
The romantic vision that we enjoy great Italian meals of cheese, bread, tomatoes and wine all the time is not true. Cheese is really good here but it is a very calorie packed food. Tuscan bread is pretty bad, no salt and it only lasts 1 day. Tomatoes especially from the local produce market are good year round. And of course the wine is good all the time too.
In the US, I worked for 2 consumer products companies. I was in and out of many, many grocery stores for over 15 years. I am very fussy about grocery stores. And we still enjoy eating something other than Italian food most every night. (because when we go out to eat, what are the choices? Italian or Italian) These descriptions are my justification for why we go to the Esselunga every week. Why we don’t shop at little local stores which are very expensive. We have to get in the car to get anywhere so we might as well go all the way to Esselunga. And I can pretty much find everything I need there, except, of course chicken thighs with skin!