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Snacking at COSTCO


Jason Perlow
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Recently, Rachel and I became Costco members. Now, I know we've had threads about products to buy there that people reccomend, but we haven't had anything about stuff thats good you can eat AT Costco.

Obviously, the large drink and the kosher hot dog deal is quite good -- but has anyone eaten any of the other stuff?

Right off the bat I'll strongly reccomend the Very Berry Sundaes, which is lowfat soft-serve ice cream that's topped with a mixed berry topping -- you can get it with either chocolate or vanilla ice cream. For like a $1.25 its a great big ice cream cup that you can easily share, and its at least as good as the soft serve ice cream you'd get at say, a Carvel.

Has anyone tried the Chicken Bakes or the Italian Sausage sandwich or the Pizza? Any other hidden Costco snack gems?

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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The chicken bakes are tasty, but they're too rich for me to finish a whole one. They are good, though, nice balance of flavors, big bites of chicken, lots of bacon throughout, creamy, cheesy... I'm talking myself into one...

The pizza is decent. It doesn't stack up to good Jersey pizza, but for a quick meal, it's good. Not cheap cheese, the crust is thick-ish, but not rubbery, it's generally well browned, and the pepperoni it self is really good.

The Italian sausage is EXCELLENT. As good as any you'd find in the greatest of street vendors. I actually crave them. Perfectly broiled, crisp brown skin, carmelized sweet onions and peppers (and they give you a heap of red peppers, with onions, not the cheapy 2 pepper slivers to a buncha onions), and a great, soft steamed roll.

The chicken caeser salad is good too, lots of food for the price, great dressing. I get one, and can eat it for three days.

I dearly miss the mocha shakes, knishes, and churros. The pretzels are eh, sorta cardboardy.

Edit: Oh Oh oh oOH, and the ice cream bars, that they dip right there...are to DIE for. The nuts one...ohhh man.

If you're wondering, I have friends that work there, so I visit them on breaks, hang out, and snack...

Edited by Lilija (log)
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Costco goodies depend on the location of the Costco. In Winnipeg, I could get fries (with gravy or as poutine, if I desired), and I liked them (just liked, not loved), but I can't get them in Japan.

In Japan I can get bulgogi bake, which is similar to chicken bake but with bulgogi instead of that cheesy sickening chicken filling. The pizza here is OK, but not the best (but if you like seafood pizza, you can get it). I also like their chocolate churros.

I eat hot dogs at Costco because they're cheap, but the hot dogs in Japan are all pork, and are quite salty. Not as good as the Polish sausages I used to get at the Costco in Winnipeg (they're no longer available, though).

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The chicken bake is an essential part of the Costco experience. Apparently, you can buy them frozen to bake at home but one of my friends tells me they are not as good as the ones you get there. Is it the heat lamp? Is it the foil? One of life's mysteries.

Like Lilija, I find it hard to eat a whole one by myself and usually split it with my costco co-hort.

Although, part of that problem could be that after all the little bites... a sample of chocolate cake here, a jamaican patty there, some cheesecake and a chocolate eclair fragment... I'm probably too full from the "free" stuff to finish it! I mean those sample calories don't count, do they? :unsure:

N.

"The main thing to remember about Italian food is that when you put your groceries in the car, the quality of your dinner has already been decided." – Mario Batali
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I really like the berry sundae and the berry smoothie. The mocha I only had once, but I liked it, just prefer the berry. The chicken bake I'm mixed on. The flavor overall is pretty good, but the chicken texture is sometimes weird to me.

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The problem with the hot dogs is that, while they're of high quality, they're boiled and served on untoasted bread (the bread is also good -- but untoasted). The solution is to convince them to run your hot dog (the whole thing, on the bun) through the pizza oven. When the place isn't busy and you ask nicely, they'll do it. This is how the staff do it for themselves. Then you have a truly superior item. Don't forget that, while they no longer have sauerkraut out in the condiments section, they have it available in little containers behind the counter. In this part of the country (New York metro area), at least, they have two types of mustard available and the "deli mustard" (like Gulden's) is quite good. I also like that they have raw onions available. The relish is poor. Eat before you shop, not after. That way you can have a soda with your food, a refill for walking around and, last thing you do before you leave the store, you refill your soda for the car ride. You'll also make fewer stupid food impulse purchases if you eat right before you shop, and you won't have to deal with having a cart at the snack tables.

I agree the Italian sausage is quite good. I think the chicken bake is just awful -- I can't even smell it without getting nauseated. The pizza is good in a bad pizza sort of way. I enjoy a slice on occasion and the crust is tasty, though not really pizza crust -- it's just bread. You do better, value-wise, if you get a whole pizza, but you need a few people with you to make that worthwhile. The pretzels, with salt, are pretty good I think (again, with the deli mustard) -- they only have ones like New York street-vendor pretzels in this part of the country, though. Anywhere else you go, they have those shopping-mall-style pretzels with "buttery topping" and such.

I don't very much like the cloying berry sauce on the very berry sundae. I much prefer just the plain frozen yogurt -- it's very good by the standards of lowfat/nonfat frozen yogurt products. But yes, the dipped ice cream bars are about a million times better.

In addition, it must be observed that there are lots of free snacks within Costco. You can almost have a whole meal if you play your cards right, and in the bargain you get a free crash course in upper-middlebrow American tastes. It's important for cultural literacy.

And, remember also that there are a number of items that you can buy in the back at Costco and then eat up front. So, for example, if you don't like the snack bar items, you can always get a shrimp cocktail platter in the back for ten bucks and split it.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The chicken bake is an essential part of the Costco experience. Apparently, you can buy them frozen to bake at home but one of my friends tells me they are not as good as the ones you get there. Is it the heat lamp? Is it the foil? One of life's mysteries.

Like Lilija, I find it hard to eat a whole one by myself and usually split it with my costco co-hort.

Although, part of that problem could be that after all the little bites... a sample of chocolate cake here, a jamaican patty there, some cheesecake and a chocolate eclair fragment... I'm probably too full from the "free" stuff to finish it! I mean those sample calories don't count, do they?  :unsure:

Heh. When I first read the title of this topic, I thought it would be *all* about the free samples. :laugh: Grazing the samples carts used to be my favorite part of the whole Costco experience. That, and finishing off with a Polish sausage with tons of sauerkraut from the snackbar for "dessert." Strangely, I've never tried anything else from the snackbar. Once I got my routine down, I didn't feel particularly motivated to vary it. Love them thar Polish sausages.

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Next time I think I'm going to get one of the $1.25 cups of ice cream, and dump it into one of those 50 cent soda cups and fill it up with say, Dr. Pepper or Coke. I forgot if they had root beer or not.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I love the samples, but my Costco (the Holmdel one) is a MADHOUSE during prime daytime. I avoid the zoo if I can and go in the evenings, when there's no more samples.

I love the prepped foods in the back, they used to have an Asian chicken salad that was incredible. Grilled teryaki chicken, shredded cabbage, cashews, chow mein noodles, mandarin oranges, and a gingery soy dressing. They don't have that anymore either, and it makes me heartsick. I used to buy one of those, take it to the park with a book, and nibble on it all afternoon, while I read.

The rotisserie chickens are the best I've ever had, too.

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The problem with the hot dogs is that, while they're of high quality, they're boiled and served on untoasted bread (the bread is also good -- but untoasted). The solution is to convince them to run your hot dog (the whole thing, on the bun) through the pizza oven. When the place isn't busy and you ask nicely, they'll do it. This is how the staff do it for themselves. Then you have a truly superior item. Don't forget that, while they no longer have sauerkraut out in the condiments section, they have it available in little containers behind the counter.

You're scary @#$%^& anal, Shaw. But I think I'm going to try that.

I don't very much like the cloying berry sauce on the very berry sundae.

That's what I like about them. The almost ghetto cloyingness aspect.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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n addition, it must be observed that there are lots of free snacks within Costco. You can almost have a whole meal if you play your cards right, and in the bargain you get a free crash course in upper-middlebrow American tastes. It's important for cultural literacy.

I agree wholeheartedly with this one. The problem is, a lot of the demo people don't know how to reheat stuff properly, and it isn't very appetizing when they do that.

I saw an item tonight I almost spot purchased but Rachel made me put away -- "Huxtable's Kitchen Itty Bitty Meatball Subs". Micro-sized, individually wrapped, microwaveable two bite meatball sub sandwiches. If that isn't a major cause of child obesity I don't know what is. But I want some, and I don't think they are gonna demo them.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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In Japan I can get bulgogi bake, which is similar to chicken bake but with bulgogi instead of that cheesy sickening chicken filling.

God I totally would eat one of those. In a heartbeat. In fact I want one right now.

I'm surprised with all the Koreans we have in North Jersey our local Costco doesn't offer that. Its less than half a mile away right down the road from like the biggest Korean supermarket in the entire area.

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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I have terrible Costco (and Sam's Club) Sample Karma. Every time I go, I hold off on purchasing anything to eat, hoping I'll be able to sample some stuff while shopping. No matter what day nor what time I'm there, there are never ANY samples available... other than trail mix. Pheh.

So I usually need to buy something on the way out to nosh on in the car. The hotdogs used to be Sinai - I liked them. Mad Cow happened and they no longer allowed Sinai to cross the border. They now sell an 'all beef', non-kosher dog. Tried it once, didn't like it. Weird texture.

I like the berry sunday... cloying in what sense? sweet? or just nauseating? I don't find them too sweet - have even remarked that they almost seem to be unsweetened. Maybe they're different here. I've also enjoyed the 'frozen coffee drink'. Though it's not a drink at all. More like ice cream - but almost malt-like.

And all I have to say about the Montreal Smoked Meat Sandwich is that once was more than enough. They serve it on a ciabatta. And it's kind of ... mushy. Pheh.

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The hot dog varies depending on the Costco. Around the DC Metro area, all the hot dogs are Hebrew National. In the new Greensboro, NC Costco, it's Sinai 48. I almost always eat a hot dog with lots of ketchup and mustard when I hit any Costco.

There is one Costco I've seen in the DC Metro area that has fries in the food court...the Sterling store. If they exist in other NoVa Costcos I'm not aware of it, and they definitely don't have them in Gaithersburg, Beltsville, or my new "home Costco" in Frederick, MD. The fries are okay, they're the coated variety and you get a huge mess of them for $1.25.

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We don't have french fries or italian sausage! The dogs sure are cheap though. When my husband and son are fending for themselves that's where they head. Now they've got churros too so my four year old wants to move in.

I love good dessert but there is something nice about that tangy fro-yo covered in what seems to be unset berry jam. I can't even eat half but they're so cheap we never just buy one to share.

The pizza is miles better than any of the take'n bake pizzas and less expensive too. Perfect for a lazy Saturday after yard work. Run to Costco, buy pizza and sundae, eat sunday in car on the way home, upon arrival, eat pizza in living room.

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The fries are okay, they're the coated variety and you get a huge mess of them for $1.25.

They're much better when you doctor them up using the seasoning salt and parmesan cheese found in the condiment area. That's they only way I eat them, with ketchup, of course!

If we're talking about the free samples, I stopped eating most of the free samples at the Costco here in Japan. They had some unsupervised bread samples and some snot-nosed kid (literally--he had snot running all over the place) touched every piece of bread before choosing the one he wanted. Disgusting!

Also, at Costco in Japan you can have as much of the free sample as you want, and kids do not need their parents' permission to try anything (as they do at the Winnipeg one). Kids will crowd around a station (like the sausage station) and eat a crap load of stuff, leaving nothing behind for the others (and they use the same toothpick to do it!). Now I only go to the supervised testing stations, but I also try to get to Costco before most of the families get there. Costco is not a good place to allow kids to run around freely.

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We don't have fries here either. I like Costco fries when I get them in other regions.

There are a lot of interesting regional variations. For example up in the Maine/New Brunswick area they have lobster rolls at Costco and they're quite good. Somewhere I may have a photo of one. I'll try to dig it out.

I agree that the through-the-oven trick is clever, but I can't take credit for it. I know a guy who does marketing for Costco and he told me about it when I complained about the flaccid dogs and buns.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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There are a lot of interesting regional variations. For example up in the Maine/New Brunswick area they have lobster rolls at Costco and they're quite good. Somewhere I may have a photo of one. I'll try to dig it out.

Here's a picture of the lobster roll as sold at the Costco in Winnipeg last summer. I thought is was kind of tasteless, but we don't get to eat much lobster in Winnipeg.

gallery_11355_1512_18050.jpg

I agree that the through-the-oven trick is clever, but I can't take credit for it. I know a guy who does marketing for Costco and he told me about it when I complained about the flaccid dogs and buns.

I must try the oven trick. I don't know if they'll do that for me in Japan, as most of the hot dogs are already in their buns and wrapped up before they're ordered. Japanese hot dog buns are particularly flaccid. They get so soggy that by the time you eat half your hot dog, the bun has practically dissolved. And they're a bit sweet, too.

We do get some kind of very sweet relish and flavourless sauerkraut, though. The sauerkraut helps to reduce the saltiness of the hot dog, itself.

I don't know about other Costcos, but the one near my place seems to have seasonal items. The frozen drink changes a couple of times a year (it was very berry, then mango, and now I'm not sure), and the bulgogi bake comes and goes, alternating with chicken bake. The chocolate churro currently being sold is a new flavour--it used to be plain. I think the ice cream topping flavour might change, too.

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The hot dogs and buns tend to be wrapped up together at most Costcos, but this has no impact on one's ability to use the oven trick. What they do is unwrap the foil and put the whole thing through the oven: foil, hot dog and bun together. It works really well.

The lobster rolls they sell in New England and the Maritimes are good. They have much bigger, more identifiable chunks of lobster. That one from Winnipeg looks terrible.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I love the bulgoki bakes here in Japan, they are too big for me to eat on my own though. Like Rona said they seem to rotate them with the chicken bake and currently the chicken bake is on the menu. I think they had a matcha (green tea) ice cream a little while back. Currently the most popular item seems to be the clam chowder, I tried it once and wasn't impressed.

I love the fact that they let you eat as many samples as you want here. :biggrin: I swing by the counter where they grill the steaks at least 5 times before I leave and I probably hit the salmon sashimi stand the same number of times...

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I'm surprised with all the Koreans we have in North Jersey our local Costco doesn't offer that. Its less than half a mile away right down the road from like the biggest Korean supermarket in the entire area.

Here in Korea, the chicken bake seems to be even more popular than the Bulgogi bake - I see far more of the chicken ones in the crowd. The hot dogs are also prewrapped here, which results in the soggy bun, but the dog itself isn't bad - very girthy.

Clam chowder is also popular here, and I think the latte that I get for around a dollar is a good deal - I noticed that they use Starbucks beans for the espresso. Much cheaper than paying around $4 if I went to an actual Starbucks.

The problem is, my husband gets into a snit every time we try to eat in the food court. See, in Korea, most people are used to eating kimchi with every meal. They don't usually eat kimchi with western food, however; for some reason sweet cucumber pickles are always offered instead, for free, in unlimited quantities. Costco; however, doesn't offer the pickles. It does have the onions, ketchup and mustard in dispensers, and it used to offer packets of relish, all, presumably, intended for the hotdogs. But to compensate for the lack pickles, people started filling a dinner sized plate with the onions, ketchup and mustard, all mixed together to make some sort of proto-kimchi. They used to use up to five or six packets of relish in the mix as well (per table) but management finally got smart and started issuing one packet of relish per person, per slice of PIZZA. Not the hot dog. The pizza.

I find it a cute adaptation of local custom to foreign food (Chinese food combo plates, anyone?) but it drives my husband crazy. He's always yelling, "Those onions aren't free, people!", in fact, it's not unusual to see someone take a whole slice of pizza and cover it with the onion concoction. It drives him nuts because so often he hears people tell him they don't like western food because it's too "sweet".

Anyway, I can just picture some accountant at Costco HQ, wherever that is, looking at the onion line item on his costing spreadsheet for the Korea stores, and thinking, "WTF?". And then I giggle.

I don't understand why they just don't provide the pickles.

I miss the poutine I used to get in Halifax.

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The hot dogs and buns tend to be wrapped up together at most Costcos, but this has no impact on one's ability to use the oven trick. What they do is unwrap the foil and put the whole thing through the oven: foil, hot dog and bun together. It works really well.

In Winnipeg hot dogs are never wrapped until after they're ordered. When ordered, the server takes a hot dog out of the water bath, then takes a bun out of the bag (bags of buns used to be kept in an empty hot dog keeper, and so were served slightly warmed). Then hot dogs are not wrapped tightly as they are in Jpaan, but wrapped rather loosely, or just placed on the wrapper. At leased they used to be...I'm not sure about now.

The lobster rolls they sell in New England and the Maritimes are good. They have much bigger, more identifiable chunks of lobster. That one from Winnipeg looks terrible.

Like I said, we don't get much lobster in Winnipeg. :smile:

Another thing about Costcos around the world are the different drinks they serve. The ones here in Japan suck. Other than Coke (diet and regular, but even the regular tastes like diet), they have orange crush (or was it Hi-C?), and apple-flavoured one, and iced oolong tea. They don't even have Sprite, and at my Costco they got rid of ginger ale more than a year ago. It sucks. Recently a kind of carbonated lemonade has shown up, and I hope they keep it for awhile because it's the only decent thing to drink. At least Winnipeg has root beer!

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