Published: A Costco Survival Guide (aka the “Meet Your Manhattan Costco” Post)

A Costco Survival Guide” was published in the The New York Press, a local alt weekly. The article offers a strategy for shopping at the warehouse giant, even if you live in a small New York City apartment. Here, some outtakes from my scouting trip to the new Upper East Side warehouse.

From the opening paragraph: “…on the other hand, where else can you get wild king crab legs for $10.99 per pound?”

My favorite store-bought hummus is made by Sabra, and I have no doubt that I could easily plow through the 32 oz. tubs that sell for $5.98. Even more though, I fell hard and fast for these single-serving versions. I’m something of a market/product aficionado and I’ve never seen Sabra hummus in this packaging in any market in New York City previously:

Here, the Hellmann’s mayo from the article:

“That’s embarrassing. Who eats that much mayonnaise?” asks a shopper, gesturing toward the giant, 128-oz. tub of Hellmann’s Best ($9.99). He grabs the pack of three squeezable, 22-oz. bottles ($8.99) and walks off.

Uh, that’s the point.We don’t eat that much mayo; so don’t get hung up on the bulk stuff. The three-pack is for regular shoppers and the tub is for the guy that’ll be making giant batches of tuna salad at the bodega.

Premium products at prices so cheap it shouldn’t be legal:

Oh Costco. If only you weren’t tucked so far off the beaten path on E. 116th Street! I’ll see you again someday, I’m sure …


Editor’s Note: Hey There, BLD Project (aka the “Sunset Over My Year” Post … Which has Nothing to do with Moon Over my Hammy)

Hey There, BLD Project. I’ve missed you. I’m ready to get back to it.

So … the days of fresh fruit platters and free mini candy bars piled high in the sky (no joke, I remember such a thing) are long, long gone.

On domestic flights, even the free meal in first class is more novelty than quality these days. But, hell, it was New Year’s Eve. The sun setting over the decade — there’s no way I wasn’t going to live it up.

(It should be noted I do have a small affinity for United Airlines’ snack box program. I’ve been entirely on board since they started charging $5 for the things like, several years ago.)

I splurged and ordered the “Luxe” ($7) and a small French-produced sparkling wine ($8):

A little Rondele spreadable cheese, olives from the Spain, sesame breadsticks from Italy, squeezable hummus from … (Portland, Oregon?), a big chocolate-covered pretzel, and, and…

Really, with this sunset, what did it matter where or when I landed. I was already on board.

Saturday: Follow that Roving School of Goldfish (aka the “Observations from the Art Fest in DUMBO” Post)

photoOne of the tenets of the BLD Project is that it isn’t just a blog about eating (although that certainly happens a lot). It’s also about how we get there, the decisions, the factors that influence us, along the way.

So I loved stumbling across installations at the Under the Bridge Festival in DUMBO on Saturday — one of my favorite annual cultural events in the city — that directly and indirectly addressed the decisions we make on a daily basis about what to eat.

photo-1In the Gemini Corporation’s short film, “Barter,” which screened continuously inside The Cardboard Gallery, an alternative art space made of recycled cardboard, residents of a small Eastern European village bartered for artworks with food. “For this one I would give 40 kilos of potatoes,” says one man.

photo-2Elsewhere, Reina Kubota’s The Tree of Life installation transformed plastic take-away bags into bulbous, blooming sculptural works. I interpreted it as both an overt commentary on consumption (too much), and on New York’s unique food culture (fact: we eat out a lot).

Down the road, while festival-goers nursed pints and took the chill out of their bones, Ernest Concepcion & Mike Estabrook, who make up the collective called The Shining Mantis, worked diligently in the background at a local bar, tag-team drawing the photo-3stunning chalk-on-wall mural, Kangarok X: This Time, It’s Sorta Like Risk.

The bar wasn’t originally going to be the site for the mural, but it was such a perfect fit: Punchy, poppy, a social work to begin with — it feels right at home among the low clamor of festival-goers discussing the highlights of the day.

Editor’s Note: Bringing BLD Project on Board (aka, the “Welcome to I Heart August Month” Post)

An excerpt from an e-mail, titled “I Heart August Month: Kicks Off Tonight!”, sent August 3:

I love August. Probably my favorite month of the year, which also happens to be my birthday, and Burning Man (usually)! So this year I’ve decided that I want to celebrate all month long: celebrate summer, celebrate the heat and sun (bring it!), celebrate the glorious long days and warm nights, celebrate with food, friends, festivities, free culture (while it lasts) …

I’m kicking things off tonight with a new super blonde ‘do! Come check it out and toast to August with margs and appetizers at Tortilla Flats on the Westside — think, pinata fringe hanging from the ceilings, Bingo, velvet Elvis paintings, …

23586204Being the recently-blonded author of said e-mail, I can assure you that I Heart August Month indeed kicked off with an ole!, and has continued in full effect.

But you wouldn’t know that by the neglected state of this blog project, which I also adore. I just haven’t had the discipline, the heart, to write 17 posts x week — it’s not the good meals but the mediocre, shitty, in-between ones that I’m getting hung up on. Which means I never get to some of the good ones, and then other shit ones happen, and before you know it, I’ve built my own proverbial dam. (Damn!)

It took me a while, but I finally figured out what to do:

I am going to align the BLD Project with I Heart August Month. It is so ridiculous that I ever thought they could be separate.

21819507I am going to experiment with the format of the BLD Project. For the duration of I Heart August Month (which ends Labor Day weekend), I am temporarily giving up on the 17 posts x week requirement and instead focusing on my favorite things: travels, eating discoveries, food I adore, food-and-drink-related hijinks, maybe even a little (relevant) shopping or product-related discussion — which I always envisioned would be a part of the content, but I haven’t so far been able to get to it as I’ve been buried in the grind.

In essence, I’m bringing BLD Project on board. If this is my personal marathon, then this is the part where I break off from the designated route and check out some scenic stuff. By no means is it done.

Welcome to I Heart August Month.

Editor’s Note: Don’t Hate Me Because I’ve Gone Blonde (aka the “Excuses, Excuses, Excuses” Post)

I’m not sure how often you check in with the BLD Project.

But for better or worse, this blog is my lifeline to the ideas, the experiences, the motivations, the people, that drive my thoughts about food on a daily basis (whether or not I write about it).

Food for survival, food for satisfaction, food for pleasure, food for ribbons (the winning of awards and kudos kind): We’re all eating, all the time. I’m just supposed to be writing about it. Which brings me to the topic at  hand: My errant ways.

Last week was a lost week, for many reasons. I am going to rest the blame on the serious amount of chemicals that went into my head to return to blonde — let’s call it dinner, Monday night.

The recipe was something close to:

photo90 sheets of foil (aprox.)
(1 1/2) containers of
BW 2, 10 oz.
1 bottle Clairol pure white,

To that fine concoction, mix in a couple of pitchers of margaritas at Tortilla Flats, my own neurosis and BINGO. (Literally, Tortilla Flats hosts a lively Bingo scene on Monday nights.)

All joking aside, for many reasons, collectively the week was a wash. So I’m going to pick up with Thursday afternoon, when I’m on my way to the airport for “BLD Minnesota Edition,” and we’ll just call the rest … roots.

Lunch: This Burrito Might Not Be a Winner, but Maui Tacos’ Salsa Bar Is

If, as the song goes, there is a season for everything, then there is a time to be purist about one’s Mexican food, and there is a time to just give in, and let it go. And generously pour the Pineapple Paradise salsa on your mediocre burrito, because it tastes soo good.

photophoto-5Yep, I said it. Pineapple Paradise salsa. I might have been exaggerating just a tinge about how good it is — truth be told, it’s a little watery — but I am absolutely serious about both the excellence of Maui Tacos‘ salsa bar — five housemade salsas, chopped white onion, pickled jalapenos, fresh cilantro and lime wedges — as well as the overall mediocrity of the food. (Judging by how heavily the salsa bar was utilized by every single person at lunchtime, I’m not alone in using the food as a vessel for the salsa.)

These salsas are no Red Hook taco truck salsas, which come in almost neon-flourescent colors and as diverse a range of flavors, in giant, industrial, white buckets. Yet, they deserve their due. Here is my report on the salsa bar’s contents (top to bottom):

photo-6Pineapple Paradise: a mild, lightly-sweet tomatillo-pineapple salsa. A little watery; best paired with fish tacos. Would make an excellent breakfast salsa —on top of a tamale for breakfast, or what about this on pancakes? Some kind of Mexican-style french toast?
Hula Heat: A hot salsa made with chile arbol peppers. It’s buyant, supple, with a little residual oil gleaming on the surface, in that good way. Good fiery heat that sneaks up on you.
Maui Firedancer: A hot Chipotle salsa, which means you get the deceptively sweet note up front, followed by that chipotle smoky signature taste, then it gets fiery on the back. A complex and delicious salsa.
Maui Mex: A mild, average tomatillo standard (disclaimer: I did not try this one.)
Hola Aloha: A mild tomato salsa, fairly standard. Bonus if you’re trying to learn the same, simple words in multiple languages. (disclaimer: I did not try this one.)

photo-1So what about the burrito itself? In short, too much orange rice; too little black beans; total lack of greenery or freshness, other than the cilantro and onion I stuffed into mine; oversized for no reason. Oh, and my side of chips (at least I got a side of chips) came in a Ziplock bag. Still …

330 Fifth Avenue, btwn. 32nd and 33rd Street, 212.868.9720.

TIP: Maui Tacos does a cheap, if cheesy, happy hour 4-7p at the 6-stool Tiki Bar that includes 2 x $6 import and domestic beers, and much, much more. A perfect place to slip away to if one finds oneself in the midst of Times Square madness.

Photo of the Tiki bar after the jump: Continue reading “Lunch: This Burrito Might Not Be a Winner, but Maui Tacos’ Salsa Bar Is”