Once again this week I’m reviewing a bunch of items that I bought (or was a party to the purchasing at least) when in the US earlier this month. I was struck again by how similar Costco US and Costco UK are when we were walking around the stores. The store layout is pretty much the same and even though all of the products sold in the UK aren’t just like the ones in the US, they are the same types of products. What really did amaze me though was the crowd on a Saturday night right before closing time at my mom’s preferred Costco location in Kansas City, well technically it is in Lenexa. It was like Saturday morning at my Costco in Austin or Watford (UK). I had really thought that there would be very few people in the store because any time I had shopped in Austin during the evening it was always sparsely populated with shoppers. Not so in Lenexa, just in case you are planning a shopping trip there. And the baked goods were picked clean! It was like right before a holiday.
Also, for US shoppers I will be posting the upcoming coupon book on Monday! The new book runs from February 2 – 26, so it doesn’t start until Thursday.
Tiger Thai Breaded Calamari Rings – When I was visiting my mom (in Kansas), we decided we would try these calamari rings because we both like calamari. However, I wasn’t all that impressed with them but that could have been a cooking thing. My mom decided that she would try pan frying them in a bit of oil instead of baking them in the oven; both are suggested cooking methods. I think, it turns out, that might have been a mistake. But there were a group of us, so we only have them prepared the one way since we finished the box. The frying got the outside nicely golden brown with a bit of crunch to it. Unfortunately, the calamari was a little too chewy for my liking. If you’ve ever made calamari, then you know that it is a very fine line between cooking it for just the right amount of time and over-cooking it to the point where it becomes chewy. Of course, if you don’t cook it long enough it will also be chewy. My guess is that the frying did not allow it to hit that sweet spot where the calamari is tender and perfect. So, if you try this, I would definitely recommend baking it in the oven as a trial to see if you get better texture results. That said, and chewiness aside, the taste of the breading was nice. We served out little rings with little dishes of pasta sauce for dipping purposes and with a spritz of lemon juice. You could also try them with an olive oil and herb dipping sauce, which is something I’ve had and loved at various restaurants. Despite the chewiness I would probably try these one more time and experiment with cooking methods to see if I could get better results. Unfortunately, my UK Costco doesn’t have these, or any calamari rings. 2 pounds for $12.59. Item #: 538118.
Raclette Cheese – A few years ago my sister bought a raclette grill, when they were far less popular in the US. As a result of their newness, we were never reliably able to find the right kind of cheese. If only it had been available at Costco then! We always substituted in other things that we thought would melt properly, sometimes with varying degrees of success. I guess I should maybe do a quick explanation of the whole raclette thing because some of you might not be familiar with this new and terrific way to have cheese. Raclette is a dish from Switzerland, the land of melty cheese. The dish consists of the cheese which you melt either in front of a fire, on a slab of granite, or on one of these handy little grills that you can buy so easily now. After you melt the cheese you scrap off some of the delicious melty part and traditionally you eat it with little potatoes, gherkins, onions, and some type of cured meat. We’ve found that much like fondue, because really it is the same concept, you can pretty much use anything from bread to sausage to apples or pears even. Really anything you would eat with melted cheese would be appropriate and tasty. The whole ambiance created by the raclette is very similar to fondue: very casual and communal which is great for a party with good friends. And for someone like me that is such a fan of cheese, there’s really no better way to have dinner. The raclette cheese itself is a semi-hard cheese made from cow’s milk. The cheese has a really nice creamy texture at room temperature that just gets better when heated. The flavour is kind of almost fruity and like the creamy texture it just improves and intensifies once heated. And obviously, it is a good melting cheese with no worries about it separating or getting oily. Clearly, you could use it just to eat on crackers or whatever, or melt right on bread or a baked potato even. And if you don’t have the fancy raclette machine you could always fake the fireside melting method by using the broiler in your oven. Just be careful to not let it go too long! 1.18 pounds for $10.49, $8.89 per pound. Item #: 42741.
Mirabel Boston Premium Living Lettuce – This is a cool way to buy your lettuce because it still has the roots on it. The theory with the roots still on is that it will keep it fresher longer. In the package at Costco, you get two heads of lettuce, Boston leaf lettuce. Both have their roots on, and really will last much longer than regular lettuce would in your fridge. I’ve bought this before and did a little experiment to see how long it would last, it was able to stay pretty fresh in our fridge for two weeks and had just started to show signs of getting a little sick of being in there with a couple of browning leaf edges. It didn’t turn into a science experiment as normal heads of lettuce would have, so that is pretty impressive in my book. The best part, of course, is that the lettuce is really good. It does actually seem far fresher than when you buy lettuce in the grocery; more like the stuff from a garden. The leaves were very crisp and looked fresher without the usual brown edges, even when we didn’t use it all immediately but waited a few days to eat the second head. It is a bit more expensive to buy your lettuce this way, but since it stays fresher longer it might be worth it. 2 heads for $2.99. Item #: 32850.
Ultimate Cuddle Bed® Plus Mattress Topper, Cal King – Oh this is so so so much nicer than my previous flat little mattress pad! I think I’ve talked about the issue with not being able to buy US bed sized sheets or anything here in the UK before on here. But if you didn’t read any of those posts, I’ll sum up: it’s impossible to find US sized sheets and stuff in the UK because their beds are totally different sizes. So, when we found out we were going back to the US to visit my mom for a bit, I decided to order a new mattress pad since we were sorely in need of one. At first I thought I would just get a lightly quilted one, like the one we were replacing. However, when I looked at Costco.com I saw that I had a few options that would make the bed more fluffy and comfortable and decided I’d get one of the upgraded versions instead. They have a few of the memory foam versions but I knew there was no way I’d want to drag that home in my luggage and I’m completely sold on that stuff either. It seems like it would be hot and I don’t want that when I’m sleeping. But I did like this Cuddle Bed one because it’s got this fluffy bit on top that makes it like a pillow top, on top of the one that is already on the bed. The pillow top portion is covered with a 400 thread count cotton fabric and has a 2.5 inch loft. It makes the bed so comfortable and soft, but not too soft like a full on feather bed would seem. The really cool part though, at least to me because I’m weird like this, is the “bed glove” stretchy fitted part that keeps it perfectly fitted to your mattress. Normally the sides are either a little baggy or far too tight because they are not stretchy material and have to accommodate a certain depth of mattress. But with this 4-way stretch material they use, it snaps right on to your mattress no matter the depth (at least up to 21 inches) of your mattress. It fits perfectly and doesn’t move no matter how much you toss and turn and tug on it; I love it. The extra loft on the top isn’t a problem with any of my sheets so far either, they just fit a little more snugly. But I think because the mattress topper is so perfectly fit to the bed, the fitted sheet doesn’t slide around as much anymore either. I was going to provide a link to this awesome mattress topper but I just went to Costco.com and it’s no longer available through them, or at least it isn’t listed right now, but here’s a link to the manufacturer’s website, Hollander Live Comfortably. Glad I bought it when I did! California King mattress topper for $69.30. Item #: 163007.