We’re still kind of settling into the new flat, but it is so nice to have more space and be back in our old neighbourhood in London. Dave’s got a separate room for an office now which is terrific, but does mean that we need to find him a better office chair. We haven’t seen anything we like at Costco though, so we’re thinking we might have to go to….another store. Shocking! We’ve been holding off hoping that they’ll get something in that we like.
Kettle Chips Limited Edition – I usually buy some type of chips or crisp when we are at Costco to go with our lunchtime sandwiches. Naturally when I saw the coupon for these (a couple of months ago now), I decided I would give them a try. The three bags are a selection of Kettle Chips limited or seasonal edition flavours: lime and black pepper, jalapeño chilli salsa, and cheddar cheese and ale. I think I prefer their non-limited edition varieties instead. The jalapeño chilli salsa was sweet rather than spicy and the cheddar cheese and ale had a kind of odd flavour that neither of us particularly liked. The lime and black pepper were okay and probably the best of the bunch but not really anything that I need to pick up again. I guess I should have just stuck with our favourite sea salt and balsamic vinegar from Kettle Chips. But sometimes you just gotta try new things. I mean, they weren’t bad bad, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get them again. What I do like about Kettle Chips, and what keeps me buying them, is how crunchy they are. I also like that their flavours aren’t usually greatly overwhelming so you can still enjoy them with something like a sandwich without just tasting their flavours. Plus, they don’t use artificial colours or flavours or anything like that. They cook them in small batches too and I think that helps get them that super crunchiness. Kettle Chips also makes ridged chips which are outstanding and I wish that Costco would carry those too, especially the basic sea salt ones which are a favourite in our house. With the coupon we save £1.05 off the three bags, so they were cheap enough that we didn’t mind giving the new flavours a try. I mean they were less than £1.00 per bag, which is an exceptional deal considering a 150 gram bag is usually more like £1.50 – £2.00 per bag depending on supermarket deals. 3, 150 gram bags for £2.44 (£3.49 – £1.05 offer) (US: $3.97). Item #: 0167205.
Kirkland Signature Balsamic Vinegar from Modena -Balsamic vinegar is one of those things that everyone that really likes to cook or considers themselves a “foodie” should have around the house because it can be used for a wide variety of things, from savoury to sweet. We like it on salads, especially a nice tomato, basil, mozzarella one where we drizzle a little straight on. Of course, you can also mix it with things to create a nice salad dressing, like the top notch KS Extra Virgin Olive Oil. One way that I really like it is with sweet things, like strawberries or figs and vanilla ice cream. It might sound gross to have vinegar and strawberries but it is surprisingly good. Of course, balsamic vinegar has a more complex flavour than something like white or malt vinegar that is pretty much just the one acidic note, which is why it works so well with fruit. And of course, I love it with cheese too; and not just because I love anything with cheese. Sometimes you can use it straight from the bottle, other times it is nice to reduce it to thicken it and make it a little sweeter or into a sauce. We use it in all kinds of ways and find it a useful way to add a nice flavour to various dishes, and luckily at Costco it is a good deal so we can experiment as much as we want. The Kirkland Signature balsamic is actually produced in Italy for Costco, much like the KS olive oils. The balsamic vinegar comes from Modena where it is produced and bottled by Acetum, the leading producer of balsamic vinegar in Modena. The KS balsamic is certified by the Assaggiatori Italiani Balsamico (AIB), which is a pretty strenuous testing and tasting routine to grade the vinegar based on its aroma, taste, and visual properties. The KS vinegar is designated “four leaves”, the highest quality rating of the AIB, which means it has a “superb and very sweet taste, flavorful aroma and syrupy consistency.” You can read more about the AIB system of classification here (it is in Italian though). The price from Costco is really unbeatable given the quality of the balsamic, so if you like balsamic vinegar you really want to get it at Costco next time you are running low. 1 litre for £6.99 (US: $11.36). Item #: 0046667.
Lychees – For those of you that are like “what’s a lychee?” I’ll give you the quick answer from Wikipedia: “The fresh fruit has a “delicate, whitish pulp” with a floral smell and a fragrant, sweet flavor. Since this perfume-like flavor is lost in the process of canning, the fruit is usually eaten fresh.” The difference between fresh and canned lychees is pretty huge because the canning process and syrup they are floating around in the cans really does overwhelm the very delicate flavour and you just totally lose the light floral aroma too. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the fresh lychees at Costco before, so when we saw them (in July) I had to get them. The only tricky thing to buying fresh lychees is that you have to peel and pit them, but really it isn’t that hard and can be done with just your fingers or a small knife if you want to be more delicate. The skin on a lychee is pretty thin despite its rough looking appearance and when they are fresh and ripe you can easily peel the skin away with your fingernail just by kind of scratching the skin a bit and once you get a little break in the skin it will peel off. The actual fruit inside the skin is white and kind of soft and feels a bit rubbery maybe, sort of like a grape without the skin, but luckily it isn’t that hard to get through either because you need to remove the pit as well, especially if you are serving them to people or going to put them in a drink or serve them in a salad. Although, you can always spit the pit out while you are eating the fruit too which is much less messy and involved. I will say that lychees are really juicy so they will make a mess if you are peeling and pitting them, so be prepared for that. We ate ours just raw and without anything accompanying them but you can use them in lots of different ways. Really though, the flavour is so light and delicate that just eating them by themselves is the best way to appreciate the taste, I think. If you’re looking for more recipes or information about fresh lychees here’s a great post from Shockingly Delicious. Aside from the gorgeous, florally taste lychees are actually packed with vitamin C too. In a 100 gram serving of fresh lychees you’ll get 72 mg of vitamin C or roughly 86% of your daily requirement. If you eat about nine peeled fresh lychees you’ll have met your daily needs for vitamin C. Other than that though, they’re not really packing a nutritional punch, just a lot of flavour. 700 grams for £3.79 (US: $6.16). Item #: 0056134.
Sharp Solo R-28STM Microwave – Our new flat is great and a big improvement over the last one. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a built-in microwave like every other flat we’ve rented in London. It’s not that we use a microwave all that often, but we do like to have one for defrosting things, reheating leftovers, and simple things like steaming vegetables. I was hoping that Costco would have one that had a decent array of functions with a small price tag, and luckily, Costco had us covered. It’s a pretty standard 800 watt microwave clad in stainless steel with push buttons and a knob for all of the controls and inside it has a glass turntable. There are six auto-cooking options plus an express cook and an express defrost setting. All you need to do to use the automatic settings is enter the weight and food type and the oven will automatically calculate the correct cooking or defrosting time and power level. If you like to take a more hands on approach, there are five different power levels so that you can defrost or heat up as slowly or quickly as you want. Setting the timer is pretty easy as well and there’s even a quick one minute start button so you can get to heating while you adjust the time more exactly with the knob. There’s also a clock which is handy for people like us that don’t have a clock on the oven in our kitchen. On the box it says that there is a child lock but I’m not really sure how that works, but thought I should mention it. We’ve only used the microwave a few times to defrost a reheat a couple of things but it works really well and is even easy to clean. If you use your microwave more for cooking, you might really like the delay start function too. I haven’t tried that yet but think it is kind of an interesting option. Since it is freestanding it is great that isn’t super oversized and won’t take up a ton of space. It’s big enough to do the job for anything we’d put in it and it is easy to use, so we couldn’t really ask for anything more. The price was reasonable at Costco since I’ve seen this for £80+ at other retailers. £59.99 (US: $97.53). Item #: 0151900.