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What's good at Costco?

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I just joined Costco, and I was impressed by the freshness of the produce and the fish. Are there any ingredients that you find particularly good at Costco? (or particularly bad). I was overwhelmed by the amount of different products they carry, so any guidance will help. Thank you!

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  1. There was a recent thread on the Los Angeles board on this topic. I don't know what city you're on, but some of this (at least) should be relevant.

    Link: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

    1. Meat - they have uncommon cuts and really good quality meats. I've been very pleased with the various kinds of steaks and the racks of lamb I've purchased there. I can't say they're cheap but you really get a good product.

      1. I am a fan of the meats - they have really good steaks and the boneless pork chops are wonderful. I also buy the salmon a lot - it's a pain to cut it into portions for my family, but we love it. I have not been too impressed with the fruit.

        1. I guess it depends on where you are located and what you cook. My wife is Shanghainese, an excellent cook (Chinese food exclusively)and a careful shopper. Here's what she's taken to at Costco:

          Pork loin in a three-pack at $1.99 a pound (which is a good price for San Francisco).

          Pine nuts, in a 2.5 lb.(?) bag.

          Chicken (here Foster Farms), when she's not doing in a live chicken from a Chinatown poultry store, or Safeway isn't having a "buy one, get one free" sale.

          Canola Oil (at my insistence, though she finds no fault in it).

          Kikkoman Soy Sauce, for certain dishes (we usually have about four different soy sauces on hand).

          Rice, medium grain pearl. (It's amazing how fast we can go through a 50-lb bag).

          As far as produce goes, the stuff we can use typically come in too large quantities to keep fresh. But Costco's watermelons, in season, are AWESOME!

          And oh, yeah, the 5-lb. bags of gummy bears.

          1. Meat and, in season, the BEST canteloupes (spelling??) I have ever tasted...........

            1. Depending on which state you live in, Costco is one of the better places to buy fine wine believe it or not. They are one of the largest retailers of wine in the country and thus get very good prices. If you are into wine at all go to the Wine Spectator board and see some of the comments on Costco. Unfortunately I live in a state where Costco is not allowed to sell wine.

              8 Replies
              1. re: dinwiddie

                I live in a state where Costco does sell wine and let me just warn that their wine seems to have a higher potential for having gone bad from poor storage. I have been disappointed several times by 'off' bottles.

                1. re: James G

                  I agree that you run across the occasional poorly stored bottle at the Costco, but over the long run the savings more than offset this problem. Bottles that usually sell in the $10-$12 range sell for a couple of bucks less at Costco; more expensive wines bring bigger savings. The Ruffino Chianto Classico Riserva Ducale, for example, sells for $19 at our local Costco. I've seen it at the local grocery store for $25; Zachy's in Scarsdale sells it for $22.

                  The wife and I use Costco mostly for everyday wines. We're pretty happy with the quality and very very happy with the prices.

                  1. re: Tom from NC

                    Keep in mind that you can return anything at costco that your're not satisfied with. That goes for perishables too.

                    1. re: Artie

                      Artie, good point!

                      One of the great things about Costco is that they will take ANYTHING back for ANY reason, period. I have never, ever had a problem returning anything, their customer service is excellent.

                    2. re: Tom from NC

                      They just opened one up in our area (northeast Ohio) and I was disappointed at the wine selection. There were only 3 Pinot Noirs and they were all from Calif., I saw absolutely no German wines, as well as nothing from New Zealand (Sauvignon Blancs). I suppose if you want to limit yourself to just the standard stuff you can get some deals.

                      1. re: Jambalaya

                        I think that regionality can be everything in Costco's wine selection. Here in Portland, in OR's Willamette Valley, home of some truly awesome pinots, they sell some local, some CA, and some French pinots.

                        My general house pinot is a Willamette Valley Vineyards Barrel Select which is about $12 at Costco, about $5 less per bottle than other places. Some of the other local pinots (Argyle, Rex Hill), which are usually around $40-50 bottle elsewhere, are about $30-40 per bottle at Costco.

                        I agree that there isn't a huge selection like there is in a real wine store. Heck, in NYC, they don't even sell wine in Costco (legally, they can't). So, yes, you are correct, if you are looking for what they sell, you can find some great deals, but it isn't anywhere near a one stop wine shop.

                      2. re: Tom from NC
                        James G (in Beijing)

                        Actually, I don't find that their prices are that competitive with the wine shops I go to in the DC area. I only buy lower-end wines at Costco now, which I suspect turn over faster and have less likelihood of having been stored poorly.

                        1. re: James G (in Beijing)

                          True, if you shop special sales and loss leaders at some DC wine shops, you can find some wines at the same price that they're sold at Costco everyday. However, last week at the Pentagon City Costco, I got Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz 2000 for $12.99-- it's selling for $22.99 most other places. Many other high end wines are real bargains at Costco, compared to wine shop prices.

                          When I was in the East Bay in August, I was disappointed at how few wine choices were available at the San Leandro Costco, compared to Northern Virginia where I usually shop. Of course, the California Costco stores sell liquor at great prices--only wine and beer here.

                  2. We entertain a lot and have lots of friends that come by and help us out with our large 'new' 100 year old house. We bought a chest freezer for the basement to help with the overflow from shopping at Costco, and it is really worth it. I have no problem with re-packaging my food when I get it home into smaller portions for freezing when the price and quality are good. Still, I always ask myself, "Do I need that much of this? Can I re-package/freeze/store what I do not use the first time?" For instance, we just don't use paper towels in quantity. It isn't worth the storage space to buy 12 rolls at a time, for us...

                    Another thing I like about Costco is that, in addition to stocking similar items nationwide at all of their stores, they feature many local products in regional markets. For example, here in Portland, OR you can get local cider, wines, dips/spreads, Talking Rain sparkling water (from WA, I think) and other stuff that I have never seen in Costco stores outside of the NW. In NYC (where I moved from less than a year ago), you can get Peter Luger's Steak Sauce, Gabila's knishes (which I don't like but a friend does), and other stuff, that you won't find in other regions (like the NW).

                    Things we usually buy at Costco:

                    Meat: boneless pork roast (less than $3/lb), pork chops, filet mignon (a pack of 4 really thick filets for under $30), t-bones, sausages (especially the flavored fancy ones - chicken pesto, turkey mango, etc.), oxtails (which I haven't cooked yet, first time I saw them...), and ground beef, polish sausages and hot dogs - esp. in the summer when we grill a lot.

                    Baked goods: almost everything I have tried has been good but the baked-there pies (esp. the fruit pies), cookies, and loaf cakes (3 different to a box) are really good (note: I try not to buy any of this stuff unless we are having a party!!)

                    Snacks: artichoke jalapeno dip, smoked salmon spread, Boursin cheese, small whole wheels of brie, frozen bags of shrimp, house brand (Kirkland) mixed salted nuts without peanuts, reception sticks/chocolate candy straws, big bags of candy for Halloween, canned fruit

                    Lunch stuff: sliced genoa salami, sliced provolone cheese, flats of water and soda, tuna packed in water, Tillamook sliced cheddar cheese

                    Fruits and Veggies: snap peas, spinach (yeah, the bag looks huge but that stuff cooks WAAAY down!), asparagus, small carrots, grapes, melons, satsumas/clementines

                    Paper goods: tissues, toilet paper

                    Other: local (Hood River, OR) fresh-pressed apple cider, slabs of Parmigiano Reggiano, mayo, beautiful floral arrangements for $10, blank video tapes, a new winter jacket, books, rugs, photo developing, DVDs, tools, Zone bars, frozen trays of lasagna (for the freezer in the basement, just in case!), holiday gifts, wine, drugstore stuff (supplements - the BEST price I have ever seen on glucosamine anywhere, aspirin, antacids/calcium), gorgeous outdoor lanterns for the deck, bookshelves, folding chairs, my partner's glasses, our new Charbroil grill, 2 new tires for our car, the car itself (not THERE, they arrange for you to speak with someone at a local dealership - GREAT DEALS).

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Jill-O

                      No matter what, I always buy too much at costco-

                      In Brooklyn, Ive found good value in their EVOO (but I wouldnt buy at this time of year), meats, large quantity packs of chicken THIGH cutlets, salmon, large bags of sugar and flour, specialty sausages (Ive seen brats from Johnsonville, Columbus salamis from SF, aidells, etc) and baked goods - recently I snagged a pack of La Brea ciabatta rolls - quite a surprise. The american-style dinner rolls baked in the store are surprisingly acceptable (good for Thanksgiving dinner) and their pies are also surprisingly ok and huge. Special cakes are better than those from most local bakeries and they carry some Elis Bakery and other local bakery products that are quite good. Produce is a weak point in this store - the produce is unrefrigerated, and they dont have good inventory management, so you have to watch out for stuff that is too old. Issues - in addit to the iffy produce, no sweet butter or nonpasteurized cream, limited frozen veg (no spinach, for example), refrigerated stuff (sausages, etc) sometimes close to or past pull date, ice cream kept too warm, THE HUMILIATING CHASE FOR A CART in the PARKING LOT.

                      1. re: jen kalb

                        What is evoo and why wouldn't you buy it now.

                        1. re: tigerwoman

                          EVOO = Extra Virgin Olive Oil

                        2. re: jen kalb

                          Issues: Don't forget the hazard of contracting AISLE RAGE -- to wit, the people who don't look where they are going, don't ever yield the right of way and especially, those who double-park their carts by the free sample tables.

                        3. re: Jill-O

                          IMO there are two classes of baked goods. There's the real artisan stuff put out by little bakeries, and there's the industrial grade supermarket packaged goods. The supermarket pastries and cakes are "off" in texture and often artificial in flavor. They're too crumbly and often turn into a goo that sticks to the top of your mouth.

                          The croissants and muffins from Costco that I've tasted are closer to industrial grade than artisan standards. However, they cost less than half of what you pay at a real pastry shop, so I'm sometimes tempted to buy a big carton of croissants, heat 'em up and overlook the shortcomings.

                          1. re: Sharuf

                            Yup. The croissants and muffins aren't the best in the world but they are good...and they freeze beautifully!

                            If I want the absolute best I bake it myself or splurge at a great bakery. For the price and the quality of the fresh baked Costco stuff, it is still a good deal if you don't bake or if you need to keep costs down. The stuff is better than most of the commercial stuff out there, even if it isn't on par with the great bakeries out there.

                            FWIW the fruit pies taste a lot less "commercial" though they are BIG! (...and I'm sure they don't freeze as well as the other stuff!!)

                            1. re: Sharuf

                              The Costco "muffins" should be called cake. Look at the ingredients, sugar tops the list.

                              Fortunately, they also carry a lot of local bakery products, like artisanal breads at a good price.

                            2. re: Jill-O

                              I bought my car at Costco, too. Shopped at the local dealership and got very fed up. I called Costco, told them what model I wanted and my top 3 color choices. They found it and delivered it to my door! Great service, didn't have to play games w/ the sales people AND they let me charge the entire car on my Visa so I got 2 free airline tickets, too. And, no, they did not make me buy a six-pack of cars.

                            3. Here in L.A. Costco has a "Seafood Roadshow" every month. Absoutely the best price/quality relationship for King Crab legs (and the lowest price I've ever seen). You can tell the guy which legs you want.

                              1. Along with what most people have posted, I also love:

                                1. Portabella mushrooms (pkg of 4 for about $4.50?)

                                Great price but you've got to be sure to pick the fresh ones.

                                2. Frozen pre-shelled uncooked prawns with tail

                                They work really well in recipes if you don't have time to get fresh ones and they are really convenient. Just them put under running water. Incidentally, someone mentioned the seafood roadshow here. Their fresh jumbo(no, more like colossal!) prawns are really good. Good price at about $10 a pound.

                                3. Not really food related, but you can't beat them for film and flowers either.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Margret

                                  Frequently, but not always, I've found the jumbo prawns to be mushy. Nevertheless, the price can't be beat.

                                  1. re: TomSwift

                                    You are absolutely right. You can generally tell if the shrimps are not fresh. Just as you can pick the crab legs, you can have the seller show you a few shrimps before buying. When they are fresh, they can't be beat. Margret

                                2. Previous years I bought cashmere sweaters for presents. This year they've gone from $50 to $70 and don't look as good, but everyone's gotten one from me by now anyway.

                                  This year sweetie gets an elegant nautica bathrobe - about $35.

                                  1. Here's my list ; Kirkland Toscano EVO, Kirkland creamy American blue cheese, Kirkland Romano and Parmigiano, 120z pack of prosciutto, Tasso kalamata olives, Kirkland espresso beans, Kirkland (house) brand wines, pistachios in the shell or any nuts really, In Seattle at least, the fresh Dungeness crab meat at about $19 a tub, organic spinach or mesclun salad, 50lb bag of bread flour, If you are having enough people the four packs of prime steaks are great. Anyuthing with the Kirkland label is reputed to be 40% less than equivalents and this is close to the truth. There is an increasing number of very high quality foods, Other people say that the rotisserie chicken is the best but I haven't tried it.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: forkit

                                      Agree, the latest for me is Kirkland Greek yogurt, less than Fage and IMO better.

                                      1. re: forkit

                                        There's a Costco Food Finds thread that is updated each quarter. Might be a better resource than one started in 2002. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/793368

                                      2. The whole roasted chickens are a good deal, and convenient. However I always roast them for an additional 20 minutes or so because they're a little under for my taste. I'll normally buy 2 and have the leg quarters for meal #1, then de-bone the breast for other uses such as soup, salads, or filling for enchiladas etc. In the past I've made stock from the carcasses as well. I believe that they're $5 something a piece, and way better then any supermarket variety.