The Costco Report: Who Moved My Cheese?
Tuesday, January 11th, 2011
The Costco Report: Episodic observations on where to port safely, and what to avoid like a pestilence, when navigating an ocean of consumer non-durables under a sheet metal sky… In today’s edition, a big finger wag at the Big C for abandoning some of our local dairies, and Taquitos From Hell.
First up, and most importantly, cheese: As recently as late summer, Costco – to their credit – carried several exceptional cheeses from no less than four local* dairies: Pt Reyes (home of my favorite bleu for salads), Fiscalini (outstanding cheddar and one of the better versions of smoked mozzarella), Redwood Hill (a goat’s milk cheddar that makes a spectacular in mac-n-cheese), and Laura Chenel (the archetypal Sonoma County chevre). Come Autumn, this had been reduced to the Pt Reyes and the Laura Chenel, and by the end of October, I was faced with the null set.
So I asked the custy service dude what was up. It has to be said, Costco consistently offers good customer service, and this was no exception: He looked up every cheese I asked about, checked stock and order books, and explained that their collective absence was just a seasonal thing (true, lots of good imported cheeses were out of stock as well), that they knew their buyer demographic here in SoCo (which I took to be code for: “Corporate knows you all consume wine and cheese like whales at a baleen buffet”), and that they would assuredly bring back all the good stuff come the holidays. Well, I’ve seen the Pt Reyes and Laura Chenel resurface only episodically, I’ve noticed the welcome addition of Belwhether Farms (home to what is, in my estimation, the finest creme fraiche outside the French countryside), and I’ve never heard from Fiscalini or Redwood Hill again, which is why I’m calling Costco out on this one: Why, in Sonoma County of all places, would you abandon some of your best local dairies? It’s not like we don’t produce a lot of milk and, last time I checked, management agrees that the natives are hardly restrained in their proclivity to consume massive quantities of local cheese and wine, so why? Bad dog, Big C.
Next, just because I’m feeling kind of grumpy about the whole cheese thing, an honorable mention for Worst Nibble on Planet Earth goes out to the free sample of horrid, boxed, fried, reheated tube of congealed grease, encasing some fetid, stringy mystery meat, and called a “taquito”. Whether Mexicans eat a tasty version of this dish, or whether the diminutive of taco is, in historical fact, a genetically engineered atrocity escaped from a high security sub-floor of the Taco Bell research labs, I cannot say. But I can tell you this: There was nothing “free” about that free sample. It left my mouth at Top Gun seat-ejection velocity, and I had to drink some cloyingly sweet sample of a vaguely “chai”-like liquid just to dilute the acrid taste on my tongue. But, really, this one’s on me: What WAS I thinking?!
*Yes, I know, Fiscalini and Pt Reyes technically come from area codes other than my beloved 707. But they’re at least in neighboring counties (well, Marin at least is a neighboring county; I don’t really know where Modesto is, but I think I could ride my bike there, if I really put my mind to it, which is as good a working definition of “local” as any).