Colorado Table

NIBBLES: How I lost my Costco virginity and found some good cannoli

I am no longer a Costco virgin.
Whew!
No more embarassment when the other food writers talk about their adventures at the big box store.
I had avoided shopping at Costco all these years until recently when a friend convinced me to go because I said I needed “a ton of food” for my son’s high school graduation party.
Why? The simple answer is that the need had not arisen.  I have a small household. I’m not interested in buying a year’s-worth of almost anything. The complicated answer is that I shop a lot at supermarkets, ethnic markets and natural foods stores for research, necessity and pleasure. I didn’t think a warehouse store fit any of those needs. I found out I was mistaken.
We headed into the fray at the Costco in Superior on a Saturday morning because that’s when the most free samples are available. I was awestruck before I got inside the building – the shopping cart was roomy enough to seat a family of four comfortably.
Inside, I was stunned by the size of the place. Tall rows of stuff receded toward the horizon so far that I could almost see the curvature of the earth.
As we began roaming the food aisles I was intrigued by the seemingly random placement of items – giant cereal boxes next to huge pickle jars. Unlike at my regular supermarket, I was forced to scan every shelf to find what I needed.
I was told I had to grab what I liked because that product might not be on the shelf the next time, meaning that you have to keep coming back to see what’s available.
I hadn’t seen gallon jugs of mayo since my long ago career as a restaurant cook. Many in the virtual United Nations of customers at the store were clearly buying supplies for their metro area restaurants, other a few items to take home.
About a half mile into the expedition, I had found a giant bag of frozen Chinese dumplings, tubs of red pepper hummus and artichoke-spinach dip, a sack of mini peanut butter cups, and cases of Izze soda. I didn’t like the looks of the veggies hermetically sealed inside thick plastic. I managed to avoid the super-sized fruit pies, although they came highly recommended, especially the tart cherry pies. I did pick up a supersized jug of protein powder for the kid and a meg bag of coffee beans for me.
The most insidious problem is psychological: No matter how much you buy it never looks like the cart is full empted to
For the most part I kept my impulsive tendencies under control except for that jar of huckleberry preserves I grabbed because, well, how often do you see huckleberry anything on any local shelf? As lunchtime approached, the buzz and cacophony grew exponentially. Once the food sampling stations at the end of every aisle opened, piranha-like swarms of people converged … and not at all politely. I saw one middle-aged mom cut off an older guy in order to secure a steak sample. This is the NASCAR of free lunches and no less competitive a sport.
So, I lost my innocence. I left Costco drained but clearly a more experienced shopper. Clearly, if you shop carefully and find friends to split 20-pound pork roasts, you can save some money. I’ll go back some day to research the food products and the human condition and just for sheer in-your-face adventure.

EATERY UPDATE
Kirk’s Soul Kitchen is open at 14107 E. Colfax Ave. in Aurora… Happy 15th anniversary to Denver’s exceptional Potager and Vesta Dipping Grill restaurants… If you’re looking for lunch on July 14, stop by KidSpree@YumFest on the Great Lawn at the Aurora Municipal Center. Besides great acrtivities for kids, the event hosts a group of cool food trucks and vendors including comfort food from the award-winning Steuben’s truck, Manna from Heaven, Basic Kneads, Applebee’s, JJ’s Dippers. OG Burgers, Mythos Greek Food and Gigi’s Cupcakes.

ON THE MENU
With a name like Wholly Cannoli Cafe, you better serve a stellar version of your namesake product. Luckily, the small bakery and eatery at 22691 E. Aurora Pkwy. on the southern edge of Aurora dishes a nearly perfect, classic cannoli. The crisply fried round shell brims with sweetened ricotta and the ends are dotted with lots of good chocolate chips. While you’re there check out the soft-chewy almond-y pignoli (pine nut) cookies and the good eggplant Parmesan grinders. I’ll have to go back for the chicken piccata and pizza. I like Wholly Cannoli because there’s a genuine Italian accent coming from the kitchen, and you can buy their housemade marinara in Ball glass jars to take home.

COME TO THE TABLE
Read more Nibbles and other Colorado Table features at aurorasentinel.com/colorado-table. Send comments and questions to: jlehndorff@aurorasentinel.com. Be sure to visit (and like) the Nibbles Facebook page.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
“I just don’t think I’m supposed to be in people’s faces all the time. People were like, ‘Dude — no. I like some of your songs. But get out of the frame.’ It’s like, ‘No, you’re the guy I listen to when I make omelets.’ ”
- Musician John Mayer

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