Well shopping here in Manhattan is very different. There are no M&S’s or other English supermarkets which is v annoying. There are no American ones either offering great food and products at reasonable prices, which is really off-pissing.
I’ve addressed the corner deli shops already which are really only places for kids (pre and post school) and chaps buying Rizla papers and to purchase foods in the last resort. So where to get shopping here? Well my cool cousin Kaz and husband Alex advised us before leaving of Fairways Market over on the west side. It’s like an old warehouse stuffed full of food that you can meander around for hours…
The fresh produce especially is excellent and the bread range too (in fact bread here tends to be tasteless crap so it’s great to find a good product range). It’s got the largest and coldest cold room I’ve ever got frozen in and it’s an easy bus ride away so it’s great fun to go with grandson Elliott who just adores public transport. However it’s a bit pricey with packets of rice costing over $5 for example which I find inexplicable given that Uncle Ben and the Green Giant both hail from this parish.
So it didn’t take long to discover shopping online via The Whole Foods market and Fresh Foods and latterly Peapod. They are all pretty good price-wise, although most things are a bit more expensive than in the UK. We did find a marked difference in prices at shops up in Connecticut compared with Manhattan when we visited our good friends Shay and Marta recently (of which more later) and I think we’ll get a car and stock up next time we’re there. The great thing about online ordering is that they’ll deliver within two hours for you – it’s a bit pricey but what fantastic service. So order things over breakfast and the shopping arrives before 10.30am.
We have found another supermarket more local than Fairways called Pioneer. It’s got a decent stock of things compared with the deli’s but but it can be limited when it comes to selections beyond the local soul tastes and Tex-mex food. I went in yesterday to get some things to make a curry for dinner. They’d never heard of jars/sachets of curry paste and could only offer me one jar of jalfrezi sauce. I also wanted a jar of pesto. Incredibly they’d never heard of that too. I think the Italian influence has long since moved on. Eventually I found some in the chiller area alongside meats. Naturally. Red chillies – forget it. But I had a choice of around 300 varieties of green ones – all from Mexico of course.
But the biggest surprise shopping has been with the booze. You cannot buy wine/spirits at supermarkets as in the UK (beyond a single cheap brand bottle) though they offer a myriad choice of beers. You have to go to separate liquor stores, which are like our off-licences, for wines and spirits. And prices are at least 50% higher than in the UK. And these stores don’t sell beers. It’s very odd. I spoke to the owner of one store and I told him about supermarkets in the UK offering a full range of booze and being able to drive the price down because of their buying power, to the consumers’ benefit. He told me the authorities here insist on separate licences for selling wine/spirits and beers because it protects both businesses. In a way I see what he means; we may have a fantastic choice and great value in UK supermarkets but their very power has demolished the off-licence business hasn’t it (like most local stores in fact)? Anyway I now know where to get some decent wine even if the prices are still a bit eye-watering.