God made Costco for good, orange cheddar

There's nothing orange in the cheeses offered by other local stores

If I am honest, and I try to be in these columns although a few people think I make this stuff up, I am not sure how we would get by here without the miracle of Costco.

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What did ex-pats do without it? I am being slightly facetious, as I know I would simply become used to the Mexican equivalent: Mega, Soriano and Leys. I am a fan for the fresh produce side of things already, but Costco is in a realm all by itself.

With a friendly wave of my Costco card I am suddenly in the kingdom of conspicuous consumption. The mind boggles at the variety, from furniture that could fill every room in any house to the latest kitchen appliances and color TVs large enough for a stadium.

Think of almost anything you might need and they have it. But you have to be quick, as the sales come and then there are no more, the products replaced by something else but not the same as what you saw last week.

But I love it, I love it.

Others, perhaps, will not understand our joy at finding things we could get on any day at home but nowhere else but Costco here in Mexico. Cheddar cheese, for instance.

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Here in Puerto Vallarta there is nothing orange in the cheese sections of local stores, only every shade of white cheese imaginable. That is fun for a while.

“Darling, how cute. They only have the white stuff,” you shout over the disco music in the meat and cheese section. I always think of my Jewish friends staring at sausages beside the curd. You don’t have to be orthodox to think that this is unorthodox.

After several weeks, white cheese is no longer cute.

“I don’t care if it is only Kraft cheddar, I want it now,” you say, but you can’t find even that. That is why God made Costco.

There is a small section of cheddar in the grand store; we come to look at it and tremble with desire. You never miss something until you can’t get it. I never thought of cheese and especially cheddar as something I might miss someday but I do. Thank you, Costco.

Before I leave the subject, I must mention one other type, feta. Because so many of us live on salads, feta cheese has become a staple of our cold lunches. However, in spite of being of the “white” variety, there seems to be very little around even at Costco, where it is available intermittently at best.

So much so that there have been fights over the king of salad toppings. The other week I was told, after three weeks without, that a shipment of feta had arrived with no fanfare and was simply stacked on the floor of the cheese section still in its carton.

It was quickly snapped up until only two containers remained. One senior took both as another senior reached forward. Outrage was expressed and chaos ensued.

I am told by more than a few oldies that the cheese section is a good place to meet future partners, as it is a place where the like-minded gather. I suppose that and the wine section would both qualify. I do seem to meet almost everyone I know near the wine shelves, pondering over the labels as if they were the Dead Sea scrolls.

And why not, eh? Without wine, life loses some of its lovely hue, at least in my view.

We all know that the name Kirkwood is the house brand for Costco products and it is generally pretty good, especially for bulk products. Now I see it on wine and vodka. Can this be true?

A few weeks ago I saw K vodka being served at an upscale party and I must say my bloody Mary was superb. I have not yet ventured towards the Kirkwood wine, but if the Canadian dollar keeps falling I could be splashing around in that barrel before long.

Let there be no mistake, we love Mexico, which is why Michelle and I have made it our home. However, I think if there were no Costco, we would miss it enormously, even if I generally walk out with five jars of peanut butter when we only need one.

By the way, in spite of Costco being a Seattle company, it is also a very Mexican experience. Last week my wife was buying kitchen detergent when an elderly lady approached her, saying:

“Where are the paper towels? No one speaks English here,” which is partially true.

Then the lady said, “This is an American store and it is not right that there is only Spanish!” She began to shout, “PAPER TOWELS, PAPER TOWELS, PAPER TOWELS!”

Finally Michelle said to her quietly, “‘Paper towels’ in Spanish is toallas de papel.

“PAPER TOWELS, PAPER TOWELS,” continued the frenzied woman in spite of my wife’s translation.

Perhaps it is a good idea to look up a few words of Spanish before going to Costco in Mexico.

The writer lives under a palapa in Puerto Vallarta.

© Christopher Dalton 2016

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  • Jim

    Kirkland is the Costco store brand.

    • How right you are.

    • PintorEnMexico

      Yep! I still have a house in Kirkland, where Costco used to be headquartered.

  • Walter Smith

    Soriana, not Soriano is the store you refer to.

    • and La Ley not leys

      • Walter Smith

        Actually if you look at your receipt, it is Casa Ley.

  • Patricia Dolan

    If you want to know where all the Feta is……..it’s here in Melaque. We have a store here called Hawaii and the owner Alex makes frequent trips to Costco in PV with a list of items requested by his customers. Feta is at the to of that list!!

  • RobertSDF

    Why am I not surprised. A Costco fan. It is the place I do my best to avoid here in Merida. Mostly because it draws the expats who have lived here for years but still like to only eat like an American and most have not bothered to learn any Spanish. Instead, they complain because the taxi drivers don’t speak any Spanish and neither do the farmacy employees. So they can now go to a Canadian owned farmacy and pay double or triple. But they don’t need to learn Spanish.
    Enjoy your “Kirkwood”. I will be here enjoying my Chedraui and Soriana house brands.

    • D. Grant Fitter

      Even in staunchly traditional (no Costco here) Taxco, Gro our Chedraui has a good range of Parma Brand Italian sausages, salami and side bacon, all now made in Mexico. Folks like Felipe should try the different styles of fresh Longaniza sausages in their municipal market.
      Then too, the local market or a door-to-door vendor of lovely, crumbly, raw milk queso fresco can be a tastier option than many American made “Greek Fetas”.

  • If only I could find Italian sausage. Sixteen years without Italian sausage. Weenies and chorizo, weenies and chorizo. Jeez.

    • Mark Schneider

      The PV WalMart (by the cruise ship dock) usually has Johnsonville brand Italian Sausage (but not the hot type).

      • I’m a long, long way from PV (thank God. I don’t like to sweat), but I’ll take a closer look at the shelves in Morelia’s Walmart next time. Thanks for the tip. I remain pessimistic, however. I imagine the PV store has it due to the considerable Gringo presence there.

        • Mark Schneider

          If there is an Italian restaurant in Morelia that serves dishes containing Italian Sausage, perhaps they might be willing to sell you a kilo or two. That, too, is worth a shot.

        • Güerito

          Try the Superama in Morelia.

          • Oh, I’ve examined the shelves in Morelia’s Superama a million times. Chorizo in all its forms. No Italian, ever. I really think these things are sold only in areas where there is a significant Gringo presence. We don’t have that, which is fine by me except for, well, no Italian sausage. There are trade-offs to be made.

        • Sharon

          Where are you located? We are looking for a less sweaty, less touristy place to move to, one with more Mexican culture. Not too worried about Costco – we survived for 3 years before the one in Hermosillo opened. We have only had WalMart/Sam’s and Home Depot for 4 years – we like HD.

          • Pátzcuaro, Michoacán. Certainly less sweaty. It’s the opposite. You’ll freeze your butt off in winter. We’re high altitude. And very touristy. Better option is nearby Morelia, less cold, more things to do (It’s the state capital), and it’s not touristy. If I had not already built a house here, I’d hightail it to Morelia, just 40 minutes away. And there are a number of Walmarts, a Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Office Depot, etc., etc., in Morelia, all the modern conveniences, which I embrace.

    • D. Grant Fitter

      Give fresh Longaniza a try. I’m certain you’ll find numerous vendors in your municipal market. Some sell it in long, natural casings and others tied off in links. It is fresh like Italian sausage, not cured like chorizo. Gotta be better than a brand named Johnsonville Italian! ja ja

      • Gracias. Never heard of it. I’ll investigate. My wife who is Mexican thinks it’s like chorizo, but a little internet sleuthing tells me you are correct.

  • mikegre

    I enjoy your columns, Chris. My numero #1 reason for coming to this site. Keep up the good work.

  • Mark Schneider

    While Costco is great for certain items, we shop there for only those items. Their milk seems to last longer than milk at Wal-Mart. The Kirkland bacon is generally better than local varieties and it the only place I know of that carries Scoop-Away cat litter. But other than those items and a few others, we shop exclusively at local stores.

  • Neil Gribby

    Hey Chris, do not be afraid of the “K” brand booze. It is of high quality, and can be trusted. I have not been disappointed with any choice I have made. This includes the K brand Anejo tequila, really good stuff.

  • TioDon

    “Ahhhh, cheddar cheese, the food that binds”……

  • Sharon

    Thank you for your missives – they make us fellow Canuks laugh or feel sorry when things frustrate us beyond belief. You do know that there is no such thing as orange cheese? – it is dyed and the coloring is probably not good for us, but we can relate to what you are saying. We have friends back home who think a party is not complete without orange cheddar and kolbassa, marble cheddar is fancy stuff, where we come from.

    Our nearest Costco is 1.5 hours away and we do make a foray every so often. We are fortunate to have a small family grocery that brings in special items – many from Costco, as well as a shop called American Goodies that will actually take orders, for things to import from the USA. Our local WalMart/Sam’s Club is getting better as there are more and more affluent Mexicans moving in to Guaymas. On a good day we get Feta, orange cheddar, Brie and even goat cheese.

  • Sharon

    Your stories remind me of Ron McLean and Vinyl Cafe – very funny stuff.

    Don’t even get me started about people who live here and have not bothered to learn Spanish. Here in San Carlos there are many restaurant/store employees that speak English, however there are many who do not or will not.

    We are doing our best to learn as much as we can, as fast as we can. I just picked up Rosetta Stone, all 5 levels, at Best Buy in Phoenix on sale $199.00, because I am not learning as fast as I want to. We have only been here 4.5 years and I know more Spanish that some folks that have been here for 15 years. The snowbirds – well they’re not willing to learn much, but complain about how the Mexican people are not speaking English in Guaymas or Hermosillo. I feel that if you are going to live here, even 1/2 the year you need to learn the language. At least some basics, for shopping and service. Heaven help you in an emergency, the police dispatcher here does not speak English and will hang up on you if you cannot speak Spanish.

  • flamedoil

    Adore the yellow cheese and all the food coloring in it, I prefer unadulterated white pure cheeses.

  • Richard Fryer

    For family reasons and the ‘slow’ permanent move to paradise, I make the pilgrimage, by road, to Canada every 6 months. There are few things I never fail to bring back with me.. old cheddar cheese, McLarens Imperial ‘nippy’ cheese, Maple syrup, and in the past cranberry sauce (which until recently was very hard to find)… for wine we are blown away by the quality of the ‘California” brand Vino tinto, blanca, and rosa for less than $40 pesos a box…nooo it doesn’t come in a thick glass bottle with a fancy French name like Mouton Cadet…nonetheless it serves as a good dinner wine…try it.

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