Monday, August 24, 2009

One Stop Shop -- Dream on!  

I have been incredibly bored today, I just couldn't make my mind up about what to do. I felt like I should go out and do something productive, so I said: "Ok we can go make spinach artichoke dip!" A simple task, really. A deceptively... simple... task... Park n shop apparently no longer carries frozen spinach! After I had bought everything else, I stood in the freezer aisle and had a very out loud, WTF moment when I saw that there was broccoli, brussel sprouts, mixed vegetables, even hash browns. But spinach? Noo, of course not spinach.

I just wanted to stay at home today! Is that so much to ask? To have one day of not going on a mission?!

Scenarios like these make me miss the US like crazy! If I went to Safeway I wouldn't need to go anywhere else, I would just go to one store and be done with it. In Hong Kong you really need to go to about 3 different grocery stores before you can get what you want. Park n Shop has the basics (sort of...), City Super carries the more luxury basics, and then there are gourmet stores like Oliver's and Great.

I remember when I first moved to Hong Kong, I lived in Discovery Bay and there was one Park n Shop with a limited selection and a handful of restaurants (Ebeneezers, Jaspas, McDonalds). It is a true story that after living in Hong Kong for about 3-4 months I lost about 20 lb. My friends back home were all shocked, my mom was really proud of me, but the truth of the matter was that for 3-4 months I ate tuna out of a can because I couldn't figure out where we were supposed to buy "normal" groceries. By the time I actually discovered City Super I had adapated to a healthier life style, but talk about culinary culture shock! You go from having everything at your convenience to having NOTHING. Okay, and in addition I used to be a picky eater. I didn't try a piece of cheesecake until I was 16 and simply would not eat a peanut if my life depended on it. Far cry from my current state of peanut/peanut butter obsessed!

Anyway, today when I was grumbling about having to trek out to Causeway Bay to go to City Super I almost burst out laughing on the train. It was only a little less than five years ago I had no idea City Super existed! Hopefully my tags in this post will reach someone out there who is desperately researching "Hong Kong western grocery stores", no one needs to suffer the 'can-of-tuna-for-every-meal' fate.

Park n Shop: Is pretty much everywhere. I could get onto a serious rant thinking about everything I dislike about them. Oh boy, they make me so mad some days. I come from a country where everything is King-Sized and aisles are laid out with scientific precision - let me just warn you now, Park n Shop is the anti-Christ. It's good for drinks, eggs, bread, cookies, chips, soups, pretty much anything that you're not picky about. An added bonus is being able to purchase these things online > here <

City Super: Does an ok job at providing some interesting goodies expats miss from home, although I have got to say their stocking ability... *sigh* much to be desired. Go on a "bad day" and there is nothing in the store. Also, avoiding peak times is a great piece of advice. I seriously think that people must come to visit City Super or something, why is everyone just standing around? WHY? It's a grocery store, you get in, you get what you want, you leave. I swear, it's like everyone stands around in awe. I like to buy cut fruit here, things for my delicious salads (fresh spinach, good cheese, deli meats), they also have a cool variety of frozen food.

Threesixty: Hong Kong's first organic super market was a pretty exciting find. I think it opened 3-4 years ago, I ran all over the place trying to figure out what the "Landmark" building was. Some people are very picky about eating exclusively organic, Threesixty gives a lot of good options for vegetarians & vegans as well. As a "normal" person who isn't picky about anything about food, the only thing I like is that sometimes there are Manager's Special items. I once bought an amazing frozen chocolate cake that was normally priced for $120HKD for $40! It was one of those cakes that takes you places beyond amazing chocolate flavor, it was a triumph and delicious. Ok, so on a less personal note I think they have a great selection of ice cream.

Oliver's: Gets me all sorts of excited! Oliver's is very gourmet and I'm sure there are people who buy all of their groceries there, but that person is not me. For me, going to Oliver's is a big treat and usually after a fat paycheck :) They have what I consider to be the best ready made lasagna in all of Hong Kong. I have tried every single one from every grocery store and I am proud to shout from the rooftops that Oliver's makes the best. It's only $48HKD for a portion that could serve two. They also have an extensive collection of alcohol, some things that you cannot find anywhere else.

GREAT: I looked all over, but I can't find the website for the store. It's located below Seibu in Pacific Place (Admiralty) very hard to miss! I remember searching "Western grocery store Hong Kong" a million times and only hearing here and there snippets of this fabled store: Great. Was it just a great supermarket? Or was it the Great supermarket? I had no idea, but it sounded great. Once I found it, there's been no end to the love affair. I usually go any time after 8pm, then all of the ready-made food is on sale! I usually buy 2 large custom salads ($40 each), a carton of soup ($30), a loaf of bread ($20), and if any of their wraps look good ($40, enough for 2 people) I get one of those too. I can't begin to emphasize how much I love that grocery store, it has absolutely nothing I need aside from a quick dinner. I probably go at least once a week. It is truly a gourmet grocery store.

Gateway: There is no website for Gateway, but this was quite a find for an American missing food from home. It's located at exit E1 in the Sheung Wan MTR station, you'll notice a yellow wall with a black and white checkerboard sign saying "Gateway" and a flight of stairs down. This is almost like a mini-Costco or Sam's Club. There's no refrigerated goods, but paper plates, cleaning products, candy, cereal, alcohol, soda, condiments, baking supplies, coffee - all in bulk. You can also put in orders with the desk and when they make a new order they will notify you so you can pick it up.

That's about it for Hong Kong grocery stores... It's a pretty sad line up. I didn't return to the US for 3 years straight, I had completely forgotten what it was like to be there. Heh. I walked into a Long Island Walbaum's and stopped dead in my tracks, mouth wide open, eyes glazed over. My poor boyfriend kept prodding me along, "Ok, ok, we can come back tomorrow if you want. We have to hurry, come on. You don't need that, put that down, we can buy it later." Nothing in the entire world is like an American grocery store. I don't think I will ever get over how many options there are for everything! I have been like a neglected child for too long, unaware of the choices out there. Now I have an entire bookmark folder that I have named Food Porn and is an assortment of photos, recipes, and food websites (Mmm Ben & Jerry's!)

On that note, I will leave you with this delicious recipe for Spinach Artichoke Dip:

* 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
* 1/4 cup mayonnaise
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
* 1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
* 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
* 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
* 1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
* salt and pepper to taste
* 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
* 1/2 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
* 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a small baking dish.
2. In a medium bowl, mix together cream cheese, mayonnaise, Parmesan cheese, Romano cheese, garlic, basil, garlic salt, salt and pepper. Gently stir in artichoke hearts and spinach.
3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared baking dish. Top with mozzarella cheese. Bake in the preheated oven 25 minutes, until bubbly and lightly browned.

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