Tag Archives: grocery store

Grocery List: September 21, 2014


NOTE: As you read this, I am either in Binghamton or driving to or from there. This will be my third Walk To End Alzheimer’s event of the fall, leaving two more on the docket. It also means that time is running short for you to get in on The Chain Challenge.

I usually fill my Sunday grocery list post with something opinion driven, but as I sit here writing this I’m drawing a blank. So, there’s the grocery list.

Enjoy your Sunday. Spend time with your family. Eat an apple. Visit one of the local farms. Watch football. Make a donation. Heck, take a nap. Just enjoy the day.

Grocery List: September 7, 2014

2014-09-06 at 16-46-07Sunday marks the first Walk To End Alzheimer’s event of my fall. As this posts, I’ll be behind the wheel of a 2014 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with Quebec plates screaming up I-81 or US-11 towards Canton, N.Y. The minivan is a rental, but it has SiriusXM radio, so there’s at least that.

When I first started working at the Alzheimer’s Association, we had 12 walks that took place in our 14-county region. We would start after Labor Day and run nonstop until Columbus Day weekend. We have since pared that down to five, scheduling them in a way that we don’t have more than one per weekend. My personal record was 33 consecutive days of work in 2004 or 2005. I don’t remember which year.

So, my Sunday posts may be late or nonexistent depending on the week. I went shopping today, plugging my list into the Wegmans app. I should review that app at some point, as it is pretty awesome (compared to apps from other supermarkets).

OH! Speaking of Walk To End Alzheimer’s, I’m closing in on the $1,100-mark for The Chain Challenge. With just about $400 to go to meet my goal and trigger the splendor of my having to eat at The GoldenRedOlivePondoOutbackLobsterGardenRosaCorral, I encourage you to make your donation by clicking the link above or the square graphic to the top right. No contribution is too small in the fight against Alzheimer’s. The strength in our cause is not necessarily in the dollars, but the numbers of people who want to see the end of this disease.

Off-Topic: On Service

Let’s go off-topic for a few hundred words.

Someone, and I honestly cannot remember who, recently said that Syracuse’s economy is rapidly becoming one where people make a living by serving cheeseburgers to one another. I don’t have any data to back me up, but let’s say that 20 to 25 percent of the jobs in this area are in the retail or food-service industries (just under 20 percent are education- or health-related while another fifth are government jobs; retail isn’t specifically listed as an industry by the New York State Department of Labor). This means that a quarter of the local population spends its time selling food, t-shirts, or sneakers to the other 75 percent.

That’s looking directly past real estate agents, car dealers and other professional salespeople, all of whom provide service to someone in order to remain gainfully employed. It does not count the professional firms who bid on jobs, selling their services to a willing buyer. Hell, even The Wife is in the service industry. Yes, she is a teacher, but the Common Core, standardized testing, prescriptive lessons and educational snake oil merchants have put the exclamation point on the argument that Americans that schools are glorified day care and teachers are nothing more than crowd control (Thanks Obama!).

So, where am I going with this? Like it or not, we’re a service economy. We all want what we want and we don’t want to pay a lot for it. It’s why we don’t manufacture things in America anymore. It’s why we throw things out rather than fix them. It’s why Wal-Mart is the largest retailer in the nation. We all have our moral high ground about Wal-Mart, but at the end of the day, we will sacrifice it to save 15 cents on a bottle of Windex. We live in a world where we serve one another. And we do it badly. I’m not just talking about the high school dropout who works at Dunkin Donuts and messed up my order this morning, either.

Today, I made my weekly grocery shopping trip. I won’t say where, but regular readers of Al Dente should not have trouble guessing. I was looking for the ripest lemon in the bin, when I glanced up to the grocery store version of a 12-car pileup: a manager chewing out an employee on the sales floor.

I was close enough to pick up 80 percent or so of the conversation. The employee, a nice gentleman who usually spends his shift sauteing vegetables at a little cooking station, had apparently left his work area multiple times that day to help people find things.

Now, he wasn’t slinging dope behind the store. He wasn’t groping anyone. He didn’t do anything to compromise the health or wellbeing of any customers. He walked away from his space, after turning off the cooking appliances, to help people find produce. I know this because I heard him attempt to defend his actions. The manager in question didn’t care, and continued to dress him down. I doubt anyone else saw this but me. Most people tunnel vision while shopping, but I was child-free so I watched and listened. I listened as she said things like “I don’t want to see you leave this station again” and “Three times today I’ve walked by and you weren’t here.” She went as far as to threaten disciplinary action if he left the booth again.

The produce section is probably the most trafficked area in this store. It is positioned at the entrance and this person’s perch is 15-20 paces from the front door. The department changes its configuration regularly based on what’s in season, so tomatillos might be in one space one week, and another spot a few days later. Since there never seems to be anyone in this department to ask for help, he gets the questions. And, because this company drills servce into its employees’ heads, he helps the customer.

Never mind that there is no one else from the produce department to ask. Never mind that the produce department looks like Toys R Us after Black Friday and without anyone around to stock the shelves. This manager decided to shit on a subordinate in full view of customers and other staff because he was helping others.

There is plenty of research showing that if you treat your staff like garbage, your staff will produce garbage. Worse than all of that, stores like this are very concerned with their reputations. This chain (and others) considers itself the best in its field, but bouts of unprofessional behavior by a manager damage both the store and its perceived excellence. After all, this company identified this person as “management material,” gave her a portable phone and told her that she could wear “street clothes” and not the standard-issue uniform. The made her a manager and empowered her to act like the stereotypical asshole retail manager. She didn’t let them down.

As any marketing or communications professional will tell you, companies do not own their brand. The frontline staff member has more impact on a brand’s reach than any middle manager, CEO, charitable contribution or sports sponsorship combined. Especially in a retail or food service enterprise, an attentive waiter or staff person does more to enhance a brand than the vice president or director charged with “brand management.” Because we are an economy that spends its time serving cheeseburgers to one another, customer service is first and foremost. To see a manager ridicule and threaten a staff member in a public setting is unnerving and unprofessional. That the staff member was in trouble for providing service to customers undermines the brand.

It takes some shine off the apple.

It makes me question why I continue to be a customer.

After all, I can always get a cheeseburger somewhere else.

Grocery List: March 2, 2014

Photo Mar 02, 11 31 21 AM“Well, I have to go to the bathroom.”

(The Kid, in all of her charming three-year-oldness, beings a lot of her sentences with a pensive “Well…” these days. It’s cute because it’s so out of context.)

Standing in the ice cream aisle at Wegmans Fairmount, this was not exactly the news I wanted to hear.

“Are you sure?,” I asked.

“Yes. I have to go to the bathroom.”

I sighed, spun the cart around and attempted to make my way through the extra-long cashier lines, through the congested produce section, and to the restroom alcove. Conversation on this trip revolved around how she was a girl, she had to to the girl’s room and that I was a boy and couldn’t go in. This thought had also crossed my mind, but I thought I had remembered a family restroom in the back of the men’s room. Apparently, I had mistaken the Fairmount store for another one.

The other men in the room were slightly startled by the little girl wandering from the stall to the sink to wash her hands. We got out of there and back to our other business.

I’m not going to spend the rest of this post ranting about how there should be a law passed that mandates family bathrooms in every grocery, discount, drug, and auto parts store in New York (Al Dente’s Law?). When I was single and/or childless, I would use the family bathrooms because they were always cleaner and closer to where I was standing. As a father of a daughter, I’ve come to embrace the forethought shown by companies like Target — which has a separate family bathroom — and Wegmans — which has tucked them in the rear of their gender-specific rooms in newly-renovated stores. So, thanks to them.


I would be remiss not to mention the increase in traffic to the blog, the result of my recent post the food that makes this area special. This was not (necessarily) about what was the best, but about what was important. The Syracuse area has a long, proud immigrant culture: the Irish on Tipperary Hill, the Polish on the Westside, the enclave of Tyrol in Solvay, the Italians on the Northside and Solvay. A renaissance of immigration has brought Asians and African refugees to the Northside and Ukrainians to the Western suburbs. These are important contributions to the fabric of the community.

Much like the staying that “retail follows rooftops,” bakeries, grocers and restaurants catering to these populations have followed. And, the vocal fans of places like Eva’s European Sweets and Bangkok Thai have shown that this diaspora of flavors has been embraced by the community.

I’m just happy to be involved with the discussion.

Grocery List: January 5, 2014

todayIn theory, The Wife goes back to school tomorrow. She was supposed to return on January 2, but an overnight snow and threat of more scuttled those plans. Windchills in the minus 20s scrubbed Friday from the calendar. Tomorrow looks nice, but the National Weather Service is already predicting windchills of -30 for Tuesday morning.

The weekend was good around here and has only quieted down as of the past hour. Friends from out of town were in with their children. I was off duty from the kitchen, but on duty for figuring out where to eat. We had planned to go to the Coppertop Tavern near my house on Saturday night. Our party of 10 was impossible to seat together, so we ended up at adjacent tables. It happens.

Anyhow, the problem was that we could not figure out where to go at 5 p.m. Saturday, which also happened to be an Syracuse basketball gameday, without a near hourlong wait. As I said, they accommodated us, but apparently we’re far too enormous for our own good.

Next time, we plan ahead. Next time, I’ll cook.

Grocery List: December 22, 2013

photoThe Sister and I are having a discussion about whether Paul Walker is really dead, or alive and in hiding. The Kid just took a header off her bed and landed head first. This after a Saturday where The Sister blew a tire on I-80, The Kid was absolutely bratastic, and The Wife and I forgot to eat dinner.

It’s Christmas.

I spent an hour on Saturday at Wegmans John Glenn looking for a list of items that were out of stock. The produce department looked like it had not been stocked in days. And it was “Take Your Ill-Behaved Child to Wegmans Day” in Liverpool.

It’s Christmas.

There’s more bacon in my house than one man should have. Three empty beer growlers are on my counter, while two full gallons are waiting in the basement to be emptied and refilled.

It’s Christmas!!

The Father, who lives in Cape Vincent, emailed The Sister to tell her that he was having an ice storm and to be careful while driving. The Sister took that to mean that there would be ice along every mile of highway from Long Island to Syracuse. In the age of smartphones and the Internet, no one thought to actually look at what her transit situation would be.

It’s Christmas.

The GEICO roadside person, Brianna, who I called for The Sister was awesome. She arranged the tow, called the tire place to make sure they had inventory and asked them to hold the store open for her, and talked The Sister out of a nervous breakdown.

It’s Christmas!

And I’m heading to Wegmans and Target on December 22. I am overflowing with angst and already clenching my jaw at the prospect of the crowd. Why?

Because it’s Christmas.


I whine, but The Sister is home safely, The Kid is back to running around and The Wife is back in off the ledge. I’ll have more Christmas Movies That Don’t Suck, a restaurant review and some other goodies this week. Until then, enjoy your Sunday.

Thanksgiving 2013 In Review

photoMy co-worker Toni sent me a text message about going to the Wegmans in Dewitt on Wednesday morning to grocery shop for Thanksgiving (it appears at right).

I am not afraid of grocery store crowds. They annoy me, but the people who shop on the day before a major holiday are largely driven, organized shoppers with lists and an idea of where everything is. It’s the “Do I Want 1% or 2% Milk Because I Am Incapable of Making Decisions” Sunday shopper that sends me into stages of madness.

Now, all of that said, Wegmans Dewitt at 8:30 a.m. on the day before Thanksgiving was…moderately busy. I’ve tried shopping there when it is overflowing with people and it’s rough. Wednesday’s trip was easy. (I go across town to the “Big Wegmans” because they have an unbelievable selection of things I can’t get at my store around the corner. Add in a quick stop at the liquor store, and our trip took less than 45 minutes.

That may have been the worst of the week. Otherwise, dinner went together without a lot of problem. I herb- and salt-crusted the turkey, which produced an awesome result. I made the gravy using frozen homemade turkey stock and fresh pan drippings. (Mmmmm…pan drippings.) The stuffing came from The Mother-In-Law and was warmed. The Sister was on mashed potato duty and used both a ricer and hand mixer to prep 5 lbs. of Yukon Gold.

I added three sides that worked out with differing success. The caramelized corn was strong, the Old Bay roasted sweet potatoes were good but missing something. The Brussels sprouts were a disappointment. I’ll offer posts on all three this week.

And now that the heavy lifting is done, I have about two weeks to come up with menus for Christmas Eve and Day.

Easy peasy.

Grocery List: October 27, 2013


Ahh…Sunday morning.

The coffee has been consumed. Laundry is piled near the basement door. The Kid, still in her pajamas, has consumed four episodes of the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse from the DVR and is now concerned with the excretory practices of her dollhouse people (this might be my fault as 20 minutes ago I told her that the daddy had diarrhea and needed to sit on the toilet for some alone time). We’re anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes away from packing it in for an afternoon at my in-laws house.

I say that like we go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house. In reality, we drive four minutes (depending on how long it takes to make a left on West Genesee Street without the benefit of a traffic light). The allure of family nearby has been a reason to stay in this area. Everyone seems to be getting older and in need of more attention. First it was the grandparents and their varying degrees of dementia and age-related diseases. Now, it’s our parents and that generation. From my driveway, I can be to the houses of her parents, as well as two of our aunts, in less than 10 minutes. For as much complaining (contrived and real) as I do about our families, the fact that they are there overrides that. If nothing else, hey, free childcare.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. My stream of consciousness apparently had less behind it than I thought. I guess my summarizing thought is this: family…not as bad as I make them out to be.


I went to Tops yesterday. Two of them, actually. We had dinner with friends last night and The Wife wanted Harvest Moon Cidery. Brilbeck’s Corner Market was out of stock, but the cidermaker has a distribution deal with Tops. I figured quick in-and-out. I figured wrong.

I should have known better than to hit the dumpy Tops in Westvale Plaza. In addition to consistently smelling like the meat cooler bonked, the store carries necessities and more store-brand items. Check that. It’s built for its neighborhood, a lower middle class to impoverished area. It serves a role within that community, but there’s not a lot of high-end product there.

About 4 or 5 miles up the road in Camillus is the “nice” Tops. This one smells like seafood, namely because they have fresh seafood there. They have a rather impressive organic subsection to the store, featuring more gluten-free products than I was expecting. And, yes, there was plenty of Harvest Moon Cider including Four Screw, The Wife’s preferred label.

I’ve known for a longtime that Tops (and P&C before it locally) paled in comparison to the inventory and aesthetic of Wegmans. I spent four years shopping at Tops in college. The Olean store was long considered one of the nicer stores. I never really thought about the haves and havenots within the same chain of stores before yesterday. You have to hand it to ownership for understanding its demographic and serving them on an individual store-to-store basis. They understand the economic realities of that community and cater to them with value.

It’s nice to see a company do that, even if they’re from Buffalo.