August 12, 2006
Warming Up For The State Fair

State Fair or Costco? That's the decision we had to make today. We concluded it just wasn't hot enough to get us in the mood for the livestock exhibits, art show and corndogs at Cal Expo.

Besides, Hairnet Row at Costco is just the place to get warmed up for the concessions on the fairgrounds, but with a twist - the tastes at Costco are free. So we breezed right by the flatscreen TVs and paper shredders to get into the food aisles, where the nice ladies in white shirts, red aprons, hairnets and gloves successfully tempted with all sorts of goodies.

A person can get a pretty decent lunch at Costco while shopping, if you don't mind having dessert first and appetizer last. I wasn't crazy about the heavy and creamy chocolate tiramisu even if it did cost just $14.99 for a block that weighed nearly five pounds. But the pork tamales by Isabella's Kitchen of Salinas were hot and substantial (10 for $13.99), the Cibo Naturals chipotle, cheese and lime dip was wonderfully fiery ($6.99 for a 24-ounce tub), and the hot Italian sausage by Dibrova Foods of Lodi was amazingly rich and sweet, with a finish so long and spicy I wish they were handing out samples of water, but they weren't (a three-pound package for $8.99).

Aunt Jemima was introducing something new to me, a griddle-cake sandwich, a kind of knockoff of the Egg McMuffin at McDonald's, but the sausage, cheese and egg are, of course, sandwiched with pancakes rather than muffin (12 for $10.69). While each 4.4-ounce sandwich is a little tricky to eat, it does provide enough energy (360 calories) to convince you that you really should start to clear brush when you get home. On the other hand, the cholesterol, nearly half the recommended daily value, scares you into thinking you should just take a nap. It's one sweet sandwich, by the way, and all the promised flavors are there, along with a whole lot of maple syrup.

Our last stop called for something wholesome, a small paper cup of almonds from Spain ($8.89 for a pound). They were mild and slightly salty. As I stood in the checkout line, finishing the almonds, I tried to figure out what the almond server meant as she sang out to shoppers, "Save a seed, eat a nut." I couldn't, gave up and went back to ask her. "It doesn't mean anything," she said. "I'm just having fun. And, see, it brought you back."

On the way back to the car we passed a line longer than I'm sure the line would be for the Ferris wheel at the State Fair. Someone said all those people were waiting to buy slices of pizza, hot dogs and sundaes at Costco's walk-up diner. I couldn't believe it.

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