Thursday, April 5, 2007

Der großer Supermarkt Top 20



I'm only just now starting to master the science of Viennese grocery store shopping. The first thing I learned was that you must purchase your own stuff, pay for the bag, bag it yourself, then get the hell out of the way, because people here HATE waiting in line and they will begin gently bumping you with their shopping cart as soon as they can to make that point. The second thing one must understand is that there is a strict division of provisions here--you can't go to one store for everything. Billa is for food and wine, Bipa is for deodorant and cleaning supplies. And none of them are open after eight p.m.

The major chains, in descending order from fancy-schmancy to cheap, are Spar, Billa, Zielpunkt and Hofer, and they all have their pros and cons, but in none of them will you find Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. Oh well. Here then, are my awards for the best and the wurst:


Best Tortilla Chips: Spar

Best Snack Chip: Nacho Cheese Bugles

Worst Snack Chip: Nacho Cheese Bugles

Most Surprising Product Found in a Supermarket: Haagen-Daz Cookies and Cream, Spar

Most Sorely Missed Product: Ben and Jerry's Heath Bar Crunch

Grocery Store Item Most Unappreciated by the Locals: Haas Avocados, Billa

Surliest, Shoviest, Most Abjectly Horrid Customers: Hofer

Store with the Highest Percentage of Organic and Bio-Products: Hofer

Best Fresh Bread Product: the humble Pumpkin Seed Roll, available everywhere

Most Delightful Discovery in the Produce Section: Kohlrabi

Store Most likely to Descend into a Lord of the Flies-type situation at any Moment: the Billa in the Franz-Josefsbahn train station on any Catholic holiday

Best Frozen Food: Iglo brand Edamame

Most Embarrassing Guilty Pleasure: Liver paste

Convenience Store Most Densely Populated with Drunken Teenagers: the BP gas station-mart at Schwedenplatz

Saddest Convenience Store: the 24 hour shop at the MichelBauern Allegemeines hospital.

10 comments:

Ed Ward said...

Hoo, boy, you really are in trouble if the fanciest place you have is a Spar! They took over the old East German Konsum chain here and...basically didn't change 'em at all.

You're lucky to be able to find Haas avocadoes, though; we mostly get rock-hard nasty smooth-skinned ones, and every summer there's like one shipment of Haas from Uganda. Mostly they rot; Germans don't know what to do with them.

But you're right: Spar does have the best tortilla chips...

pat said...

See, Ed, you know what to do with a Haas Avocado. People here think you can actually make guacamole with the smooth skinned green ones. So far, though, no Austrian has stepped up with anything as disgusting as the quacamole-mayonaise "dip" once presented to me (as a delicacy) by a West Austin rich boy.
Funnily enough, our Billas get Haas shipped in from a number of places, including Israel and I think Peru!

Andrew said...

What on earth happened to Julius Meinl???

pat said...

Ole' Julius is still macking in Vienna, his racist logo of a small brown Morroccan boy intact......

Ed Ward said...

I bartended for a blessedly short period at a Mexican restaurant owned by friends here (he, German, she, Texan). In the freezer we had these frozen 5 kg sacks of green stuff, which said on the plastic it was "Haas Avocadofleisch, 100% Rein," and I'd see them when they were in the beer room thawing out. Then they'd go to the kitchen, where they'd be mixed 2 parts avocado to 1 part sour cream, and voila! The guacamole.

In my friends' defence, however, I gotta say that they'd tried the real stuff, only to have it roundly rejected by the clientele, who always seemed to know better than we did what "real" Mexican food was like.

I'm jealous that you get Haas from Israel. We don't. What do they have against...uh...waitaminnit...

more cowbell said...

Ah, how quickly I forgot -- I have to say the 24-hr grocery available is one thing I do appreciate in the States. Good old Spar...

In Hungary, Tesco was built about 2/3 way through my stay. The Americans were SO excited about being able to get cheddar cheese! The Hungarians: Orange cheese? Nasty! McDonalds also arrived after the Americans did. And Bauhaus. Not good changes, IMHO.

Avocados were way too expensive to actually buy. They were not available before Tesco came.

pat said...

MMhm-hmm, yellow cheese. Why do Europeans suspect it so?

Ed Ward said...

Especially when there's such a thing as Butterkäse, which I hope you don't have in Austria but rather suspect you do. Absolutely without flavor, texture sort of like rubber. And the Germans consume it by the kilo.

And over in France there are several cheeses that are brighter orange than any supermarket "Cheddar" I've ever seen, and the color's natural. Mimolette? That sounds right...

Art Nouveau said...

Did you try Bobby's Foodstore at Scleifmühlgasse 8 (www.bobbys.at)where you can get all sorts of stuff you never thought you could get in Vienna?

NJA said...

A place where people deliberate bump each other with shopping carts as a way of expressing their impatience? You have got to be kidding me... If someone did that to me one time, I would make sure that they understood that they should regret it, and if they did it twice, I would make sure that they did regret it. I wouldn't live in a place with people that impatient and rude. That's ironic, because I thought that we Americans were incredibly rude as it is... However, I would have to see this unimaginable phenomena with my own eyes in order to believe it.

I believe in the specialization of more traditional style markets, but not being able to buy deodorant and food in the same place sounds pretty absurd these days...