I’m half Irish (even though I don’t speak Gaelic), which means that I love St. Patrick’s Day for a lot of reasons. My family has a lot of semi-traditional Irish recipes that have been passed down that I make regularly, but I also love to branch out and make other foods that aren’t always heirloom recipes. The Irish Tea Cakes I made in preparation for St. Patrick’s Day this year (I had to do a trial run!) were spectacular, to say the least. Even better, the recipe doesn’t have any hard to find ingredients, so when I stop at Mariano’s for my regular semi-weekly grocery shopping, I can pick up what I need!
If you know anything about me – anything at all – you know that I love to cook and bake, and I love my foods whole and fresh. That’s only part of the reason why I love Mariano’s – which is really Mariano’s Fresh Market, because it has to include that in its name, right? Mariano’s has only started opening near me in the last year, but I know I’m not the only convert. I have a friend who I told about Mariano’s who now drives 35 minutes each way to do her regular grocery shopping there. It’s that good. In fact, it’s so good that even a year after it opened, it requires police directing traffic into and out of the parking lot during peak hours. How many grocery stores can make that claim? My secret? I shop in the off hours… like 7:30pm on a Saturday night.
Granted, this only helps a little bit. Even this late, there were eight cashiers working, and each had a steady stream of customers. How many grocery stores do you know that are this – legitimately – popular? It isn’t just the friendly staff, and trust me, they are friendly. They are constantly working through the store, so you can always find someone if you need them. When I couldn’t find the currants for my Irish Tea Cakes (because my brain had turned off), the first person didn’t know so found me someone else who would know. That second person didn’t simply point me in the right direction but instead took me down the aisle to where the currants were and then waited to be sure that was exactly what I was looking for.
Mariano’s is so much more than the staff, however. I am a huge fan of their produce. It’s much less expensive than the other major grocery stores in the area (although slightly higher than some of the local produce markets, which is to be expected), and everything is beyond fresh. They turn their produce amazingly fast, and I love the way they showcase it. They don’t simply have it displayed; it truly is showcased. The more hardy items are placed in bushel baskets and other clever displays that I adore so much more than the plain ones in the majority of stores.
My personal favorite, however, is the shelving where the greens and the peppers and so many of the other vegetables live. The shelves hold only a handful of the item before the next shelf takes the next set of items. That keeps the produce fresher and prevents it from getting as bruised. When I’m looking for a cucumber, I don’t have to do digging through a bin, hoping I don’t spill them over the side and onto the floor, trying to find the “perfect” cuke I want. Instead, I can easily browse the shelves to see what I want. And even at my most klutzy, I’ve yet to actually manage to spill any of the produce. This also means all the items get misted when the adorably fun cacophony of jungle insects and critters starts up to let shoppers know that the mister is turning on.
Outside the produce, Mariano’s does an amazing job of carrying a wide variety of alternative products for those with allergies. There is a huge section of both refrigerated and shelf stable coconut/soy/rice/almond/hemp and more milks, as well as dairy free cheeses, gluten free products, and more. I know so many people who have dietary restrictions, and Mariano’s makes it even easier for those shopping for people who are gluten free. Think about all the playdates where you’re trying to figure out if you’re serving something that will work for your friend’s son who is gluten free. Mariano’s has simply tagged items, and there is no confusion. I love it!
Like all stores these days, it seems, Mariano’s has a rewards card. It’s amazingly simple to sign up for it. You just need to use the kiosk at the front of the store to input your information, which takes only a couple minutes, tops. You can do this before you start shopping, or they can scan a new card as part of your checkout process and use that card to complete the signup after you’ve paid. That way you don’t hold up the line for anyone else, and you get all the savings and specials offered by the rewards card. That was so much simpler than the last grocery store rewards card I signed up for!
With your rewards card, you can also register online, which gives you more fun benefits. In addition to more savings, you can also create and save shopping lists – creating them from both the sale circulars and your own item searches , and receive customized recipes. I’m a huge fan of creating the shopping lists, even though I know my list is just a general guide. It helps me remember what’s on sale that I want to look for, as well as which items I’m completely out of and need to restock.
With Easter coming up, Mariano’s has a really fun rewards card promotion going on, too. The Easter ham or turkey is always the biggest expense of the meal, and based on what you spend at Mariano’s between now and March 23, you can earn up to $3/pound off your holiday ham or organic frozen turkey. That’s a significant savings. Simply by doing the normal grocery shopping you already do, you can earn points (1 point per $10 spent on qualifying purchases) towards that discounts on your ham or turkey for Easter. And yes, I earned 6 points on this trip alone.
So what did I do to earn my six points? I did my regular grocery shopping, of course. But I also wanted to make something special for St. Patrick’s Day. I had decided to make those Irish Tea Cakes, and yes, Mariano’s had everything I needed. Once I got home, I set the wee ones to work to help me. They adore cooking and baking with me, and they’ve really started to step it up a notch in being able to help me from cracking eggs all by themselves – without shell or egg going everywhere – to zesting a lemon for the tea cakes. Yes, that is a seven year old who’s figured out how to zest a lemon. I think that’s so cool!
When the Irish Tea Cakes were done and fully cooled, it was just in time for dessert after we finished picking up the mess from the weekend. With tea cakes, you have to make generous slices or the delicate cake simply falls apart. It’s possible I chose to make these partially for that reason alone. I made my slices, and then I walked away. When I came back, the two slices I’d left behind were gone. When I asked my husband if he’d eaten two slices, he staunchly denied it, saying simply that he’d had two halves of a single slice. Clever man, isn’t he? But I get his need to justify going back for seconds. The quality ingredients I was able to find from the 83% butterfat butter to the cake flour to a perfectly ripe lemon to dried currants instead of relying on raisins will make this a perfect St. Patrick’s Day treat when I make it again in two weeks.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? I promise to share the recipe as part of this week’s Tasty Tuesday. It’s easy to make, and nothing exotic. And thanks to Mariano’s, it was a breeze to get in, find what I needed, and get on my way.
In the interest of full disclosure, “I am a member of the Collective Bias® Social Fabric® Community. This shop has been compensated as part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias® and Mariano’s . That said, all opinions remain my own. #cbias #SocialFabric