Monday, October 22, 2007

Tesco Eden - International Section

"I never make a trip to the United States without visiting a supermarket. To me they are more fascinating than any fashion salon."
-Wallis Simpson, the Duchess of Windsor

You said it, sister.

I, myself, have made the personal pilgrimage to the renowned Whole Foods Market in the Time Warner Center at New York City's Columbus Circle.

Just to look. Food is my thing. I could wander around in that vast and varied space for days.

In Prague, the lack of a really super supermarket can be frustrating because V and I do a lot of creative cooking at home (which is somewhat ironic, considering the fact that I write a restaurant blog).

What it means is that we are always searching for a variety of exotic international ingredients.

But there is good news. Things are changing. Progress is being made.

Witness the international section at Tesco Eden. It used to be pretty pitiful.

However, I just got back from a visit and found the offerings in their international aisle have greatly expanded.

For example, it is no longer just a small, neglected section of shelves. Products from around the globe now fill an entire side of one whole aisle.They have a lot of things that have been available in Prague before. But the selection is now much wider. Instead of traveling around to many specialty shops, Tesco Eden makes one-stop international shopping less of a dream.

Let's take a brief tour, shall we? This is far from an exhaustive list, and I could hardly remember everything there, but here goes:

There is a North American section. There you will find items such as real Canadian maple syrup, even in one liter jugs, Tabasco sauce, generic barbecue sauce, and steak sauce.There is a Latin American section that has many kinds of flour tortillas, salsas, peppers, and sauces.

There is a Japanese section with a "sushi kit," wasabi powder mix or in tubes, pickled ginger, rice wine vinegar, and tonkatsu sauce. We bought miso soup mix. It was not so cheap, but apparently makes a number of portions.Next to that is an Indian section. There are a multitude of spices and prepared sauces. We picked up some tandoori paste.

There is a Thai section with red and green curry, and many Thai sauces.There are Italian and Mediterranean sections as well, with tomato sauces, balsamic vinegars, olive oils, cooking wines, and spicy ajvar.So, anyway, I'm a little crazy about supermarkets. Other than that, I have very little in common with Wallis Simpson.

Unless you include that brief, little encounter I had in Vienna with another Prince of Wales.

But that's a story for another time.

Tesco Eden
U Slavie 1527
Prague 10

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

The same section exists in the Novy Smichov Tesco as well.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered what does moving food around the globe to satisfy your picky tastes mean for the environment?

Max Bahnson said...

Brewsta,
I must take issue with you. I like your blog a lot, but i think you have missed the point in this post.
It is not bad in itself that Tesco has introduced an international cuisinse section, but they have not done it because they like their customers, they have done it simple because specialised deli shops have become popular and, therefore, a very good business, and the likes of tesco want a piece of that pie. The bigger the better. Same goes with the organic products
Unfortunatelly many people will be hypnotised by the marketing and will buy all their exotic stuff there. The result, the usual, the small shops will run out of business because they can't compete with the price dumping policies of the big supermarket chains, and once that happens, Tesco and all those other business thugs will increase prices, reduce quality and range of products and all of us will be thinking what went wrong.
Supermarket chains are one of the ugliest sides of capitalism. They abuse their suppliers (unless you are a massive multinational), exploit their staff and their business policy (and I know this for certain) is to destroy the small shops that offer their clients good quality at reasonable prices. This is the shops you should support in this blog, as you have done in previous posts, and not a greedy multinational like Tesco.
And if the problem is the language. give me a break. If you are living in this country, you should learn it, and if you are a visitor, in most cases, people will be happy to help you.

Brewsta said...

Max,

I understand and appreciate your points. I'm familiar with the so-called "Walmart Effect." I don't completely disagree with you. But I hope you'll forgive me if I debate with you a bit.

Yes, some people get crushed. I've seen it. It can be bad and sad.

But there's more to the story. To compete, other people specialize, diversfy, and improve to compete. I've seen that, too. That can be very good.

Yes, shops that offer the same as Tesco and Walmart will fail. Why should people pay or travel more for their food?

I think the picture you paint is too extreme. Walmart has been around for a long time, dramatically changed the shopping landscape. Sometimes in bad ways. Yet, they continue to offer more and more products at the lowest prices. I don't see that changing any time soon.

It is too much of a generalization to say that small businesses are paragons of quality and virtue. There are plenty of problems in that sector, too.

When you remind me of some of the abusive policies of big corporations, it does make me think twice. On the other hand, a social conscience while food shopping is a luxury for most people. They are in a hurry and they need what they need.

Tescos and Walmarts will never be all things to all people. I will still get my yogurt at Olympia, my lamb at Farah, my pastries at Passion Chocolat, and my lime leaves at Thai's Asian Food shop.

And I will champion those places, too, as you will continue to see.

I just think it is going a little far to say I should not share information about new offerings at Tesco.

I had trouble finding tandoori paste recently. I found it there. I wanted to share and think it would be wrong to censor that impulse.

But there are at least two sides to every story and I am honestly glad you shared your information and views, too.

As far as language goes, I personally don't have problems when it comes to food Czech.

Max Bahnson said...

I agree with you. I think supermarket chains are a necessary evil. They are in a way a symptom of the system we live in. People having to work 10 hours a day and then not having time or energy to do any shopping, and if they do, they tend to go to places that are open after 7PM. Maybe small shops are partly to blame for closing down so early, but then, it's not their fault that the owners want to have a life as anybody else, and that they can't afford employing people at weekends.
The problem I have with supermarkets is not that they offer the kind of products you mention here, but that, due to their price wars, they force producers to bring down the prices to the point that they have to make a difficult decision, loose money or reduce quality, guess what they choose? Sources have told me that Hame produces two qualities, a lower one for supermarkets, so they can meet the prices demanded by the chains.
I have minimised my shopping at supermarkets to only a few things. I have discovered a couple of things since then. The quality of the food I eat is better, I spend less money because im less likely to buy something on impulse just because i see it and also, shopping has become a much more pleasant experience thanks to interacting with people and not with a poor bastard that has been turned into a robot at the checkout.
The language thing was not directed to you personally, but to all those that however long they have been here still have not bothered to learn a single word of Czech.
Anyway, I think you do a great job with this blog....

Brewsta said...

Thanks, Max. I always appreciate your comments.

Anonymous said...

Precisely there, in Tesco Eden (and I guess in the others Tescos), Heat and Eat (indian food) price has raised up from 59 CZK to 95 CZK in just one week.
Perhaps the guy that sets the prices suffers from dyslexia.
Anyway I've sent them a grievance letter. Still no answer, how surprising!

Meridian said...

With apologies for going back to an old review - I'm bored and I'm re-reading them all! - I would just say to Max that he's lucky if he can find in small shops everything that Tesco has in its international section.

I regularly shop there and only wish they stocked more lines, especially from Britain.