This year seemed to be problematic in many ways for Passover food shoppers, especially those who cook and bake a lot. Here are some of the problems I encountered:
1. No pareve unsalted stick margarine anywhere
2. Hard-to-find salted stick margarine
[Granted, this margarine is not very good - has a pretty bad aftertaste which can be discerned even in baked goods - but sometimes it is the only option for a particular recipe. I use safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed, or olive oil when I can - and, of course, chicken fat, but not in baked goods]
3. No Tam-Tams whatsoever.
4. No availability of Potato Starch late in the game, except at The Butcherie. I bought some early at a supermarket, but I know of others who had difficulty finding this staple as we got close to the beginning of the holiday.
5. Short supply of kosher-for-Pesach 2-litre bottles of Coke and Diet Coke. Again, I bought a few bottles early on, so I had some, but couldn't find any close to the sedarim. We made do with Dr. Brown's cream and black cherry, which was in good supply everywhere. Unfortunately, many kids don't like these and there did not seem to be a diet kosher-for-Pesach Dr. Brown's.
I also heard comments from people that the Manischewitz Matzah Ball and Soup Mix made lousy matzah balls this year, and that their matzah was pretty burnt around the edges. For me, I always buy Streit's matzah, in the 5 1-lb. package, and it is consistently good and always crrisper than Manischewitz.
On the plus side, Kedem grape juice in the large bottles was discounted heavily just about everywhere, to between $2.50 and $2.99, so I stocked up for months to come. This is usually an expensive purchase.
Also - and I am very proud of this - I discovered kosher-for-Pesach sweetened coconut flakes, as I am used to using year-round. It took quite a bit of research, and lots of phone calls, but Baker's makes a 7-ounce CAN of kosher-for-Pesach flaked sweetened coconut, just like what is in their bags sold year-round. The problem has been that this is considered a seasonal item, and the season is the Christmas season. So I found a few cans in each of two Walgreen's that I contacted that buy this for Christmas and had some left over. I explained to the managers that there is another very important season for this product and it would behoove them to order it again before Passover, or at least to order enough in the winter to last through the Passover holiday. The consistency of this coconut is much better for making macaroons, although in granola the unsweetened flakes do fine.
One other positiive is that kosher-for-Pesach pure vanilla extract seemed to be in good supply this year. I always scoop up several bottles early, as soon as I see them on the shelf, as they usually run out well in advance of the holiday. This year there were still bottles on the shelf a few days before the first seder.
What has been your experience this year? Do you have any shopping stories or tips to share?
Any comments on our recipes? We always get emails about the success of our Matzah Caramel Crunch recipe (contributed by Judy Shankman), but we'd love to hear feedback on other recipes. And if you've tried something new that you liked, please feel free to share it with us now and we'll hold it until next year when perhaps it will appear on our holiday food page!