An Unexpectedly Awesome Evening at Grocery Outlet with Sam the Cooking Guy

S. to the C.G. letting it be known!
August 10, 2012

Energy peaked when the twenty or so media stooges ran around Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, all scrambling to compile their list of items with the goal of saving the most mullah.  Customers were questioning our actions while employees tried to guide us to certain products, not knowing our intention was not to get what tastes best but to search for which items were most deeply discounted below retail value.  Our team only took second place (saving $80+), but fortunately, our consolation prize was a 5 course meal prepared by local celebrity cook and author, Sam "The Cooking Guy" Zien.

We had no idea what to expect when we were invited to a "culinary tasting tour" at bargain mart, Grocery Outlet, hosted by Sam the Cooking Guy. Being that we don't have cable, we didn't even know who Sam the Cooking Guy was, but a quick Google search led us to the conclusion that he was pretty famous around these parts.  After a busy day, we mustered up the energy to leave the beach area and head downtown.  

Showing off the good stuff in the
N.O.S.H. Section - Natural. Organic.
Specialty. Healthy.
When we arrived at the new East Village location of Grocery Outlet Bargain Market, we immediately noticed the overdressed group hovered over two cheese plates in sectioned off area in the front corner of the store.  We were quickly separated into groups and sent to different areas of the store to learn about the business of bargain.  Grocery Outlet shops "opportunistically" and offers wholesalers the chance to contact them with potential products.  Many items are unique to individual locations, change frequently, and some even come in mismarked packaging.  Some products, like the Michael Phelps Wheatie boxes, come to G.O. because of marketing issues (like an Olympian spokesperson being caught smoking the reefer).  However they get their products, they're sure able to mark them down and offer great deals.
Salt & Pepper Shrimp

After losing our bargain relay, the group headed to the back warehouse area where several tables were waiting, donned with linen tablecloths, nice silverware, and glasses of wine.  Sam "The Cooking Guy" was organizing his sous cooks behind a table topped with several burners and ingredients.  He immediately eased any pretense with jokes and quips, revealing himself as a very down to Earth gentleman.

Cedar plank salmon
Sam went through his menu, the ingredients, and his cooking procedure as he prepared the five courses, each paired with a different wine.  Everything was provided by Grocery Outlet, and not including the booze, the entire 5 course meal for about 25 guests cost a whopping $86.   We started with mashed potato tacos with sour cream, chives and hot sauce, which were perfected by the texture of crushed potato chips.  Next we had salt & pepper shrimp, shells on and deveined, with garlic, ginger and chives.  The next course was a cedar plank salmon, with large filets cooked on a grill atop of cedar planks sourced from J&W Lumber.  That dish was followed by a lovely, creamy, spicy Italian sausage penne paired with a very tasty Brutocao Zinfandel ($6.99!?!?!!!).  The meal was finalized by a scrumptious grilled waffle served with ice cream and candied peanuts.  All in all, it was an impressive output for costing $86, being prepared in the back of a grocery store, and being cooked on the spot for a large group.

Owners Kim & Steve Smith
While Sam was quite the sweetheart, the true highlight of the evening was meeting the warm and welcoming owners of Grocery Outlet, Kim and Steve Smith, who ironically met in a Grocery Outlet many years back.  They are recent transplants to SD but have very much embraced the community, sending their eldest son to SDSU, the youngest to USD, and their daughter to Point Loma High.  The couple showed immense pride in their product and in being able to offer people such extreme savings.  They were a true pleasure.

Be sure to stop by Grocery Outlet Bargain Market in San Diego's East Village.  With a wide selection of local craft beer, wine, meat, cheese, produce, organic offerings and health and beauty products at costs far below competitors, it is definitely a quality super market that offers serious value.  We ended up doing a lot of shopping after our meal, spending $52 with a savings in excess of $40 (got a 6 pack of Lagunitas Little Sumpin, two bottles of wine, two filet mignon's wrapped in bacon, cheese, organic broths, and plenty more).  There will be a Grocery Outlet opening in Point Loma real soon and we cannot wait!

Grocery Outlet is located at 1002 Market Street.  For more information, visit Grocery Outlet - East Village online.

1002 Market Street, East Village, Downtown
(619) 338-0096

Mon. - Sat.  7am - 10pm
Sun. 7am - 9pm