Two years ago, I went into Krieger’s Market armed with a calculator and a $30 budget. My mission was to create an affordable charcuterie board that included a bottle of wine for under $30. We all know that the same budget won’t go as far in this economy.
But I’m not going to curl up under my front porch and wait until things get better. I want to have a good time, and I want to see how far that same $30 will get me in 2022. I also wanted to do this in one stop so I wasn’t driving all over Summit County looking to save a few pennies.
I went to Cornerstone Market in Munroe Falls, and as soon as I walked in, I saw my friend Charlie Chambless, who runs the newly expanded wine department. He helped me pick out a sparkling wine and explained to shoppers and staff that I was a friendly nut job walking around the store with a notepad and a calculator.
I chose bubbles. Not because I want to celebrate paying $5 for a gallon of gas, but for their versatility in pairing with many foods.
Chambless recommended a $12.99 bottle of Jeio Prosecco brut from Italy. I have read good things about this bottle, and Chambless thought it would be perfect too.
That means I still have $17.01 left to pick out some nibbles for my board.
Cornerstone is a small but mighty little market with lots of items to choose from. I wandered the store jotting down items and prices, crunching numbers in my head and on the calculator.
A friendly voice from behind the deli counter called out and said, “Hi, I’m Alexa. Can I help you?” I was so excited when I heard her voice. I love this store. Deli Alexa was just as nice as the one that plays my favorite songs and turns on the lights in the house. And very helpful too.
I spotted a $4.99 container of BelGioiso fresh mozzarella balls in a case next to the deli. Who doesn’t like fresh mozzarella? I figured I could pick up a $1.99 package of grape tomatoes and make some caprese skewers. Add a few fresh basil leaves from my garden and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, and we’re off to a great start.
So now we’re left with $10.03. Yikes! Just as my chest muscles started to tighten, I heard Alexa’s lovely voice from behind the deli suggesting one of the three olive mixes.
“My favorite is the medley olive mix,” she said.
My Italian DNA was begging for a small scoop of those salty nibbles. Now the budget is at $8.03, but I’m not even breaking a sweat. Alexa always comes through in a pinch. All I had to do was ask.
Hey Alexa, can you cut me four slices of Black Forest ham?
“Of course,” she replied as she explained that it’s cheaper to have the deli slice up exactly what you need instead of buying prepackaged meats. Remember, we are on a budget.
And now it is down to $6.96 with the $1.07 ham purchase. I was planning to make a few ham and cheese rollups, so I had Alexa cut me four slices of smoked white cheddar. That was 54 cents. Now we have some tasty ham and cheese bites to go along with the caprese skewers.
I kept stopping back in the wine department to talk strategy with Chambless and check my totals.
“You ought to be at $35 to adjust for inflation,” said Chambless as he was watching me punch in the totals. “People will understand.”
But not every store has their own personal Alexa. I am on a mission. At least that is what I kept telling myself.
With $6.42 remaining in the budget, I went for a $1.99 container of fresh strawberries. They were looking too good to pass up. They also add some nice color to the board.
Four dollars and forty-three cents to go, and I need some crunch. I spotted a few bags of flavored chicharrones or fried pork rinds. I chose the $2.99 pizza-flavored bag. It’s always fun to ask your guests if they want more chicharrones.
With $1.44 left, I made a beeline to the bulk chocolate section. I had to have something sweet. I picked out two pieces of milk chocolate English toffee. The perfect ending to the perfect charcuterie board. That was the last thing my cashier rang up. I cringed as she weighed the chocolate. Holy cow! My total was $29.44.
I was feeling pretty good about my adventure. But before I could jump on the checkout counter and do my victory dance, the total came up $30.32. That blasted 88 cents in tax put me over my budget by 32 cents.
My dear friend Francesca Bonfadini will be in The Wine Cellar at The Grand Resort in Warren pouring four of her lovely franciacorta sparkling wines on Thursday, July 14, at 6 pm Franciacorta is Italy’s premier sparkling wine made in the Champagne method. Cost is $40 per person plus tax and gratuity to taste four sparkling wines paired with small plates. Call 330-856-1900 for reservations.
Bonfadini will also be pouring her wines at Beau’s Market in Copley on Thursday, July 14, and at Little Italy Wines on Saturday, July 16, from 3 to 6:30 pm Pricing and times for these tastings were not available at press time, but the wines are too good to miss.
Write to Phil Masturzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.