SHOP TILL YOU DROP: Cost Plus a true heaven for expat Dutch family

Photo by Johan Schep
Freshman Héloïse Schep checks out a selection of chocolate “geld,” which is given to children on “sinterklaas.”

In the “Shop Till You Drop” series, staffers visited grocery stores and markets that offer goods from around the world. Check back tomorrow to see sophomore Chardonnay Needler’s review of Oto’s Marketplace. 

“We are not getting milk chocolate hagelslag!” my mother exclaims in one of the overlit hallways of Cost Plus World Market, comparing different packets of the Dutch chocolate delicacy.

“That’s the American hagelslag. It’s too sweet for us. Get the dark chocolate one!”

Meanwhile, my dad tries to slip some stroopwafels (cookies filled with syrup) and drop (savory licorice) into our basket – unsuccessfully.

For most people, World Market (1821 Howe Ave.) has the reputation of a place where grandmas would shop – kind of dusty, with lots of strange foods stacked on wooden shelves with no clear order.

There’s always a number of shoppers older than 65, and candy flavors tend to be on the weird side (think honey-celery).

But for those of us who enjoy European delicacies, it’s a type of heaven.

World Market is a chain of retail stores that specializes in home furniture, decor, gifts, beverages and, most importantly, international food products.

There are three World Markets in Sacramento and five others in the wider Sacramento area. My family visits the Sacramento World Market roughly once a month, mostly for Dutch sweets.

Their international foods largely consist of snacks and small dishes – you won’t find traditional meats or fish.

World Market officially carries foods from Britain, France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Mexico, Hawaii, Eastern Europe, Japan, India, Australia, China and the Middle East. But I’ve found that foods from Europe, Japan and India are most frequently in stock.

In the months leading up to Christmas, the market carries holiday foods from every European country.

I was definitely impressed with the amount of traditional food from European countries. In November about one-third of the store is dedicated to Christmas. There are racks of panettone (an Italian bread filled with fruits and nuts), challah (a twisted bread), speculaas (a spiced cookie), plum pudding, bread pudding, mince pies, cakes, chocolate figures, Advent calendars and mulling spices.

Of course, there are also cheesy Christmas and Hanukkah cards, as well as “rustic” (think grandma-chic) Christmas decor.

What I love about the store is its variety of seasonal food. Traditional Dutch foods for holidays like Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Christmas) can be hard to find elsewhere.

According to their website, World Market carries up to 1,188 international items in store and online – and about 200 are European – so there’s always something new for me to try.

There hasn’t yet been a Dutch item I haven’t been able to find, and the many locations make shopping very easy. Food items are also labeled in English to help non-native speakers.

Considering the quality, the prices are fair. The brands World Market carries are well known and mostly organic, so I don’t mind paying a few extra dollars. And compared to international foods on Amazon, which are pricey and often of questionable quality, the cost really isn’t that high.

One thing that I don’t like is the service. My family has been going to World Market for a while, so we know where all the foods are. But if you do need help, there aren’t many employees there. We also occasionally wait in long lines at the checkout stations.

I’m also disappointed that World Market doesn’t carry any foods that cannot be packaged. There are no meal stations, to-go stands or anything that could be described as a full dinner (except pasta).

But the low prices, high quality and accessibility outweigh the negative aspects.

By Héloïse Schep

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