AmazonFresh Pickup now lets Prime members buy groceries online and then, yes, pick them up at two Seattle sites. Our food writer used it to get ingredients for dinner. Here’s her critique, in the form of Amazon reviews.
AmazonFresh Pickup, free with Prime membership
★☆☆☆☆ One star for mystery
The delivery version of AmazonFresh is a timesaver: You order your groceries online, and they come to your house. You don’t get to fondle the fruit or say hi to the checkout guy with the excellent gold earrings; you don’t get the serendipity of seeing something you didn’t know you wanted (or, at the farmers market, something suddenly, magically in season). But at least it makes sense. AmazonFresh Pickup involves the time spent shopping online (which, if you shop briskly in a store in real life, you can probably almost match), plus the time spent driving to get it. Yes, the pickup at the Sodo location went super-speedily; a sign instructs you to “Relax while we load your groceries,” but with two employees taking care of it in three minutes, there’s no time for that. Which is for the best — who wants to relax in a parking lot? Five stars for the workers: Your jobs look very, very boring, and, if the reflective tape around your jaunty aprons is any indication, possibly dangerous. But traffic was bad, both to and fro, as it is wont to be in Seattle these days: minus a million stars for Seattle traffic. Why anyone would use AmazonFresh Pickup is unclear. But Amazon works in mysterious ways. Who am I to question its tactics in its assault on the grocery sector? Overall: one star for mystery.
Following are my reviews for items AmazonFresh Pickup-ed for a dinner of roasted halibut with lemon and parsley, grilled asparagus, baguette, and rosé.
Lemon, One Medium, $.79
★★☆☆☆ Less than ideal
Oh, lemon. You did not much resemble the platonic ideal of your kind floating, sunshine-yellow, in cyberspace on Amazon.com. Your skin had several small but unmistakable brown and even blackish scuffs and pocks, and you showed a bit of sad deflation around your stem, as if you were beginning to give up. But was your essential lemon-ness compromised by your appearance? The movement toward embracing ugly fruit and vegetables is a noble one; a perfectionist aesthetic means a lot of good food gets wasted. And you, lemon, were perfectly juicy on the inside, properly tart, absolutely fine for squeezing over fish, with unmarred parts big enough to make pretty wedges for presentation on plates. But places like Wal-Mart sell ugly produce at a discount, while you were foisted off full price, no choice. So while I felt for you, lemon, in a Charlie-Brown-Christmas-tree kind of way, you were not the lemon I would’ve picked out, given my druthers. (You also had the thicker, more dimpled kind of peel, and I’ve been told that finer-textured, thinner-peeled citrus is juicier.) I’m sorry, but: two stars.
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Organic Italian Parsley, One Bunch, $1.49
★★★★☆ Four Stars
Have I had Italian parsley with slightly more flavorful leaves? Yes, I have. Is that an arguably crazy degree of nitpicking? Yes, it is.
Asparagus, One Bunch, $3.99
★★★★★ I LOVE ASPARAGUS
I really, really love asparagus, and according to its blue rubber bands (which do not lie), this bundle of asparagus came from the great state of Washington, which indisputably grows the best asparagus in the world, so I loved this asparagus!!! The bunch was about 4 inches in diameter, so the price was right for this juncture in the asparagus season; the individual stalks were on the slender to spindly side, but whatever. I would’ve bought organic if it was available for pickup in Sodo, but it wasn’t, and that’s not asparagus’ fault. I put a little olive oil, salt and pepper on this asparagus and grilled it. Happiness! FIVE STARS FOR ASPARAGUS FOREVER.
Essential Baking Company Artisan Bake-at-Home French Bread, 16 oz, $5.69
★★☆☆☆ Very, very weird!
The choice for Amazon pickup in Sodo in terms of baguettes: frozen ones from Swiss-owned mega-bakery La Brea, or this, from Seattle’s own Essential Baking. Went with the local option, and it was WEIRD: a slightly deflated-looking, bâtard-shaped, already browned loaf encased in vacuum-packed plastic (with a little packet of “OXYGEN ABSORBER/DO NOT EAT”) that “stays fresh in your pantry for months!” Who knew that bread — made with totally normal ingredients, by the way: organic unbleached wheat flour, water, sea salt, organic barley malt and yeast — could perform such an unnatural feat? Baked as directed, it got nice and crusty outside, and was chewy almost to the point of gumminess, rather than airy, inside, with a slight sourdough flavor — kind of reminiscent of the bread you’d be served at an old-school seafood restaurant. Hot bread = nice, but I would not call this bread “French.” Overall: confusing.
Shaw Ross Sacha Lichine Rosé Single Blend 2015, 750 mL, $11.77
★★½☆☆ Out of a dismal selection, maybe the best choice?
Okay, I don’t want to sound like a snob here, but Amazon, your wine selection for Sodo pickup is dismal: entry-level domestic cabernets, wines by the box, predictable chardonnays/pinot grigios/sauv blancs. In terms of rosé, you had Barefoot pink moscato (sure to be tooth-hurtingly sweet), a Cristalino sparkling one (not, by any extent, to be confused with Cristal), and this one — from France (though you unhelpfully don’t include that information), thankfully pale in color, dry and pleasant to drink. Scrolling through page after page of choices, this seemed like possibly the singular decent find. I get that your users aren’t into spending a bunch, but great values abound in cheap wine! You can do so much better. But I suppose your algorithms tell you this is what the world wants. For your selection/algorithms/the world: one star. This wine, at this price, on its own merits: four stars. Average: two-and-a-half stars.
Fresh Wild Alaska Halibut Fillets, Skin On, 1 lb, $22.12
★☆☆☆☆ No. Just no.
Raw halibut should be a thing of beauty: firm, fresh, glossy. This fillet was mushy to the touch and even distressing to the eye: matte and sunken, the middle of it a squishy mess with indentations that looked like an angry face. It smelled, unmistakably, fishy, which it never, ever should. According to the label, it had been packed three days before; frighteningly, the use/freeze by date was still four more days away. Oven-roasted for the sake of the experiment, it tasted like it looked: mushy, sad, wrong. A big, majestic fish died for this. This is, apparently, everything that’s wrong with letting the world’s largest e-commerce player — the giant darling of Wall Street — pick out your groceries instead of doing it yourself. I’m really happy I’m not vomiting right now. If I could give this fish zero stars, I would.
UPDATE from Amazon: