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My Peas and Carrots
Mark Woods

"Holy Cow that Cost What?"

Posted Sunday, September 28, 2014, at 1:21 PM
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  • Chefgrape,

    I agree with so much of what you say even though I rarely eat out.

    From the very beginning, when moving here, I have not been able to tolerate the amount of salt in restaurant meals, therefore, most of my meals have been at home out of necessity.

    Not as experienced with the local offerings I still have been able to collect a few pet peeves. It makes absolutely no sense to me in the middle of Okra season, for example, that frozen, nondescript, same old fried Okra is out of a bag from the freezer........etc. The main reason I want to eat out is to experience quality food that I do not or could not want to put the effort into cooking myself. I wouldn't even buy frozen Okra for use in my house but if I did I wouldn't have to pay restaurant prices....... Again...... I rarely eat out.

    But I would for a satisfactory restaurant experience.

    Two years ago I had what I now refer to as my " Cheesecake Winter ". It started with a craving for a slice of New York Cheesecake. Getting on line and looking at menus I found a cafe that had it on the menu so I picked up a slice and devoured it at home at a very unreasonable price. Thereafter when I got the same craving I just drove to Kroger and got the whole cake, 8 slices, for less.

    Oh, you noticed ?

    -- Posted by Palindrome on Sun, Sep 28, 2014, at 4:50 PM
  • Thanks Palindrome for adding, your absolutely correct when you said, "no fresh okra and even during the season". Our local grocery outlets don't even carry a decent tomato during season and not sure buying local is close to being thought of around here. I went and purchased what I thought and was told "locally grown", to find out they were purchased at a food warehouse by case, or brought in from Alabama from a mass production hybrid farm, which in turn "hot houses"or "green picks" them for a "gas ripening process", food production in this country has become a chemically hold it industry.

    I inquired at a local restaurant after craving a steak about the seasoning, I didn't want any on it, because salt swells me like a water balloon. I was told "all our steaks are marinated" and they pointed to the sauce on the table. Glad I changed my mind, after reading their sauce I would have consumed over 2400 milligrams of sodium by eating that steak. I was almost livid, they had no means to even cut a fresh steak they all were soaking in it apparently. So even what you think your getting sometimes "we have great steaks", can cause you health issues and we now pay $24.00 to eat harmful meals. Why not just cut and cook one, I don't get it.

    Due to sugar issues I'm not allowed cheesecake, however I make a real good one. Next time, give me a little notice and I'll whip you up what you want, any flavor is possible in it or on the side. Don't tell anyone though, I'm no longer in the food business at the moment. But if this local trend don't improve I might have to get involved. It's so easy to serve fresh food at normal prices so we all can enjoy a night out on occasion, without feeling cheated or suffering for it later.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 9:27 AM
  • Can you give the name of the deli in Huntsville you visited?

    -- Posted by Rocket Valentine on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 4:31 PM
  • Sorry Rocket, It was a deli style sandwich I actually had at a cafe, I should have clarified that a little more. There are two restaurants I frequent, one is a Greek cafe called City Cafe Diner (where I had the sandwich) on the corner of Drake ave. and the Parkway. Most everything they have is made in house. My pastrami sandwich had at least 8oz. of the pastrami on it. I've also had their lamb and steak gyro which was delicious. The owner has several of that style restaurants including Decatur I think remembering the waitress mentioning, here's the link on Urban Spoon

    http://www.urbanspoon.com/r/168/1704011/restaurant/City-Cafe-Diner-Huntsville

    The second (Dad's favorite) is German, it's down University on the left in the front corner of a small shopping plaza, before you get to that Target store.

    Ol Heidelberg Cafe 6125 University Dr NW Ste E14

    There are about 5 places to eat German food my next jaunt down south there I'm going to try "The Nook Tavern" on Bob Wallace. Kind of tough to get German food close. Huntsville is much easier to maneuver in, The parkway (231 south) has about 4 major roads and to me great food when eating out.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 6:39 PM
  • Thanks for the info. I'll check them out next time I'm down there. It's been awhile since I had a good authentic Greek Lamb gyro.

    -- Posted by Rocket Valentine on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 6:57 PM
  • Here's a video about them when they first opened, so you can kind of get a feel on the City Cafe Diner.

    http://whnt.com/2012/08/24/city-cafe-diner-opens-on-drake-avenue/

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 8:02 PM
  • Is that the same City Cafe that is in Chattanooga? I saw it on Tennessee Crossroads and stopped there on my way back from Atlanta a few months ago. Brought home dessert that Debbi and Mrs. Lee snack on for a few days.

    It has been a while since I was in food service so I do not know if health code law changed but when I offered to GIVE fresh produce to a local restaurant they said they could not use anything that did not come from a licensed distributor.

    Think that is true?

    Local grocery stores might be able to buy from local farmers but I would bet the larger chains don't have that flexibility. Plus, you have all the regulation on them knowing the history of where it came from, etc., etc.

    I don't know if the local restaurants and grocery stores that DO use local produce are breaking the law or not. Seems a shame but then again, I don't want my tomatoes sprayed with tobacco chemicals and called organic either.

    If they take the time to visit the farmer and quiz them about their growing methods, it would not take long to evaluate the end product. It seems I remember talking to a Vietnamese lady who says if the veggies look too good, she buys elsewhere.

    There is a place in East Nashville that our daughter took us to that served really great food and claim to make it all in-house. I had a black bean salad that had me raving. (the good kind)

    I even took shots of their menu and thought about encouraging them to open in Bell Buckle. I don't know if the locals would support it but they sure made an impression on me. calypsocafe.com

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 8:08 PM
  • Yes there is one in Chattanooga, here's their website so you can see their menu. They have just recently started expanding operations it seems.

    http://citycafemenu.com/

    Any chef, manager, employee etc. can purchase from say a farmers market as long as the market is properly licensed. If you notice on TV shows a lot of chefs will daily go and get the freshest ingredients possible, mostly for private or upscale establishments. Krogers could do the same if needed. I know Whole Foods has hooked up with local farmers for some things, however they are all certified and licensed for what they supply.

    It would be illegal and actually unwise to like buy tomatoes for public business consumption off the back of a truck on the side of the road if they were not properly inspected and licensed. A peddlers licence allows sells basically for personal use only. But here again most chefs know produce pretty well and that's typically whats bought so a lot is overlooked at times in some situations in smaller cites.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 8:31 PM
  • I searched to see what licenses might be needed for farmer's markets in Tennessee. It appears that some of the obvious things like cheese, milk, eggs, meat and prepared foods, honey are covered, but the actual fruit or vegetable is not.

    Vendors selling rooted plant materials at farmers' markets in Tennessee have to be certified by TDA. I wonder why herbs and strawberries are regulated, while it appears most veggie plants are not.

    This might be something to ask the UT AG Extension folks to clarify. If I get any news, I will bring it here.

    There might be more regulations from the health department a well.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Mon, Sep 29, 2014, at 10:31 PM
  • It could be because or "red stele disease (Phytophthora fragariae)on strawberries, unlike herbs which are pest issues but I'm really not sure.

    I would think ginseng and marijuana laws might have or mean the reasons for regulating herbs nowadays.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Tue, Sep 30, 2014, at 12:22 PM
  • Is ginseng regulated to avoid over-harvesting?

    I know the reason for that spice by "Mary Jane", but there is an awful lot of research going on that evaluates the medicinal value of this herb.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Sep 30, 2014, at 12:53 PM
  • Wild Ginseng is regulated in several states, last month (august) in West Virginia they busted some folks with 190 lbs. estimated to be worth about $180,000. The reason for the bust was it had been harvested out of season. Apparently the digging season in West Virginia is Sept 1 thru November 30th. You can read more of the WV. info about it here: http://wvowradio.com/Article.asp?id=2840594&spid=37834 including a few of the rules.

    I had heard of this on the telly vision and looked it up a couple weeks back, must be why it was on my mind. As a kid we were aware of wild ginseng in the woods if my memory serves me right, however I'm amazed at the value it has and assuming most is used in the herbal supplement business.

    -- Posted by chefgrape on Tue, Sep 30, 2014, at 8:01 PM
  • That would tell me they are trying to protect the native colonies, Wild 'sang' is worth more than cultivated. Why I am not sure if it is grown in the same area and under similar conditions but.... it is.

    Pickers often do not leave enough for re-establishment of the plants. Maybe seed set is in August and they want the mature seeds to have a chance to do their thing.

    That article also says that 'sang' is old enough to harvest when it has grown 3 or more prongs. Prongs determine age.

    -- Posted by stevemills on Tue, Sep 30, 2014, at 11:42 PM
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