Monday, January 31, 2005

Ethos Water, Grab a bottle. Make a difference.

While I visited with numerous companies and owners, one stood out far from the others. I am not criticizing the owners and operators of the other companies I will feature. Not one bit. But the reason I chose Ethos to be the feature vendor at the show was their philosophy and why they do what they do. Not only do they sell a good, quality bottle of water, they also give back to the community of man. They have put their heart above their heads and are making a difference.

On the bottle is their mission statement: We help children around the world get clean water. Ethos started out as a simple idea. Water for water. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let me introduce the founders of this great company. Peter Thum and Jonathon Greenblatt. I spoke with each of them and got bits of info from each of them. Peter, as part of a consulting job he had in 2000-2001, spent six months in developing townships of South Africa. It was during this time that Peter became aware of the plight of the citizens of these townships. Most were without clean drinking water, it was devastating to the community. In fact Peter quickly became aware of how devastating this could be: disease from non-potable water sources result in one death every 14 seconds. Clean water is essential to life. Peter started Ethos Water from these experiences. Jonathon, on the other hand worked in the Clinton administration. He had the opportunity to develop economic policies that would help US companies enter emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. With this program came travel to many of these areas. Jonathon gained firsthand knowledge of the plight of many people in Latin America and Asia without clean water available to them. With the knowledge and understanding of what a lack of clean water can do to the citizens of countries an idea was born. Peter asked Jonathon to get involved in this newly formed endeavor. Together they are working to alleviate the suffering of thousands of children worldwide through the efforts Ethos Water.

How does Ethos do business? It is bottled in California. The water is derived from a natural spring located at Palomar Mountain in Southern California. 50% of the after tax profits of Ethos Water are donated to Ethos International for the building of wells in developing nations. The donation to Ethos International is currently 50%, Peter and Jonathon hope to make the contribution larger in future years. By making these contributions, they support the building of wells in developing areas. They do not do this on their own. They work with established entities in developing nations to further the cause. Entities such as C.A.R.E., WaterAid and others work with local governments and agencies to provide new wells in suffering communities.

How many of you have been hot? I mean really HOT. So hot that a simple puddle of water can cool you down. A simple puddle of water made by 16 oz of water? It doesn't take much does it? Sometimes, for those of us with water readily available, it seems so easy. We just turn on the faucet, out comes cool, clear, drinkable water. Even on those hot days of summer, as a child, a neighbors' hose would offer the much needed relief. Until you've seen what a difference clean water can make to a community, you'll never know how a simple purchase of Ethos can make a huge difference. Visit Ethos International to see how Peter and Jonathon, and thier supporters, have already made a difference.

How can you help make a difference? Buy Ethos water. We all buy bottled water. Make a concerted effort to go out of your way to support this worthy cause. If you don't have a Whole Foods nearby ask your local grocer to begin carrying this water or contact Peter or Jonathon and tell them where you are and where you'd like to buy their product.

This is a small "commercial" for a product I believe in. But don't take just my word for it. Please visit their website to learn more about the Ethos water program and how you can help make a difference.

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On with the Show! The NASFT show that is.

Wow! Last week was a whirlwind. The NASFT show was incredible. Sunday was packed with people. I have never seen so many people at the show on beginning day. Many other attendees I spoke with agreed.

The show had more to offer than the usual chocolate and jelly purveyors. There were many first time exhibitors and a few I hadn’t noticed in the past couple of years. In the next week or so I will focus on some of the businesses I had the pleasure to get to know and highlight a few of the better known vendors out there. There was even a couple of guys I will feature, provide a link to, and begin to be a cheerleader for their company. What they are doing is fabulous.

All in all it was a good week to spend away. The weather wasn’t the best, but it is January. There was more than enough fog for everyone. We did drive up the 101 to get to SF and in doing so drove by La Conchita. It is difficult to put into words the feelings one had when seeing the devastation. My heart goes out to all who were affected by this tragedy. We did sit for a moment to reflect on our good fortune, and the blessings we receive each day.

San Francisco did not disappoint. It was lively and filled with people. At times, I could have done with a few less people to be sure. There was however, an overabundance of families, this visit. I usually don’t see so many and marvel at anyone trying to raise a family in such a concentrated version of a city.

There were over 2000??? vendors at the show. I spoke with many of them and have chosen to feature new companies I am not familiar with and old companies that I love because of their philosphy and willingness to provide consumers premium products that are proven over time.

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Tomato - Tomahto

I read an interesting news story this week - sorry I can't even remember where I read it - however, it was about the price of tomatoes. Arrrgghh! The story stated that an entire field of tomatoes in Florida would go unsold because farmers couldn't get a decent price on them. Buyers (corporate) want to give them between 30 and 50 cents a pound for them. Not a bad price. However, you need to know also that retailers are holding prices steady at $1.50 to $3.00 per pound due to the hurricane price increase. Yes retailers need to make a living, but, so do farmers.

This weekend, go find your favorite local grower, buy some tomatoes from him instead of the GIANT you may shop at occasionally.

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Off to the Fancy Foods Show!

Today I am off on my yearly pilgrimage to the NASFT show in San Francisco!

What is the NASFT? It is the National Association of Specialty Food Trade. Every January they hold the winter edition of the show in San Francisco. Then in the spring, in May, they hold one in Chicago and the mother of shows is held in New York in the summertime - July to be exact. “The NASFT® has sponsored and produced the high profile, well-attended International Fancy Food & Confection Shows® since 1955. They are well funded, aggressively marketed, and highly regarded by attendees and exhibitors alike.” To quote their website.

This year there will be 900 domestic vendor/exhibitor and about 250 international exhibitors. The international exhibitors include the countries of India, Japan, Germany, Australia, Spain, Italy - Tuscany has their own spot, France, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada.

The types of things we always get to see and sample are Candies, Chocolate, Appetizers, Cheese, Ice Cream, Sorbets, Snack Foods, Vegetables, Meats, Jam and Jellies, Olive and other seasoned oils, Honey, Fruits, Breads, Cakes and Cookies, Rice. They also have a Beer and Wine Pavilion, and plenty of Coffee and Tea vendors. There are also some vendors with kitchen and cooking accessories. This year there is even a vendor for our favorite friends – pets!

Over 30,000 people usually attend this three-day shindig. It is a great way to see what’s new, what’s innovative and what new vegetable is hot! They have great short seminars geared to the industry and each year they have a vote for the best of show categories in foods. It is a great honor to have been awarded an NASFT award and when you peruse the net you’ll see many specialty food vendors feature the fact that they won an award during one of the shows.

It is a good way to spend a few days networking and sharing ideas and seeing old friends. I will post when I can anything new or different I see. It’s fun and work at the same time! So off I go to the show!

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Orwellian lives

There is new technology out there. It is setting the retail world on its head. It is being touted as the best thing to hit retailing. It will make the lives of everyone who comes in contact with it better, more streamlined and convenient. Walmart is leading the charge by insisting their suppliers "get with the program". What is it?

It is called RFID. Radio Frequency Identification Device. Big words. Bigger when you understand what they mean. Radio Frequency Identification tags are "live". They talk to satellites. They let suppliers know when their product is running low on the shelves of those they supply. This helps the supply chain, because a producer can pack in anticipation of an order being placed soon. It can even alert a retailer that his shelf is low. When a retailer receives products with RFID tags the product is scanned when it comes through the back door. It electronically does a count and verifies that the prodcut has been orderd and received. This information goes into the retailer's inventory management system and is electronically managed so they can ensure the product a consumer needs is in stock and available.

So what's the big deal? On time inventory management and control. Big deal. Except, that little radio frequency device doesn't turn itself off once it leaves the store. If privacy laws are not managed, a retailer or supplier can track the product to your home and actually see how long it takes you to use it up.

The California Grocers Association, Consumer Specialty Products Association and the Grocery Manufacturers of America feel that privacy laws already in place will protect consumers and no other laws need to be introduced to control the types of information that can be gleaned from an RFID tag.

While I understand the need to control inventories and meet consumer demand. However, I do not want anyone monitoring ANY product I have purchased and when or if I have disposed of said product. It is bad enough that I have a computer in my car that monitors how I drive it (so the dealership can see if I caused a warranty issue by hard driving or any number of other things). Current laws in California are in place that "prohibits any person or business fron using RFID tags on store products to collect information about a customer and from using RFID readers to collect personal information about people" (SB1834 passed California Legislature in April of 2004) unless certain conditions are met. Those conditions being that the information is provided by the customer in order to purchase or rent an item and that the information collected is the person executing the transaction. The law applies to retail establishments and libraries (yes libraries use RFID) . Also, while they cannot collect the personal info on you until you give it to them... they can still track that it is in your home with the transmitting device. So even if you got it as a gift, they know where that gold plated gezornemplat is!

We all need to be aware that there are computers out there monitoring every purchase we make if it is done with large corporations. Mom and Pop operations cannot use RFID information because, at this time, it is too expensive to benefit them or their customers. RFID compels me to shop local.

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Back to the Giant

Giant groceries stores. Oh the wonder of it all. All the cans and boxes lined up, row after row, faced to the front of the shelf. There is nothing prettier than a store just before it opens in the morning. The floors are shined, everything is in its place, the produce screams freshness. Rows and rows of fresh steaks and chops. It is a sight to behold.

So how does one become so enamored with something as simple as a grocery store? I was 17. I had graduated high school the previous year and had my VW bug to get from here to there. I needed a job to pay for gas and the ever present rock concert. I needed to find a good job. I had had all those other jobs. You know the ones that include the ability to smell like a taco when you arrive home at midnight. Or the one that promises lots of hours and money that end up in 10 hours a week during a slow season. Yes, those jobs. So, as my grandpa always said "if you want to work forever, work for a newspaper or a mortuary. Someone always needs something to read, and people die every day." Well I didn't have journalistic desires at 17, and I certainly didn't want to work in the death industry. I thought what else do people always need? Food! So I was off to make my way in the food world! Waitressing was also out. I had eaten out, one too many times, with a very picky person. I was not going to endure someone like them.

The sign went up. A big shiny 8'x10' sign. It was in the middle of the empty lot we had traversed on the way to high school. It read: Coming Soon! Giant Store of your Dreams! We are the best of the best! You will want to shop here! It also had that tell tale symbol on it: AFofL CIO. Hmmmm. Taking applications beginning next week.

I soon found out that the AFofL CIO meant big money. The kind people made in the big city. Yep this was the job for me. It didn't matter then that my neighbor, whose wonderful general store would be affected by this Giant. It's effect would be negative. I was going to apply for a job that paid more than anyone my age had ever made!

The day arrived. I got myself dressed in the shortest skirt I owned, and went down to join the line of hopefuls. It was about fifty feet long. "Oh, maybe I'm too late! Maybe that great job has already been taken!" I stood patiently in line, looking ever so young. I knew exactly what to say when I was interviewed. My turn next! My heart pounding I walked up to a guy in a striking blue blazer. I handed him my application and smiled the biggest smile I could. You see, that was my secret weapon. I have dimples. I had already learned this was the way to gain attention without even trying! He smiled back and asked me one simple question. Why do you want to work here? "Because", I said, "everyone needs to eat". And smiled again. It must have done the trick, because later that afternoon I got the call. Yes! I landed the big time job. The one that paid more than anyone I knew made! Very cool!

Soon I began learning the "ropes" of the retail food industry. I also had the wonderful opportunity of learning to deal with workplace sexual harrassment. I of course went to my boss, who did nothing. The guy kept up, trying to see if I'd give in. Fortunately for me his wife shopped at our store. I simply informed him the next time he tried that I would be willing to give his wife a call and mention our little confab. It worked, and I have never been harrassed since, by him or anyone else.

I learned how to fill a paper bag with food. Those bags, were huge!. They were made of such unrefined paper that many times a day your arms would be raw from the tiny little splinters in the paper. Non food items in one bag. Produce in one bag. Meat in its own separate bag. NEVER put meat in a bag with produce. Cans always went on the bottom row of a bag. Then lighter things fill the bag. Milk? Give the customer a choice.

Simple. This food thing was simple. And it could last a lifetime. It has lasted a lifetime for me. I tried other professions, one that people 'ooh and aah' over. It wasn't for me. There was something about the food. The glisten in people's eyes when you could get them the perfect banana, or pick a watermelon for them. Even something as simple as eggs on top could please the most finicky of little old ladies.

The stories I could tell. The stories I will tell! See you soon.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Isn't he cute!

I know he's not real food, but there's just something about Mr. Potato Head. Now as Darth Tater, Hasbro has really got a hot potato on its hands!

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Fudge Fatale

Hollywood is a buzz. Fudge Fatale will be included in the "goody bags" at the Oscar's. Has anyone tried it? Is a cinemetographer a good fudge maker too? Is it worth making a two hour trip to the nearest Sur La Table?

I love chocolate. To me the best fudge around is Helen Grace fudge. It's creamy and the walnuts are always crisp and snappy. It's also a two hour drive away though. So if you've tried this fudge, let me know how good it really is. Maybe I'll include it in the road trip next week.

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Kitchen Essentials - what tools do you need

Okay so my post yesterday about the Crate and Barrel makeover has me thinking. Thinking about how we are SO overly spoiled in our kitchens. I know that without my cuisinart I could never again make the perfect pie crust. Without my 375 hp Kitchen Aid Mixer marshmallows would be very difficult to make. I really do want the 575 hp version! My electric roasting pot is ever so wonderful, especially the fact that it is non-stick.

However, does it really take all kinds of fancy items to be a great cook? I think not. I will (when I get the pictures portion of this blog working - which should be after the show next week) post a picture of my very small kitchen. It is about 100 square feet - total. Yes, it is that small. And what makes it even worse is when the house was built, it didn't have modern conveniences like we have now. I'll show you in the pictures how someone added those. It's a post unto itself! LOL! However, most great cooks can make magic in their kitchens with limited means. A well stocked pantry, a select group of utensils, some quality pots and pans, and practicing those cooking skills daily are the makings of a great cook! My mother-in-law is one of those people. Limited means, limited ingredients = great cook and good eating. She grew up one of twelve children in a house without electricity and learned to make the best food. We all flock to her home when she's cooking a pot of chicken and dumplings!

So to answer the question - no. We don't need all those things. In fact we don't need most of them.

What are the items that are must haves in your kitchen?

Mine is my Cuisinart. I bought it back in 1985. I will never part with it and hope and pray it never goes out. You see the company was sold a while back and the motors are not nearly as good as the one mine has. So with that one item I could run my kitchen and be satisfied. Oh, and of course, a great chopping knife!

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

10 minutes at Crate and Barrel

Last night the big guy and I stayed home. He's trying to get better from a cold and flu over the weekend so we cuddled up with a fire and TV. We decided to watch TLCs America's Ugliest Kitchen. I must say that the kitchen chosen was the correct one to choose. I cannot believe these people lived with kitchen cabinets covered in velvet. It makes me cringe to think of the grime accumulated over the years. Made you wanna go "Eeeeewww"!

So they choose this ugliest of all kitchens and demolish it promising a well done make-over. Doug Wilson, of Trading Spaces fame, is leading the charge in the design. He asks what they'd like to see in their kitchen. The response "Anything but country". That's it? Anything but country. Hmmm. Then he says they have to do some heavy work and the couple needs to "get away".

First place they go is my favorite place (well, one of my favorites) Crate and Barrel! Wow. They tell them they have 10 minutes to buy anything, underscore, anything they want for the kitchen. What a great gift! But, I didn't see the same enthusiam on this woman's face as on mine. And I was watching her get the free stuff! She had Doug with her spurring her on, basically telling her what to grab. In all fairness, she may have been well equipped to know exactly what she wanted, but the editing room left all the good stuff on the floor. If that was the case, I apologize. I don't think so though. If it had been me I would have B-lined it to the appliances, loaded up the Cuisinart, Kitchen Aid and all sorts of other neat stuff and then made my way to the plates, place setting et al. She spent a lot of time on the gadget isle.

What makes me think she had to be spurred on was that after they got done there, they were sent away to a great place in Rhode Island (I think it was RI). Doug introduced them to the kitchen staff at this great place they were staying and basically showed them a professional kitchen and how it worked. The chef made them all kinds of tasty things to eat. Doug was hoping to inspire them. His question to them - "no holds barred, what would your dream kitchen be like?" No definitive answer. Ugh!

The kitchen remodel was beautiful and they seemed to like it very much. The husband got a bit choked up and about lost it a few times, but the wife never seemed to get overly emotional. Oh well, sometimes opportunities are wasted on the wrong people. Now I'm not saying that she won't enjoy this new kitchen, not at all. Just that I think I'd enjoy it more!

If someone gave you 10 minutes at Crate and Barrel, to grab anything you wanted for free, how would you spend your time?

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So You Want to be a Chef

There are a lot of us out there who enjoy cooking. Enjoy it so much that we have delusions of grandeur thinking we'll toss the career path we've chosen and dive into culinary school. Sounds like a good idea to you? Let's go over a bit of what will change.

1. Income - Chef's, especially Executive Chef's, make very good money. That is until you factor in how many hours a week they put in at work. Oh yeah don't forget that they work every holiday, every evening - usually six a week - and rarely have a weekend off. Do you currently get weekends off? Are they the days you live for? If so, then maybe it's time to rethink that resignation. Do you have a good supply of income available to you while you're in school? A good support system in place, you're going to be without income for a bit. Then it will take you a couple of years to regain stability and pat off those loans!

2. School - In the US it is a good idea to go to school and get your certificate. Europe has apprecnticeship programs that are very good, however, it is a long haul and we're more the instant gratification genre here in the states. Depending on what specialty you decide to pursue school can take as long as two years. And it isn't cheap. There are very good schools across the nation. Take your time to look into the programs to see if they 'gel' with your expectations. Take the time to visit the campus before you sign on the dotted line. Some of the more well known schools are:

The CIA Located in Hyde Park, NY and Yountville, Ca at Greystone
Art Institute Locations in 31 cities across the nation
The French Culinary Institue in New York City
Johnson and Wales on the East Coast and Denver
Scottsdale Culinary Institute A Cordon Bleu School in Arizona
The French Pastry School in Chicago
New England Culinary Institute in Vermont
California Culinary Academy in San Francisco

This is just a short list of schools whose names I know off the top of my head. There are also community colleges all over the states that have culinary programs. While not having a big name chef on the roster, you do get some valuable training. Culinary school is expensive, but worth the training. It's not like paying $25,000 to go to school to get your bachelors degree in psychology only to find out there is nothing but low paying minimum jobs available until you have your masters or doctorate. These schools will train you to work. That's the key, if you learn how to work, you'll never be unemployed again.
You may not always earn top dollar but you will be building a lifetime knowledge base to take you anywhere.

3. If you're thinking of becoming a chef because all your friends rave about how delicious your food is... Cooking at home, at your convenience in one thing. Cooking the same thing everyday, day in and day out (because it sells) can begin to become rote. Just like that day job you have now - if you're looking for excitement and accolades - throw more dinner parties. But if you wake up every morning with a yearning to serve mass quantities of food to people who may or may not like what you've prepared... maybe this is for you.

4. Becoming the celebrity chef. Don't believe everything you see on FoodTV. For every Bobby Flay, Emeril La Gasse, and Alton Brown out there, there are forty thousand people hoping to get their foot in that door. Before your dreams of becoming a famous chef someday - evaluate your goals. If the simple "my compliments to the chef" can ring your bell and extend satisfaction to you, that's great. Just don't think after a few years in the kitchen of a well known executive chef you'll going to break out and be "somebody". You already are somebody. Recognize that first!

5. Hard work. I mentioned this in a previous paragraph. It is long hours, tedious work and exhausting to cook. You'll begin at the bottom, cutting, slicing, plating. Someone has to put those little swirls of whipped cram on the top of the wonderful cake, the chocolate curls on that mousse, and those oh so lovely stuffed endive. Sometimes after graduating culinary school you'll be ready to take on that grill line. You'll get that first dream job, show up in in your best whites, and chop mushrooms all day in the back without ever getting a glimpse of the grill. It happens all the time. Remember, you're building a career.

Another thing to keep in mind about hard work. While you are in school it is best to extern a bit on your own. Most people call it trailing. What is trailing? It's going to the restaurant of your choice - you like the way the do things - the food is great, the people seem to have good attitudes, and asking if you can trail. Follow someone around all day, working where you're asked to work, plating, chopping, whipping, folding just about anything to gain some experience - for free. Most restaurants will allow you to trail. Remember though, if you set up a time to trail, be there on time and willing to work until they tell you to go home, it builds a good amount of experience and gives you a chance to show a chef how you work. Then maybe, when you get out of school, you'll have a chance to do a paid externship that could evolve into a full time job.

6. If you still aren't sure this is for you, go read a few blogs by chefs in training: Pastry Life is one, then there's Burning My Fingers In Boston and a great journal A Day In the Life of a Culinary Student by Logan Worley. These should give you a glimpse into their journey to becoming a chef. It will show you some ups and downs and definitely a lot of hard work.

I am sure there are those of you out there that could add tremendous amounts to this post. Feel free to comment and fill in the blanks where I left off.

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Food, Glorious, Food!

I can't believe it! Here we are in the middle of winter - even in SoCal - (did you see us on the news last week?) and I can STILL buy just about anything my litle heart desires, foodwise. Saturday while shopping I spied the most beautiful fresh raspberries! A little creme fraische and we're there!

On Friday I was in Anaheim for a packaging show. Oooh! I love packaging! However, the parking was abismal. I had the fortune of being able to park near the berry fields though. It was a mile (maybe a bit less) walk to the 60,000 square foot building. Once there I would spend the afternoon looking at all kinds of packaging and playing the version of dodgeball that uses actual humans instead the usually sporting fare. Again I digress.

What was wonderful to view was the berry fields. There they are in the midst of commerce, concrete and cars. A few acres left of a dream built in the early 1900s. It has been rumored that Disneyland has tried, unsuccessfully, to buy the farmer out for years. The berries, strawberries to be exact, were blooming in full splendor! In fact a few were being harvested. There is nothing better than a fully ripe strawberry in the middle of January. A sprinkle of sweetener or some fresh cream and you have found heaven.

Remind me again why I love SoCal.

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Happy National Customer Service Day!

Well, along with it being Martin Luther King Day. For all of you lucky enough to work in an industry where you get to have MLK day off, enjoy your day, and remember work for a righteous cause is never insignificant.

My customer service tribute today has to go to John Campbell of Central Market (HEB) Texas. Central Market is THE best place to shop! If you want it (and CM doesn't carry it already) they'll get it for you. They have premium seafood, meat, vegetables, gourmet foods, candies. They have an excellent wine cellar and cigar section. Central also has an excellent "Cafe on the Run".

The reason for my choice to hold John as the shining example of customer service is this: Central Market's hours are from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. Customers will occasionally show up earlier (7:30 a.m.) and John's attitude is "if they want to buy something let 'em in. It's not going to hurt us, to sell something before 9 a.m." This is the way the entire program works at Central. The partners are empowered to do wht they need to satisfy a customer. It is an excellent model for any retailer to "steal" and use for themselves.

Good Job Central Market. I just wish you were in California!

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Sunday, January 16, 2005

KIng's Seafood - best of the formula restaurants

A couple of summers ago I went to Hyde Park, New York. I was attending a certification class in food styling. What does that have to do with formula restaurants???? Well, the class was filled with CIA chefs and me. I am not a chef. I was however, invited to join them for dinner one night. I suggested a place to go and got a unanimous "groan". "Not a formula restaurant, ugh" said one, another said "Please, we're in Hyde Park, there is no way I'm eating at a "cookie cutter" place." Okay, they're the pros, I'll stick with their suggestion. We went to a local place and had "american fare". It was not spectacular, but it was dinner.

"Formula Restaurants" are not my favorite places to eat. However, occasionally, there are a few that stand out. My favorite is a unique place. They really can't be lumped in with the "formula" group as they aren't a nationwide chain. However because they have a theme style restaurant in more than one location in Southern California some purists would call it a formula place. The restaurant to whom I am referring is King's Fish House.

King's began business in Long Beach California as King's Seafood Company in 1945. The have elvolved and gone through a sale or two. You can read more of their history here: King's Seafood Company. Recently they have begun operating restaurants in several locations under the King's Fish House banner. I can't say enough good about the place. The location that has me hooked is run by Mark McQuaid in Carlsbad, Ca.

The menu is excellent. You'll begin with sourdough bread, real butter and drinks. Moving on to appetizers - an enourmous assortment of oysters from the Pacific or regional favorites in season. Of course there are other selections available if you're not up for the oysters. Ceviche, Shrimp cocktail, Calimari, steamed Artichokes or clams. We usually skip the appetizer and go right on to the Mixed Greens with Vinaigrette or a bowl of the White Beans and Smoked Salmon soup. Either are tasty and a great way to begin this meal. We have enjoyed the Australian Lobster Tails, the Angel hair Pasta with Shrimp, Grilled Salmon, and the best Angus New York Strip I've ever eaten. You also choose side dishes to go with your entree - choose the sweet corn! It is cooked on the cob, fresh, and then just prior to service it is removed from the cob and plated. Mmmm. All your other choices are good too (I just happen to love the corn). Everything is cooked to perfection and service is timed to a "t". Make sure to leave room for dessert or take home some bread pudding or the ice box cake for later!

Of course all of the accolades are due to the hard work of the top guy - Mark McQuaid. A crew doesn't work this well or go to the effort to make their customers feel so good about their meal without a good leader. Thanks, Mark. And thanks, to your crew also!

So as I said before, occasionally a "formula place" works. King's Fish House does an excellent job of keeping the customer happy and well fed. It's not just one location either. I had lunch at the Calabassas location while having my car serviced in late December - lunch at this location was great too! So even it is your rule to "rule out" these cookie cutter formula type places, every once in a while there is the exception to the rule. Keep that in mind and you'll be pleasantly surprised.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Retail Grocers

I have been fascinated with retail grocery stores since I was a young girl. Growing up on the southern coast of California afforded us plenty of fresh vegetables and great seafood.

The first grocer I remember was the Red & White Market in Oceanside. It was a small neighborhood market. Red & White served the local community well. If there was something special you wanted, you just had to ask, the proprietor would do his best to obtain whatever it was you requested. The corner market was a favorite of mine. Penny candy galore for the kids coming to and from school. And when I say penny candy, it was just that. Kits, BB Bats, Root Beer barrels, Double Bubble (that was always purchased after school) and a myriad of other favorites. It was easy to run to the store for mom, grab an extra something for dinner and say "hi" to friends in the neighborhood. After school it was always great too because my brother and I would go buy some caps, you know the kind for in cap guns, we'd buy a roll and have fun. We didn't have a cap gun but found that a good flat rock would work just as well. I can still smell the smoke and hear the tiny explosion! But I digress.

Then something strange happened. I remember I was in the fourth grade. A whole city block was excavated and paved over. There was something new coming to town. It was going to make life better for everyone. Convenience! A 40000 square foot GIANT. It was at the corner of University and Texas Street, in San Diego. We all lined up in awe at the opening. Wow! So many things in one place! You could buy any cut of meat you wanted, all types of vegetables, and then there was the frozen isle. Not just ice cream, but almost anything a wholesaler could think to freeze was there, vegetables, dinners, meats. There was bottled water! Soda pop! In return bottles! Soap and cleaning products. When you finished there were big paper bags to put it all in to take home, no more carboard boxes. They even had guys that would take it to your car and load up the groceries. It was a modern marvel. Soon these big GIANTs dotted the landscape from San Diego to Redondo Beach (that was my world back then).

But something happened. Our friend who ran the little market around the corner started talking about closing his store. He had done all he could to stay in business. Ran specials, still went the extra mile for you in obtaining those special items you requested, but it was no longer enough. When the GIANT down the street could sell you four grapefuits for a dollar, the small corner market knew his days were numbered. Oh yes he still had penny candy and soda, and ice cream. He still had a big grin and a friendly hello when you came by but he didn't have his customers. Fewer and fewer of us were going by on a regular basis any longer. Soon, he sold out, not being able to compete. We had helped the GIANT put him out of business. Ugh!

No sooner than our friend had closed his doors we began to see suttle changes in this GIANT. The GIANT still had everything you thought you needed. However that special cut of meat you'd always been able to order from the corner market, didn't sell well in the GIANT and they didn't carry it and wouldn't order it just for you. That made things difficult. We couldn't fight, we had to accept that certain things wouldn't be available any longer. We learned to conform to what the retailer had decided we wanted and needed. All was well, progress, you see, had been made.

Stay tuned for more of the story of the retail grocer...

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Welcome all foodies!

Okay, this blogging thing has become a reality for me. I have been reading and enjoying blogs of all varieties for over two years. I work in the food industry and have access to all kinds of resources for us to enjoy. I will share news, reviews, rules and anything else food related I can think to post.

In a couple of weeks I will be attending the NASFT show in San Francisco. I will review the things I see, hear and taste! Unforutnately, photos will not be available as the show rules don't allow any photos in the convention hall. Rats!

The industry has undergone radical changes in the past ten years, for the better! Join me in exploring the wide world of food in the states.

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