Welcome to the blog of the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. Pull up a bar stool and experience our Counter Culture!

I'm Andy Meddick, Owner and President of the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. In 2005, I left my corporate I.T. job in Washington DC, to relocate with my spouse's business to the DE beaches. What to do now we live in a state where chicken houses can often outnumber human? Faced with a four hour round trip to the closest decent food market, I opened my first store, Good For You Market, a full service grocery store, focusing on organic, natural, and gourmet foods. In the worst economy since the 1930s, I won Best of Delaware awards three years running. After four years, I decided to simplify the business, re-aligning to focus on what we did best. The result is the Rehoboth Beach Cheese Company. We sell (retail and wholesale) artisan/farmstead cheeses, charcuterie, organic produce,and other specialty foods such as spices and seasonings. We also teach cheese classes, cater, sell online, and consult with other businesses to build their cheese programs.

I've learned much since starting out. For example, staffing was a steep learning curve, and I discovered that a savvy sales and marketing professional lay dormant in an I.T. geek! Systems analysis, business analysis, database design and development, data architecture, web design, specialty cheeses and foods, organic farming, catering, and cooking. What do all these threads have in common? Curiosity! It begets technique, which in turn begets better solutions to commond needs. Why complain about lack of choice, if you're not willing to offer an alternative? Our move, and my business development has taught me to participate in life, and to be ever curious! Enjoy!

Dec 31, 2009

Here's 2 new ads we have running starting next week. I had to include a link to the G4UMarket Facebook page since I couldn't find a way of uploading audio files to blogger. Anyone know how to do that?

You'll need to become a fan of the G4UMarket page to listen to the ads...

G4UMarket Cheese Ads

Dec 30, 2009

G4U Market's Picasa album

Check out our new Picasa album for Good For You Market. We're adding more daily. I'm still getting used to a fancy new camera and can't use it yet, hence the wobbly nature of some shots.

Dec 29, 2009

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but I have two things to be thankful for, besides Faithful Spouse and good health, of course!

These things be:
  1. Kitty Litter (no we do not have cats, for that I'm thankful for also!).
  2. Frozen ground (sorry farmers!).
Why? I finally got the G4U truck out of the mud out back store. Faith and patience pay off. Also W.L. Bateman's quote comes to mind, "If you keep on doing what you've always done, you'll keep on getting what you've always got." This metaphor I like much better!

As Ginger Rogers sang:

"It's a brave new day, be thankful you get to start all over again.
Nothing's impossible, I have found.
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off,
Start all over again."

"Pick Yourself Up" music by Jerome Kern and lyrics by Dorothy Fields. Film, "Swing Time" 1936. RKO Radio Pictures.
In my case not dust but mud, nothing but mud...

Dec 27, 2009

Reading my blog the narcissist that I am. Stunned to see in print the date, "Sunday December 27."

December 27, when did that happen?

To all those in the media currently reviewing the decade that was, nooooooo, I'm not ready. Only seems like yesterday I was trying every excuse under the sun so I wouldn't have to pull an all-nighter at work Y2K baby-sitting. Will we all be doing the same in 2 years for 2012?

Ooops. Too much caffeine.

Wow, I AM read after all. You like me, you really like me!

I got questions. I got questions!

  1. What coffee were you drinking? This particular brew was Jim's Organic Coffee's Happy House Blend. It's a medium-light roast, perfect for a mid-morning break. According to Jim, "Light and well balanced with a clean taste... In a word: Chipper." I agree usually by 11am, I am feeling chipper. At 8am I have to drink Jim's Italian Roast. Intense and very dark! You can purchase Jim's Organic Coffee beans loose by the lb at Good For You Food Market, Lewes, DE. We will grind it for you free of charge.
  2. What china were you using? This is my, "Everyday" china. We bought it on e-bay while in the UK years ago. We have a full dinner service set - 6 places. It is the real deal china from British Airways first class cabin. It's as tough as nails haven been designed for air travel. Funny story. I was sitting on my Mam & Dad's living room floor in Wales. Mam and I were enjoying a cup of tea while wrapping up the British Airways china ready for me to take as carry on (yes on British Airways, but not first class, coach, honey, coach, oh the sad, sweet irony) on our flight back to the States. Anyway an hour later and many yards of bubble wrap and recycled xmas wrapping paper carefully placed into 2 boxes, the BA china was sealed and ready for transport. Mam asks me if I'd like another cup of tea. Suddenly she rolls on the floor laughing, tears streaming down her face. I get it right away and join her on the floor. Dad and Tom look scornfully over since they couldn't hear Corrie on TV. We could not find the cups and saucers Mam had served us tea in. Where could they have gone? We weren't about to unwrap an hour of work to find out!
  3. What book are you reading? It is Robert L. Wolke's "What Einstein Told His Cook: Kitchen Science Explained." It's an entertaining, funny explanation about the scientific changes food goes through in the kitchen, why a sauce browns and all such fun. He's got a second volume out too. I shall review it when I'm done since my desciption does not do it justice. 

Faithful spouse prefers watching a report of dead people on TV (who died this year?) over spending time with me. I guess I deserved that after bringing the mud incident home. So I retreat to one of my favorite indulgences: French Press coffee and a good book. Yes that is one of my French Presses, my everyday china and my book in the photo.

A French Press is also known as a "Cafetiere" as the French, and ironically the British call them. I say ironically since alledgedly the French and the British do not get along. I blame it on public transport. I mean really, who is at their best crammed into a tube of metal hurtling 100 feet underground, or racing around a hypermarket grabbing wine before the last ferry leaves? Many cross-channel grievances are born this way.

Hold the front page, back to my press. A French Press is a glass beaker with a mesh filter contained in the (usually) metal lid. The lid and filter are used as a plunger which fits snugly into the beaker. 

French Presses require a very coarse grind of coffee, much coarser than drip machines. The very coarse grind means the coffee will not surface above the filter. The coffee grounds are placed in the bottom of the beaker, and water, just off the boil, is added to the beaker, upto 1 inch from the top. Never use boling water, you will crack the beaker. The lid, with plunger elevated, is placed on top of the beaker and left in this way for upto 4 minutes to allow the coffee to develop flavor, color, and body. Next, slowly depress the plunger all the way to the bottom of the beaker. Go as slowly as possible to prevent coffee grinds from escaping around the sides of the filter. Serve immediately and drink within 20 minutes.

You'll find that coffee brewed in a French Press will be thicker, darker and stronger, with more sediment than all other methods, with the exception of espresso. With a French Press, the coffee grounds remain in contact with the water the entire brewing time. This, together with using mesh filter over a paper filter means that more of the coffee flavor and essential oils are in the brewed coffee versus being trapped in a paper filter. There is some thought that the sedimentation of French Press coffee can contribute to a minor increase in cholesterol.

Coffee served at table with a French Press is an elegant way to end a meal. French Presses are available in many sizes and are a portable way to get fresh brewed coffee while traveling. Why do I turn to this method of brewing coffee when I want to relax with a good book? It's the same reason I have a tea ritual on a rare day off. Brewing loose leaf tea in a teapot requires work. It makes me slow down, appreciate the art of making the beverage, consider where it came from and say a silent word of thanks to all who made it possible as I savor the taste. After a busy week of looking after others, this is Andy time. Spouse and dogs know well not to interrupt once that kettle is singing!

5:30pm Saturday night. 38F outside, pouring rain and I'm wallowing in mud. Literally. The Good For You truck was stuck in the mud out back of the store, left from melting snow and a days heavy rain. Business had sucked all day which is never good when you're dealing with perishable inventory. As I sit there spinning my wheels, again, literally, jumping in and out of the truck digging myself deeper into mud, a bad thought crosses my mind. Is this a metaphor for my business? I drag my wet, dirty self back into the store to make sure the closing is going to schedule, and am hit with a customer looking for the owner to tell me how much we suck and that we ruined her day. What's a man to do? I did what any mature person does. I went home and yelled at the spouse. Now THAT sucks.

To the person who left the nasty message, I'm sorry we ruined your day. I know we don't suck, sometimes it's just a bad day and we mess up.

Dec 22, 2009

I'm in the Good For You Test Kitchen, we're all systems go, testing recipes for Madeleines and how they fare in silicone pans versus metal. A word stops us. Just one word: Caster. What the heck is, "Caster Sugar?"

I have a dim memory of clutching a shopping list for my Mother at the corner shop as a kid:

1lb Potatoes.
1lb Carrots.
Hairspray (a daily occurrence in the CFC un-enlightened '70s.).
1lb Caster Sugar.

There it is. I never forget anything I write down.

So, must be a British 'English' word.

I hit google. Turns out Caster Sugar (also known as Castor Sugar) is what we Americans call, "Superfine Sugar." Call me unpatriotic, I prefer Caster Sugar. Who gets to define, "Superfine?"

There are three grades of used for cooking. Granulated sugar, which is the coarsest; superfine or caster sugar which is finer; and icing (powdered or confectioner's) sugar which is the finest. So Caster Sugar, used in baking (for example meringue and cakes), is a fine grained sugar which dissolves quickly.

It was an eventful day in our test kitchen. Later in the day it was Bakus Interruptus again. This time we called it a day. Our frozen pipes had burst.

So what did we learn from this?

  1. Wireless internet hookup is an essential tool in the kitchen!
  2. Plumbers are a Test Chef's best friend!
We Know Yum, we no know the Queen's English or plumbing...

Dec 17, 2009

Are You Getting Your Minerals?

I’ve been reading lately about mineral supplementation: of the body and of the soil. Traditionally I’ve been a hard sell for nutritional supplementation of my ‘natural’ diet. I used to think of supplementation as, ‘Crisis Management’ in the respect that conventional medications are to a certain extent, ‘Crisis Management.’ Q.E.D. I made the less than logical leap Supplements Ergo Medications. So what changed for me?

I’m of the belief if you don’t know, then ask. You know the drill, “The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask!” I see dumb people. No, I see dumb questions hanging un-asked in the air like thought bubbles. I consulted with experts in the agricultural, grocery, foods and supplements businesses. I came to appreciate that non-chemical supplementation, whether of the soil, or human body, has a place in our ‘modern’ world.

For most of us alive on this planet right now, we either have lived through, or are living with the direct and indirect effects of decades of synthetic chemicals in our farming and food systems. Everything comes from the ground, water, and air, and by extension our farms. I’m referring to food and non-food products (clothing, soaps, packaging, cleaning products and so on). You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “No Farms, No Food.” Well no farms, no lots of things!

Synthetic chemicals were introduced into our farming systems in the 1950s. The intention seems to be a good one: take the guesswork out of farming by controlling the variables: pests and crop yields. Hence feeding many more people. However, relying on chemical control of pests and growing crops out of balance with natural conditions has given us a legacy of soil depleted in minerals, requiring more and more synthetic chemical management to achieve similar crop yields. This is not a judgment of hardworking farmers who use synthetic chemicals; we don’t walk in their shoes, we can’t understand their thought process without a dialogue. This is a comment on our food system: our plant systems are working long hours under very stressful conditions to put out crops that are much lower in mineral content (nutrients) than just fifty years ago. Not to mention the health stresses of agricultural workers on whom we depend for our food.

To quote a recent article in Organic Connections Magazine (published by the Peter Gillham supplements company), “U.S. agricultural records has found that the nutrient content of fruits and vegetables has been dropping since these records were first taken in the early 1960s—just over 40 years ago. To illustrate the point, you would need to be eating five apples today just to get the same nutrients you would have found in one apple in 1965.” Of course they are talking about conventional apples, not organic. How about them apples? All five of them.

The same Organic Connections article goes on to discuss that modern farming relies on chemical fertilizers that are petrochemical based. The article recommends using cheaper, powdered rock minerals to “re-mineralize” the soil and hence boost the mineral (nutrient) content of crops. “A ton of rock dust costs anywhere between nothing at all and $8.00 and only needs to be applied every 1–10 years, depending on the application. Compare this to chemical fertilizers, which cost over $400 per ton and need to be applied at least once each season.” (Organic Connections).

Many organic growers are using re-mineralization. Cal-Organic organic carrots, for example, are grown using this method. Chef Alice Waters is an advocate of re-mineralization and has up to 70 re-mineralized fruits and vegetables grown for her Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, CA (Organic Connections).

What can we do? Add powdered rock minerals to our home or community garden vegetable beds. Also, follow some principles of organic farming: crop rotation, and companion planting (planting to attract birds and 'beneficial' insects to eat the bad insects we want to avoid). Lastly, when an area of your garden is not in use, till in compost, and plant cover crops such as winter rye, or hairy vetch to build the soil and deter weeds naturally. I've used all these methods at the G4U Farm, and they work, even on a small scale.

I now believe supplements have their place in the diet, especially if one is depending on conventional produce. However, pick a good supplement that is whole foods based, not bulked up with synthetic fillers. The operative word though is, supplement. Supplements do just that – they supplement the diet, they do not replace fresh, chemical-free produce and foods. That’s the whole story.

Nov 16, 2009

Did you hear it? Around 5pm this evening? That scream, crash, scream was not a 3 year old girl, it was me doing a pretty good impression of a 3 year old girl. Settle down, and backtrack with me...

Good For You Market has been closed on Mondays for this entire year. Why? Nothing to do with poor sales. Partly to do with the difficulty of finding motivated staff in a beach area, and partly to do with store renovations. We have spent Mondays, and quite a few late nights/all nights/early mornings renovating the store, upgrading lighting, improving refrigeration, shelving and display units, opening a juice/coffee bar, a sandwich bar, and reorganizing the entire store. All while keeping the store open, and doing all the usual stuff that goes along with running a small business with an inventory that is mainly food: products which have notoriously low margins. Oh yeah, the economy's kinda sucked too.

So, today, being a Monday (and my one day off!), I was at the store finishing up staging the supplements, personal care, and cleaning/laundry departments. I've filled a position that I've kept open for quite some time: Department Manager (DM) for said departments. I promised DM that I would shortly work my away around to that area of the store now that the food areas are completed. So, swallowing the motivational ideology about a Manager being a good, "Multi-tasker,' I was multi-tasking away with only a Cher CD for company. I figured I could cut wood and paint chalkboards for the produce department, paint shelving for the supplements department, plan out the sandwich bar, and analyze the gluten free grocery department whose sales are not so healthy as the food. The assumption was that while the paint was drying I could be working all of the other tasks in rotation.

So, I race downstairs from my workshop painting area onto the sales floor to finish up with the supplements department. I put my hand on the shelf next to the stairs, and something black catches my eye.

Scream #1: a customer, presumably the 3-year old girl whose scream I emulated, had left a black rubber scorpion on the candle/room freshener shelves for me to find when alone in the store multi-tasking. The wierd thing about getting spooked is that while I was irrationally screaming like said 3-year old girl, my mind was also rationally considering that there are no scorpions in Delaware, especially in November. If my mind can multi-task like this, you'd think I'd be able to complete the optimistic schedule I set myself today.

Crash. Scream #2. Fast forward to metal shelving collapsed on the floor, having initiated a domino affect and knocked over the darn gluten free grocery shelving, making a big red puddle mixed with broken glass, on the floor, with me in the middle of it. I now smell like a tailgate party: sun dried tomato dressing, mixed with coconut vinegar, rice chips, and crackers. I actually consider sobbing (girly man!), but the smell of coconut vinegar (which most definitely does NOT smell like Pina Coladas, more like a Fish and Chip shop), motivated me to suck it up, and suck it up (the spill that is).

While I'm motivating myself to clean up the mess, my mind wanders on to wider issues of motivation. It's been a tough week this week, requiring 'on your feet' kind of thinking, that only a Hotel Manager would appreciate! A business relationship that was chugging along smoothly, has taken a trip down under, I had to lay off one of my juice bar associates, and it's review time! All Managers reading this will empathize. Review time is a time of anticipation of you're getting the review, but if you're the Manager who has to write and give the reviews, all while keeping your regular work lights on, well it's a relief when they're done! So while cleaning, I'm musing, or amusing myself. How do you motivate yourself to keep a big picture in mind when the details are well, kinda crappy! How do you motivate others? Business partners? Staff? I concluded you can't motivate others, just like I concluded multi-tasking is not possible. You can incentivise other, but motivation has to come from self. You can't phsyically work on more than one thing at a time. You can however, juggle multiple priorities, ensuring that deadlines are not missed.

I'm fairly new to this writing gig too. I write copy for our store ads, marketing and press releases, article for our newsletter, this blog, and also a weekly column, "Organic Living" in Coastal Sussex e-magazine: http://www.coastalsussex.com/ I sometimes feel like Sally Field when I get rare feedback from my writing, "You like me, you really do!" Most of the time there is no feedback, and you really have no idea who, if anyone is reading. The writing can be hard to get motivated to do. Instead, I incentivize myself. I remind myself how much I enjoy doing it, how it disciplines me to commit to deadlines, and makes me better at my job with all the research the articles and columns necessitate.

I'm tired, it's been a busy day off. I'm covered in black paint, sundried tomato dressing, coconut vinegar, and the parsley spray I used to clean up. I'm happy though, and for that I'm thankful. Home to the family and face the music for the doghouse I left this morning!

Nov 15, 2009

This entry brought to you by guest blogger, Artie Zan, Good For You Market's 'Cheese Wiz.'

Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, “Grow old with me, the best is yet to come.” I say, “Old age, great if you’re a cheese, else not so much.” Mrs Zan and I spent this past Sunday cleaning out the spare room. This detoured us down memory lane to the days when we used to await the mailman for our holiday snaps, not uploading onto our computer. You see we couldn’t resist that box – the 100lb one containing decades of fading photographs that always derails cleaning out the spare room. While Mrs Zan was getting misty-eyed over past vacations, me, myself, I, well, let’s just say I spent an hour becoming re-acquainted with another long-lost relative: my hair! This got me thinking about aging; how it’s good on cheeses but tough on us carbon-based life forms with joints and tendons, and hair. While I reach for the glucosamine, read on.

It’s always interesting to give a sample of the same cheese at different ages: youth, middle, and old age, persuading customers, or dinner guests that it’s the same cheese they’re enjoying.

We have to thank those brave companies who carry the cost of inventory while storing cheeses for aging, since it’s a case of, buy now, get paid later! Cheese is aged by storing under controlled conditions of temperature and humidity in a ‘cave’ (these days a room), giving a consistent quality of flavor and texture. The process, part-science, part-art, is known as, “Affinage,” overseen by a skilled artisan, the, “Affineur.” His/her job is to ensure strict, traditional standards are applied, so that each cheese earns the classification assuring us of the quality and experience typical to that style of cheese.

What changes in the taste, texture, appearance, and aroma does the Affineur monitor? Aging in cheese is interchangeable with the stages of ‘ripening.’ Ripening starts at the point that the cheese begins to ‘age?’ Huh? Things that make you go, “Yum!” Cheese begins to age as soon as the milk is heated and the starter culture introduced. The resulting curds are then cut, drained of fermented whey, salted, and placed into molds that are pressed to extract more whey. No whey! Yes whey! Then the cheeses are ready to begin the formal ‘affinage’ process of aging/ripening.

When it comes to cheese aging, it really is a case of, "What goes around becomes a rind!" The outside egde of the cheese (the rind) develops with age. Rinds can be natural, bloomy, or washed. Natural means no stimulus (mold, wash, or Federal!) applied to precipitate a rind. Most semi-firm/ hard cheeses such as Cheddar, Parmigiano-Reggiano, or Pecorino-Romano have natural rinds. Bloomy rinds develop by spraying the cheese’s exterior with spores of Penicillium candidum (a harmless mold), prior to ripening. This also affects flavor. Examples of Bloomy-rind cheeses are Brie, Camembert, and some Chevres. Washed rind means the outside of the cheese is washed with brine, oil, brandy, red wine (for example, Drunken Goat), or even pear cider (for example, Stinking Bishop). Washing ensures a moist rind, encouraging the growth of harmless bacteria. This bacteria are scraped off and discarded, turned back into the cheese, or left on the cheese to further define the rind. Taleggio (Italy’s answer to Brie) is a good example of a washed rind cheese. In Taleggio’s case, the bath is in brine. Mrs Zan prefers lavender oil!

The longer the cheese is stored in the cave, then the more the rind changes, the cheese dries (controlled by the room’s humidity), lactic acids in the cheese crystallize (forming the white crunchy spots in harder cheeses), and the cheese thus ‘ripens.’ Cheese wheels are stored on wooden racks, being turned regularly to ensure even ripening. The cooler the cave, then the slower the aging, producing greater flavor complexity. The wheels may be wrapped in leaves, laid on beds of straw or rye, bound by spruce, or even rolled in oak wood ash, such as the great Chevres of France’s Loire Valley.

Some cheeses are ripened as little as a few days. Brillat-Savarin, for example, is ripe after just a week, Mild Cheddar as little as 3 months. Younger cheeses are soft and creamy, with subtle taste and aroma. For example, Ricotta, Mozzarella, some Chevres, or Quest Blanco. Aged cheeses can have soft rinds with spicy pastes as deep as the center (for example, Mountain Gorgonzola), through semi-firm and somewhat moist, such as three year aged Old Quebec Cheddar, up to hard, flaky and dry such as Five Year Vintage Gouda. Asiago is aged up to two years, Parmigiano-Reggiano four years, and Gouda up to five years. Younger cheeses need the right technique, beer or wine pairing to tease out their presence. More ‘mature’ cheeses just need to sit at room temperature for an hour and you know they’re there! Incidentally, a good cheesemonger lights up with enthusiasm, letting you taste before you buy. If they don’t, trust your gut and move on!

Later, dudes, Artie Zan, G4U Market’s ‘Cheese Wiz’ over and out to lunch.

Thank you Artie for whetting our appetites to learn more about cheese aging. I think you've also taught us to cherish youth, evaluate middle age, and respect old age! For those readers who say, “Andy, you’re still a baby!” Let me tell you my experience this week interviewing prospective staff who:
  1. Looked at my head and not me the entire interview, their expression betraying their thoughts that you always had so much skin on your head (and that they will always have so much hair on theirs).
  2. Asked if we always play, “Vintage Madonna” in the store!
  3. Were born in the 1990s, when you I was already pulling all-nighters at work, telling Faithful Spouse I wanted to re-tile the master bathroom for my birthday, instead of that weekend in South Beach.
  4. Don’t have a dodgy knee that makes climbing to the stock room touch and go, or more accurately, touch and no-go.
  5. Their parents aren’t telling them how wonderful retirement is.
Cheers: I raise my glass of 1998 Cote du Rhone, savor aged Gouda, and ice my dodgy knee, while listening to “Vintage Madonna.”
Andy and Artie, for Good For You Market.

This entry is brought to you by guest blogger: Artie Zan, Good For You Market's 'Cheese Wiz.'

Step aside Provolone, for Parmesan-Reggiano is arguably the world’s most famous, and oldest cheese with production stretching back over 800 years. Reggie, as I call him, is packed with sweet, nutty, complex flavor. In cooking, Parmesan-Reggiano is suitable for many recipes, from soups, sauces, filling for stuffed pastas, roast meats, baking, desserts (try it with strawberries if you don’t believe me!), grating over cooked dishes, and even as finger food for snacking. Forget that powdery shredded stuff in sealed plastic tubs, that’s as close to Parmesan-Reggiano as I am to the Zan family living in Australia, whom I recently found on Facebook.

Parmigiano-Reggiano is produced in the Emilia-Romagna region of Northwest Italy, specifically the Po Valley (Emilia), and the mountains stretching east to the Adriatic sea (Romagna). True Parmesan-Reggiano is crafted only in this region, thus preserving authenticity. Why the ’Parma’ in Parmesan? The city of Parma is the center of this region; an area rich with beautiful lakes, lush mountains and green pastures.

Emilia-Romagna has developed its specific culinary style and at its center is Parmesan-Reggiano. Each of the main cities in Emilia has a presence in this cuisine. Parma is proud of its prosciutto, with the pigs being fed on the whey left over from Parmesan-Reggiano production. Bologna tantalizes us with mortadella and the meat-based ragù. Piacenza give us its spectacular tortellini; and Ferrara its sausage. Fresh pasta (pasta fresca), and dried hard durum wheat pasta (pasta secca) is found everywhere. Romagna is none too shabby with its aromatic herbs, gamey meats, fresh fish and the Piadina peasant breads from the Adriatic coast. For those who’ve vacationed in Rimini, you have to have experienced these peasant breads. Gosh, how could I mention this region without a nod of the head to Balsamic Vinegar: produced exclusively in Modena province? Look for that on any label of Balsamic Vinegar, else use it to kill the weeds in your driveway.

Italy is so rich in food culture and dear to my heart (being a vanguard of chemical-free farming, almost by default) that my focus always wanders off when I think of Italian foods. Back to Parmesan-Reggiano, the Granddaddy of all cheeses, and head of the “Grana” family: cheeses characterized by their ‘granular’ texture. To best appreciate this texture, best to pull Parmesan-Reggiano apart roughly; grate it if you will, but never slice!

Parmesan-Reggiano production is done by hand using the same traditional techniques handed down for centuries, overseen by a very strict consortium! Parmesan-Reggiano is made from un-pasteurized cows milk from the region’s dairy herds, ensuring a rich bacterial flora. On a daily basis, from April – November, fresh whole morning milk is mixed with partially skimmed milk from the prior evening’s milking, plus fermented whey from the previous day’s production. This mix is performed in copper vats, the whey helping to initiate fermentation. No way. Yes, whey! Natural rennet coagulates the milk, forming the curds that are the beginning of the cheese. Besides the salt bath that the cheese wheels are immersed in for firming, there are no other additives allowed. Each copper vat makes just two wheels of cheese. However, these wheels are monster truck huge – weighing around 88 pounds. Have you ever seen the forearms on a Cheese Wiz? The wheels are recognized externally by their straw-like color. Internally the color varies with age, from soft yellow, to the same straw-like color of the outside. Minimum required aging is 14 months, with most wheels aged to two years. A wonderful thing about aging of this cheese is the evolving flavor profile. Younger wheels are nutty and sweet, older wheels more complex with caramel, butterscotch and tropical fruit flavors.

So, what’s that fuzzy writing you can see on the outside of the Parmesan-Reggiano wheel? That is the certification mark ensuring expert inspection for quality and appearance. There is also the assurance of identity that runs the entire circumference of the wheel’s outside edge. This means that the wheel is still recognizable as Parmesan-Reggiano, even if it has been cut into smaller pieces. You can also identify which province the cheese was made in, at what time of year, and which specific producer made it. Ask the G4U Cheese Wiz to show you, test us!

Oh man, am I hungry!

Later, dudes, Artie Zan, G4U Market’s ‘Cheese Wiz’ over and out to lunch.

Oct 20, 2009

If you’re fortunate, you wake rested, the kids aren’t bouncing on your bed (your kids, your bed, not the neighbor’s), the dog hasn’t peed/thrown up on the comforter, and faithful spouse did not give up and go in the spare room leaving you alone snoring! You lay there, drifting in and out of that nice dream, not the scary one about high school, tests, and nakedness at speech day! I had a peaceful awakening this morning. I could hear the birds twittering outside: real birds twittering for real, in the real world.

I drifted in and out of a dream about our beach cities ‘encouraging’ the replacement of all plastic bags, plastic and Styrofoam takeout containers with recyclable, biodegradable, and compostable options. Imagine the environmental shift, the support of many small businesses developing alternatives to plastics, the jobs, the reduction of oil usage, and the taxes? Hmm, press snooze and dream on!

I don’t know why I had this dream last night: part deadlines; part faithful spouse’s comment that change seemed to be in the air. You’ve heard the quote, “There is nothing permanent except change.” Heraclitus. Isn’t it how we plan for, and accept change that determines how well we function in the present? We get overwhelmed with the present reality and the sheer volume of what needs to change. The true visionaries (and faithful) amongst us attune to the subtle breezes of change in the way a dog or cat lifts its nose to seemingly undetectable aromas on the breeze. Visionaries respond to that change with innovation, the true American entrepreneurial spirit. Then they continue to be motivated and function, despite naysayers.

Let’s point our collective olfactory equipment (noses) skyward, and sense the change wafting along the breezes. Flying into Dublin, Ireland, in 2003, I read an in-flight magazine article about the introduction of a countrywide (Federal) tax on plastic bags in January 2002. For every plastic bag the consumer used at checkout, a 33 cents (Federal) tax was levied. The monies collected went into a ‘green’ Federal fund for environmentally sustainable initiatives.

Let’s leave the politics of Federal (or and/or a state/local) taxes to the Tea Parties, and instead, look at the collective, public benefit. Within weeks of Ireland’s new tax, there was a 94% reduction in the use of plastic bags. By August 2002, a staggering 3.5 Million Euros (2.37 Million dollars) was collected and redirected into green initiatives. Source: BBC. A citizen commented, “Banning the bag was painless… The streets went from being littered with plastic bags to clean virtually overnight.” Source: http://www.thedailygreen.com/. Note this was a tax on plastic bags, not a ban on use.

While in the UK recently, I noticed at checkout that there was a new 33 cents ‘price’ on plastic bags. As a tourist, I had no option but to ‘buy’ the bag: enough of a sting, that I pondered the issue. I think the banning of plastic bags and replacement with reusable, and biodegradable options is next. Government has interceded, enforcing change to jumpstart public adoption. In the Environmental Stake races, the entrepreneurial horse is already out of the gate, the public adoption horse lagging, the convenience and mass availability horses are in the lead, and the future gain horse is barely in the picture.

Other countries are following Ireland: Chinese and Australian schemes have yet to meet with success and even local efforts have foundered on strong opposition. A puzzling reaction to change. China estimates a saving of 37 million barrels of oil by banning plastic bags. Source: The Daily Mail. Uganda, Bangladesh, Taiwan, and Singapore have banned or discouraged use (Source: BBC). In March, 2002, Bangladesh banned polythene bags after it was found that they were blocking drainage systems and had been a major culprit during the 1988 and 1998 floods that submerged two-thirds of the country (Source: BBC). Every continent has seen efforts to ban plastic bags for the environmental load is huge. Globally we use 42 billion plastic bags a month (Source: http://www.reusablebags.com/). That’s billions and billions of barrels of oil (massive energy use), clogged waterways, and air/soil pollution.

Plastic bags are just a large tip of an equally large iceberg. I believe we’ll see mandatory replacement of plastics and Styrofoam food service containers with biodegradable, compostable alternatives soon. Also watch the plastic water bottle industry. Let’s hope we see some exciting innovation there before a ban is imposed.

How does this all apply to us in the USA? Look West young man (and lady). Some cities in California have already instituted bans on plastic grocery bags (Berkeley, San Francisco, Oakland in 2007). The City of Los Angeles is considering the banning of Styrofoam takeout containers. The New York City council aimed for a bag ban, but settled for a requirement that companies that hand them out must also take them back.

Let’s not wait for our government to step in and slap our wrists with a tax, and decide for us. Aren’t our wrists already sore enough from the plastic bag handles and from picking the darn things up around town? Let’s show our leaders we’re responsible enough to institute change bottom up. Let’s form community groups using all the free tools and skills we have in our own communities to encourage the early adoption of this change that is on the breeze. There’s Facebook, Twitter, local private business owners full of entrepreneurial spirit, business and technical skills. Let’s work with our local, state, and yes, Federal governments to implement a grass roots adoption of biodegradable compostable packaging, food service, grocery and restaurant takeout, before the environmental load of this makes the cost even higher.

Incidentally, quietly, without fuss or customer backlash, Good For You Market was the first grocery business in Delaware to self-impose a ban on plastic grocery bags in January of 2003. It’s no coincidence we’d just gotten back from Dublin, having seen the results first hand.

I’ll close with a few of my favorite quotes on change.

“People are very open-minded about new things - as long as they're exactly like the old ones.” Charles Kettering.

“Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” Simone De Beauvoir

“Cut the "im" out of impossible, leaving that dynamic word standing out free and clear-possible.” Norman Vincent Peale.

Finally, my favorite, “Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.” Unknown.

Have a safe day, full of exciting possibilities. Stay warm; those fall breezes are bringing changes.

Last posting, I introduced an ongoing culinary series exploring the origins of much of the food we take for granted, but rarely experience in its true artisan form. I mentioned pasta and threatened semolina. In the pattern of beginnings, I’ll be focusing on semolina this post, for it is the starting point of one of the world’s favorite foods: Pasta.

The thought of semolina makes me shudder. You see when I was a bachgen (little boy) in Wales, our school lunch program would inflict semolina on us in the worst possible way: a lukewarm slimy off-white pudding, with a dollop of strawberry jam in the middle. What culinary genius came up with this dish for us I know not? I do know I was too scared to say no to the, “Dinner Lady.” Now there were many little boys who delighted in mixing the jam into the semolina and making a ‘bloody’ mess (literally). This little boy would eat the jam, carefully avoiding any contact with the semolina pudding. Both scenarios had the same result: waste of money, poor nutrition, and an appalling lifelong association for semolina with inedible foods.

Many decades and thousands of miles distant, I was delighted to discover a much better purpose for semolina, and here our journey stops at a more edible destination: Pasta.

To understand semolina is to understand the process from which wheat is turned into flour since semolina is really a stage in the process called, “Milling.” Semolina is a milled, coarse mix made from hard winter durum wheat. The mix is ground to make flour from which pasta is made. Semolina is also used to make couscous, bread, and, unfortunately for many schoolchildren in Wales in the 1960s and 1970s, puddings! Now if we’d only followed the Greeks and made their delicious Galaktoboureko semolina dessert, I would have been one happier (and rounder) bachgen!

So, how is semolina produced? These days, wheat is milled into flour using grooved steel rollers. The grains of wheat are slightly wider than the spaces between the rollers. As a result, the rollers slough off the bran and the germ from the wheat kernel. The wheat bran is the hard outer layer of the wheat grain. Wheat germ is the reproductive part of the grain that germinates to grow into a plant. The bran and the germ are integral parts of whole grains, and is a by-product in the milling of refined grains. Removing the wheat and the bran for a lower nutritional profile since the bran in particular is rich in dietary fiber, omegas, starch, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Bran is present in any grain and can be milled for example, from rice, corn, maize, oats, barley, and millet, in addition to wheat. Bran has a high oil content, which turns rancid easily. For this reason I keep bran in the freezer. Remember the saying, “Separating the wheat from the chaff?” Wheat bran is not chaff, for the chaff is the coarser scaly material surrounding the grain, but not part of the grain.

Once the bran and germ have been removed from the wheat, the remaining part of the grain is the starchy endosperm, which is cracked in the process. This coarse, cracked endosperm is semolina.

The semolina is then ground into flour, from which pasta is made. The same process is used for any type of flour. The endosperm can be broken into different grades, since the inner part breaks into smaller pieces than the outer. This difference allows for differing grades of flour to be produced.

Semolina has an interesting lingual origin, deriving from the Italian word, Semola – a derivative of the Ancient Latin Simila, which means flour. It does not end here. The Latin is actually from the Semitic root Smd, meaning to grind into groats. Semolina is only ever made from durum wheat and should be a dull yellow color. When flour comes from softer wheat, it is white and is not semolina. Huh? Herein lies the confusion with semolina! Is it flour, or a grain? Actually, as we’ve seen above, it is neither, since technically, Semolina is a stage in the milling process, turning whole grain wheat into flour.

So recap, why would we eat pasta if it not whole grain wheat in origin? Ah, for that you’ll just have to tune in for a future posting. Got to go, I’m hungry!

We have lots to thank the Italians for, especially from a culinary perspective. I also thank the Italians for their perspective on life: family, food, the sensual appreciation of life itself, but also hard work. Pleasure does not come without hard work. To combine hard work with 6 weeks annual (paid) vacation, that’s living! Enough of the wishing, back to the working.

This week I introduce an ongoing culinary series that will appear here periodically. I’ll be exploring the origins of much of the food we take for granted, but rarely experience in its true artisan form.

I’ve been working hard at sourcing pasta for G4U Market: starting with dried and expanding into the texture variations offered by fresh. It seems that, just like cheese, there’s a lot of OK pasta out there, but few great pasta reproduced in the true artisan style. So much of our culture is a ‘dumbing down’ seemingly for mass appeal, when in actuality, it’s not mass ‘appeal’, but mass ‘availability.’ I prefer quality over quantity since for me more is less. What does this mean? Buying something that is a pale, poorly done imitation of the real thing, is no experience at all. Think about how much supermarket cheese you’ve bought and what did it taste like? Put bluntly: a waste of money. How is this, ‘mass appeal?’ I’d go for less of more any day. Less cheese, higher price maybe, but more taste, better nutrition and infinitely closer to the real thing. True value for money any day of the week. Notice I said, “Value for money.” I did not mention cost, which is relative, as in relatively different from store to store, from business to business. We should understand what we’re buying, and why. Only then can we evaluate cost fairly.

I’m often asked why is ‘organic’ more expensive? The answer is, it’s not always, and not everything at G4U market is organic. It’s relative, and for me somewhat irrelevant. Gasp; did the world just fold in on itself? Did the giant agro-chemical companies rub their hands in collective glee? Has G4U Market gone over to the dark side of our agrarian and culinary underbelly? Can there be no metaphor that I leave unmixed?

A common question we get at our Artisan cheese counter is, “Are these cheeses organic?” Mostly, no. Why? Because it’s irrelevant. Irrelevant, Organic? Irrelevant in the sense that the concept of organic and all that goes along with it, is taken as a given, since what I look for from my vendors is a complete disclosure of practice. How is your product made? Where are the raw materials sourced from, and so on? Only then can I evaluate the quality and cost of what I’m buying for my food market, decide if we carry it, and come up with a fair price.

True artisans faithfully replicating great food often include or exceed organic practices, since so much of our food culture pre-dates mass availability of agro-chemicals. A popular cultural issue currently is the wider availability of food versus local. For me this is not an either/or: a big business versus a small argument; it’s a sourcing issue - understanding where the food came from. Is it a system of small farms in the Italian countryside from which a bigger company is faithfully reproducing true Umbrian regional ingredients and dishes, such as Bartolini? Or is it that lovely neighborhood couple that have sunk their life savings into a bakery, restaurant, or cheese monger, reproducing an authentic experience for a local community?

G4U Market has back-ordered Montebello Organic Pasta. Montebello is true artisan pasta made by the Alce Nero Cooperative, close to Urbino, in the Marche region of Italy. The cooperative, based in the former Montebello Monastery, uses Old World techniques to create distinctive flavor and texture in their pasta. Instead of flash drying in ovens, Montebello dry their pasta slowly in traditional drying rooms. This produces a delicious hand crafted pasta with a unique porous texture that cooks evenly and holds sauces beautifully. The durum wheat semolina that Montebello uses for their pasta is organically grown on small family farms in the rolling hills overlooking the Adriatic Sea. The semolina is then carefully ground and combined with pure mountain spring water to produce a fine dough, which is extruded through hand-made bronze dies to create a rough texture. I ordered this pasta from a large US food distributor, but it is sourced from Montebello’s small-scale operation in Italy. We have to wait until the end of October for distribution since Montebello handcrafts the pasta.

A huge benefit of G4U Market carrying this pasta, outside of the culinary experience, is that the Alce Nero Cooperative has revitalized a rural area outside Urbino. This has provided jobs and hope for rural youth reversing the exodus of youth from the community, not to mention at this point, 30 years of farming without the use of synthetic chemicals. In a larger sense, this is what I mean by, “It’s not an either/or.” It’s not an anti-big business either/or. It’s not a 100% local versus widely distributed either/or. Instead it’s a bit of both and part of my evaluation of cost and fair pricing.

To clarify, I’m not justifying the cost of organic pricing, or G4U Market pricing. If you’ve stopped into the store in the past couple of weeks and noticed our new shelf labels, you’ll see true value for money, for G4U is blowing the lid off of concepts about the pricing of authentic food and organic food. What I am justifying here is the experience of food. If I’m going to spend my carbs on pasta, or allot my fat allowance to a cheese, the food had better be sensually appealing, authentic to the artisan who originated it, free of toxic chemicals, and darn good value for my hard earned money.

Up next, the starter for pasta: Semolina.

Salute! Andy Meddick for G4U Market.

Aug 31, 2009

You had me at, "Bon Appetit!"

G4U Market goes to the movies!

From the minute the lights dimmed, we were pulled into "Julie & Julia." Meryl Streep coos her way through a stunning, earthy performance as Julia Child, channeling the gourmande in a study of statuesque, gawky, elemental elegance. Amy Adams is wonderful in the role of Julie - a good counter balance of imperfect human preventing us from veering over into hero(ine) worship.

Julie and Julia are passionate about food and both a validation to those who persist when all they hear is, "No you can't!" Those who shudder with pure sensuality in a public setting at the taste of a dish are bound to be intertesting characters! Being so closely connected with one's senses makes for one feisty individual. Like them, or leave them, you can't ignore them!

If you don't leave the screening hungry, or wanting to take cooking classes, then you must have been in the wrong room at the multiplex. Go see this movie with lots of friends. You'll see their experience on their faces. We all connect over food. We all route for a plucky trailblazer. It's hard to pick favorite scenes in such a delightful, charming movie. I particularly enjoyed scenes of cooking demos gone awry. When you have an audience willing to listen and then soldier on despite slapstick mistakes; I found this touching and uncomfortably funny. Any Chefs or in-store demo folks out there had the same experience? I sense a few red faces! And who does not state the famous quote when screwing up in your kitchen, "When you're alone in your kitchen, no-one knows but you!"

The final scene juxtaposed between Julia Child's Cambridge kitchen, now silenty displayed at the Smithsonian Museum, and the same kitchen in-situ at Julia and Paul Childs's Cambridge home, struck a poignant resonance for me. Life's too short to eat inauthentic, bland food. Life's too short not to share that with others. Never, ever give up. Be insatiably curious and live life out loud. Include others. That's what I take away from this movie. What's your takeout?

Good job Nora Ephron and cast.

Andy for Good For You Market.

Aug 29, 2009

It is said that the herb Rosemary is for remembrance. If that's the case then I must not be eating enough rosemary since I always forget I have it in the garden!

This woody, perennial evergreen gets its name from the Latin ros maris which translates to "dew of the sea" indicating the geographic preference of this Mediterranean native. Rosemary will grow just about anywhere in the garden, but prefers lots of light. As with any herb, keeping regularly trimmed stimulates plenty of new growth. Avoid trimming by late summer since rosemary will produce a stunning display of delicate lilac flowers.

Rosemary later came to be known as the Rose of Mary in honor of the Virgin Mother. The Spanish dubbed the shrubby plant Romero as they believed that Mary took shelter under a large rosemary bush while en route to Egypt. In France, the herb was sometimes referred to as Incensier since it was an economical alternative to incense and was often burned in ceremonial rituals.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is recognized throughout the world as the symbol of remembrance. Rosemary signifies remembering the dead and the tradition of placing rosemary sprigs in tombs or on burial sites dates back to ancient Egypt. Shakespeare's Juliet was honored with rosemary at burial, and in Australia, the custom of wearing rosemary on Anzac Day to remember deceased loved ones persists today. There is a practice of including rosemary in wedding bouquets, or adding to the red wine served at wedding parties. Try adding some fresh rosemary (go easy tiger!) to your red wine, it is delicious.

Medicinally, rosemary has been used to treat migraine, muscle aches, joint disorders, amenorrhea, exhaustion, poor memory and digestion and just about anything else that could affect the body. Massage Therapists use rosemary to increase peripheral circulation. Oil of Rosemary can be massaged into joints to ease arthritic or rheumatic pain, although since rosemary is a stimulant, avoid at bedtime. Rosemary is thought to induce contractions, so is best avoided during pregnancy.

The essential oil of rosemary has an antibacterial and antiviral action and is useful in treating burns and wounds or when used in homemade household cleaning formulas. Added to pet shampoos or powders, the oil is also helpful in deterring fleas and in treating flea dermatitis. It is also an excellent remedy for dandruff in people since it deters skalp flaking.

As a culinary herb, rosemary is a wonderful accompaniment to meats (especially poultry and ham), vegetables, soups and salads. Here are some lovely recipes involving rosemary:

Caramelized Onion, Pear, Blue Cheese & Rosemary Topping: http://tinyurl.com/n8oyjw

Abruzze Sausage over Rosemary Spaghettini or Spaghetti Squash (can be made vegan): http://tinyurl.com/mnf6ds

Rosemary Orange Shortbread: http://tinyurl.com/nupwp4

Remember to share,and yes all these ingredients may be purchase at G4U Market in Lewes, DE!

Andy for G4U Market.

Aug 25, 2009

Coffee Talk with Andy

Life's just too short to drink bad coffee or bad tea. Tea is covered in another article. Here are my tips on coffee.

Arabica or Robusta: There are two types of coffee plant (beans): Arabica, and Robusta. The Arabica coffee plant (Coffea Arabica), grows in semitropical climates near the equator, both in the western and eastern hemispheres, at high altitudes. Because ripe Arabica cherries (unroasted beans) fall to the ground and spoil, they must be carefully monitored and picked at intervals, which increases production costs. Robusta trees (Coffea Canephora), which are grown exclusively in the eastern hemisphere, also thrive in equatorial climates, but at low altitudes. Their cherries require less care since they remain on the tree after they ripen. Robusta beans have twice the caffeine of Arabica, but less flavor. Most generic, commercially produced coffee comes from the poorer quality Robusta plant. Think freeze-dried generic 'instant' coffee. Ugh! Good food markets and coffee shops generally use Arabica beans. Once you have tasted the difference for yourself, you will not need persuading to buy Arabica over Robusta.
Storage: I'm going to offend some old wives, but we take our coffee seriously at G4U Market, so here goes! Never, ever, no never, store coffee beans in the fridge or the freezer. I know, caught me out too! As soon as you get your treasured beans home, empty into an airtight container that does not let the light in. Keep on your counter top, or pantry at room temperature. The fridge or freezer will cause your beans to absorb moisture and spoil the flavor. We all know what water retention does for a girl. Same for coffee! If you do not want to store coffee in large amounts, find a good food market who will allow you to purchase loose beans by the pound. You only buy as much as you need and the price is typically better.
Daily Grind: Buy beans and invest in your own coffee grinder, or better still have the market grind it for you since commercial coffee grinders produce evenly sized grinds, affecting taste enormously. Ground coffee is best for only minutes after grinding the beans before the flavor starts to spoil. Ground coffee has a greater surface area exposed to oxygen than roasted beans. If you have had beans custom roasted for you, wait 2 - 4 days before grinding and consuming. This allows the oil in the beans to settle for optimum flavor.

The size of the ground coffee particles must match the type of brewing equipment you will be using. Brewing methods which expose the grinds to water for longer periods require a coarser grind than faster brewing methods. Beans which are too finely ground for the brewing method in which they are used will expose too much surface area to the heated water and produce a bitter, harsh taste. An overly coarse grind will produce weak coffee unless more is used. Long-brew methods are French Presses ("Cafetière") and drip coffee machines. A short brew method is an espresso machine. Home coffee grinders at the lower end of the price range use a rotating blade to chop the coffee beans. Blade grinders create coffee dust which can clog espresso machines and French Presses. Blade grinders can be purchased inexpensively these days and work OK for drip coffee machines. Finely ground coffee and coffee intended for French Presses require a burr-grinder which tears the beans into a uniform size. To save money, it really is preferrable to have your market grind your coffee beans for you. Let your market know which type of coffee brewing equipment you will be using, since they can match the size of the coffee grounds to your brewing method.

Strength: How much coffee to use? Of course it depends on the depth of the roast, and personal preference, but a general guide is 2 slightly heaped tablespoons of ground coffee per 6oz water. Experiment with your coffee equipment and record your personal taste. If your local water tastes funny, or is high in lime, invest in a filter for your water supply. Bottled water will do in a pinch, but please recycle the bottle! Using poor quality water wastes your hard earned cash spent on buying decent beans. Not buying decent beans is just too grim to consider and best not discussed.
Water Temperature: recommended brewing temperature of coffee is 200 °F (93 °C). Too cool and solubles that make up the flavor will not be extracted. Too hot, and undesirable, bitter solubles will be extracted, spoiling the flavor. Espresso is an exception, brewed at a water temperature of between 91 °C (195 °F) and 96 °C (204 °F). Espresso is made by forcing hot water through finely ground beans which have been packed into a "Puck." The grinds are only griefly exposed to the water. The essence of taste in espresso is due to the fine colloidal foam ("Crema") containing emulsified oils which layers on top of the brew.
Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-grown: Oh my, can't a guy just get a cup of Joe? Well, that generic mass-produced coffee you buy everywhere in the big boxes is not as cheap as you think it is. We're bearing the cost of conventional coffee in communities barely surviving on rock-bottom pricing, land erosion, more and more chemicals being utilized to produce less and less coffee. I would encourage everyone to seek out markets who only sell organic, Fair Trade, and Shade-grown coffee. What is this?
Organic - obviously no chemicals.
Fair Trade - the growers get a fair price for their crop, workers are paid a fair, living wage, more of the profit from the distribution of the crop goes directly back into the communities who grew it for us. This is evident in higher wages, strengthened communities through profits being used for schools, roads, sustainable farming training, and increased availability of the crop due to more farmers remaining on the land, farming. You've heard it said, "No Farms, No Food." Distribution layers are consolidated with the farmer typically gaining direct access to distribution without multiple layers of handlers.
Shade-grown. In order to maintain low production prices, coffee has typically been grown by clear-cutting native trees and planting coffee bushes in place. With no cover and with a ecosystem disrupted, the soil dries out, and erodes. Also such soil requires masses of chemicals to supplement soil fertility and reduce pests. This causes toxic runoff and loss of wildlife habitat on treeless areas. Shade grown means growing coffee bushes in the shade of native trees, or by planting a forest of shade-trees with many layers of tree canopy to mimic native forests. Wildlife habitats are preserved, or created, soil fertility is built naturally.
Tips and Recommendations: My preferred brewing method is espresso. However Espresso machines are very expensive, so I typically favor the simple French Press as an excellent compromise. The flavor is good since the coffee grinds remain in direct contact with the water, and the press captures more of the coffee's flavor and essential oils. There are very nifty travel mug versions of French Presses now available which makes it easy to get good coffee on the go. French pressed coffee is best drunk within 20 minutes, becoming bitter after that due to the coffee sediment being retained in the brewed coffee. There is some thought that French pressed coffee should be avoided by those with high cholesterol since compounds in unfiltered coffee are thought to increase cholesterol.

Letting coffee sit on a warming plate in a caraffe is not good for flavor since the brewed coffee begins to burn. Best to choose thermal airpots to dispense brewed coffee in food service locations. Do not reheat your coffee in a microwave (sorry Mother-in-law!). You might as well pour it over the garden since coffee (and spent coffee grinds) are high in nitrogen and good for the soil (use organic!).

Always use Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-grown coffee beans.

Recap: What must we do, asides from putting recycle in the trash? And, oh yeah, G4U Market sells loose, Organic, Fair Trade, Shade-grown coffee and can grind it for you. We also use the coffee we sell in Auntie's Bar (our organic juice, coffee and tea bar).

Jul 30, 2009

Not being one to spoil anyone's fun here. But, Farmville/Farmtown on Facebook? I just do not get it. Real life farmers are working themselves to the bone to grow food for us, and we play farm online?
For those whom are able, please re-direct your energy, volunteer at your local CSA or small farm. They are working much harder than you realize, and much closer to giving up than they would care to admit. I know. I own a small, chemical-free farm. I am not allowed to use the word organic - someone turned me into the USDA, even though my web site says clearly, "G4U Farm is not certified organic. We follow the rules of the National Organic Program and use certified organic seed." I am close to giving up every single time I am at the farm. This season we were forced to abandon our season due to vandalism and arson. Give me a break!
My point is, support small, chemical free ("Organic" - shhhh!) farms - wherever you buy produce - farmers market, store, or roadside stand. Support local businesses who buy from small farms - don't forget restaurants! When you see that smiling face at the store, or farmers market, or restaurant, don't forget that smile is probably hiding exhaustion, so ask how you can help. Encourage that grower to come back and do it all again next season. I'm not supposed to say this, but did you realize how much produce comes back again in the truck from farmers markets? Think about that poor grower how he/she has passionately worked - just to see it return unsold.
YES I'M CRANKY - it's hot, it's raining and I'm picking blackberries in it! Please buy them - we're selling at G4U Market and not farmers market this year due to season interruptus.
Thank you for listening. Thank you for supporting small farms and local business. Comments? Anyone? Crickets ...

Jun 23, 2009

You eat this? A question commonly heard on Route 9 in Lewes. Actually, no, I drink this! Well, first I cut this, then I juice this, and then I drink this. What is, “This?” Well This Be Wheatgrass!

First experimented with as a food in the 1930s by Charles F. Schnabel and popularized by Dr Ann Wigmore in the 1960s, wheatgrass is so densely packed with nutrients and has been spoken of as a curative for many conditions that it may just well qualify for, “Miracle Food” status.

Wheatgrass is the young sprouted grass of hard winter wheat. Although technically any member of the common wheat grain family Triticum Aestivum that has been allowed to sprout into a short grass can be considered wheatgrass. Indoor grown wheatgrass grows from 8-14 days before it is harvested.

Wheatgrass is freshly juiced in a juice machine custom designed for narrow blade greens, dried into a powder, or juiced and then flash frozen. I recommend the fresh juice, drank immediately after cutting and juicing, in order to benefit most from wheatgrass’ high nutritional load.

Wheatgrass juice is claimed as an effective healer because it contains chlorophyll, all minerals known to man, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K. Wheatgrass is extremely rich in protein, and contains 17 amino acids, the building blocks of protein.

1oz of wheatgrass is claimed to have the nutritional equivalence of 2.2lb of vegetables, be high in vitamin B12, promotes detoxification due to the extremely high chlorophyll content.

It is curious to me that the beneficial properties of wheatgrass are so debated that this gives many of us license not to drink it. It’s as if we’re looking for an excuse not to – an ‘easy out,’ if you will. I agree that Wheatgrass is very much an acquired taste – looking like grass, and tasting very much like fresh sweet green peas. The experience is very much like drinking pea juice. I’ll leave the contentious debating to the nutritionists and medical professionals. One thing I do know is that, juicing fresh grown, organic wheatgrass, cut fresh at no more than 7 inches in length (then it gets too old), gives us a very potent shot of ‘living’ food. Forget the debate – eventually all debates catch up to Grandma’s philosophy of balance and moderation in all things anyway. Make wheatgrass a regular part of your balanced diet. You will feel the difference. I have.

Stop on into the Good For You Market on Route 9 in Lewes, DE any Saturday in June, between 12 and 2pm and have a free 1oz shot of organic fresh-cut, fresh-juiced wheatgrass on us. Our new organic juice and coffee bar (“Auntie’s Bar, as in “Auntie Oxidant” – the Good For You Market store mascot) will be opening in July.

Yes, I said, “Auntie’s Bar” and not, “Andy’s Bar.” It’s my accent you see!

So, we all love green, right? I know you all love saving green! So, see you at Auntie’s Bar, where we’ll be drinking green and showing off our wheatgrass ‘staches, Andy.

May 9, 2009

If we could only take that trip back in time and erase the memories we don’t want to keep. I would vote to erase the bad memories of Rutabaga, or, “Swede” as we call it back in the UK.

Rutabaga is not well understood. Kind of like that weird relative at Thanksgiving dinner – the one who has that odd sense of humor and brings that Jell-O vegetable roll thing that no one eats. Who does that to vegetables anyway? That’s a lot of therapy right there!

Unlike that Jell-O vegetable roll, however, rutabagas are fabulous. They have terrific color, and a flavor that can’t quite be defined.

The rutabaga is actually a hybrid of a turnip and a cabbage. Don’t hold that against it, since it tastes like neither. The flavor combination, like any relationship, is complicated - simultaneously sweet and slightly bitter.

Rutabaga is a refreshing substitute for the humble potato. Discerning chefs often transform rutabaga into gnocchi, replacing the potato. Rutabaga’s flavor pairs well with gamy meat such as rabbit, or with shellfish – shrimp, or lobster.

My favorite prep method for rutabaga is to peel, chop into rough cubes, steam and puree. I add a touch of heavy cream and a dash of sweetness such as maple syrup, agave nectar, or brown rice syrup. Mix in a pinch of spice such as cumin, cayenne pepper, or paprika and, “Bon Appetit” – a simple, nutritious soup or thrilling pasta sauce. The heavy cream can be substituted for a thick, non-dairy milk such as coconut milk for a Vegan option. In this case, the soup/sauce mix will need to be reduced somewhat to thicken.

Don’t be put off by a wax coating (or, horror, saran wrap!) on the rutabaga, when seen at market. It is the produce vendor’s attempt to prevent the vegetable from drying out in storage. Properly stored, in a cool, dry place, rutagaba will keep for months.

Rutabaga is loaded with potassium and vitamin C. Just the thing to build strong muscles and strengthen our immune systems at this time of year.

Grab rutabagas while you still can at market. They will soon disappear awaiting a return in the early fall.

Have fun with rutabaga. Experiment. Eat well. It’s Good For You!

Apr 11, 2009

Mae West famously said, "I used to be Snow White, but I drifted."

Have you drifted lately? Diet Plan? Workout Plan? Being nice to your spouse plan? Calling your Mom plan? Shopping at Good For You Market Plan?

I can help with the last one! After much work behind the scenes, I am thrilled to announce here, in the G4U Blog, a world exclusive. Drum roll please...

Good For You Market is extending our "Go Green and Save Your Green" savings program.

"Oh Andy, I heard that one before in your newsletter." Not so fast you on your way into a frustrating experience at the big box grocery store. Listen very carefully, I shall say this only once.

Good For You just got gooder, uhm, betterer, BEST! Most of the food items and some non-food items in our store (web and physical stores) are now upto 20% off of retail pricing. Beat that big box grocery store! Look for the red price cuts in our website store and the green price label and green savings shelf tags in our physical store. This effectively extends our pricing savings from our organic produce department throughout most of the store(s). Check back to our website store and our physical stores as our new pricing sweeps across the store(s).

So that's us. Now this is where you come in. Drift back to Good For You Market (http://www.good4uorganic.com/). Drift in for the first time. Drift on over to your colleague's office, neighbor, friend, or family member's house, spread the word and get them shopping with us too. Drift on into conversation and make Good For You Market the buzz at Happy Hour or your cocktail party/brunch. We've drastically cut our margin to be able to do this, and grocery margins are notoriously low to begin with. We need your support shopping with us to make these prices sustainable. We're working hard to source food that tastes the way it should - produce, cheeses, meats, breads, oils, vinegars, etc., at prices we all can afford. Shop with us to make sure these choices do not disappear from our beach area and give us a little encouragement that you want such choices in this area. Enough said.

"I like restraint if it doesn't go too far." Mae West. That's my philosphy when it comes to good food! I love to eat - hopefully you see that reflected at Good For You Market.

"An ounce of performance is worth pounds of promises." Mae West. How are we at Good For You Market performing for you, our treasured community?

In closing, another quote from Mae West, "You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."
Thank you all for your business. Remember we deliver also.


Mar 31, 2009

We're feeling a little low, deflated, and violated at G4U this week. Warm wishes, offers of help, and hugs have come our way since the fire at the farm and vandalism at the store. Thank you all. It does help to know you're out here routing for us.

Here's some much needed, light relief in the way of a few green/food/cultural funnies.

I'll start with a road sign erected on the streets of my college town, Swansea, Wales. All signs in Wales have to be bi-lingual, English and Welsh, by law. The English translation of the welsh text on the sign reads, "I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated." What actually happened was that the sign company sent text to be translated by e-mail and what came back (in Welsh) was an e-mail reminder that the translator was out of the office. When proofing signs, the person really needs to be able to speak Welsh!

Here's my favorite quote from American treasure, Langston Hughes: "Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you." - Langston Hughes
I always thought a yard was three feet, then I started mowing the lawn.- C.E. Cowman

What is small, red and whispers? A hoarse radish.

I garden, therefore I weed.

I was a vegetarian until I started leaning towards sunlight.- Rita Rudner

The best way to garden is to put on a wide-brimmed straw hat and some old clothes. And with a hoe in one hand and a cold drink in the other, tell somebody else where to dig.- Texas Bix Bender

Crabgrass can grow on bowling balls in airless rooms, and there is no known way to kill it that does not involve nuclear weapons.- Dave Barry

Checking the menu in a Welsh restaurant, a customer ordered a bowl of vegetable soup. After a couple of spoonfuls, he saw a circle of wetness right under the bowl on the tablecloth. He called the server over and said, "It's all wet down here. The bowl must be cracked." The server said, "You ordered vegetable soup, maybe it has a leek in it."

What is the difference between boogers and spinach? You can't get your kids to eat spinach.

A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.- Doug Larson

If April showers bring May flowers,what do May flowers bring? Pilgrims.

Laughter is brightest, in the place where the food is.- Irish proverb

Don't dig your grave with your own knife and fork.- English Proverb (Ouch - trust the English to apply maximum impact with few words and a smile!!!)

What do you call a country where the people drive only pink cars?A pink carnation.

The act of putting into your mouth what the earth has grown is perhaps your most direct interaction with the earth.- Frances Moore Lappé

It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.- Lewis Grizzard

I'm on a 90 Day Wonder Diet. Thus far, I've lost 45 days.

Life expectancy would grow by leaps and bounds if green vegetables smelled as good as bacon.- Doug Larson (I'm vegetarian, and even I agree with that one!)

When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them. - Chinese proverb

One of the disadvantages of wine is that it makes a man mistake words for thoughts.- Samuel Johnson

Never fall out with your bread and butter. - English proverb

This meal is the labor of countless beings;let us remember their toil.- Zen meal chant

A Welsh lad came home from school and told his Mam he had been given a part in the school play. 'Wonderful, 'replies his Mam, 'What part is it?' The boy says, 'I play the part of the Welsh husband.' Mam scowls and says, 'Go back and tell your teacher you want a speaking part.'

Rhys: Doctor, I can’t stop singing the Green, Green Grass of Home. Doctor: That sounds like Tom Jones syndrome. Rhys: Is it common? Doctor: It’s not unusual. I grew up in the same village as Tom Jones - Treforest, South Wales, UK. I used to shelter from the rain during my paper round as a kid in the red telephone box on Laura Street (where Tom Jones grew up). Tom Jones later bought this telephone box and relocated it to his home in the USA. The telephone box made it to the States before me!

Mar 30, 2009

G4U Farm Set On Fire, Vandalism at G4U Store

Around 9:30pm last night (Sunday March 30), the Good For You Farm on Route 9 in Lewes, was set on fire. This follows vandalism to the Good For You Farm truck parked overnight at the Good For You Market on Route 9, Lewes, 3 weeks ago. The truck's fuel line was cut, plus other damage, totaling $500.

The fire department was called to the farm, 3 fire trucks in total. It appears the shed was attempted to set on fire, it is saturated with gasoline. The front part of the field was set on fire. Thankfully the fire department responded very quickly, and the wind was blowing away from our neighbor's home.

It appears that the fire may have been set intentionally, although we are awaiting an official report from the State Fire Marshall and they have not ruled intentional damage yet.

Unfortunately, G4U will have to install video surveillance cameras at both locations.

Someone out there may not like the G4U business, or may not understand the context of running a business. Heck, you may not even like me personally. Or it just may be random damage. However, we are taking this very seriously. It is not infeasible at this time of year that we have staff working at the farm and the market in the evening. Someone may get hurt if this continues.

If anyone has any information relating to these events, please call the State Fire Marshall, Deputy Galaska, or Deputy Magee, on (302) 856-5600, or e-mail dale.magee@state.de.us

You can also call G4U on (302) 684-8330, or e-mail goodforu@comcast.net

Thank you, Andy.

Mar 26, 2009

A while back, someone whom I respect immensely, but with whom I do not get along with (let's leave it at that, it's a small town!), accused me, "You're not a foodie, are you, Andy?" It stopped me in my tracks.

Foodie. Honestly, I had to run and google it! Here's a link to the awesome Wikepedia for a definition http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foodie

There's a saying, "Judge people not so much by what they say, but by what they do." I would add a subtext. Go easy on them when they screw up, or take longer than you're in the mood to wait for. Cranky, me? Yeah, I am, kinda. It's been a long week and everyone seems on edge. Please do not adjust your picture, normal service will resume soon.

So here's the rub. Two issues bothered me with the foodie thing. I'm sure my accuser did not mean the former, but definitely the latter:
  1. I dislike exclusion: closed groups of any kind who do not openly welcome everyone. High School never truly goes away - it resurfaces like a bad taco. The term foodie, I thought, was kind of like a closed group. Being accused of not being one, stung. It meant I was not in the club. I own a food market, don't I belong in that club? Exclusion goes against everything I'm aiming for with Good For You. Really I should have named the business, "Good For Everyone!"
  2. G4U Market is more than health food. We are a great food market. My accuser, I believe, was challenging me, "If you're running a food market, then, waddya know, buddy?" G4U exists to bring choices into our, somewhat rural beach community; choices that we're more familiar with from our metro areas to our west and north. I don't say this to tell everyone how great we are. I say this to remind everyone of what we can do for you. From day 1 when we opened the doors at the Good For You Market I wanted this business to be a food market that has great food, plus the crunchy wierd stuff you see at your food co-ops in urban areas. Where else are we going to buy that at the beach? However, we're a small business, with a tight budget and we cannot do it all at once. It's taken me 2 years to finally find decent cheeses and suppliers in the Philadelphia and Washington DC areas for products you just cannot find at the beach. Now we have decent cheeses. Now we've added delivery. Now we sell direct to customers and to other businesses so you can find our great cheeses and produce at your favorite restaurant.
Being accused of not being a foodie made me look at the store from a customer's standpoint. I now walk the store, recipe, or magazine article in hand - can I find enough ingredients at the G4U Market to make that recipe, or a knowledgeable person who can suggest a substitution? Does a passion for food drive the G4U staff to know how to combine these ingredients, track down hard to find items, set up a demo on baking with Agave Nectar, or whole grains, facilitate a cheese club or gluten free club or vegetarian/vegan club? There is a reason I work so hard to keep a chef on staff at the G4U Market. Not because chefs are difficult to work with, no. It's a complicated line of business to be in - prepared meals/pastries. Chefs helps us all get better at, well, being foodies. You go Chef! Good for you!
Ever seen people like me at the market? I'm the guy at the fish counter at Whole Foods Market, grilling the fish guy (no pun intended!). I want to know everything about that salmon. Where did it come from? Why is it that color? Why does the recipe I'm following suggest this particular herb with it? Can I see the salmon's resume? Does it come from a good family? Whole Foods Market are geniuses at what they do. There's a reason they're a sponsor of Bravo's Top Chef program. They are a model for us at G4U. I started this business because, having moved here full time from Baltimore, I got fed up of driving back to the city twice a month for groceries, cleaning products, and the like. Indulge me, if you will. Listen to others at the dinner table, or happy hour, how many people are doing the same thing? What does that say to our local stores? There's much more for me, in being a food retailer than sticking it on the shelf and crossing your fingers until the product hits the sale rack, and gets dropped for a blander product. I'm fed up of tasteless bread or cheese, over priced olive oils that I haven't a clue why the recipe is calling for. I'm tired of driving to the city for someone who knows which type of sea salt to use in a recipe and which type to throw on your food before serving.
Why do I love to use the phrase, "What's up foodies?" I'm intentionally poking fun at the 'seriousness' of it all. We all eat, right? There's nothing wrong with passion for food. Indeed, the opposite - apathy is sad. Good food, sustainably grown/produced, knowledgeably made and sold is just too important for our health and our planet's health.
Truth is, I am a foodie, I just didn't know it! I'm a foodie when I grill the fish guy at Whole Foods Market. I'm a foodie when I'm thumbing through the seed catalogs planning out my veggie garden for the season. I'm a foodie when I'm meeting with a vendor negotiating pricing on a new food line we're about to carry. I'm a foodie when I quiz the staff on olive oils. I'm a foodie when a customer stumps me with a question on some ingredient I've never heard of. The customer is a foodie when they tell me what it is so we can work to bring it and run a cooking demo with it. I'm a foodie even when I get home at 10pm after a long day and grab that frozen pizza because I'm too tired to cook. Thankfully we have a chef on staff and I can now grab a prepared meal so I don't have to cook at 10pm! You are a foodie reading this blog right know, even if you're grabbing a hand full of potato chips (please, baked, organic corn, rice, or potato!). Sorry, did I make you spill your soda? It's rude to point.
At G4U, the door to the foodie club is well and truly open, off its hinges and in the recycle bin. Hopefully it'll make a nice dinner table around which to share great food.
Thank you un-named local person, with whom I do not get along. I appreciate your input and thank you for your push to make me better at serving our community. We make an impact on others even when we don't think so. We really are all connected, even if we do not get along!

Mar 24, 2009

This is a rare comment from me, Andy Meddick, owner of G4U Market and Micro-Eco Mini-Me Market Garden Farm.

"You're Welcome." How often we say that and don't even think about what we're saying. You're Welcome. YOU ARE WELCOME - EVERYONE.

I'm breaking a golden rule I have - stay out of community politics and focus on the mission of the G4U business: providing healthy, organic, natural, local, and sustainably sourced food, and great ingredients to our community. From Gourmet to Everyday. G4U: So Much More than a Health Food Store!

By community I mean everyone: regardless of age, gender, gender identity, physical ability, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, sports team, follicular status. Did I leave anyone out? E-mail me (with your contact information!) and let me know you shop at the G4U Market: mailto:g4umarket@gmail.com You are all welcome. Remember we all have to eat. G4U is a food market and market garden farm, providing food that tastes the way it should do. This is our mission and platform. Politics is not our platform. You are missing the point of this business if you try to pull us in that direction.

Again, we all have to eat. We all deserve access to fairly priced, chemical-free food, clean water, clean air, a patch of healthy soil on which to grow our own veggies. The best way to support our community is to support the businesses on which our community depends. Apparently it is NOT OK to some of our community for G4U to advertise on a certain local talk radio station, but it IS OK to listen to it. How else did you hear our ads? I'm not suggesting boycotting the radio station. They are performing a community function too. Bullying me into dropping my ads, or boycotting my business is not the most productive way of supporting a cause. Fight back if someone is mobilising in a direction you do not agree with. Call the radio station and add your voice to the conversation. Call your elected officials. Please do not use my business to express a political concern. Take the fight to the legislature. We have a wonderful gift in this country: the freedom to vote. I am very proud to be Welsh by birth, and American by choice. Do I exercise my right to vote? You betcha!

Again, remember I serve all of our community. We all have to eat. Why eat bland, over-processed, over-priced food elsewhere? Go local with G4U Market and Farm and you will be better fed, and better for it.

Now I need a massage. I'm fired up and ready for a rally when I should be focusing on our great new cheese line! Help me meet my mission and the whole community benefits.

Whoop-de-doo, Andy.

Mar 16, 2009

There's lots of things I don't understand, even at the lovely age of 44. Why, for instance, was Cher trying to turn back time on an aircraft carrier? Why on a week when I watch what I eat and get on that awful treadmill thing, do I gain 2 pounds and last week when I wallow in my, 'busy-ness,' I loose 3 pounds? Why does the dog always hit the rug when there is much more hardwood floor available to pee/poop/throw-up on? Why does spa music make me tense ? I said SPA, not SKA! I have to clarify because it seems my funny accent comes through in the blog too. While I reach for the Biokleen Bac-Out Foaming Cleanser, any thoughts?

So, today, I'm contemplative. It's another 'day off' - continuing our renovations at the store while we're closed. Painting, treadmilling, data entry on the G4U website. What do these have in common? Well they would not be a few of my favorite things. Yes, they are all activities that quiet the pace of my week and force me to focus. Focus is something I do while doing something else. At least that's the way it feels running a business. But this is not the full answer...

While I'm painting, all sorts are going through my unfocused mind as my eyes focus just 3 inches from the wall. "Organic Garden" and "Caramelized Onion" colors start to look an awful lot like green and brown at that zoom-in. Who dreams these 'colors' up anway? I've gone from Cher to Dorothy Spornak, to Edith Bunker, to Miss Slocombe, to community organic gardens, to farmer's markets, to G4U Market (so not just a 'health food store') and ended up with the solution to what was bothering me in the outset, "If you're not welcome at the club, quit complaining, form your own club, and welcome everyone!"

So I make the most of what quiet time I can creatively find. I get my best and brightest ideas while painting, treadmilling, data entry. Hmm, even gardening and I like gardening. So, with my Systems Analyst training not going to waste, I look for patterns. What do these things have in common? They're my 'meditation' if you will. What's yours?

If anyone out there, other than my LSS (Long Suffering Spouse) can follow this stream of consciousness, connect the dots. Find the idea/issue that was picking at me when I first got up the ladder this morning. Then e-mail me your answer: goodforu@comcast.net The first correct answer (or the idea I like best), gets you a free half hour massage with our new G4U Tenant: Robb Leech of Fusion Massage: http://www.fusionmassagestudio.vpweb.com/

Clue for Miss Marple: end at the start and don't Miss Understand.

Until next time, support your local businesses, support your local farmers markets, pay attention to creative new talent and mentor those individuals. They may turn out to be our club leaders tomorrow. Wise is the person who recognizes and encourages talent in others. Why paint outside the box when you can just remove the box to begin with? A little pain now is major gain later!

Whoop-de-doo, Andy!

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