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!

Feb 21, 2009

So, I'm watching The Food Network (http://www.foodnetwork.com/) the other night, one of those, "You'll be amazed how this is made" (and want to run straight to G4U Market to buy!) programs. This one was about Maine Sea Salt and an inappropriate use of hoophouses. I was just at the the Rehoboth Main Street Inaugural Chef Showdown and was thinking about chefs and their use of salt. I went to the G4U truck to leave, and, quelle horreur, it was covered in sea salt (I parked ocean block)! Coincidence? Hmm... the blog called! Actually Starbucks called and I figured I could kill 2 birds with one latte.

Salt has a rap worse than that awful stuff my nephew listens to. Because of this bad rap, and my dual residency status (the amazing, sparsely-populated State of Delaware, and the over-populated State of Confusion), I decided to research salt.

Salt has been highly valued for centuries. The sayings, "Worth his weight in salt", or, "She's the salt of the earth" reflects this. Yet, in our times, salt's place in our diet is misunderstood. Salt needs a better publicist!

Refined Salt = bad salt; go to your room kind of salt! 'Natural' Mineral-rich Salt = good salt; salt that helps our bodies function. You go Natural Mineral-rich Salt! I heart you!

"Salt" is sodium chloride; Sodium is an essential nutrient, the body cannot manufacture sodium. Chloride (not chlorine) is also important for optimum health. It preserves the acid-base balance in the body, aids potassium absorption, supplies the essence of digestive stomach acid, and enhances the ability of the blood to carry carbon dioxide from respiring tissues to the lungs.

Our most commonly used conventional 'table' salt is a Refined Salt. Refined salt is blasted with heat, changing it's structure. It's then "chemically cleaned" (with chlorine bleach, waaay bad! way!) and additives such as dextrose, or synthetic iodine thrown in. This takes the life force of the essential minerals and trace elements, leaving us with a processed Sodium Chloride - a product that is far from being naturally alive with minerals, and is in fact a dead chemical. Our bodies have to sacrifice energy in order to try and metabolise refined salt, and it upsets many processes within the body, including fluid balance and elimination systems.

'Natural' Mineral-rich Salt, such as Sea Salt, are becoming better recognized and used, due in part to the popularity of such shows as, "Top Chef," and events such as the Rehoboth Beach Chef Showdown I attended today. Thank you to great local chefs such as Jay Caputo of Espuma and Porcini House (http://www.espumarestaurant.com/), Kevin Reading of Nage (http://www.nage.bz/rehoboth_beach/index.htm), and Ian Crandall of Kindle. You guys have our backs - let's hear it for sea salt!

If I may continue over the applause for sea salt. Here's an explanation of some different kinds of 'Natural' Mineral-rich salts: http://www.good4uorganic.com/media/mediaCategory/Gourmet_Salt.doc

We have a love affair with sea salt at G4U Market, especially the brands with coarse grains such as Kosher sea salt. The larger crystals are easily grabbed in a rush when you're cooking.

Be very discerning in your choice of sea salt brands. There is a gradient with 'natural' sea salt, from poor quality refined sea salts, stripped of upto 90% of their minerals, upto high end, top-quality, mineral-rich sea salts, such as Fleur de Sel. The brands we carry at G4U Market are all great sea salts, rich in minerals, and from companies with a history of responsible health and environmental stewardship. All of these salts make a great base for adding herbs to make a rub, or seasoning:

  • Diamond Crystal Kosher Sea Salt, from the Pacific coast, USA. 13oz container. Retails for around $1.59.
  • Eden Foods French (Celtic) Sea Salt, 14oz jar. Retails for around $5.19.
  • Eden Foods Portuguese (Celtic) Sea Salt, 16oz jar. Retails for around $3.51.
  • Frontier Herb Fine French (Celtic) Sea Salt, 7oz shaker. Good option to replace that salt jar on your dinner table. Retails for around $2.15.
  • Frontier Herb Coarse French (Celtic) Sea Salt, 32oz container. Retails for around $3.55.
  • La Baleine Sea Salt (available in Fine and Coarse), 26.5oz container. Retails for around $3.90.
  • Le Saunier de Camargue Fluer de Sel (French Celtic Sea Salt), 125g container. Retails for around $8.15.
Halen Mon, a great Celtic sea salt, from the Atlantic ocean, off of the coast of Anglesea, in North Wales, is a lovely certified organic sea salt. We have just found a supplier in the USA for this salt, so look for it in time for St. David's Day (March 1).

G4U Market can obtain sea salts in large packs. These are economical for food service, or for splitting up amongst good friends.

There are ways of getting salt in our diet without reaching for the salt (celery anyone?). Ever noticed that Swiss Chard tastes salty, as well as sweet? I don't personally use a lot of salt in cooking, but I do use a good sea salt in moderation. It really helps my cooking (it needs it!) and definitely has its place in our home kitchen, right up there with Celery and Swiss Chard! It seems variety and moderation are a balanced spice of life! Dietary sources of salt are a whole new blog. Stay tuned!

Here's a small print disclaimer to satisfy my insurance company. "Readers are reminded that the information provided is general in nature. Please check with a licensed medical practitioner, and nutritionist before making diet or lifestyle changes." We're in the food business, not the mind reading business!

Until next time, "Whoop-de-doo!" Go wide, go local, go Good For You! Rah rah!

Feb 16, 2009

Picture: G4U Market Garden Farm, Route 9 West, Lewes, DE

I hear a lot of talk about, "local." What does local mean? I'm confused. Is it grow local? Manufacture local? Eat local? Shop local? Hire, or work local? Local to what? Isn't it relative?

I posed the question to a group of people who are trying to eat local. I also spoke with some of our town's Chefs who are searching hard for fresh, local ingredients. Truth is, it's kinda murky.

Seems like local is closer if you're in the city. Here's the irony for those in rural areas. Major metropolitan areas are ringed by networks of organic, chemical-free farms, lots of manufacturers using local raw materials, and lots of small (and large chain) stores selling 'local' products.

Here in Southern Delaware, 2 hours from the closest major metropolitan area, there are very few options for sources of local growers producing a diverse crop. Trust me, I'm a local grower and retailer. I have a hard time finding local, organic or chemical-free anything. Now I love a good olive oil, and adore agave nectar, and decent cheeses. The last time I checked, there are no olive groves, agave fields, or cheese producers around me.

So, here's my 'local' definition (as a consumer, not just a food market owner). If you're in a major metropolitan area, local can be as little as 20 miles. If, like us, you're away from a metropolis, local has to expand to include neighboring states and becomes as far as 200 miles. For some ingredients, local is not an option. Better something than nothing. Seek out local businesses, support and encourage them. Help them get better at helping us all in our local communities. Keep your hard earned income in your community. Else, be one of those people at the dinner table, saying, "I loved (insert local business name here). What happened to them? Why do I have to drive out of state to get...?"

If you can't find, or get something local, do it yourself. Get together with a group of friends, pool your resources, lease that defunct dairy in town, form a cooperative, and sell your own cheeses locally. I have friends in Louisville, GA, who were frustrated at the paucity of art galleries in their community, and also badly wanted to save an historic, former fire station from demolition. They formed a board of directors, raised the money to purchase and renovate the old fire station, and the result is The Firehouse Gallery, Louisville, GA. It's a great example of a community cooperating to bring choices into their community. These are people who also have day jobs! Check out The Firehouse Gallery: http://www.galleryafire.com/

Intimidated by trying the same thing The Firehouse Gallery folks did? There are still things you can do to support local. Even if it's a small vegetable garden out back. Ask a local business if you can use part of their lot for a community vegetable garden. Seek out your local produce market, or garden center. Request that they offer classes on vegetable gardening, or cooking. Any good produce manager, nursery manager, bakery manager, or grocery store manager, should also know how to grow it or cook it. You wouldn't trust a local garage to change your oil unless they knew something about cars, now would you?

Thoughts, or experiences on local? Post a comment.

Until next time. Whoop-de-doo. Andy for G4U Market, Lewes, DE.

Feb 13, 2009

Hello world! As a former geek, do you know how many programming languages I could write that in? I digress. I am Andy (Andrew) Meddick and I will be your blogger this evening. I own Good For You Natural Food Market and Farm (AKA G4U Food Market, or G4U), in Lewes, close to Rehoboth, Dewey, Fenwick, and Bethany beaches. My store (and market garden farm) is located on Route 9 West, close to 5 Points in Lewes. We deliver to the entire beach area. Check us out online http://www.good4uorganic.com/

This is the blog for G4U: recipes, guest bloggers, food, health, nutrition, organic gardening hints and tips. My focus is great food and products, leaving as little negative impact on our shared environment as possible. We are not about politics. Eating well doesn't have to be boring, crunchy, bland, nor expensive. Don't believe the hype about organic and natural. Come see for yourself. For example, my store's organic produce pricing is lower than the CONVENTIONAL produce pricing at the big box retailers. I want you to eat it!

I started this business because, having moved to the shore from the Baltimore/DC metro area, I had a hard time finding good food and great ingredients at the beach; choices we were used to in the city. Decent bread, cheeses, meats, produce that has flavor, sales help in stores whom are knowledgeable and can help me figure out what to do with the ingredients at the store, or that funny looking vegetable (Sunchokes anyone?). I wanted a two-way relationship with the food store, being able to request products, and learn from the staff there. I didn't want to have to run all over the place hunting down ingredients.

I got 'that look' from others when I said I had left corporate life to start my own business. I loved my job, so that's not why I left. I couldn't bring my job to the beach with me. Simple. Moving to the beach forced out a nascent 'entrepreneurial spirit. ' I’m fortunate to be able to combine all my interests and experience into a business solution that contributes to the community I live in. We all eat, right? I don’t understand how anyone can tolerate a job they hate. I don't get that apathetic shrug when asking for help in any business. I do not understand elitism or apathy. Lack of attention to detail, or lack of observation and consideration of others bothers me.

I work really hard at my business. I'm blessed I have a great, smart, spouse, and a good team. Also, I LOVE what I do. I love food, I love to garden. I love people. I love to educate and to sell (who knew?). I'm a voracious reader and technophobe. It drives me nuts if there's a variety of food, or something I don't 'get' (yet!). I’m also weird - I love to grocery shop! I’ve learned that sales people are not evil. I respect honesty, sincerity and focus on the other. I’ve learned a lot about reciprocity – in business and personal life. Of course I’ve made a lot of mistakes the first 2 years of running my business, sometimes forming strategic relationships that have not been the wisest. I've rubbed some people the wrong way, I've inadvertendly let some down. All I can do is apologize since I know myself the dissapointment when others let me down, or make choices I do not agree with. If I knew what I know now then…

I don’t think we’re in the retail business at G4U. We’re in the Hospitality and Service business. Good food speaks for itself. Getting the community to be involved in their food choices, and communicate the awareness of great ingredients (and your business - LOL!), that's the challenge. Changing perceptions is not easy. Being a small business, I can react very quickly to community input. For example, all the buying decisions for my business are made in the store, by my management team, not in a remote office.

Life is good, but it doesn’t mean it’s easy, for anyone. It's not easy to run a business, especially in this economy! It's not easy standing in front of a group of people, trying to connect and share information. When I have to push myself to connect, then I focus on the reason why I’m doing it, not how. I try to take ‘me’ out of it. Negative comparisons do not help anyone. You learn and get better! I try to focus on sharing information and listening, in the hope there is a connection. When I focus on, "Why can't I just get a break?" I forget to acknowledge the breaks I have gotten. I'm learning how to relax, build relationships with others, prioritize (LOL - any of my former Bosses reading this?), and know when to partner with good, skilled people who share a common goal - people who can help me with my mission, and for whom I can also, hopefully, help out too. Life sure is a lot of fun, but it sure as heck ain't easy!

Until next time, hug your sweetie and tell them how much they mean to you. Call your Mother on Valentines Day too.

Whoop-de-doo! Andy.

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