I know, I know – eat local eat local eat local is the mantra we hear all around us – but sometimes you have to do a little Out of the County shopping. And in this area, that often means mail order.
I love mail order food. As a kid there was nothing I wanted more than the salted nut and chocolate Gift Towers I would see in the Figi’s catalogue, or any number of the candies I coveted with the arrival of the Christmas catalogue from Vermont Country Store. With the advantage of the WildWorldWeb, I can now diligently check out food websites featured in magazines or linked to from online reading material; the internet is a wealth of food shopping opportunity without ever having to leave the office. I’ve discovered the joys of Ohio’s Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream for birthday presents, learned to crave those regional confections known as modjeskas from Bauer’s Candies in Kentucky, found finger limes at Melissa’s Produce from California. It is a wonderful shopping opportunity that takes you to foreign lands for foods you might never experience otherwise.
For Christmas Kevin often gets a stocking full of off-beat condiments from igourmet.com. They carry a huge variety of foodstuffs, from TurDucken to croissants, sea salt to marzipan, and everything in between. You can spend hours perusing their website, and find all sorts of great stuff under one web address, at fair prices with reasonable shipping. It’s my go-to Gift Shop for the Chef in my life.
Probably the most frequented mail-order site in our life is Nuts.Com. Yes, it’s about nuts, but this is also a great source for dried fruit (the fruit for the annual FreeRange Fruitcake comes from here), all sorts of sweets and a terrific assortment of rice crackers, which seem to be a staple in our pantry. Shipping is free at a reasonable level and your order will be on your doorstep the next day. Customer service is excellent as well. I’m not too excited about their spices – Penzy’s is the go-to for those – but just about everything else we’ve ordered has been great.
A source for all things Spanish would be La Tienda. We’re talking Jamon here – Spanish prosciutto – in all its forms and quantities plus accessories, but also there’s Marcona almonds, Iberico chorizo, Mahon cheese and piquillo peppers. Everything you need for your paella can be sourced here, from the rice to the rabbit, as well as the pan, and you don’t even have to leave the couch.
We used to occasionally shop at D’Artagnan, particularly during their “Freezer Sale”, but their shipping is pretty outrageous. They carry beautiful poultry – squab, muscovy ducks, Scottish game hens – and hard-to-find things like Scottish hare and wild boar. Their selection of foie gras is legendary. But, as I mentioned, it’s very pricey unless you shop the sales and then they still get you with the shipping. Worth the investment for high quality products you really cannot get anywhere else, for a very special occassion maybe, but not our daily meal.
Okay, so there’s a reason this topic emerged – a new online purveyor has appeared on my desktop. This time I have the NYT to
blame credit. I’m here to report to you my experience with Porter Road, a Nashville butchers’ new-ish online meat shop. What alerted me to this company was primarily the fact that they offer cuts of meat you just don’t see so often, not in your average grocery case certainly, and not even in too many butcher shops, virtual or brick. Pieces like beef “teres major” and “tri-tip” or lamb ribs. Here they were, priced to move. I got out the credit card and shopped.
We got three cuts of beef – the aforementioned tri-tip roast ($21/3 pounds), a pair of chuck eye steaks ($12/11-13 ounces) and another of sirloin cap steaks ($15/20 ounces). My $48 order was placed on Thursday afternoon, with the addition of $5 for two-day shipping. I was amazed at the cost for shipping – overnight is only $12.
So, imagine our additional surprise when the UPS truck delivered our order the next day. Early Friday afternoon we were opening the box from Tennessee.
The box was insulated with something called “Green Cell Foam“, which the boys from Porter Road insist you can burn in your fire pit or dissolve down the drain. Really? That’s pretty cool – almost as cool as Jeni’s letting you mail back her Styrofoam container postage free. It also was shippped with four ice packs, which I guess there is no avoiding, but the compostable insulation almost made up for that.
And here’s what was inside:
Nicely vacuum sealed packaging, good looking fresh meat, not frozen! The sirloin cap steaks are thinner than I would wish – hard to cook a thin steak rare enough for me – but that’s a small issue, one that steak tacos will take care of. I will report on the quality in the next post – we’re going to have the tri-tip tonight – to see if this market is the place for beef.
(One tip I can already pass along – when I ordered yesterday most of the cuts offered were available (except for the teres major, which was one I had particularly wanted), but today many cuts were out of stock. My guess is earlier in the week is better for optimum selection?)
Eating Local is still very important, but so is supporting small businesses, right? And if they are doing it “right”, even better.