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Food in the time of a pandemic


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"Worst to come: pasta makers fret over durum wheat supply crunch"

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Italian pasta makers are fearful of a substantial supply squeeze in the coming months after this summer's durum wheat price shock, as the market runs out of ways to offset a dire harvest in top exporter Canada.

It's always something these days, ain't it? :(

 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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  • 1 month later...

I had to laugh this morning at Ralphs/Kroger. I saw this Philadelphia Cream cheese shortage promo yesterday. Then this morning out of curiosity I checked supply. "sale" 2 for $4. I never buy it so no idea regular price. Media influence...  https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/15/business/cream-cheese-shortage-dessert/index.html

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9 hours ago, heidih said:

I had to laugh this morning at Ralphs/Kroger. I saw this Philadelphia Cream cheese shortage promo yesterday. Then this morning out of curiosity I checked supply. "sale" 2 for $4. I never buy it so no idea regular price. Media influence...  https://www.cnn.com/2021/12/15/business/cream-cheese-shortage-dessert/index.html

 

I generally get their "Light" cream cheese (i.e. Neufchatel) but that seems like the usual price for both. I haven't checked the grocery stores for it lately, though; still working on the pair of packages I bought LAST WINTER for a dessert that never happened.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
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I've been experimenting with making simple cheeses at home for a couple months.  I bought some soft cheese cultures from cheesemaking.com.   Funnily enough, this year I've been asked to make a cheesecake dessert for a Christmas dinner.  I had already made a batch of the Fromagina and think it's suited for the cheesecake (I'm doing it SV in small jars) dessert.  So, I have bypassed the Philly Cream Cheese shortage unintentionally.

 

I use standard pasteurized whipping cream and milk.  Not ultra-pasteurized, won't work.

 

I've got a batch of sour cream going as we speak.

 

So, some of the current shortages can be worked around with a tiny bit more effort.

 

I've found the soft cheese cultures to be super easy to use and get a nice result.  Just a bit more time involved.  

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This isn't related to the pandemic as such; however the media is breathlessly reporting that there's certain to be an egg shortage in Massachusetts in the new year.  A new law bans the in-state sale of eggs from hens that are raised in enclosures with less than 1.5 square feet of space starting  January 1.  I haven't gotten a definitive answer about how this might/will affect commercial food businesses (can we still buy eggs from our distributors?  will eggs coming from out of state to said distributors be allowed for sale to food service providers?  No one knows - or I should more correctly say that all of my distributors have no idea at the moment what will happen come January 2022!  So eggs might be the new toilet paper ;) at least in MA

 

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10 hours ago, JeanneCake said:

This isn't related to the pandemic as such; however the media is breathlessly reporting that there's certain to be an egg shortage in Massachusetts in the new year.  A new law bans the in-state sale of eggs from hens that are raised in enclosures with less than 1.5 square feet of space starting  January 1.  I haven't gotten a definitive answer about how this might/will affect commercial food businesses (can we still buy eggs from our distributors?  will eggs coming from out of state to said distributors be allowed for sale to food service providers?  No one knows - or I should more correctly say that all of my distributors have no idea at the moment what will happen come January 2022!  So eggs might be the new toilet paper ;) at least in MA

 

We faced the transition. Egg prices skyrocketed initially and then leveled out.  https://www.thegazette.com/agriculture/california-law-is-transforming-egg-industry-producers-say-will-it-do-the-same-for-pork/

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On 12/16/2021 at 6:54 PM, Smithy said:

 

I generally get their "Light" cream cheese (i.e. Neufchatel) but that seems like the usual price for both. I haven't checked the grocery stores for it lately, though; still working on the pair of packages I bought LAST WINTER for a dessert that never happened.

 

Yesterday at Fry's grocery store (Yuma, AZ) the Neufchatel was 2/$4.00, or (IIRC) 1/$2.59. There didn't seem to be a shortage, and the prices were not discouraging. The same prices applied to the regular Philadephia brand cream cheese.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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"Every day should be filled with something delicious, because life is too short not to spoil yourself. " -- Ling (with permission)
"There comes a time in every project when you have to shoot the engineer and start production." -- author unknown

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On 12/18/2021 at 1:33 PM, Smithy said:

 

Yesterday at Fry's grocery store (Yuma, AZ) the Neufchatel was 2/$4.00, or (IIRC) 1/$2.59. There didn't seem to be a shortage, and the prices were not discouraging. The same prices applied to the regular Philadelphia brand cream cheese.

 

Considering I pay around $4 each, that's a very good price.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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One of my distributors is out of cream cheese and all purpose flour; I have three different places we buy from and luckily the NY distributor has it.  Customers have no patience when you tell them  you can't get something.  I'm beginning to understand why some people have left the industry.  We're all tired of this, taking it out on me doesn't help.

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18 minutes ago, JeanneCake said:

One of my distributors is out of cream cheese and all purpose flour; I have three different places we buy from and luckily the NY distributor has it.  Customers have no patience when you tell them  you can't get something.  I'm beginning to understand why some people have left the industry.  We're all tired of this, taking it out on me doesn't help.

cannot help you with customers who lack patience just seems to explain the shortage of cream cheese. 
 

Cream cheese shortage

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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  • 2 weeks later...

I see that @weinooand @KennethTmention using Fresh Direct...I'm kind of fed up with my local supermarket and am contemplating using some alternate suppliers (especially for seafood). Any perspective on what you think they are "best" for vs what they don't do well. I am still leaning towards buying the majority of produce locally (Whole Foods or Wegmans) since I can't wrap my head around trusting someone else's judgement for most of that (particularly fruit). I looked at the prices online and for sure they aren't as low as the local ShopRite for "basics", but they aren't unreasonable given the convenience.

"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

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On 12/31/2021 at 11:37 AM, BeeZee said:

I see that @weinooand @KennethTmention using Fresh Direct...I'm kind of fed up with my local supermarket and am contemplating using some alternate suppliers (especially for seafood). Any perspective on what you think they are "best" for vs what they don't do well. I am still leaning towards buying the majority of produce locally (Whole Foods or Wegmans) since I can't wrap my head around trusting someone else's judgement for most of that (particularly fruit). I looked at the prices online and for sure they aren't as low as the local ShopRite for "basics", but they aren't unreasonable given the convenience.

 

Sorry for not responding sooner.

 

For fruit, I fully agree with you as to picking out my own. Though I've had some very good fruit from FD, and let's face it, whatever you're picking out at WF or the other place, it's still mostly coming from far away, especially at this time of the year.  

 

For vegetables and herbs, I've been pretty lucky with FD; and if I'm not satisfied with product, they're quite willing to refund. I also buy stuff from specific farms; those which are local, organic, and carried by FD.

 

In the  "meat department,"  I buy the locally raised, and heritage products - no complaints. Their butchery might not be perfect, but I can get a "petite" heritage pork shoulder roast, and be quite happy either roasting it, or repurposing it for stir fry, stews, etc. 

 

They carry lots of chicken "brands." I'll leave that up to you to decide what you like; none of them blow me away, but they certainly work for meals. Cook's Venture, which has been discussed elsewhere is OK, and is their high-end Snowdance Farms. Neither is as good as Joyce Farms, which they'd carried for a while and which I hope comes back.

 

I limit my seafood purchases to wild, unpeeled shrimp (though this week I got wild, peeled shrimp by (my) mistake, and they were perfectly fine. In the heat of the summer, I avoid buying any seafood, but in mid "winter," I'm less worried about handling. I have purchased wild Alaskan king salmon that was excellent, and live lobsters when they've had sales with no complaints. Same with clams, mussels, etc. - they'll all arrive just fine. 

 

Deli - all just as OK as your local Wegman's, I'm sure.  

 

Groceries are groceries, and non perishable food items tend to be a little more expensive, so it's all caveat emptor as far as that goes.  The convenience and not having to deal with going shopping have been a godsend. I have a delivery pass (I think it's like $40 for 6 months), so all my deliveries are made on the days when there's no extra charge for delivery (Tues - Thu).

 

Any other specific questions, let me know, and if I have a clue, I'll answer! 

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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On 12/31/2021 at 11:37 AM, BeeZee said:

I see that @weinooand @KennethTmention using Fresh Direct...I'm kind of fed up with my local supermarket and am contemplating using some alternate suppliers (especially for seafood). Any perspective on what you think they are "best" for vs what they don't do well. I am still leaning towards buying the majority of produce locally (Whole Foods or Wegmans) since I can't wrap my head around trusting someone else's judgement for most of that (particularly fruit). I looked at the prices online and for sure they aren't as low as the local ShopRite for "basics", but they aren't unreasonable given the convenience.

 

Wild Fork has given me consistently good seafood at a fair price...delivered on dry ice and frozen rock hard.

 

I'm very happy with them

 

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@BeeZeeWe used to use FD for the vast majority of our groceries.  As @weinoo said, if there's a problem, they refund promptly.  For instance, this past week, I ordered some "ready to eat" avocadoes.  The 2 pack came in undamaged, but one of the avocadoes was ridiculously soft - I guess good for smoothies, but not what was typical and not what I was looking for.  All you need to do is send a message to them through the website - our whole avocado purchase was refunded no questions asked.  That being said - it does kind of shoot any plans you may have, even if you don't have to pay for it.

 

Nowadays, like @gfweb, I use Wild Fork for the vast majority of my meat purchases.  Their quality has been great and I can't beat the prices anywhere.  They're like half the price of Fresh Direct or even my least expensive local supermarket (but I'm in Manhattan, so take that with a grain of salt).  I get a lot of the air chilled, antibiotic free chicken parts - sure, they're not any heritage breed, but when defrosted, there's just about no liquid weeping out. And I love that I can get a 2.5# bag of thighs which usually has 6 evenly sized thighs IQF so I can defrost as many as I need - all for like $2.40 per pound.  That's like half the price of Katie's Best (the brand I used to get at FD) and I can't tell the difference - except that KB would sometimes maddeningly put 1 giant thigh with 2 moderate sized and 1 quail thigh in a vacuum sealed 4 pack.  All that, and they have some specialty items I can't find locally - like ground Elk.

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While Wild Fork certainly seems to be beloved here, I'm still attempting to make my purchases (of pork and beef and lamb) from small, and if possible, local producers.

 

And there are times when I want stuff that's fresh and not frozen, since freezer space here is not easy to come by. So I've yet to succumb to the wild fork prices and marketing. I imagine it's only a matter of time.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I used Instacart during the first half of 2020.    They offer several small independent markets, excellent meat and dairy, but delivery charges and tip pushed the expense well over normal.    We are very lucky to have two neighborhood markets selling impeccable fish and meat. One is the brother of Bryan Flannery and sells arguably equally top flight mea in the family's original flagship market.  Not cheap but with no delivery charge or tipping, prices are probably same or less.   And it's lovely to be able to "kick tires" when buying meat.

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32 minutes ago, Margaret Pilgrim said:

One is the brother of Bryan Flannery and sells arguably equally top flight mea in the family's original flagship market.  Not cheap but with no delivery charge or tipping, prices are probably same or less.   And it's lovely to be able to "kick tires" when buying meat.

Indeed, the Flannery stuff is something I plan to utilize a bit more, since it's so beloved and always looks great.

 

But I also have the luxury of a "neighborhood" butcher and a high-end "neighborhood" butcher, both located at Essex Market and within a 5-minute walk. the high-end butcher, Ends Meat, has great product. The regular butcher carries mostly battery stuff, but does carry Bobo chickens, which are from the Hudson River Valley and slaughtered in accordance with halal. They work in a pinch.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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44 minutes ago, weinoo said:

While Wild Fork certainly seems to be beloved here, I'm still attempting to make my purchases (of pork and beef and lamb) from small, and if possible, local producers.

 

And there are times when I want stuff that's fresh and not frozen, since freezer space here is not easy to come by. So I've yet to succumb to the wild fork prices and marketing. I imagine it's only a matter of time.

Maybe 10 years ago, I invested in a small chest freezer - it lives in an inconspicuous place in the living room.  It's the best thing ever. It's footprint is 2x2 feet but it holds so much.  And a great advantage of it is that it is non-self defrosting and really cold - like -10 to -15F which means that the stuff you keep in there doesn't have temperature cycles so it stays frozen in better condition.  The only thing I keep in the defrosting freezer is stuff like stock, frozen bread, frozen cold packs, and stuff I use often like frozen thai chillies, galangal, grachai, banana and pandan leaves, etc.

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1 minute ago, weinoo said:

 Bobo chickens, which are from the Hudson River Valley and slaughtered in accordance with halal. They work in a pinch.

I used to get Bobo chickens in Chinatown - I used to really like the (I think) red plume chickens (maybe they called it black plume back then? I get confused with the names)- very similar to what I see in Asia - not as plump breasts but really meat legs and really flavorful.

 

To add - I just checked their website - they no longer refer to the chickens as black plume or red plume - now it's HK/Euro style or US style.

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20 minutes ago, KennethT said:

I used to get Bobo chickens in Chinatown - I used to really like the (I think) red plume chickens (maybe they called it black plume back then? I get confused with the names)- very similar to what I see in Asia - not as plump breasts but really meat legs and really flavorful.

 

To add - I just checked their website - they no longer refer to the chickens as black plume or red plume - now it's HK/Euro style or US style.

 

When it's stock making time, I often (or used to often) venture to a market in Chinatown, where I was able to buy old stewing hens - 2 for $5, and worked great as a stock starter. I was thinking maybe at some of the Chinese markets they get some special Bobo birds?

 

Oh, now checking the web site as well, I wonder if It might be worth a trip to Williamsburg, and their retail market. Much more product.

 

Of course for really great Euro style birds, I don't think one can do better than LaPera Bros. If one can deal with bringing home a warm, freshly killed chicken.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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8 minutes ago, weinoo said:

Of course for really great Euro style birds, I don't think one can do better than LaPera Bros. If one can deal with bringing home a warm, freshly killed chicken.

I recently wrote elsewhere about the 'chicken and rabbit" lady who came to town and delivered freshly killed product.    I distinctly remember the day my mother called me in from play and told me it was time for me to learn to draw a chicken, and not with crayon.    She said I needed to know, as in "What if you marry someone who hunts?"    I told her I would ask the guy first and if he said he liked to hunt, I would tell him "No".    So I learned to "clean" a chicken anyway.    I still remember the warmth and the aroma.   My husband grew up hunting elk but never liked it as sport.    We get along.  

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