The Food Life

Recipes, resources and food inspiration from people and places in Kitsap County. By Kitsap Sun Web Editor Angela Dice.
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Canning, pickling and other preservation classes offered

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

2010 Kitsap County Fair canning entries. Photo by Meegan Reid

WSU Kitsap Extension once again is offering a series of food preservation classes so you can take a taste of that very short summer into winter.

This time, all classes are from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sundays at the Silverdale YMCA, and you can register online. Cost is $95 for all four classes or $35 per class.

Classes start Oct. 9 with a look at Sassy Salsas. Guess what you’ll be making.

Next up, on Oct. 16 is “In a Pickle” in which they’ll discuss the process of fermentation and brining pickles. Participants will make and take home a quick-make pickle.

On Oct. 23, you can learn how to safely use a pressure cooker to can low acid foods like vegetables, seafood and meats. In class, participants will can low-acid vegetables.

Oct. 30 is a look at the variety of ways to preserve apples from canning it to making pie filling, dehydrating, and making sauces and ciders. Participants will take home a jar of apple sauce.


The allure of Trader Joe’s aka what’s the big freakin’ deal?

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

 

Trader Joe's in University Place

When Hawaiian shirt-clad Trader Joe’s employees open the new Silverdale store’s doors for the first time at 8 a.m., you can bet a bottle of “Three Buck Chuck” that a line of people will be waiting.

Kitsap residents eagerly awaited its opening, filling Facebook groups with love notes, chiding newspapers for not writing more about it and gratifying Kitsap Sun reporters and bloggers who did with thousands of page views.

Elsewhere, the chain has inspired fan blogs, cookbooks and discussion groups about “TJs”.

When faced with such rampant adult enthusiasm, it awakens a journalistic tendency to question nearly everything, a tendency that, if left unchecked, can turn to mockery.

So I asked, what’s the big deal?

I hit Google and a Trader Joe’s store to attempt an honest answer.

As one Facebook fan posted on the Bring Trader Joe’s to Silverdale WA page, “I think TJs is a love it or don’t get it place.”

Place

On entering the Trader Joe’s in University Place, you’re greeted by hand-drawn signs advertising specials and new deals under thatch umbrellas consistent with its South Pacific theme.

It’s more like Cost Plus World Market than Safeway.

Employees, called “crew members” are generally friendly. On the job applications, part-time crew members are instructed to “become smitten with your customers. … Make sure customers know they are welcome and cared for.”

All the stores are like that, intended to feel laid-back, neighborhood-like, much like the company’s first store, which opened in Pasedena, Calif. in 1967. This despite having been bought out by the Albrecht family of grocers in Germany, the opening of 365 stores nationwide with profits estimated at $8.5 billion, according to industry analysts Supermarket News.

Products

But walking down the aisles, I can see that the products themselves are what set it apart from other grocery stores.

The first aisle on the left filled with organic nuts and dried fruits, including (catch my breath) green mangoes. Where else do you see that at a store outside of Hawaii?

Oh, dark chocolate almonds tossed with salt? In the basket.

A $3 six-pack of lager … can it really be worse than PBR? In the basket.

Sunflower butter and f rozen, deep fried Mac and cheese? Hold on a minute, I’ve got a budget.

It’s the kind of thing the company touts on its website as “the thrill of discovery.”

The company has cultivated a product line that includes plenty of organics, exotic ingredients and pre-made sauces and frozen products.

As one Pepperdine University marketing analyst sums it up the difference is that, “(Trader Joe’s) culture, because it involves the customers in an ongoing sense of discovery and adventure, is both unique and difficult to copy. And because it is aligned to their specific target market rather than broad differentiation built around quality and service, it is more difficult to replicate by those companies that are serving a more expansive competitive space.”

And somewhere between products and culture is the sense that shopping at Trader Joe’s is more responsible. Branded products claim to be free of artificial colors and preservatives, MSG or added trans fats. The company highlights a fair trade culture and has been responsive to customers’ requests for non-GMO foods, and a move to phase out by the end of next year seafood that doesn’t come from sustainable sources.

But, as a private company likely trying to maintain control of its relationships, it’s tight-lipped about where its products come from, making it difficult for an outside organization to track just how sustainable its buying practices are, according to Sustainable Industries magazine.

Those who lean toward knowing the exactly where the food came from would be better off sticking to local farmers markets.

Prices

But often unlike organic, fair trade products elsewhere, Trader Joe’s offers them cheaply.

The company generally purchases items directly from manufacturers, buying in bulk and doing its own repackaging mostly — by one estimate, 80 percent —under the Trader Joe’s label.

Items that in style (if not always in exact makeup) are familiar and cheaper than the original products at regular grocery stores.

Take, for example, an 8 oz. bottle of Annie’s Naturals Goddess dressing, which runs $4 to $5 at local grocery stores.  The Trader Joe’s version cost $1.99, lists nearly all of the same ingredients in the same order with slight variations in wording, such as “sea salt” vs. “salt” and “parsley, chives” vs. “spices” on the Annie’s and Trader Joe’s versions respectively.

And sometimes, that includes the brand name, too. A block of Dubliner cheese which has been cut and repackaged in plastic wrap sells for $6.49 per pound. A brand-packaged block of the same cheese retails for $12.55 per pound at Safeway.

That’s not to say everything is cheaper at Trader Joe’s. A look at six-packs of Northwest microbrews or, for example a tube of Tom’s of Maine mint toothpaste or box of Puffins cereal, are no better or slightly more than at my local grocery store.

And it’s not a place a person is likely to find an entire grocery list’s worth of goods.

According to a Fortune magazine article, “With the greater turnover on a smaller number of items, Trader Joe’s can buy large quantities and secure deep discounts” and simplify stocking.

The products regularly change, as the company puts it, “If an item doesn’t pull its weight in our stores, it goes away to gangway for something else.” But that doesn’t work against them, says Fortune, because “customers accept that Trader Joe’s has only two kinds of pudding or one kind of polenta because they trust that those few items will be very good.”

The big deal, in short, is that the stores have a consistent store brand and an ever-changing product line targeted to a middle- to upper middle-income shoppers who are socially, health- and cost-conscious.

And because of that, shoppers will be waiting Friday, ready to do their darndest to clear the shelves and stock up on cheap wine and the hundreds of other goodies that they’ll have just realized they can’t live without.


A Look into the history of Kitsap farmers

Monday, May 16th, 2011

Just a short note for all of you local food lovers out there: If you haven’t caught it already, Diane Fish over at the Kitsap Farm to Fork blog last week started a series taking a historical look at farming in Kitsap.

She’s pulled together some great information and photos of the area’s agrarian roots, including a look at how early settlers blasted stumps away to clear the timber land; a mention of  early settlers and farmers; Bainbridge Island fruit growers; the first co-ops; and she found Kitsap’s first farmers market, which opened on May 20, 1922.


Not Much Time to Enter Most Foods for the Fair

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

This weekend kicks off the food and other exhibits for the Kitsap County Fair.

There’s not much time to enter most of the categories if you haven’t already started something, but here’s a little information on entering your food to be judged at the fair:

Cooks can enter in the open class food and canning exhibitions between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23. The open class and canning includes things like breads, cakes, baked goods, candy, jams and jellies and other preserved foods.

You do, however, have a whole week to prepare for the pie baking contest, which this year includes a cheesecake category. You can enter fruit and berry pies between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 29 and the cheesecakes from noon to 1 on Sunday.

I wonder if they still need judges for that cheesecake contest?

Entry rules and schedules are on Kitsap County’s web site.


Signed Up for My Share of Fresh Veggies

Thursday, February 26th, 2009

After a reminder by a story that Sun reporter Brynn Grimley wrote about the red-hot sale of Kitsap Community Supported Agriculture shares, I just sent off my check for this year’s share.

I participated in one last year with a Silverdale farm. I paid a set amount upfront and was able to pick up fresh veggies grown on the farm every week at my local farmer’s market. The one I joined that also had a plus side in that he regularly brought over fruit from Eastern Washington that I incorporated in my share. I had fresh fruit and veggies through the summer and into fall.

If you’re interested in learning mor about CSA’s and/or local farms, the Kitsap Agriculture Alliance has a web site, buylocalfoodinkitsap.org. They will have a meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday March 10, at the Norm Dicks Center, Bremerton.


Kitsap Food Co-op Hosts Public Meeting

Wednesday, February 18th, 2009

I saw that Kitsap Food Co-op, group was hosting another public meeting about their efforts this Saturday (Feb. 21), and thought it would be a good time to catch up with how they’re doing.

The group has been working for more than a year to lay the groundwork for a community-supported and member-owned grocery store that would specialize in locally grown, natural and organic foods.

They’ve been fundraising and doing some basic market analysis since that time, and they are currently on the cusp of incorporating, said Laura Moynihan, one of the co-op organizers. Incorporation will allow them to start signing up members and collecting membership fees to help fund further progress.

They’ve decided memberships will be structured as an annual fee system —  as opposed to a large, one-time fee —  where members will get discounts and a profit refund, similar to the way REI sets up its member dividends.

The next step will be to do a feasibility study that will help them focus on where would be the smartest place to build, among other things.

“We’re still a ways off from having a physical building,” Moynihan said.

But it’s still a good time to try and start the co-op, despite the economic downturn, she said.

They may, for example, be able to take advantage of newly affordable real estate. And though the desire to save money may drive shoppers to discount grocers like Wal-Mart, having an organization that supports local foods in a down economy becomes additionally important, Moynihan said.

“When you shop at a food co-op, when you use local producers, farmers, craftspeople who shop local for feed and seed and other products,” she said. “That’s when the community really gets to hold on to its money” rather than having those dollars go to Arkansas or China.

Food Co-op members will talk more about the economy’s effect on the co-op at Saturday’s meeting.

The meeting will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at Seaside Church in Bremerton, near Evergreen Rotary Park. They’ll be talking about the economy as well as hold a silent auction for items, such as a quilt, free tree-trimming, haircut, yoga classes and other services.


Welcome to In Search of the Food Life

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Yep, you guessed it. It’s about food.

But not just any food. What you’ll find on this blog will be resources, ideas and a place to talk about food for those of us in Kitsap.

So a little bit about me: My name is Angela Dice.

I’m not a veteran food critic or a gourmet chef. What I am is a food enthusiast who loves taking photos, videos and sharing information.

Most of the happy memories in my life involved food:  Barbecues with my friends. Morning breakfast bowls of miso soup and rice with my grandma as she tells stories about life in Japan. Thanksgiving dinners where we stuffed ourselves so full of turkey and mashed potatoes that we could do nothing afterwards but lounge and joke around the dining room table just long enough for our stomachs to digest down room for one slice of pumpkin pie.

So I’ve set myself on the path to making better meals for my friends and family, learning from people and places around Kitsap, Seattle and surrounding areas, and sharing what I learn along the way. I’ll be joined on occasion by other Sun bloggers.

So with that said, I hope you’ll join me on this journey, and I look forward to sharing what I find and hearing from you. Always wanted to learn how a local food expert made something? I can’t promise to get the answer, but I’ll ask for you. Feel free to treat me like your personal scout.

You can reach me via e-mail at adice@kitsapsun.com or call me at 360-415-2673.


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About This Blog

The Food Life covers people, place and events involved in the food community on the Kitsap Peninsula and surrounding areas.
Written by Angela Dice. You can contact me at angela [at] angeladice.com.

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