Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Order Local - Order Arrives

Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks

Just yesterday I was saying that a Chicago based localvore needs to set aside and preserve to maintain local year round eating. Luckily, there are some options to enhance and supplement the larder. I was glad when a commenter got me to explore Irv and Shelly's Fresh Picks. Here waiting on my computer was a source for certain local foods in the worst time of year. I made an order.

The lettuce, which I'll get back to, obscures some of the order. Essentially, I ordered everything they had last week advertised as local.
  • Boston lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Horseradish
  • Cremini mushrooms
  • Red cabbage
  • Burdock root
  • Arugula
  • Brussel sprouts (outta stock)
  • Limes (I needed a dollar's worth of something to push my bill over the $35 minimum)

When I first went through the stuff, I was mostly happy. The advertised six ounces of arugula looked like about 10 ounces--I mean it was a generous pour. My wife on the other hand, grr'd a bit at the carrots; she has a thing against chubby carrots. Actually, we both grr'd a bit at the horseradish, because, here instead of chubby, it was about six pencils of horseradish. We've never seen horseradish this skinny, and this was a bit galling because the site does not include an image of the horseradish. Still, it seemed A-OK. It was only after we examined the enclosed invoice that our grr turn more to growl.

As I have advertised before, our family is not one of extreme. We do not eat from within 100 miles, nor do we make sure that everything that goes in our mouths is local. I mean our order included limes for Pete's sake. Our rules are, however, that if it grows around here, then we will only eat it from local sources. It turns out that that generous helping of arugula and those healthy heads of lettuce came from somewhere, not here, not local, as recorded on the invoice and confirmed by Shelly in an e-mail. We aint gonna toss the produce, but we did feel a bit gypped. After the peril we went through to get local in Madison a few weeks ago, we expected a soft landing from Fresh Picks.

I'm not too angry though. Soft landing is good. How unhappy can I be with a source that delivers local, at least some local to my house in the middle of February. Really. Take away the lettuce and arugula, and it is still a robust inventory of local this time of year.* It beats the heck out what's local at Whole Foods. Shelly mentioned in her e-mail that I can stipulate in my order form that I only want local, so no trayf accidentally shows up at my door. I'd also say, that overall, I prefer market shopping. It's not just looking over the carrots and horseradish; it's that interaction with the vendors and shoppers and French Nuns. That's what got me into eating local. Yet, the markets only go so far this time of year, and Fresh Pick's serves a very needed need. I will surely order again, soon.

A word on price, local and organic food is not particularly cheap, e.g., $2.75/lb for carrots. Fresh Pick's prices are about in line for what one would pay at a farmer's market or Whole Foods, give or take, depending on the product. There is a $35 minimum order, at least to Oak Park, which I did not find unreasonable, and was a bit surprised that I had to lime to reach. The delivery charge was $5.50 to Oak Park, which, again, I did not find unreasonable. Cheap as the hotel we found via Hot Wire in Madison, it was more than $5.50.

*I did not buy quite everything local on their site last week. Other local products available were potatoes, a few kinds, and various sprouty-micro things.

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