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Where’s that from?

July 7, 2009

Last night, my family and I went out to eat here in Dublin, OH.  We chose a place we’ve frequented a few times before, Oscar’s Restaurant and Wine Bar in “downtown” Dublin on High Street.  Oscar’s is known for having good food, wine, and service, all at a respectable price point.  Our family hasn’t really ever had a bad experience there, and to boot, I can’t recall hearing negative feedback from anyone else I know about their experience at Oscar’s either.  Thus, Oscar’s appears to be an all-around well-run restaurant that consistently delivers quality to it’s patrons.

One of the appetizers on their menu is a flash-fried oyster tostada.  A tostada, at the most basic, fundamental level, is essentially a tortilla chip with something on top of it (in this case, a fried oyster.)  I tried my first oysters last summer while on Cape Cod, and they have easily and quickly become one of my favorite things to eat.  Having a great affinity for oysters now, I inquired as to where the oysters on the tostada were from, as the summer months are generally not prime oyster season.  The waitress was not sure, so I took her up on her offer to ask the kitchen where the bi-valves hailed from.

An example of what a fried oyster tostada could look like.  This particular variation uses crisp yuca chips as opposed to tortilla and looks delicious.

An example of what a fried oyster tostada could look like. This particular variation uses crisp yuca chips as opposed to tortilla and looks delicious.

She returned, and much to my dismay, informed me that no one in the kitchen knew where the oysters had come from.  Not one person in the entire restaurant knew where they were from.

I have a serious problem with this, and likely won’t ever go back to Oscar’s.  In the era of sustainability and locavore-ism we’ve now entered, it is, to me, beyond inexcusable for a restaurant not to know where their product is coming from.  How can you know you’re selling a quality item if you don’t know anything about it?  Especially when it comes to seafood!  Obviously, certain parts of the country have better seafood than others, so it’s imperative to know where the product is coming from.  It’s also, in my opinion, impossible to justify the nine dollar price tag of this particular appetizer because without knowing where it’s from it’s really hard to determine how good it is, and then, consequently, it’s worth.

Call me a food snob or whatever other names you choose, but this is a serious issue.  In the last five years we’ve had outbreaks of two different flu strains from animals (H5N1 avian flu, and H1N1 swine flu).  What if there happened to be a massive outbreak of food-borne illness in oysters from a particular area, yet Oscar’s were to leave their oysters on the menu because they don’t know where their from, thus they cannot determine if their product has been exposed to disease, and then, consequently, customers run an extremely high risk of falling ill.  Consider further that this hypothetical “oyster flu” we’re to become an airborne illness.  Every single thing in the walk-in with the oysters could become infected.  Then, there’s nothing, not one single thing, on the menu at Oscar’s that’s safe to eat.

Now, I know the example I just provided of an oyster flu epidemic is ridiculous; I have no idea if that’s something that could ever happen, but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s close to impossible.  However, if you take that same logic and apply it to say, avian flu (which can be contracted from eating chicken), and the situation becomes much more dire and important.  So my point isn’t that you need to be scared of eating chicken or shellfish for fear of becoming gravely ill, it’s that restaurants need to do a much, MUCH better job of holding themselves accountable for what they’re selling.  But then again, what do I know?  I’m just the paying customer who keeps the dining establishment in business.

accountability

On a slightly different note but continuing with the theme of knowing your product, I want to share this video I saw on abc.com a few weeks ago.  It’s about Chipotle, and how they are attempting to become, literally, the world’s greatest fast food chain.  The video is about their pork products in particular, where they come from, and why what their selling is better than any other fast-casual restaurant in America.

Here’s the link to the Chipotle story.  I highly reccommend watching it.

http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=7857921

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Teddy Epstein permalink
    July 19, 2009 10:03 am

    Ryan – I like your point. It’s very important to know where your seafood comes from, as even the smallest amount can easily cause food poisoning. Also, you know I love Chipotle and I’m ready to go the on the journey with Steve Ells.

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