retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The New York Times has an interview with Jenn Louis, chef-owner at Lincoln and Sunshine Tavern in Portland, Oregon, in which, among other things, she talks about whether to choose organic or local foods.

“If you eat in season, it’s going to be healthier for you,” she tells the Times. “It’s going to be higher in nutrients. I don’t have a garden, but if I had a garden and I went out and picked some kale to have for dinner, every minute that it’s out of the ground, it’s losing nutrients. It’s losing flavor, because the sugars change. So when I’m trucking something up from Chile in the middle of winter, it’s not going to have the best flavor, nor will it be as nutritious.”

Louis tells the Times that "she and her team strive to serve things like locally sourced chicken and lamb and rabbit at her restaurants ... If her ingredients happen to be organic, that’s lovely, but she doesn’t stridently insist on it."

Louis says that "what her business ultimately depends on is food that is full of flavor. 'I don’t think it matters, flavor-wise, if it’s organic or nonorganic,' she says."
KC's View:
I was having this conversation with someone the other day who wondered a) did I think organic food was just a fad, and b) how come I don't write more forcefully one way or the other about the organic debate.

In the case of "a," my response is simple: I think that one can only entertain the possibility that organic is a fad if you believe that Whole Foods is a fad.

As for "b," I told this person that I am careful to modulate my remarks because I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other. I think there is plenty of room in the marketplace for both organic and mainstream foods, just as there is room in the market for both big agriculture and small. I don't think big agriculture is inherently evil, nor do I believe that small farmers necessarily have a moral high ground. I believe that organic food should actually be organic, and I think that people's ability to eat organic needs to be protected. And I think that by and large, the closer you are to the source of your food the better it will taste, but I also recognize that this is not always possible. Maybe this makes me wishy-washy, but I don't think so ... I just believe that the markets are big enough to allow for a broad range of offerings.

However, I will tell you this. While I was in Portland this summer, I ate at Lincoln, one of Louis's two restaurants. The food was spectacular.