One of my job perqs is getting invited to restaurant and food store openings. Since I love to try new flavors and food combinations, I am truly thankful for these opportunities. My favorite restaurant opening this year was our local Da Via’s. It’s a fast, casual eatery carrying Italian street food that is customized for you and prepared before your eyes as you walk through their line making your selections. Along with a variety of Pasta Bowls and Tossed Salads, Da Via’s specialty is the Piada, a flatbread stuffed with market fresh ingredients and homemade sauces that has been prepared since the time of Romans. Everything I’ve eaten there is tasty, and based upon that fact alone I would patronize their restaurant when I’m in the area.
But what I liked best about it, and the reason I’ll drive out of my way to eat at Da Via, is that they planned their opening in collaboration with a charitable organization. Its representatives were front and center, and their cause is a good one: helping food insecure families with young children to eat enough nutritious food.
That’s my motto, and the name of a wonderful charitable organization that empowers families at risk of hunger with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to make healthy and affordable meals. With the help of volunteer culinary and nutrition experts, course participants learn how to select nutritious and low-cost ingredients and prepare them in ways that provide the best nourishment possible to their families. Since 1993, Cooking Matters has grown to serve more than 11,000 families each year across the country, helping them learn how to eat better on a budget. They don’t feed the community—they teach the community to feed itself.
I met my local Cooking Matters representatives at the Da Via opening and was so touched by our conversation that I just had to write about them. Talking about the people she’s had the opportunity to educate, Karen Kierath told me, “It’s not about what they know, it’s about what they’re willing to take from us and we’re grateful for whatever they can or will take.” Her partner in this endeavor, Marcia Rafig, said, “We get to see those ah-ha moments.”
Would you like to see an ah-ha moment? I guarantee it will make your year. Contact your local Cooking Matters office to feel the joy of cooking that truly matters.
Moo Cluck Moo
If you’ve heard of Detroit-area Moo Cluck Moo you’re probably wondering why I would be thankful for a fast-food restaurant specializing in burgers, fries, and breaded chicken—all the sinful pleasures I harp about avoiding. One reason is that I openly admit to occasionally treating myself to things I know I shouldn’t eat. Another is that they do carry “skinny” versions of their offerings. But the main reason Moo Cluck Moo makes my list is that they sync with my old-fashioned belief from what I call “the Golden Years of Human Resource Management” that paying workers a livable wage is not only the right thing to do on a societal level, it’s the right thing to do on a business level. Making people feel that you care makes them care about you and the success of your business. I’m clucking loudly about a fast-food restaurant that pays its workers $15/hour.
And if that isn’t enough to put you in their cheering section, Moo Cluck Moo is donating a portion of their proceeds to the American Diabetes Association during the month of November.
Snack foods with healthy ingredients can be hard to find. So I was thrilled to learn about Simply 7 Snacks. The company makes products that meet these seven healthy criteria:
· 0 Grams of Trans Fat and No Cholesterol
· No Artificial Colors or Flavors
· No Additives or Preservatives
· Gluten Free Ingredients
· All Natural Recipes
· Simple Ingredients, and
The snack chips come in many flavors including varieties of pomegranate, hummus, and lentil. They are healthy, and they taste good! You can find them in time to serve for Thanksgiving nibbles at many local supermarkets and specialty food stores.
How do I love Costco? Let me count the ways. They carry high quality, delicious food products so I can find the perfect items there to meet just about any culinary need. I graze on free samples while I shop, and their stores are staffed with employees who like to help customers! That in itself is a refreshing change from my all-too-often experience of feeling that I am putting retail shop employees out by asking them to sell me something.
On another level I love Costco because they do all of the things I learned were important and sound business practices way back in my masters degree program. They pay their employees well. They train their employees to provide good customer service. They give back to the community. They provide health benefits to both full and part-time staff, stock purchase plans, and a 401K that matches 50 cents on the dollar. And it shows! I’ve seen the same employees and customers there over the several years Costco stores have been in my local area. Their people are happy and friendly, and they make me happy to shop there, too. Well played, Costco.
Thanks to my five favorite food organizations for making my food experiences pleasant in 2013. And thank you to my readers for taking the time to read my posts and make a comment now and then.
Photo Courtesy of rakratchada torsap / Free Digital Photos