Monday, September 1, 2014

Eat At Thai 2 … Or Not

January 9, 2010 9:37 pm by: 10 Comments

Consider this entry part eating notes—part rant. And maybe you devout locavores out there can help clear up some confusion.

Let’s start with the restaurant at hand. Eat at Thai 2 (225 Ponce de Leon #100, Decatur Tel: 404.963.0190) opened New Year’s Day in the bright slot formerly occupied by Thai Me Up, a cleverly named Thai restaurant whose sign over the door lured customers in—only to see the malevolent kitchen chase them off.

According to a very recent Thrilist.com email alert, Eat At Thai 2’s “whole damn menu, which retains only the prime dishes from the original’s, is locally sourced, drawing meat & produce from Decatur and fresh seafood from Lawrenceville.”

A bit skeptical, possibly because I’m sharp enough to know there isn’t an ocean in Lawrenceville, I asked our server, “So, the meat and produce is all locally sourced?”

“We buy every day,” he replied with a confused look on his face before quickly marching off towards the kitchen.

Needless to say, service is flighty.

Unfortunately, the food during our visit didn’t fare much better.

In fact, judging by the food we consumed, I believe the kitchen might be taking shortcuts in the sourcing department. Fish cakes, though thoughtfully arranged on a plate, were rubbery as if the flimsy prefab frozen stuff. Coconut soup was too watery and fried spring rolls arrived utterly characterless like the scary mass produced versions you find in the frozen section of your local grocery store.

A small bowl of Panang curry was overly sweet and oddly pasty—so many other Thai restaurants in this city over the past 5 years or so have advanced to the more skillfully house-prepared velvety curries and silky coconut soups.

Not a single ingredient—vegetable or meat—I ate possessed that distinct farm fresh taste.

I could keep going and get more in-depth, but I feel this restaurant is far too new to be totally raked over the coals, so let’s switch gears for a moment.

My main reason for visiting the restaurant was to experience farm-to-table Thai cuisine. But I didn’t exit the building feeling like that happened. In defense of Eat At Thai 2 and its owners, nowhere on the menu or in the restaurant, do they claim to serve “locally sourced” ingredients. Remember, I only saw the words “locally sourced” used in a Thrillist.com email announcing the restaurant’s arrival.

In an attempt to get to the bottom of things, I phoned the restaurant twice since my meal there, but was denied any answers due to language barriers.

I fear the owners of Eat At Thai 2 are confused by the definition of “locally sourced.” I don’t blame them. Nobody seems to have a concrete definition, even though the phrase has become widely used in restaurants here in Atlanta and around the country—and there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the marketing claims.

Some chefs and their marketing teams are quick to deem themselves farm-to-table (or, locally sourced) because they locally source arugula for the lone sandwich on the menu, while others are better stewards of the cause—and put a healthy variety of locally raised ingredients to work on any given night.

With all these discrepancies, how are “we the eaters” supposed to make sense of it all?

Stumped, I called on expert Karen Adler, a longtime veteran of the green foods movement.

“There is no regulation around this, as there is with organic,” explains Adler. “It is buyer beware.”

As a rule, I habitually quiz my servers as to which farms certain meats and produce are being sourced and I must say, the staffs at most genuine “farm-to-table” restaurants around the city—are surprisingly well versed in regards to where the food they peddle nightly comes from.

Still, I won’t pretend to have a concrete definition myself as to what is—and isn’t—farm-to-table, or “locally sourced.”

On the bright side, rumors are swirling of some type of certification for all this to be put into play in the very near future.

Until then, I guess we just have to dig our way through the local manure on our own.

Eat At Thai 2 … Or Not Reviewed by on . Consider this entry part eating notes—part rant. And maybe you devout locavores out there can help clear up some confusion. Let’s start with the restaurant at h Consider this entry part eating notes—part rant. And maybe you devout locavores out there can help clear up some confusion. Let’s start with the restaurant at h Rating: 0

Comments (10)

  • kimmie

    Ditto. Sad that it’s become such a marketing ploy.

  • pizza_guru

    AMEN!!

  • AlanB

    I know for fact some chefs are scamming people by falsely claiming to use “organic” and “locally grown” products. Good to know the restaurant in this case wasn’t intentionally deceitful. Also good to know that regulations might be on the way. Thanks for the read!

  • jasonriedy

    Oh no, please no. Regulating the language at this point will have nasty, unintended consequences. “Local” will end up meaning it’s unpacked or prepared locally, similar to the bizarre “Florida-squeezed” on Tropicana orange juice. Let it ride for a bit, and keep on pressuring the restaurants to know from where their food comes.

  • Tom

    Jason, I agree with you that regulation is a slippery slope, but I still believe we need to at least come up with some universal definition as to what constitutes “farm-to-table” or “locally sourced”—whether that be a percentage of products a restaurant uses, or something else.

  • kimmie

    I agree with Tom. A universal definition would be helpful!

  • ryan

    if it tastes good, who cares?

  • kimmie

    But it didn’t taste good. ;)

  • Tom

    This article has apparently sparked controversy and some are getting carried away.

    I’m definitely not calling for federal regulations, I believe the feds should stay out of my wallet, out of my bedroom and off my plate.

    I do, however, feel we need some kind of universal definition that we can all go by. And those restaurants who are genuinely “farm-to-table” and operate under the definition, can get some sort of stamp of approval from a small local organization like Georgia Organics or Slow Food Atlanta.

    Is that so bad?

  • jasonriedy

    Up in Appalachia, there’s the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project ( http://www.asapconnections.org/ ). They publish a guidebook and support a labeling system for Appalachian grown food used in supermarkets. There’s no labeling of restaurants, but those folks are quick to claim the source of foods in their menu when (economically) possible.

    In many ways, it’s easier up there. The population is smaller and word of mouth is effective. I’m not sure any stamp of approval here will have a significant impact. Restaurants *may* receive a bump from a listing somewhere, but I doubt any restaurant will stay in business long if they restrict their ingredients too much. Even Kingsolver’s Harvest Table in SW Virginia uses non-local food (e.g. wheat).

    I do like the idea of listings and guides, but I doubt if restaurants will pledge to hard numbers. I’d be happy if they labeled individual ingredients.

    Pulling out of agricultural monoculture is going to be a slow boot-strapping process. Organizational labels and guides may help, but it won’t be quick… I have a feeling people should look at this as a carrot (better advertising) than a stick (strong requirements).

    Also, a strict definition will be terribly difficult. Consider wheat. It doesn’t grow *everywhere*, but it does save and preserve wonderfully. Where do we draw the line?

    (but I’m rambling and procrastinating, so I’ll move along now ;) )

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