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Table Talk: Low grocery inventory brings woes, but patience is needed
 
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Target Memphis Central customer Aggie Gaddy wears a face mask as she shops among depleted grocery aisles March 19, 2020. The supply chain is disrupted again because so many people are missing work due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)
 

Target Memphis Central customer Aggie Gaddy wears a face mask as she shops among depleted grocery aisles March 19, 2020. The supply chain is disrupted again because so many people are missing work due to the Omicron variant of COVID-19. (Mark Weber/Daily Memphian file)

Welcome back to Table Talk, where Daily Memphian food and dining editor Jennifer Biggs sends the latest food news (along with a dash of this and that) to your inbox every Wednesday.

Another Wednesday, another Table Talk, another 16,255 cases of COVID reported in Shelby County and seven more days of spotty grocery shelves.

If you’ve shopped for any food at all, you’ve no doubt left the grocery store with items still not crossed off your list and your wallet more than a little lighter. I didn’t buy them, but king crab legs were $70 per pound at Sprouts last weekend. Who would possibly pay that price? It’s more than double what was considered normal — and a splurge even then — pre-pandemic.

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That was my sticker shock moment, which didn’t affect me at all as — did I mention? — I wouldn’t pay that. And I live alone so I’m feeding one; if I want to spend $6 per half-gallon (which isn’t even a half-gallon, but 57 ounces) for the milk I like in my protein shakes, I can do it. At least theoretically. First I have to find it, something I haven’t been able to do for the last week or so.

The produce department at Kroger on Mendenhall and Aldi on Summer were ravaged on Saturday, as they’ve often been lately. Whole Foods only had a skimpy piece of the fish I wanted and the next day had none at all, though the fishmonger was expecting a shipment that morning.

Even the produce was a bit thinned out at Whole Foods, though in that area I’ve found it and Sprouts well above the other groceries around me. I even discovered pineberries at Sprouts this week, which look like white strawberries and were pretty pricey at $5.99, but not in king crab territory. I knew my granddaughter would like them, was right about that, and tried to restock on Monday but they were out at Sprouts and The Fresh Market.

 

Pineberries were an impulse purchase when many desired items were unavailable. (Jennifer Biggs/Daily Memphian)

My thoughts are that everyone is short-staffed, and that my problems are few, my life blessed. I can afford my groceries and with prices up as they are, many are struggling. That’s a whole other topic.

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The supply chain is disrupted again because so many people are missing work because of Omicron. You can’t get fish in the store if the warehouse hundreds of miles away is closed because of COVID. And it’s more important to keep cartons of affordable milk in stock than a product that only takes up one or two rows when it’s fully stocked.

Grocers want inventory. It’s their business to sell food, and it’s our responsibility right now to understand they’re trying. But the inconvenience of driving to four stores for four items and coming home with two is frustrating. (One trip could’ve been saved by someone simply taking my call instead of hanging up twice.) It’s worth mentioning that on my weekend Costco trip, the shelves were full and that I didn’t go to Superlo, my usual store, so I can’t speak to the selection there.

Rant over, but my last word on this is that I really want a grocery that sells everything I need, a place I can get it all, within reason. I have high expectations for Hy-Vee; fingers crossed.

Moving on:

Scott Donnelly, formerly of The Brass Door, The Grove Grill and other places around town as well as The Ritz-Carlton and other places in Atlanta, is the new executive chef at The Memphian. For our recipe this week, he shares his version of my absolute favorite dessert, crème brûlée. Soon he’ll make his mark on menus at the Complicated Pilgrim and Tiger and Peacock in the Overton Square hotel.

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Scott Donnelly, executive chef at The Memphian. (Submitted)

If you missed it, here’s a happy story about a nice big check going to RedZone Ministries from Chick-fil-A True Inspiration Awards. The $150,000 grant will go toward the Opportunity Zone, a community resource center CEO Howard Eddings plans to have open in August. 

I had a fine lunch at Pho 4 Ever in Cordova last week, on a day when a scattering of snow closed some other places on my list. It was only by chance I ended up there, but I thoroughly enjoyed it; give it a try. 

 

Bun bo Hue comes with a plate of add-ins that include shaved curls of banana flower; the banh mi is a traditional Vietnamese sandwich. (Jennifer Biggs/Daily Memphian)

Finally, if you want tickets to Friday’s Science of Beer, better jump on it. The VIP tickets are gone and only a handful of general admission tickets remain. Read about it, then on Thursday listen to Sound Bites at 11 a.m. on WXYR 91.7 or find it on our website; I talk to Jared Bulluck with MoSH and Maggie Emerson of Hook Point Brewing in Collierville.

Stay safe, stay calm, and think of better days to come. Browse seed sites online (I have pineberries coming). On a non-food note, I’ve jumped on the Wordle wagon and start my days with a fun word puzzle that only takes a few minutes. Warning: Could lead to playing The New York Times Spelling Bee, which will take your every free moment from morning to night. Beware the Bee. 

 
 
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