Monday, January 11, 2010

Look Out--The Homemade Stuff Will Kill You

I have been meaning to post about all manner of things—from thoughts on the underwear bomber to an essay on the futility of worrying. Every time I get the germ of an idea, the “cares of the world” sweep it out of my mind, and then I seem to miss the window of relevance and bag the whole idea. But this thread of “food” posts meshes very nicely with something that happened at the café today, so I’m going to bang this one out before I lose it.

I got a call from the County Health Department today. The Health Inspector. Following up on a complaint that had been called in against us. (Let me just say for the record that we received a 100% on our last health inspection, so it’s not like there’s a whole array of glaring violations for folks to choose from around here… )

This particular complainant was concerned about our home-made baked goods, which we display under glass far away from nasty hands or sneezes. And we handle only with tissue pick-ups or tongs when serving to any guest. But how we handle the product was not the issue. The insidious means by which we are poisoning the community is—


We make our own cream cheese icing. We use butter, powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla, and a little dash of half and half to make it spreadable. What are we thinking?

Cream cheese, being a dairy product, can be categorized as a high-risk food. Which should not, by state health law, be kept for more than four hours in the “danger zone” of temperature range—that is, warmer than 41 degrees or cooler than 165 degrees. So the fact that we keep our lovely pumpkin bars, cinnamon rolls and gingerbread in our un-refrigerated pastry case is, evidently, a BIG no-no.

No matter that we have been serving these things under these conditions for three years, and no one has ever gotten sick off our cream cheese icing. Nor, because of the high sugar content of the icing, are they likely to. And it’s not like they sit in there for days. We put them out fresh each morning, and generally run out before the end of the day.

So now, we have to keep our lovely baked goods in the refrigerator, since we do not have a refrigerated display case. Sales of these wholesome made-from-scratch goodies will now dry up and blow away. Eventually we’ll probably have to stop making them altogether.

And do you know what the sad thing is?

If we used some kind of crappy, factory-made institutional white “mystery icing,” full of chemicals and preservatives and who knows what not all…

We would not be having any issue at all with the local Health Department.

Doesn’t that just make you want to scream?


marigolds2 said...

Well, yes - I AM screaming, with you, for you, loudly and protractedly. Bureaucracy is sooo much fun.

Anonymous said...

I wonder who complained and why. It would be interesting to know if it was a competitor.
That is unfortunate. I'm wondering about this though because now I'm wondering what the Starbucks iced goodies that have cream cheese icing on them are made of? I know Stabucks has some refrigerated cases though.
Are refrigerated display cases prohibitively expensive?
This sucks I can imagine.


JACKIE said...

I'd want the caller's name so I could call back and confirm their information. And I'd want to know how come the inspector who inspects your place never had a problem withe product.

This is so weird. Right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing?

sunflowerkat321 said...

I agree with Jackie. If it's such a big deal, you'd think that the inspectors would have picked up on it before.

Could you have a sample plate of your goodies in the display case, with the rest stowed in refridgerated "safety"?

Lisa :-] said...

I have my suspicions about who made the complaint. I had to tell a big noisy group that we did not allow political meetings in the restaurant--that given the contentious nature of the political climate, I could not afford to appear to be aliged with any particular party or candidate. A few days later, voila a complaint to the health department.

Not gonna say which political party these folks belonged to, but you can probably guess...

JACKIE said...

H E double toothpicks. Why am I not surprised. In the immortal words of Bill the Cat "thbttttttt"

Anonymous said...

Were there teabags involved? You don't have to answer.


emmapeelDallas said...

Well, I certainly want to scream for you! I don't have a sweet tooth, so when I get the occasional, rare craving for a something sweet, I tend to indulge it. On Sunday evening I bought a cupcake...ONE Central Market, thinking I was going to have a real treat. Unfortunately, it was gross...the cake from a mix and the icing, the factory-made white mystery icing you describe, full of chemicals (and tasting of them) and not at all what I was craving, which was simply a variation on the cream cheese icing you describe, with coconut on top. And that the Health Department was sicced on you...don't get me started...