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Food and drink

Couple of stories from the eastern part of the commonwealth this week.

Here’s an unhappy thought: If you bought crabmeat at a Hampton Roads grocery store a few years back or went to a seafood restaurant thinking you were going to get some tasty fresh crab on a plate, guess again.

A story first reported by The Daily Press tells the sad truth: A well-known crab processing company in Newport News was selling phony fresh crab.

Casey’s Seafood mixed cheap foreign “distressed” crab from all over – Indonesia, Brazil, Thailand and Vietnam among other places – with Chesapeake blue crab, then labeled it “product of USA.”

It goes without saying that any crab that knows it’s going to end up on a plate is going to be “distressed.”

But it’s plenty distressing to think that some of this old foreign crabmeat, some of it nearing a sell-by date, is being passed off as the real deal.

The feds had been watching Casey’s; the owner, James Casey, pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsely label the crabmeat as fresh Chesapeake blue crab.

Here’s a law I bet you never covered in law school: He was charged with violating the Lacey Act, which prohibits the false labeling of fish and wildlife. Casey is looking at up to five years in prison when he gets sentenced in January.

The government said that Casey’s sold about 360,000 pounds of the falsely labeled meat during a three-year span, from 2012 to 2015. All that crab was worth $4.3 million at wholesale prices in Virginia, Maryland and other states up and down the Atlantic Coast.

I hate to say it: You’ll never look at that crabcake you order quite the same again.

While Crabscam was going down in Norfolk, Kombucha-gate was afoot in Chesapeake.

On Sept. 23, a guy named Sid Tatem planned a day out with his two grandsons. They visited his dad’s grave in North Carolina, then went to a park in Chesapeake for a picnic, according to The Virginian-Pilot.

Tatem pulled out a couple of jars of home-brewed kombucha, a Chinese tea that is fermented and is touted for its healthy qualities. It also has a little bit of alcohol in it, from the fermentation.

Kombucha with alcohol levels below the state definition of alcoholic beverage is sold in stores.
Tatem and the boys were enjoying lunch when Mr. Park Ranger sidles up and demands to know what they were drinking.

Kombucha, Tatem explained, adding that it might have a little alcohol in it.

Mr. Ranger didn’t like that. He demanded they dump their drinks and get the hell out of Dodge, or at least Northwest River Park in Chesapeake.

Tatem complied, perhaps thinking, “I’ve been thrown out of better places than this.”

Give the last word to Trey Haislip, age 14 and one of Tatem’s grandsons. He has been brewing kombucha at school for a science project endorsed by his teacher.

As he told the Pilot’s reporter, “My grandfather puts a lot of expensive ingredients in his kombucha. He buys candied ginger and imported tea. He’s really into making the stuff.”

He added, “My main goal is just trying to spread awareness so that no one else has to pour out something they worked hard for.”