I have been subscribing to a variety of CSA programs in the Bay Area, one per week, and will provide a comprehensive ranking at the end of ten weeks. Last week, the process with small family-owned farm Say Hay was seamless and the produce was fresh and flavorful.
SELECTING MY NINTH PRODUCE BOX
It is hard to believe this is the ninth CSA I am sampling. Up until now, I have been impressed in one way or another with every single company I have subscribed to. This week, I had some difficulty committing to a company due to the fact that several of the ones I had my eye on only had the option for a yearly subscription, such as Ananda Valley Farm and Fifth Crow.
This led me to Albert & Eve, an online marketplace that offered a variety of locally made products including nuts, breads, pastas, meats, and of course, produce boxes. Named after two of the founders of modern organic farming, Lord Albert Howard and Lady Eve Balfour, Albert & Eve’s goals include supporting companies who cultivate soil that is free from synthetic chemicals and who do not use industrial farming methods that end up causing destruction to our earth.
THE WEBSITE EXPERIENCE
The website interface is set up like an online marketplace, with a wide variety of pantry, meat, and produce items sourced from local brands. There are tons of awesome options available. I had my eye on a few pastas and a miso paste. Albert & Eve partnered with Agricultural Land Based Association (ALBA), a non-profit that provides farm workers and low-income individuals the resources and education they need to start their own organic farm business. It is nice to know that by supporting Albert & Eve, one is able to contribute directly to the education of future organic farmers.
Albert & Eve distributes goods throughout the Bay Area via home delivery. I chose my delivery spot and started to build my produce box for my Albert & Eve review.
Farm Box Type:
Fruit & Veg Box
Small: 2 fruits + 4 vegetables
Medium: 3 fruits + 6 vegetables
Large: 4 fruits + 8 vegetables
Twice a Month
Just One Time
I chose a small fruit & veg box which totaled $27.50.
I had a bit of trouble setting up a new account on the website; some aspect was faulty and I kept getting rerouted to the homepage when I tried to check out. I emailed customer service who responded back to me within 12 hours. He provided me with his phone number. From there he set me up with a new account and processed my order on the spot. I was very pleased.
Once my account was live, I was able to customize my box by making one-for-one substitutions for the fruits and vegetables. I swapped apples for mangos as well as kale and lettuce for yellow onions and potatoes. I immediately received a confirmation email listing the six produce items that I would receive as part of my delivery for my Albert & Eve review.
The delivery went off without a hitch. I asked the customer service representative the time window that I should expect my delivery to take place, and the drop off did in fact take place during that time.
I placed the bag of produce on my table and started to unpack it. Since I spent time customizing my order, I knew exactly what I was going to find. I pulled out the order form, and each and every item seemed to be accounted for - there was a checkmark next to each item, checked off by an Albert & Eve staff member to confirm those items had been added to complete my order. The company even threw in a complimentary head of red leaf lettuce since I had a difficult time operating the broken website when I ordered my box.
Sadly, the broken website was only a premonition of a slew of unfortunate events that took place once I received my order.
To recap, I confirmed the below when I placed my order:
1 pint strawberries
organic Roma tomatoes
organic Russet Potatoes - one pound
organic yellow onions - one pound
What I received was:
1 pint strawberries, molded
1 conventional mango (I could tell because the sticker that was placed on the outside of the fruit began with a number 4)
5 organic Roma tomatoes
1 small bunch organic broccolini
head of red leaf lettuce
At this point I was thoroughly confused. I should have received seven different types of produce (including the complimentary head of lettuce that Albert & Eve graciously gave to me), but I instead was given an extremely incomplete order. I then emailed the customer service representative once more. He was very apologetic over email, and told me that he would refund me for the missing onions and potatoes. When I told him I received one conventional mango as part of my order, he seemed embarrassed. He told me that when they ran out of mangos, they stopped by the grocery store to pick up a few. He said that they should have not been the conventional type. Strange nonetheless. I also told him about the molded strawberries. He thanked me for the feedback and assured me that this would not happen again.
As I reflected upon this experience, I thought that perhaps their CSA program did not take precedence over their organic goods store. But the CSA ordering page was also the Albert & Eve homepage, so the produce boxes had to have been an important focus for their business!
PREPARING THE FOOD
I had some difficulty preparing the food that I received for my Albert & Eve review, mainly because two items never showed, one had mold, and one was a conventional mango that looked like it was about to rot. I managed to throw together one salad, using an almond butter and tahini based dressing that is quite satisfying!
MEAL #1: RED LEAF LETTUCE SALAD WITH ALMOND BUTTER-TAHINI DRESSING
I grabbed a handful of red leaf lettuce, cut the bottom off, and laid down the leaves. On top of that, I diced up broccolini and a Roma tomato, with a few parsley leaves and chives sprinkled on top of the greens. For the dressing, I whipped up a vegan and oh-so-creamy dressing consisting of equal parts almond butter and olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt and pepper. I thinned my dressing out with a bit of warm water until it reached the consistency I preferred. For me, this type of dressing really makes a salad worth eating (they can be quite monotonous to consume, in my opinion)!
I must say, I was extremely disappointed in my experience with Albert & Eve. I was so excited to work with them because I found their mission statement and web store very intriguing, filled with purpose, direction, and amazing food options sourced from a variety of small, local brands.
What I received instead was a completely sub-par produce box filled with missing items, conventionally replaced food, and molded fruit. This is the first time throughout my review process that I would wholeheartedly not recommend a produce delivery service. It seems as if Albert & Eve still has some sorting out to do in order to nail down a functional and reliable process.
Check out my full ranking page found here!
**Thursday, June 14th, 2018, UPDATE: Albert & Eve customer service dropped off a bag of produce the following week. The bag was so impressive and included a ton of fresh and beautiful fruits and vegetables, including strawberries, white nectarines, potatoes, broccoli, onions, spinach, chard, and more. I was very grateful that they followed up in the way that they did. I would definitely give Albert & Eve's service another shot!
DECEITFUL (REPLACED ITEMS WITH CONVENTIONAL STORE BOUGHT)
DELIVERED ROTTEN PRODUCE
SUPPORT LOCAL FOOD ARTISANS
WIDE VARIETY OF FOOD PRODUCTS AVAILABLE
TIMELY CUSTOMER SERVICE