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Smith Family Farms Beef -- Experiences?

I just got back from the Old Town Alexandria farmer's market. Smith Family Farms is now going there weekly to test it out. I love them, and their smaller-sized portions are convenient for a single beef-lover. They've never steered me wrong -- all the products I've tried, the liver, chicken, eggs, and various steaks have been nothing short of fantastic. They even gave me over a pound of beef heart for free to see how I like it, and are always helpful with recipes and vastly knowledgeable about the product in general.

However, I asked for the filet mignon today, and they told me that "the filet is the mock tender." Obviously, I wasn't paying enough attention and took them, though I thought something was off (side conversations, short attention span). Did they steer me wrong, or is this just an oversight on their part? I thought they were reputable, but some quick googling shows otherwise. I was planning on grilling these, but now I have to hit up Whole Foods (shudder) for a proper filet. Anyone have experience with these guys, or other beef producers that can give me insight as to what happened? They were my go-to for beef, and I really want to like them, but not if they're operating in less-than-reputable ways.

Thanks so much, Chowhounds!

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  1. Are you talking about Smith Meadows out of Berryville?

    1 Reply
    1. re: shabulover

      No, it's Smith Family Farms from Gainesville, VA...

    2. did they charge you what you would expect to pay for filet mignon? that might be a clue as to whether the problem was your inattentiveness or their business practice.

      also, what does that mean, "the filet is the mock tender"? the filet mignon is from the tenderloin, but i don't get what they were saying.. did you ask them what they meant in saying that about the "mock tender"?

      1. "mock tender" is butcher term for a chuck roast that has been cut to look like a filet or a beef tenderloin. I REALLY hope you didnt pay too much for this! :(

        1. hey, i just noticed link 930 has this same topic running over at the "general chowhounding topics" as "beef dilemma". what gives?

          op, you say over there you paid premium angus beef price for this mock tender? how much?

          did it LOOK like filet to you? if they were trying to pass it off, why would they TELL you it was mock tender?

          i just hate to see someone's reputation sullied if there is just a simple misunderstanding.

          10 Replies
          1. re: alkapal

            Just got impatient when I didn't see responses on this board (which I did say in the other post). They listed "tenderloin or filet mignon" at $18.99 per lb., and that's what I paid.

            What has me scratching my head is that they didn't say "all we have is mock tender," or anything along those lines. It was "the filet *is* the mock tender." This was after the first person who was helping me couldn't find it, and had to call someone else over to help. I couldn't get a close look at the beef until I opened it up since there were labels on both sides of the package.

            I'm definitely not trying to sully anyone's reputation (ref: paragraph 1), and mentioned that I should have been paying more attention. At the same time, I'm not a beef expert, and know that some cuts are labeled with different names; just wanted some input on what went on since I trust these guys.

            1. re: link_930

              please let us know how they respond when you talk to them about the situation. that is a heckuva lotta dough for "mock tender"! now you have some ammo to confront them about their gross misrepresentation -- and gross overcharge. let them know we here on chow are ALL waiting to see how they practice business!

              1. re: link_930

                Whoa! Sounds like what happened was miscommunication, NOT misrepresentation. Especially since this is a vendor you've been dealing with and have been happy with.
                You told one person what you wanted. Filet. That person couldn't find it and then he told someone else you wanted a filet. The second person had a "filet" which is another name used for mock tender by some people. http://www.recipetips.com/glossary-te...
                You don't have to be a beef expert but it is helpful at farmers' markets to know a bit more about cuts of beef than if you're dealing with a butcher shop or grocery store. Farmers use a lot of inexact terminology and the words vary in different areas of the country, so you can't always be sure what you're getting without some conversation and a little background on cuts of meat.
                I'm sure if you explain what happened, they'll do right by you, especially since you're a regular customer.

                1. re: MakingSense

                  making sense, was it person #1 or person #2 who charged him $18.99/# ?

                  1. re: alkapal

                    Heaven only knows. It somehow got lost in translation. She asked for "filet" and the was charged the price listed on the board for "filet," although the "filet" was a different type of "filet.
                    Basic problem: some of these guys are clerks, some are farmers. Probably none are trained butchers.
                    In VA, farmers have to take their animals to a USDA-approved facility for slaughter. Then the carcasses are broken down and the individual cuts are cryovaced for sale at farmers' markets. They aren't allowed to sell them any other way. The farmers likely don't do the butchering themselves. They take the word of the butchers for what cuts are which. Granted that the farmers likely know more than the average bear about their meat, but there is a great deal of similarity in the appearance of boneless cuts of raw meat. Add to that the confusion that comes from hired help and the busy sales environment of a farmers' market and some confusion is highly possible.
                    I doubt that the vendor was trying to cheat the purchaser. It's much more likely a combination of communication breakdown and simple confusion between similar-looking hunks of raw meat.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      that is what i originally thought. and maybe that is indeed the case. we shall see....

                      1. re: alkapal

                        That's why I really like going to the butcher shop where I can see the whole piece of meat and talk to the butcher. I know what I'm getting and can get it cut the way I want. But then I've been dealing with butchers my whole life.
                        I find it very hard to buy meat in little plastic packages at farmers' markets.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          i'm looking for a good butcher. where do you go, making sense?

                          1. re: MakingSense

                            Me too! That would be great! Having grown up as the daughter of mom-and-pop proprietors, I love patronizing independent businesses.

                            Having said that, I've actually had some luck at Wegman's and my local Giant (Rt. 7, Falls Plaza) talking with the supervising butchers, who have been really helpful.

                            1. re: FoodieGrrl

                              I've been going to Union Meats at Eastern Market for years. There are quite a few places in the suburbs that are mentioned on this board frequently too.
                              FoodieGrrl is right about some of the big stores having actual butchers. Usually during the day. The stores get sub-primals that they break down and trim in-store (as opposed to case-ready meats) so they know a lot about what they're selling and can be very helpful. I've had them cut things to order on many occasions when I wasn't satisfied with what was out in the bins.
                              I really helps though if you study up from the charts and explanations in reliable cookbooks so you're speaking the same language. Once you know what you're doing, maybe the farmers' market packets wouldn't be so daunting.

              2. I'd like to think that this was miscommunication, but as far as I'm reading from the OP, here's what I gleaned. The OP asked for filet mignon. Smith couldn't find filet mignon and told the OP that "what we have is mock tender". OP was charged a whopping $18.99 for a piece of mock tender-the price for filet mignon and a full $12 more per pound than what they charge for chuck-which is what mock tender is.

                If I am understanding this correctly, I hope that the OP talks to Smith at the soonest opportunity to determine whether this was a mistake, or if Smith is trying to pass off a cheaper cut of meat as equal to filet mignon.
                BTW.....best to braise your very $$ cut of tough meat, not grill it ;-(

                1 Reply
                1. re: monavano

                  Speaking of TenderLoin, BigH has it on sale for $5.99 per pound. Of course this is the whole tender (4-6lb) and untrimmed

                2. "Did they steer me wrong"

                  No pun intended, right? :)

                  1. Everyone -- *thank you so much* for your input. I'm always too quick to write off vendors, but I'll go back this weekend to see what went on. I usually deal with the same person, but there may well have been some miscommunication this time since another was helping. Will post back! (In the meantime, I'm going to attempt a dish with this lovely... er... filet of mine ;) )

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: link_930

                      Aren't you going to take it back as "evidence"?

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Damn. You're right. Saved my skin again!

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Take it as "evidence" , and if that doesn't help, sell it as "aged filet"!

                          :-) :-) :-)

                      2. They weren't at the market when I got there at 9AM. Will try again next week. In the meantime, I got some amazing pork products from Babes in the Woods, as well as fantastic produce from other vendors. Please come next week and support these farmers!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: link_930

                          Thank for reporting back link. The farmers market in Old Town has been getting better and better. It used to be total tourist nonsense/arts and crafts, but now they're getting some serious vendors in there that I'm really getting into.


                          1. re: monavano

                            You're right, mona! I remember going there a couple of summers ago and being completely disappointed with the fact that there were 209584905834 vendors selling earrings and 2 selling produce (ok, I exaggerate). Smith Family Farms and Babes in the Wood are new additions, as of a few months ago; Maribel's Bakery has the most heavenly olive loaf and ham and cheese biscuit (I can't tell you if the latter has crack or not); the farmers from West Virginia have produce that is just unbelievable (I have their green beans and new potatoes on the stove right now); and the baklava lady has some seriously incredible goods.

                            By the way, when on houndstooth are you going to review Cheesetique? ;)

                            1. re: link_930

                              Marabel's sells amazing stuff. I'm psyched that Babes in the Woods is there too. Here's a pictorial of a really fun morning at the Old Town Market.

                              I go to Cheesetique a LOT for their cheeses and other products. I'm going to review the NEW space which should be ready some time soon. I'm very excited to see them expand.

                        2. I agree with the other people who think this sounds like an innocent misunderstanding. The whole farmer's market thing is not about ripping people off, and your good history with them underscores this. I wouldn't jump to any nefarious conclusions, likely just a case of misunderstanding.

                          1. wondering what finally happened?

                            saw "mock tender" recently at target superstore grocery in cape coral florida for $2.99/#

                            1. Thanks for the reminder. I went last week, brought it up to blank looks (they really didn't remember but apologized), gave up, and got some other beef. I hate to say this, really, but they aren't exactly business people from what I keep seeing. Great guys, but not... mathematically-minded. The person who was helping me handed me soup bones without meat when I asked for with, and beef heart when I asked for liver. Another re-calculated my order 4 times, all of them wrong and in differing amounts. Then I had to go all the way back to the market when I saw they had undercharged me $17.

                              So I could see that this really was an honest mistake. Just make sure you double-check their calculations.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: link_930

                                Yikes! Sounds like innocent errors, but so many. They should do what Cibola does: scan your package. Cibola has a scanning pen so they can keep track of what they sell, get the prices added up right, tax and whatever. Very efficient.
                                link 930...did you go back to them at the Alexandria farmers market, or another market?

                                1. re: monavano

                                  I went back to the Old Town Alexandria market, it's the closest one to me that they frequent. You're right about the Cibola method, it would be much more efficient. But that's a trade-off I'm willing to make. By the way, can you tell me more about Cibola? Which markets they attend, general prices?

                                  1. re: link_930

                                    I'm near Old Town too, but spend most of my winter farmers market $$ at Dupont, Sometimes Courthouse.
                                    Have you been to the Kingstowne Market? It's very good, but not year round. Both Cibola and Smith Meadow are at Kingstowne.
                                    Here's Cibola's Schedule.
                                    They sell buffalo, pork, chicken and goat.
                                    For realy good steak, try Eco-Friendly (Dupont). It's expensive, but a great occasional treat. I'm thinking about getting some lamb chops from them tommorow ;-)

                                2. re: link_930

                                  LOL on "not...mathematically-minded"!

                                3. I have purchased from Smith Family Farm several times. Their products are great. But, administratively, they are a complete mess. They will often list a farmer's market appearance on their online calendar, but won't show up for it. Also, they are often short on chicken and beef products when they do show up. They are very frustrating to deal with. A complete mess. Good products, terrible administration. They don't have a working phone number and apparently never check their email either.

                                  1. Have any of you tried The Butcher Block in Alexandria?