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Re-imagining meal kits and gourmet food

Another pivot I’ve enjoyed observing during the pandemic is the creation of a market / trading post being run out of restaurants. I’m sure it took a lot of agility and strategy to get these things set up, but I think it’s great that people can now purchase sauces, spices, breads, cocktail mixes, gourmet “meal kits,” frozen dumplings and more from restaurant favorites. I’ve seen this trend progress since the shutdowns, but I was reminded of it because the people behind one of my favorite neighborhood spots, Misi, recently jumped on the wagon.

Before the pandemic, Missy Robbins and her team launched MISIPASTA as a way for fans to purchase her well-known pasta dishes deconstructed. You would pick up a package from Misi that would include all the ingredients for you to make the meal at home. From what I’ve read, and also agree with and respect, Robbins firmly believes that takeout pasta can never be as good as when it’s served piping hot and fresh. Lukewarm takeout can truly be a bummer, and I’m sure many people who have been ordering takeout during the pandemic can attest to this (while still VERY MUCH appreciating all the work restaurants have put into serving their communities!). As such, her two restaurants have remained closed throughout the shutdown. Misi was actually the last restaurant I went to before everything went south in March.

Fast forward a couple of months and Robbins re-launches MISIPASTA with MP GROCERY. The group is offering a limited selection of pasta kits, groceries and wine. You simply place an order online for a specified pick-up time at Misi. The pasta kit serves four and runs $45 and, if you’re feeling adventurous, you can snag one of the “From the Garden” bags for $198 with an assortment of seasonal vegetables, herbs, cheeses, and maybe an occasional chicken! Finally, there’s the “Building your Pantry” and wine selections to round out your kitchen. I haven’t put in an order yet, but I’m intrigued by the format and if I can’t have the real thing, this appears to be a decent runner up!

In addition to Robbins, there are other restaurateurs with their own take on the market model. You may remember me writing about Greg Baxtrom of Olmsted and Maison Yaki. Not only did he start a food bank out of his restaurant, but he’s now also transformed part of his restaurant into a trading post, carrying all sorts of goodies. They have everything from hot sauces to candies, duck pastrami, fresh bread, truffle butter, cold brew, and more. It’s really quite the selection!

Danny Meyer’s famed Union Square Cafe also launched a Bottle Shop, Corner Market and Meal Kits. Danny Meyer has been pretty vocal to date that it’s going to be difficult to re-open his full service restaurants as limited capacity and make any reasonable money. So, his interim solution has been to offer simple pantry staples of wine packages, cheese and charcuterie boards, assorted pantry items and, most recently, pasta meal kits.

Beyond those three, there’s also Jeffrey’s Grocery, Hart’s, Colonia Verde, Rhodora, and more across New York City trying to make this approach viable.

While I know these pivots are a result of unprecedented times, and they are likely less than ideal, I wonder if there is actually a durable business model here and if restaurant groups will learn how to scale these initiatives long term. In my view, a lot of the heavy lifting has been done — strategy, initial supply chain and production.

The things like sauces, frozen foods, spices, etc. are easier to scale than the meal kits. However, there could be a world where these restaurants white label with a platform like Blue Apron to outsource the meal kit production. The restaurants provide the recipes, works with purveyors to source the ingredients, creates a storefront on Shopify, or with Blue Apron, that’s actually attached to the restaurant’s brand and Blue Apron handles the assembly, shipment, payment, etc., and takes a cut along the way. I am not an expert on the total overhead it would take to execute on these things, but I’ve got to imagine there’s better margin in products than brick and mortar, and they could lead to more captive investment, so these businesses could be complementary. Restaurants will need to be more durable in a post-COVID world, and if there’s a way to do these things profitably, it could be a good solution.

What do you think?

GRAND OPENING – New Restaurants During the Pandemic

In the past several weeks, more cities began slowly re-opening, which has also brought the, hopefully, careful re-opening of more food services businesses. Even if socially distanced, masked and everything else, there are moments of delight knowing you can eat outside at a restaurant during the summer months. I hope everyone continues to take precaution and acts responsibly so we don’t see large resurgences of COVID cases that would force us to take steps backward instead of forward. Unfortunately, there’s been news of that in many states, so I’ll hold my breath for now.

In prior posts, I’ve spoken a bit about the resilience and creativity of existing restaurants during these difficult times. What I haven’t yet mentioned is the bold and brave spirit of restaurateurs that have actually OPENED new restaurants amidst the pandemic. With so many businesses suffering, it takes a special team of optimists to test something new in this environment.

I’ve asked myself many times if I would have enough confidence to open a new business in a highly affected industry during a downturn, and I constantly find myself waffling. I think these business owners clearly have much for conviction and guts than I do. Many say a downturn is a great time to innovate. Think of the last financial crisis — we got Uber, Airbnb, Square, Stripe, and more. Restaurants are very different businesses. …but you get the point 🙂

Eater NY released a running list of restaurants that have opened during the pandemic, and it’s much longer than I would’ve anticipated. These restaurants deserve to be highlighted, I hope new patrons find them and I wish them the best of luck and success in the coming months.

I would love nothing more than to see this list grow, so please reach out if you have others to add from across the country, or the world!

Thoughts on eating out behind plexiglass

As the world begins to re-open more, I’ve seen more stories about what the “new normal” will be for restaurant dining. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about reopening stories from three European cities. One of those stories centered around a cafe in Germany that was handing out hats with pool noodles that guests wore to ensure they were far enough away from others. It was goofy, but highlighted how restaurant owners are all trying to adapt to the new reality of a socially-distanced society. This week, I read another story that builds on that theme, but it sheds the goof and adds a touch of refined style.

Travel + Leisure profiled a new innovation from a Paris-based designer called the Plex’Eat. This hanging shield is meant to suspend from the ceiling, like a light fixture, over a guest’s chair and provide a safe dining experience. A couple of people in my circle have shared similar articles with me this week, so this hanging “enclosure” idea appears to be picking up a bit of steam.

The brain behind the Plex’Eat is Christophe Gernigon. Gernigon has a 20+ year career in interior design/architecture and scenography, and this pandemic has clearly sparked new inspiration.

As he states on his website,

“I imagined, during my nocturnal creative wanderings of these months of confinement, a new way of welcoming customers of bars and restaurants in search of outings. Even if I hope not to get there, it is better to consider aesthetic, design and elegant alternatives that guarantee the rules of social distancing.”

Christopher Gernigon

I wish I had nocturnal creative wanderings. …sounds way better than anxiety dreams!

So, what are the specs of this Plex’Eat?

Image from Christophe Gernigon’s Instagram
  • Plexiglass material.
  • I’ll call it modern minimalist design.
  • Opening in the back to provide the guest “ease” of sitting down and standing up (I definitely imagine people still bumping into the sides and causing a stir).
  • Enough space to allow guests to reach below the shield to eat and drink “normally.”

Not as charming at the individual greenhouses with water views in Amsterdam, but probably a more realistic implementation for a wide range of restaurants globally. Again, thank goodness for minds far more creative than mine!

While functionally the Plex’Eat may very well be a good solution, the questions remains: will people actually enjoy the experience of dining with a shield around them?

For one, it may make people claustrophobic. Then there’s the dynamic of actually engaging in conversation with other people at your table whilst behind shields. It’s hard enough at times for people to hear one another in a restaurant. Add this in and people may get so frustrated that they decide to eat in silence. Another dilemma for a “food sharer” and tapas enthusiast like me — how do you share plates and pass each other food in this environment? Gernigon did release a solution to this problem with the Plex’Eat Duo, which allows two people to sit face-to-face with the shield bubbled around both of them. So, at least there’s hope for dating or enjoying a glass of wine with one friend.

Image from Christophe Gernigon’s Instagram

I haven’t even gotten into the science fiction feel of all of this, but I think that’s self-evident. …

Would I eat behind a Plex’Eat? I think I would to support local restaurants I really care about. I don’t know if I would want my first experience at a restaurant to be in that environment. I think it completely alters the experience and ambiance that’s so important for that “first time.”

But, maybe the “new normal” will be the norm for a long time. Does that mean I won’t go to a new restaurant for a year? Two years? That just seems like too sad of a thought!

What are your thoughts? What will be your line for acceptable and borderline absurd in this new world in which we find ourselves?

Off Their Plate doing its part to lift multiple boats

Image from Offtheirplate.org

In a recent post, I wrote about Jose Andres and the work his organization, World Central Kitchen, is doing to feed those in need and to support the restaurant industry. In looking for other organizations doing similar work to lift up local ecosystems, I came across a newer entrant, Off Their Plate. There’s also nice tie in to World Central Kitchen as that organization serves as a fiscal sponsor for Off Their Plate, along with CommonWealth Kitchen.

Off Their Plate is providing both meals to frontline healthcare workers and economic relief to its restaurant partners’ workers. As the organization’s website states,

“Off Their Plate began with a simple idea: rally around our communities and provide relief to tireless frontline COVID healthcare workers and impacted frontline shift employees.”

Offtheirplate.org

There’s currently a footprint in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and Washington D.C., and donors can direct funds to the communities they want to support.

It’s increasingly impressive to me that organizations like this have been able to spin up so quickly and make an impact on the communities they are serving. Off Their Plate appears to have been conceived almost over a 24-hour period by a Harvard Medical School student, with an initial launch in Boston and two chef partners. During the past 2+ months, it has already raised over $3.8 million, served over 380,000 meals provided over $1.9 million in economic relief to workers.

I’m drawn to the mission because there’s not a focus just on either frontline workers or the restaurant community. Off Their Plate lifts both, which further provides an economic impact to the cities in which it serves. It’s powered by volunteers to ensure 100% of the proceeds go towards helping these groups and >50% of the meal costs go directly to support restaurant workers. The image below is from the website and provides a representation of how everything works.

Image for Offtheirplate.org

Off Their Plate may not be able to serve every hospital or help every local restaurant worker, but it’s doing its part to be a good community citizen and serve groups who need aid during the pandemic. Another positive story of doing good during these unsettling times.

DISCLAIMER: While I provide information about charitable organizations and fundraising pages, I am not endorsing, providing recommendations or making a comment on the platforms’ efficacy. All readers should do their own due diligence should they choose to participate.

Building for the times. One restaurant’s solution to pandemic pickup.

As I kicked into writing again, I started asking people to share stories about how their favorite restaurants were being creative during the pandemic. There’s been a lot of cool stuff I’ve heard or come across by reading various news and social media outlets, some of which I’ve already written about and others to come.

One recent anecdote that made me go “WOW” came from a colleague who lives in the West Village. On a recent adventure to safely secure a sushi dinner to go, he entered Miyabi Sushi and encountered this!

Photo from Instagram

As my colleague so poignantly states, “legit impressed.” There’s so much going on here:

  • Unique. Someone, please tell me if you’ve seen a structure like this built at another restaurant. I’ve seen nothing even close.
  • Design focused. This is thoughtfully designed, aesthetically pleasing and highly functional. Note how only one side of the cabinet opens at a time. Always pay attention to the details.
  • Safety first. This approach is completely contactless, takes precautions for both staff and patrons and you’ve got the hand sanitizer.
  • …I mean. …they built this! With everything going on, the Miyabi owners put their design hats on and built something that enables them to operate more effectively in a chaotic and scary time.

Kudos! Thank you to my colleague for bringing this to light. I hope to see more innovation like this and hear other people’s neighborhood restaurant stories as the pandemic progresses.

Three tales of re-opening from across the world

As I scrolled through restaurant news this week, I came across three stories from European cities where restaurants have begun re-opening. First, it’s refreshing to see cities trying to come back to life and observe creative solutions. Second, I got a couple of chuckles, particularly from a story out of Germany, from a couple of silly, yet creative, things coming to fruition. This post will focus on Copenhagen, Amsterdam and Schwerin (a German town). I would love to hear more of these stories, so please comment if you have others to share! I’ll lead off with Copenhagen. …

Copenhagen – noma

Arguably the most famous restaurant in Copenhagen is noma. Beyond Copenhagen, it’s acclaimed as the #2 restaurant in the world. As such, it’s one of those places food enthusiasts undoubtedly have on their “bucket list” (I know I do). Prior to the pandemic, you could expect a 20-course meal that probably runs $300+ a head and an exceptional experience. I’ve never been but I can only imagine that it’s one of those places reserved for special occasions, impossible to get a reservation and definitely not attainable to the masses. However, in the past two months since the restaurant closed for the pandemic, its leader, Rene Redzepi, has transformed part of his fine dining establishment into an outdoor wine and burger bar, set to open on May 21.

Image from noma’s Twitter feed

While there is probably a faction of people asking the question, “does this dilute noma’s brand?” I think that’s a short-sighted response. To me, this move signals a sentiment of inclusiveness and enables the community to enjoy a piece of something special even in troubling times. I mean, there will even be a veggie burger so the vegetarians can take part! Burgers will be $15, reservations won’t be required and this setup and menu allows for safer outdoor dining, albeit Redzepi will need to manage the inevitable crowds, and an ability to just grab and go. The restaurant’s setting also has the charm of gardens and water views. Who knows how long this casual streak will last, but I hope it’s successful and brings the community together in new and safe ways.

Amsterdam – Mediamatic ETEN

I never heard of this restaurant before this week, but the imagery I saw on my Twitter feed caught my attention. This vegan restaurant in Amsterdam has currently solved for COVID-19 restrictions and complexities by developing individual greenhouses for diners, up to groups of three, to sit in and enjoy their four-course tasting menu. The concept is currently in a limited friends and family trial and won’t go broadly live until later this month or early June, pending approvals.

Image from Twitter

The image of mini greenhouses overlooking the water is a charming one. You have the ambiance, the restaurant takes care of the distancing concerns, wait staff will be required to wear face shields, gloves and will be carrying long wooden boards to increase the distance between the restaurant staff and diners. My concern would be the deep clean and air purification that I’d imagine has to take place after each group finishes its meal. I’ll be watching from afar to see if the concept gets approved and how the experiment goes! According to articles, reservations through June are completely booked so the public is definitely excited! Keep up the creativity.

Schwerin – Cafe Rothe

I’m not going to lie, this one made me LOL. Picture this — people outside enjoying a meal with a contraption on their head sprouting pool noodles to keep other diners from getting to close. Sounds bizarre, right? But, that’s what Cafe Rothe did for it’s grand re-opening. While quirky and maybe weird, at least the restaurant is making things fun! It also got the job done — diners kept the appropriate distance.

Image from Twitter

I’m guessing there was a faction that even tried to keep extra distance to ensure they weren’t accidentally swatted in the face with a pool noodle. You can just imagine how that would escalate quickly. Beyond being a gimmick that has now received global attention, I think the owners were also trying to make a point. THIS IS HARD. A restaurant has to be very calculated when it thinks about dining room and outdoor seating design in light of the pandemic. It’s not always easy to see the distance, and humans aren’t always spatially aware, so Cafe Rothe’s solution was to make sure people realized where they were in relation to others.

What I take from these three stories, and there are countless others, is that the whole world truly is grappling with how to re-open businesses safely and still create enjoyable experiences for their customers. Not only do restaurant owners have to think about the viability and profitability of their businesses, but the service they provide is also crucial to social human interaction (and always has been). In some ways, they truly provide a public service for all of us. Those aren’t enviable things to balance and the current situation makes these decisions even more complex, not to mention expensive. However, what I take from these three stories is that there are glimmers of hope, positivity, perseverance, grit and the idea that even thought this will be really tough, everyone is in it together and will hopefully come out the other end strong.

Not all of these ideas will work. Not all of them will be successful. But, they can carve out a path for others to follow and learn from so that we all still have our next great meal for which to look forward.

Appreciate your Happy Place during this time

I think most people have a place that gives them a positive lift the moment they enter the door, no matter what kind of day they were having beforehand. Well, the moment they used to walk in the door. …not much of that happening during the pandemic.

Photo by me

That place for me is Butler Bakeshop in South Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It was one of the first places I “discovered” when I moved into the neighborhood three years ago. This neighborhood coffee shop is bright, well designed, cozy and full of good vibes. The staff knows all the regulars by name, including the kids, the pastries are fresh and inventive and there’s always a lively buzz.

Photo from Butler’s Instagram Page

Before the pandemic, I typically arrived at Butler soon after it opened on the weekends, ordered a drink (yes, a lot of matcha lattes) and sat down with a book for an hour or more. At that hour, there was a great calm. Williamsburg isn’t an early morning crew so I had my pick of the small tables lining the windows and could establish quiet and focus. After 15-20 minutes, the neighborhood dads might start to trickle in with their young kids and from there, a steady flow of caffeine hungry locals would come and go. Even when Butler started to get noisy, it was still my favorite place to read and have moments to myself.

When the city started to shut down, I knew it would be a while before I would sit in one of those chairs again with the sun hitting my back. However, I took solace in the fact that I could pick up a socially distanced beverage (and pastry!) from Butler’s takeaway window. In those first several weeks, my short walk there became my sanity and my few moments to see a friendly face.

Photo by me

Then, Butler made the decision to temporarily close and I was crushed! It was my excuse for a walk. It was my excuse to say hello to my favorite barista and support a business that means something to me. When would it return? And then, after five weeks. …on May 1. …they came back! Based on the reception I’ve seen in social media, I think a lot of their regulars are just as excited as I am.

Photo from Butler’s Instagram Page

Then, yesterday, I came across Butler doing more than just serving their customers. With kitchens reopened, the Butler crew is now packaging and delivering lunches to frontline workers at NYU Langone, New York Presbyterian, Weill Cornell and Lenox Hill hospitals. The goal is to deliver 750 meals by July 4. For every $12 donated to Butler’s GoFundMe, a medical worker will get a coffee, lunch and dessert. Also, if a medical worker stops by a Butler location, they can always get a free coffee. Another example of a food business going the extra mile to help those who need support during the pandemic, even as their business goes through its own challenges.

Photo from Butler’s Instagram Page

So, to the entire Butler team, thank you. Thank you for giving me a happy place. Thank you for serving your customers safely and with a smile. Thank you for what you’re doing for the broader NYC community. You are so appreciated.

Photo by me

DISCLAIMER: While I provide information about charitable organizations and fundraising pages, I am not endorsing, providing recommendations or making a comment on the platforms’ efficacy. All readers should do their own due diligence should they choose to participate.

JosĂ© AndrĂ©s and World Central Kitchen: feeding communities and their restaurants

It’s always refreshing to see people who have a large platform and use it speak for those who don’t. JosĂ© AndrĂ©s is one of the more renowned chefs who does just that and is committed to making a positive mark on the world. He continues to step up in a big way for people in need and the industry he holds close to his heart — restaurants.

Even before the pandemic, it had been a while since I ate at one of AndrĂ©s’ restaurants. I tried to check out Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards when it first opened, but that was a rookie mistake. Of course it was swarmed with AndrĂ©s fans, tourists and other passersby. I hope I get another opportunity when the pandemic subsides and we’re comfortable being in groups again.

Beyond that failed attempt, I hadn’t thought a whole lot about JosĂ© AndrĂ©s (no offense) until one of the earlier nights in quarantine when I was searching the internet for decent late night comedic relief. My mom told me to check out Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show: At Home Edition, so I started scrolling and saw a segment with Tina Fey and JosĂ© AndrĂ©s as guests. I like both of those people, so I was intrigued. When AndrĂ©s came on the video, he was vivacious, in the kitchen (obviously) with his daughters, and was cooking up a massive skillet of fried rice while wearing a t-shirt with the words “Immigrants Feed America.” Love it. It was hard not to be mesmerized both by his ability to multitask and by the message he shared. He also waxes poetic about how chickpeas have feelings, too. It’s worth watching.

YouTube video of The Tonight Show: At Home Edition

On a more serious note. …the heart of (what I interpret to be) AndrĂ©s’ personal mission is to make sure the world is fed. He established World Central Kitchen (WCK) to help make that possible. During the past 10+ years, WCK has served in many times of crisis to ensure people don’t go hungry. 3.7 million meals to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, 550,000 meals in Indonesia after hurricanes and tsunamis, more than 670,000 meals in Colombia to Venezuelan refugees, and so much more.

Image from Jose Andres feed

Remember the Diamond Princess cruise several months ago? WCK fork lifted food onto the ship so that people onboard could eat. Andrés was also quick to act when cities in the United States began shutting down. He converted many of his restaurants into community kitchens and, shortly after, WCK launched #ChefsForAmerica to distribute individually packaged meals for children and families in need during the pandemic. The organization also delivers to seniors who cannot venture outside and to front line workers. Not only is WCK trying to make sure people are fed during this pandemic, but it is also taking it one step further to provide a much needed lift to the restaurant ecosystem. To help meet the growing demand for its help, WCK is purchasing meals from local restaurants, thereby providing ensuring at least a portion of restaurant workers can keep their jobs.

Image from World Central Kitchen Twitter feed

The organization committed to purchasing 1 million meals from more than 400 restaurants that are then delivered to the populations in need. It also puts an emphasis on local — supporting truly local businesses, tapping into local supply chains and feeding locally to help lift those economies up.

Image from World Central Kitchen Twitter feed

Not every restaurant will be saved. Not every displaced hospitality worker will have a job. But what Andrés and the WCK are doing provides glimmers of hope and a bringing together of communities even when we are all forced to stay at least six feet apart.

If you’re interested in supporting the cause, you can do so here.

DISCLAIMER: While I provide information about charitable organizations and fundraising pages, I am not endorsing, providing recommendations or making a comment on the platforms’ efficacy. All readers should do their own due diligence should they choose to participate.

Cocktails to go! One trend I hope outlasts quarantine.

One of the fun things that’s come out of the pandemic is the added flexibility restaurants now have in certain states to sell their booze to-go or with delivery orders. One way lawmakers got creative to help the restaurant industry (and all of us). Discounted bottles of wine, pre-mixed cocktails, cocktail kits, and more! As people deal with the monotony of months at home, mixing it up with a new cocktail can bring much needed entertainment.

Since lots of people have been fleeing New York City the past couple of months, I decided to profile a list of places in the Hamptons where you can get interesting booze, good discounts on wine or at least a little bit of fun with food on the side. I know, the Hamptons, it’s boujee, but a lot of people are there and they want to be merry, too.

Watermill

Bistro Ete: very nice owners and great food in Water Mill. At Bistro Ete, every take-out order greater than $50 currently comes with a bottle of house red, white or rose. Again, it’s not that hard to spend $50 at a restaurant in the Hamptons, so this is a good deal. Chef Arie’s cocktails are also being poured daily. Margaritas, Cosmos (throwback!), Bourbon Mandarin, Daiquiri and the Pink Grapefruit. Oh, and don’t forget, the restaurant has its own Margarita mix. Buy a bottle and just add the tequila.

Photo from Bistro Ete’s website

Sagaponack and Wainscott

The Highway: this restaurant between Wainscott and East Hampton is doing a bunch of interesting things right now. First, and importantly, you can order a meal for first responders. You can purchase a voucher that will then be given to EMT stations, East Hampton Village Police and Southampton Hospital employees. A single meal is $35 and you can buy 5- and 10-packs, too. Second, you can request any type of classic cocktail for $17 and they will bottle it for you to-go. Talk about giving the customer choice! There are also make-at-home cocktail kits for $44. Choose from the Hot on the Highway, The Shaddock or The Bourbon Storm. These cocktails are separated but ready to build. You can pair that with a make-at-home meal, too — Spaghetti and Meatballs, Classic Cheeseburgers and Beef Tacos.

Photo from Highway’s website

Wolffer: Wolffer’s vineyard in Sagaponack is best known for its Hamptons rose. As we approach that season, you better believe the vineyard is going to be busy selling that Summer in a Bottle. While you may not be allowed in the tasting room or wine stand right now, both are offering drive thru pickup to get your fix. There’s also free local delivery for orders over $50. It doesn’t take much to hit that limit, so take advantage of this service if you’re in the area. If you want to learn more about the wines, and are also looking for a weekend activity, Wolffer recently started offering Private Virtual Tastings, too.

Photo from Wolffer’s website

Sag Harbor and Amagansett

Wolffer Kitchen: the team at Wolffer also owns two restaurants in the Hamptons; one in Sag Harbor and one in Amagansett. Their wines are 50% and the selection spans beyond the Wolffer collection. You can also add specialty cocktails with fun names to your dinner order — Sagaponack Sangria, Bee Keeper, Vintner, and more.

Photo from Wolffer Kitchen Instagram page

Sen: high-quality sushi in Sag Harbor and 50% off wine and sake. Need I say more? There’s a good selection (I personally would go with the Ridge Zinfandel), so I recommend checking Sen out! You can also grab a Sake or Lychee Martini if you feel like classing it up a bit.

K Pasa: this casual takeout Mexican restaurant in Sag Harbor is selling six packs of beer (yes, one is Corona Lite…the regular Corona is currently out of stock), wine and cocktails as part of their to-go menu right now. In the cocktail department, you can get three types of Margaritas — Classic, Hot-Rita and Watermelon. There’s also a $45 Margarita kit that comes with all you need to mix the classic cocktail. Perfect with a side of tacos, chips and guac. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila…! In addition to all the fun with cocktails, K Pasa also has a menu option to feed front line workers at Southampton Hospital. You can feed a nurse for $10 or the whole ICU unit for $250.

Photo from K Pasa Instagram page

Bell & Anchor: this American Seafood restaurant outside Sag Harbor’s town has a full “bar to go” menu, which includes $30 bottled wines, $4 beers and $20 cocktails that the restaurant claims serve three people. There must be a Margarita theme going in the Hamptons right now because the cocktail choices are the Ruby Rita and Sunburn Spicy Margarita.

Photo from Bell & Anchor Instagram page

East Hampton

Nick & Toni’s: this is one my go-to restaurants in the Hamptons. Along with the high-quality food at this East Hampton spot, you can add a bottle of wine or beer for 25% off. Tip: every Nick & Toni’s order should include their Tartufo dessert for two. It doesn’t disappoint. Another fun thing Nick & Toni’s is doing right now is at-home pizza kits. Pizza, wine and Tartufo. Sounds like a winning combination to me.

Photo from Nick & Toni’s Instagram page

1770 House: this is a Hamptons institution and has been around forever. The East Hampton restaurant attached to an inn has several takeout specials right now. You can get freshly bottled cocktails for $15, including Cosmos (are these making a comeback?), Negronis and Gin Pom-Poms. Additionally, the entire wine list is 25% off, all beers are $5 and there are special selection wines for $20 or three for $50. The restaurant is known for its burgers so top your order off with one of those.

Photo from 1770 House Instagram page

Know any other restaurants offering cool deals, cocktails or food during quarantine? Let me know!

Great Spirits at Dandy Wine

As a fan of both good wine and supporting local, I’m always looking for smaller wine shops with an eclectic selection. One of those gems in my neighborhood is Dandy Wine & Spirits. The owners are Williamsburg, Brooklyn locals and they’ve created a fun vibe and welcoming feeling with their shop. Before the pandemic, they also served great free tastings on Wednesday and Friday nights (I look forward to their return!).

When New York City started shutting down for the pandemic, Dandy was very quick to figure out how to get their inventory online, offer curbside pickup or delivery and serve the neighborhood good spirits (both of the alcoholic and non-alcoholic varietals!).

You can view Dandy’s full menu online and they frequently update it based on inventory.

I found them particularly helpful and friendly even when stress levels were probably high the week everything shut down in the city. I gave them a call, unsure of what I was even in the mood for, described very generally my wine “taste buds” and they instantly provided several selections (all of which ended up being very good!). I appreciated their patience with my indecision and their recommendations.

The staff has also brought good humor to this unfortunate situation. I get a chuckle most of the times I receive the newsletter or look at their Instagram page. The creativity and witty humor really shines with the “survival” packs they’ve concocted. You can choose from “Broke and Thirty,” “Bartender’s Choice,” and more. I told you they were fun.

In addition to serving up wine, spirits and smiles, Dandy is also contributing what it can to lift up the restaurant industry. It is one of 300+ retailers participating in the Ole & Obrigado’s national “Restaurant Relief Pack.” Fifty percent of the profits from sales of this pack will go to national and local organizations providing direct relief to hospitality employees. So, drink well with Dandy and do good!