by matthew wexler | August 1, 2014 | Food & Drink
East Enders are finding access to local goods and services are easier than ever and just a click away.
Guests toast at a party created by Kitchensurfing.
“Signed, sealed, delivered—I’m yours.” Stevie Wonder’s classic hit could be a modern-day anthem for those tired of enduring bumper-to-bumper Friday afternoons on Montauk Highway or waiting in interminable lines at their favorite gourmet market to buy a pound of lobster salad and a bottle of rosé. Modern technology and good old-fashioned entrepreneurship have merged to offer a range of delivery services that can provide virtually any necessity or whim without lifting a finger—except for a few online clicks to get somebody else’s wheels in motion.
“Years ago [the Hamptons] was serene. It wasn’t a secret but it was quiet. Now traffic is outrageous and simple tasks like grocery shopping become troublesome,” says Lexi Stolz, founder of South Fork and Spoon (455-0837), a weekend preparation and food concierge service. She has witnessed firsthand new arrivals trying to navigate unfamiliar aisles of local stores and the ensuing frustration. And picking up a quick bite is virtually impossible. “To spend an hour in traffic to grab a couple of burgers is outrageous,” says Stolz.
South Fork and Spoon offers everything from grocery delivery to themed gourmet meal packages.
Delivery services offer more than convenience, though. Megan Schmidt, founder of The Good Farm Delivery and 12-year resident of the East End, says, “I wanted to find a way to connect more people with their food and to become part of the food economy.” Her hyper local online farmers market brings the best of the farming community and food artisans to her customers’ doorsteps with an ever-changing and easy-to-navigate online ordering system. Farmers benefit as well, harvesting only what is needed for fulfillment, thereby strengthening the food system and local economy.
The trend is catching on, both because of its ease and Schmidt’s keen eye for selecting high quality and hard-to-get products. Launched only last year, the service now delivers up to 40 orders per week—most by Schmidt herself. Zucchinis, tomatoes, and spinach are big sellers, but those with a more adventurous palate (including a bevy of private chefs) have “gone crazy” for specialty ingredients like shallot scapes, organic blue and golden oyster mushrooms, apple blossoms, and three types of local eggs from Browder’s Birds and Iacono Farm. Those with a sweet tooth can take advantage of Schmidt’s access to limited-edition flavors from Joe & Liza’s ice cream, including watermelon sorbet and spicy Mexican chocolate.
Fresh produce from Wyse Organics.
While many people want to get hands-on in the kitchen, an equally large contingent is looking for fresh Hamptons flavor without the hassle. To fill that niche, private chef Allan Wyse and global and organic food entrepreneur Erik Bruun Bindslev launched Wyse Organics (917-446-9237) in 2012. The delivery service offers precooked meals that riff on the popular sous vide cooking method. Prepared foods using local and seasonal ingredients are sealed in air-tight plastic bags and flash-frozen. This method removes oxygen (avoiding freezer burn), pasteurizes, and maintains the integrity of the dish. “Customers are astonished that it’s a frozen and reheated product. The texture and the color are there,” says Wyse, whose recipes are inspired by the local harvest. Dishes like pea & fava bean soup and the newly launched vegetarian green chili retain their vibrant hues, while extensive recipe testing yields a toothsome ricotta mac & cheese. The company recently bumped its delivery service to seven days per week; as long as you can boil water, a “homecooked” meal is close at hand.
Wyse Organics classic summer dishes.
The trends seen on the East End are part of a bigger e-commerce boom that has escalated over the past decade. Plated’s (855-525-2399) cofounders, Josh Hix and Nick Taranto, knew it was just a matter of time before it expanded to highly perishable goods, and had the determination to be one of the first players in the food/tech space. The company’s ready-to-cook meal boxes are now accessible to 80 percent of the continental US. According to culinary director Elana Karp, the business model allows for the test kitchen to “work closely with our fulfillment centers to source the highest quality and freshest ingredients,” she says.
Each week, Plated offers seven chef-designed recipes. The recyclable cardboard box is packed with nontoxic freezer packs, essential ingredients, and easy-to-follow instructions to prepare innovative dishes like pork tonkatsu with yuzu cherry salsa and mizuna, or olive oil-poached tuna with three-bean salad. “There’s such a great trend right now where people are genuinely interested in eating well and understanding where their food comes from,” Karp says. “We’re here to facilitate that.”
A custom table setting by Kitchensurfing.
For those looking for the ultimate hands-off delivery, Kitchensurfing’s second year in the Hamptons offers a private chef marketplace to create anything from an intimate family dinner to a backyard barbecue block party. “Our service distinguishes itself through its wide network of private chefs with different culinary backgrounds and cuisine styles, in addition to affording the ability for full menu customization,” says CEO Chris Muscarella. The package price covers an on-site chef, high-quality ingredients, clean-up, and gratuity. Bespoke offerings include chef Nick Suarez’s Backyard Pig Roast, which presents a farm-fresh Heritage pig cooked in a portable La Caja China roasting box and sides of local honey-roasted sweet corn, brunswick baked beans, and summer salad. But imaginations run wild in the summer sun. “We have had more than one request for nyotaimori, which is when sushi is served on a (consenting) woman’s body,” says Muscarella, “and we’ve fulfilled those requests!”
Niçoise salad from Madeline Picnic Co.
Sometimes simplicity reigns supreme, and Madeline Picnic Co. (353-8923) merges easy-access delivery with what makes the Hamptons so special: a summer picnic. Madeline McLean launched the business this June, and customers quickly started clamoring for her quaint burlap totes brimming with tartines and salads. Instead of trudging to multiple specialty shops, picnickers can meet Madeline at a predetermined location in Southampton, Sag Harbor, or Amagansett. McLean grew up in Colorado, studied in Paris, and brings an international perspective to the demand for easy access and locally sourced goods. “The farm-to-table/ farm-to-fork demand is higher now and people are seeking that out, which is really good. And I’ve seen picnics as a trend across the US,” says McLean, a self-proclaimed “picnic fanatic.”
Chef Chuck Valla serves a Kitchensurfing dinner.
Whether it’s a personalized farm box, easy-to prepare dishes, simple lunch, or full-on feast, whatever East Enders want, there is someone to deliver it. Gifting such services in lieu of a haphazardly chosen bottle of wine has also become de rigueur. Even in a pinch, passionate providers like Lexi Stolz can source whatever a client may need. Ironically, pet owners seem to have their furry friends’ needs under control. “Nobody has called me in an emergency about their dog,” says Stolz, “but they’ll call me for wine or milk.”
photography by shantanu starick (kitchensurfing); tim howard (salad); tom vickers (kitchensurfing)