Friday, November 30, 2012

Pop-Up Pantry: So good no one will think you cooked it yourself

True story: When I was in my 20's, a friend and I were put in charge of dinner plans for a group of us celebrating a friend's birthday. We did what all normal twentysomethings would do: We concocted an elaborate hoax and a web of lies intended to fool those close to us.

Instead of cooking, we bought a ton of really good Chinese food and told everyone we'd made it ourselves. (Because who has time to cook when it's the 80's and you're busy trying to score Duran Duran tickets or searching for the perfect shoulder pads?) Behind closed doors, we emptied take-out cartons into skillets and woks, making sure they sizzled extra loud for added effect. We forbid anyone from entering the kitchen lest they lay eyes on us reheating wonton soup or catch a glimpse of the stack of empty containers outside the back door.

Years later when we came clean to our friends they pretended that they'd known all along that we hadn't cooked, because "That meal was way too good for you guys to pull off." We instantly regretted not having stirred the duck sauce with our feet.

But flash forward to now, and it's no longer a dirty secret to serve pre-prepared food to your guests. We're still busy, and realize it's perfectly fine to have a little help if we need to work or would rather hit the town. (Although how many times do you really need to see Duran Duran?)

Get in mah belly, you crazy mushroom crostini and bastilla.
A couple of weeks ago i was introduced to a great new company called Pop-Up Pantry that offers three-course gourmet dinners created by top chefs, delivered to your door for the price of takeout and with minimal preparation. (Although Pop-Up Pantry is a subscription service, sign-up is free and you are never obligated to purchase.)

At the company's loft in L.A. we got to sample some of their fare: Delicious dishes including Lamb Korma with Biriyani Rice, Hoisin Ginger Braised Shortrib and Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble from chefs like David Yeo (Le Cirque, Tavern On The Green), Rod Aglibot (Koi, BLT) and Beekman 1802 (Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Dr. Brent Ridge from The Fabulous Beekman Boys.) 
Pop-Up Pantry headquarters: We came, we saw, we stuffed ourselves
Pop-Up Pantry founders David Hauslaib and Tom Balamaci created the company because of their love of food and the lack of access to fine dining for foodies living outside of major metro areas. (And for people like me, who live within five minutes of some really good restaurants but don't always feel like going out to dinner.) The food is prepared, then frozen, vacuum-sealed, placed in an insulated box after preparation and delivered via UPS or FedEx – and are designed to go from package to table in 30 minutes or less. Man, that's way quicker than ordering and then waiting for sixteen cartons of Chinese food to show up.

Chef David Yeo making magic aka Onion Soup With Cheese Toasts
Besides the dishes mentioned above we were lucky enough to taste Onion Soup with Cheese Toasts, Bastilla (my favorite, and created by chef David Burtka who you will know as Neil Patrick Harris' partner) and Stuffed Peppers – it was all amazing and definitely fare that I would expect from a first-rate restaurant.

Founders of Pop-Up Pantry aka David Hauslaib and Tom Balamaci aka Really Nice Guys
David and Tom are really nice, accessible guys who are not only passionate about their food, but about their customers as well. They seem really concerned with finding out who their consumers are, what types of dining experiences they're looking for and striving to meet those expectations. Has your local restaurant ever invited you over and asked what types of food your teenagers like to eat? I didn't think so.

I didn't tell them my Chinese food story, but David and Tom if you're reading this – know that I will definitely be ordering from Pop-Up Pantry soon but would never try and take credit for the wonderful dishes you've created. Although there is that friend's birthday I've promised to cook for...

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Go to to find out more about their services, pricing and menus. 

And wait - it gets better: Pop-Up Pantry recently announced that in support of those affected by Sandy, they will be donating $1 from every online ordered placed to City Harvest, the world's first food rescue organization dedicated to feeding the hungry men, women, and children of New York. In conjunction, they are also offering customers $5 off every meal when they use the code “SANDY” at checkout

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