Tired of the same weeknight chicken dinner? Here’s an appetizing alternative: Try a meal kit from a local restaurant. As the entire industry continues to pivot and evolve during these unprecedented times, meal kits are the happy place between takeout and home cooking.
Like Blue Apron and Sunbasket, meal kits let you try a new recipe with ingredients and instructions that have been vetted, in this case, by your favorite Bay Area chefs. And chances are good that the restaurant you choose works with sustainable purveyors, so you can save yourself a trip to the supermarket and support small farmers in the process.
As the trend grows, we’re seeing more meal kits out there, from family-friendly pasta and burger kits to more ambitious options, like paella and Cal-Viet spring rolls. Some restaurants give you far more ingredients than you’ll need for one recipe, so you can make the dish again. And while some kits are aimed at the kitchen savvy, others can be made by newbie cooks, no prob.
Here are five fabulous meal kits we tried from restaurants in the East Bay, South Bay and Peninsula.
Paella Mixto, Teleferic Barcelona
Teleferic Barcelona’s paella kits contain some of the imported ingredients you need to make the Valencian rice dish at home. (Courtesy Teleferic Barcelona)
The kit: 13-inch paella pan, imported jars of sofrito and whole piquillo peppers, saffron-spiked Paellero seasoning packets, bomba rice, olive oil and full-sized hot paprika.
You’ll add: Chicken wings, calamari, shrimp, garlic clove, stock, salt and a lid for the pan.
Paella is a Valencian rice dish traditionally slow-cooked in a wide, shallow pan over an open fire. With this kit from Teleferic Barcelona, the Spanish restaurant in Walnut Creek and Palo Alto, you can make a quicker version at home the same way you cook risotto: By sauteing your proteins and vegetables on the stove, then simmering bomba or a similar round-grain rice in broth.
We used the proteins we had on hand — shrimp and sausage — to make Teleferic’s dish. The recipe is easy to follow but skips a few key instructions that novice cooks might need, like how long to brown the chicken or shrimp. Also it calls for five cups of broth, but we used more. It also took longer than the instructed 16 minutes to cook the rice. But if you keep testing the rice until it’s ready, you should be fine.
Our paella turned out tasty and packed with flavor, and made a lovely pairing with Teleferic’s bottled sangria ($28 for 32 ounces; $52 for a trio of 16-ounce sangrias). Bonus: You’ll have enough of the Spanish ingredients left to make that paella again.
Details: $48 (for two) or $64 (for four). Order online and pick up at 1500 Mt. Diablo Blvd., Walnut Creek or 855 El Camino Real, Suite 130, Palo Alto; www.telefericbarcelona.com
‘Make at Home’ Pepperoni Pizza, Pizza Antica
The kit: A ball of pizza dough and little tubs of freshly made tomato sauce, minced cheese and pepperoni arrive in a cute little pizza box, along with instructions.
You’ll add: Niente. Everything you need is in the kit, which even includes a little dusting flour to keep the dough from sticking to the pan, in case your pantry isn’t stocked.
We’re longtime fans of this pizzeria with locations in Lafayette, San Jose and Mill Valley — and of chef Angelo Smith’s handcrafted thin-crust pizzas and other Italian-inspired dishes made with ingredients sourced from local farmers and ranchers. It’s the quality of the ingredients that make the difference.
Pizza Antica’s “make at home” pizzas — Margherita, pepperoni or cheese — could not be easier. Turn up your oven to 500 degrees, or as high as it will go. Pat the dough into a 10- or 12-inch circle. Transfer it to a baking sheet or an overturned cast-iron skillet. Top with the very tasty tomato sauce, cheese and pepperoni. Then pop it into the oven for 10 minutes.
Ecco! Delicious pizza with a really fantastic crust — and it’s especially delicious when served with a bottle of the restaurant’s wine or one of their bottled cocktails (cocktails are available in Lafayette and San Jose). Pizza Antica also sells individual components, just the dough ball, for example, or a gluten-free crust, Italian “0” pizza flour and olive oil.
Details: $15 for the pepperoni pizza kit (serves 1-2). Order online for DoorDash delivery or curbside pickup at 3600 Mt. Diablo Blvd. in Lafayette, 334 Santana Row in San Jose or Strawberry Village at 800 Redwood Highway in Mill Valley; http://www.pizzaantica.com.
Spaghetti Carbonara, Donato Enoteca
The kit: Housemade spaghettoni, grated pecorino cheese, sliced guanciale, farm eggs, Nero di sarawak black peppercorns, plus risotto and cheese to make an appetizer, Suppli al Telefono.
You’ll add: One cup of flour (for the appetizer), salt and maybe an egg or two, if you screw up while trying to separate the yolks in the eggs you’re given.
Are you afraid to tackle an Italian classic? Every week, Donato Enoteca in Redwood City and Donato & Co. in Berkeley offer a different meal kit with instructions for home preparation. And one Sunday a month, chef-owner Donato Scotti and chef Gianluca Guglielmi head into the kitchen to host a live online cooking school.
We joined them the day they sought to take the mystery out of carbonara, the deceptively simple dish from Rome that many home cooks avoid out of fear of turning the eggs into a scrambled mess instead of a luxurious sauce. The lesson started online with a hilarious video in which three Italians admonish cooks to never, ever, ever add cream or sausage or parsley to carbonara.
The class is calibrated for those with a little kitchen savvy. And you have to know enough to put the water on to boil while the loquacious duo is talking about aromatic peppercorns or the difference between guanciale (pork cheeks) and pancetta (pork belly). But they repeated the steps for those who fell behind, and the kit included enough guanciale and pecorino so you can perfect your technique another day.
Details: Class prices vary (this one was $65 for two). Carbonara kits are still available for $30. Order online and pick up at Donato’s Cru Wine Bar, 900B Middlefield Road, Redwood City, or at 2635 Ashby Ave., Berkeley; www.donatoenoteca.com or www.donatoandco.com
Spring Rolls, Top Hatters Kitchen and Bar
The kit: 12 ounces lemongrass-marinated sliced beef, cut pineapple, English cucumber, rice papers, peanut sauce, nuom chac, crushed peanuts and fresh bunches of green leaf lettuce, cilantro and mint.
You’ll add: Oil or butter; a pan (cast iron is best) or a portable electric griddle or grill.
This clever Cal-Viet kit from San Leandro chef-owner DanVy Vu is designed as a communal and interactive meal to be enjoyed, ideally, in the backyard around a makeshift portable grill (they’ll even sell you the chafing fuels, three for $5).
But even condo dwellers like us can delight in this light and flavorful meal with almost no clean-up. A few minutes in a hot cast-iron skillet and Vu’s gingery, tender eye of round, which she gets from Castro Valley’s C & H Meat Company, was ready to be rolled. Make sure you and your dining partner each have a wide, shallow bowl of water for dipping rice papers, then pile on ingredients and housemade sauces, and roll to your heart’s content.
First-timers will appreciate the thorough, detailed instructions. And the combination of lemongrass beef, fresh pineapple and herbs is simply dynamite. Depending on how stuffed you like your spring rolls, the small kit yields about eight rolls, perfect for a light dinner or filling appetizer.
Details: $40 for the small kit (serves 1-2); $70 for a large (serves 3-6). Order online and pick up at 855 MacArthur Blvd., San Leandro; https://tophatterskitchen.com
Street Tacos, TAP’T Beer & Kitchen
The kit: One pound of carnitas or chicken, 12 small tortillas, one cheese quesadilla, containers of fire-roasted salsa, avocado salsa and cilantro-onions, plus chips and lime wedges.
You’ll add: Only plates, utensils and napkins!
This Sunnyvale brewpub offers an easy-peasy meal kit for those who prefer to, ahem, assemble rather than cook. It’s been a popular pickup item for families on the go because you only need to give the restaurant about 20 minutes’ notice to put the box together.
We tried the carnitas, which were nicely crisped on the edges and grease-free. Grab a couple of the teensy tortillas or a wedge of quesadilla, load them up with the salsas — made in-house — and eat. Depending on the size of your family appetites, you might need to supplement the meal with a salad or dessert.
Details: $29 for Street Tacos Meal Kit; $34 for Tex Mex Taco Fiesta. Available until 8:30 p.m. daily. Order by phone or online (you only need to give them about 20 minutes’ notice) and pick up at 259 W. Washington Ave., Sunnyvale; www.justgottapt.com
Source: Thanks https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/10/05/5-fantastic-bay-area-restaurant-meal-kits/