Sometimes — and I say this with reverence — the East End feels like the Forgotten Land. Yes, one can opt for grocery delivery from Bridgehampton’s King Kullen, but the Hamptons behemoth does not regularly feature local meat, dairy or produce. Sure, Fresh Direct delivers to East End homes — but only during high season. Stop and Shop’s Peapod delivery service is the only grocery service that delivers to Montauk year-round, and those living at The End no doubt wish there were more available than wan tomatoes in the middle of January. But this is the decade of innovation, and several companies are attempting to rewrite the narrative.
There is a natural evolution in the Age of Convenience, when shopping means logging into Amazon Prime and when hailing a taxi means summoning an Uber on one’s iPhone app. Digital innovation is everywhere, from text message alerts informing us of the local bakery’s hot bread available #rightthissecond, to automatically renewing subscriptions for discounted paper towels (yes, I do this). It’s easy to see, then, why local farms would want in on it. Although nothing will ever compare to the finite glory of a summer afternoon spent sifting through the latest tomato haul at one’s local farm stand, there is a certain comfort in the convenience of coming home to delivered groceries. As busy families embrace parenthood and full-time jobs in the busier-than-ever modern age, why not kill two birds with one stone?
Harvest Food Box, a Blue Apron-inspired company based in Cutchogue, is just one of many companies attempting to turn the page on the dearth of East End delivery. The company offers home delivery to East Enders: boxes filled with pre-prepped meals that are all plant-based. Each $70, once-weekly box includes three meals designed to feed two to four people. Harvest Food Box is the brainchild of Karen L’HommeDieu, a social worker and vegan chef, and her husband, personal trainer Russ L’HommeDieu. Capitalizing on convenience in the age of health-consciousness, the pair began their business the old fashioned way: by knocking on doors. In April of 2017, the pair went door-to-door in Cutchogue with 30 boxes of their vegan meals in the hopes of attracting customers.
Russ L’HommeDieu, in particular, had an interesting food story to share. Once the owner of Southold’s Ice Cream Cove, he weighed 400 pounds at his heaviest, before persistent illnesses compelled a life change. Over two hundred pounds and a diet reboot later, Mr. L’HommeDieu, along with his wife, are aiming to transform “delivery” as we know it, with healthful, easy-to-make meals that arrive preassembled right at one’s door. Never mind the convenience of having your groceries delivered. With Harvest Food Box, many meals are slow cooker-ready, so all customers need to do to eat healthily is place prepared ingredients into a machine designed to do the heavy lifting. In 2018, this is the alternative to those old standbys on lazy weeknights, pizza and Chinese.
The L’HommeDieus may be innovators, but they are not alone. In Riverhead, the decade-old Goodale Farms is combining Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) ethos with delivery box convenience. Four years ago, the farm spearheaded its own delivery program. A standard membership allows members to choose three dairy products (milk, eggs, cheese, butter, and more) and three pounds of pastured meats, which come with seven to eight fruits and vegetables. It’s all delivered right to your home for $75 a week. There are also options for larger — and smaller — families, in the event that that kale piles itself unnecessarily in the crisper. Only 200 families at most will be fortunate enough to participate in Goodale’s delivery program, which they describe as “extremely limited.”
“I started it because when I started doing the dairy and the meat, we were doing a farmer’s market and it was kind of like a roller coaster. We have to be able to find 200 families who want us to be their farmer,” Goodale Farms owner Harold Goodale said. His family, notably, has been farming potatoes and vegetables out east since the early 1800s. “We’re at about 180 or 190 families over the past four years. It seems to be working now.” Goodale Farms delivers as far east as Montauk and Greenport and as far west as New York City, assigning designated delivery days to each area (Tuesdays for the North Fork, Thursdays for the South Fork). Members pay at the start of the month and have the option to suspend delivery if, say, they plan to be out of town for a vacation. The delivery service is available year-round. In season, roughly half of the produce — and all of the meat and dairy — comes directly from Goodale, with supplemental produce coming from neighboring farms. In the off-season, produce comes from organic farms in warmer climes, like Texas and California.
The farm has designed a web portal, which allows members to login between Thursdays and Monday mornings to choose their options for the following week’s delivery. If a customer forgets, the delivery defaults to “popular” settings. “If you forgot to place your order,” Mr. Goodale said, “it’s whatever you order the most.” There’s an a la carte option, too, for those who want to add on produce, meat, and dairy to their existing box of food. The CSA program is not, however, infinite. “We’re looking to get to that 200 number and then cap it off, because we just can’t physically do more than that,” Mr. Goodale said.
Other local farms have taken note. On the South Fork, East Hampton’s Balsam Farms, which offers one of the most comprehensive CSA programs on Eastern Long Island (a box of vegetables can be supplemented with fruits, eggs, cheese, fresh mozzarella, flowers, and breads from Carissa Waechter), has included, for 2018, a delivery option. For an additional $300 per season (which shakes out to $15 per week), members can opt to have their boxes delivered directly to their homes. There are roughly 75 members of Balsam’s yearly CSA, a small percentage of whom have opted for home delivery. “We’re doing wholesale delivery anyway, and we had a few requests, so we thought we would give it a shot,” said Ian Calder-Piedmonte, co-owner of Balsam Farms. The delivery fee is a reflection of the cost of driving the goods, with no real appreciable markup. The CSA delivery is available throughout the towns of East and Southampton.
What Goodale offers is a comprehensive deliverable CSA, which is enough to stock one’s pantry for a week. But, beyond the framework of the CSA — a program that requires members to sign up in advance and commit to a certain period of time—there is more innovation when it comes to grocery home delivery. In addition to their CSA delivery, Balsam Farms will also be spearheading their own version of Fresh Direct, in which customers use a web platform to place orders for produce, eggs, dairy, baked goods, and preserved items. Essentially, they have digitized their own farm stand and, for a fee ($20) and with a minimum ($150 per order), customers will have the luxury of skipping the lines.
The impetus for this move to digital seems to be market-driven. “It seems like a good service,” Ian Calder-Piedmonte said of grocery delivery. “I know that food delivery services, in general, are popular. A lot of the complaints are often that the produce isn’t that great. We’ll be able to deliver quality stuff. As our farm stand gets busy, people just don’t have time to stop by and shop. We want to be approachable.” The farm will offer delivery a few days a week, which will include 30-40 nonperishable items. Product availability will cycle with the season, so, no, you won’t be able to get tomatoes in January—but why would you want to?
“There are going to be a lot of items that aren’t available because we just don’t have them. It’s all going to be seasonal,” Mr. Calder-Piedmonte said. “The exact same stuff you get at the farm stand. Essentially, it’s going to be things that get packed from the farm stand that get delivered to wherever people are.” The website and program anticipates a late June opening (around the same time that the farm will open its first brick-and-mortar, in Montauk), and may extend past season. Like the CSA delivery program, which is the blueprint, the digital delivery program will service the towns of East and Southampton. Of the program’s birth, Mr. Calder-Piedmonte said, “I’m optimistic; hopefully people like it and it works.”
Lexi Stolz and Louisa Young, the founders of Hamptons Aristocrat, may, then, be prescient. The pair began their business — a catering company specializing in “farm-to-fête” deliveries — four years ago. “It was a smaller, exclusive client base back then,” Lexi Stolz said. “Everyone comes out for the weekend and, just simply due to being in close proximity to the city, the majority of our clients end up entertaining every weekend. We realized that our clients really wanted to be able to offer entertaining at home.” The pair created a “hyper local, organic menu” with everything delivered ready-to-eat on wooden boards. Food is designed to be served cold or at room temperature, with no additional work required. Produce is sourced from Balsam Farms, Amber Waves Farms, and Green Thumb Organic Farm, with eggs, dairy, and bacon from Mecox Bay Dairy, chickens from Browder’s Birds, and microgreens from Goodwater Farms. In a sense, it’s an upgraded method of bringing the farms to your doorstep.
With 48 hours’ notice, Hamptons Aristocrat can feed any size group, from a dinner party of six to a pool party of 500. Like Balsam Farms, their delivery minimum is $150, and all pricing (as well as a portal that facilitates online ordering) is available online. “It gives you the feel of having a full catered event,” Ms. Stolz said, “but you don’t have to have chefs on site.” In order to accommodate their business—Hamptons Aristocrat delivers anywhere from 75 to 100 meals on any given Saturday or Sunday in season—Ms. Stolz and Ms. Young recently acquired a brick-and-mortar space in Bridgehampton, formerly home to Fresh Hamptons and, briefly, the pop-up Zigmund’s. From that space, which features a multi-level kitchen, the women run their own commissary, and they’ve also opened a small restaurant on premise, Salt Drift Farm, a casual, street food-focused space that operates on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner and Saturdays and Sundays for brunch.
The driving force behind Hamptons Aristocrat’s success lies in the owners’ ability to foresee a niche that needed servicing, even before Blue Apron delivered its first ready-to-cook box. “I started a personal grocery shipping company in 2011,” Ms. Stolz said. “What I realized was that clients were frustrated with the fact that they have enough money to get whatever they want, but it’s simply not available to them. That was the main reason that Louisa and I joined forces. Our bread and butter is the delivery service.”
Consider this the revolution: Farm-fresh goods brought directly to you. No fuss, no muss, no mid-August farm stand lines. It’s the era of innovation, of the marriage between the organic and the easy. And it’s coming to a website near you.
Harvest Food Box’s Stuffed Peppers
Serves 2 to 4 people.
4 large bell peppers, tops cut off and seeded
1 pouch black beans, drained and rinsed
14.5 oz can diced tomatoes, not drained
1 cup brown rice
1 ½ Tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 Tbsp. Chipotle Tabasco
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup water in slow cooker or less
Slow cooker/Crock Pot
In a bowl, mix together beans, tomatoes, rice, seasonings, and 1/2 cup water until well combined. Fill peppers until they are filled to the top. Add the other 1/2 cup water to bottom of slow cooker, or just enough water to cover the bottom. Carefully place peppers into the slow cooker trying not to lean the peppers against the sides, as this causes the peppers to overcook and fall apart. Cook on high for 2-3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours, until peppers are tender and the rice is soft. Carefully remove the peppers with tongs and serve hot.
Uber Eats Heads East
Uber Eats, the food delivery app from Uber that delivers food from local restaurants right to your home, has finally made its debut in Suffolk County. So far, the app services Western Suffolk, as well as the town of Southampton, and includes such restaurants as 75 Main, Sunday’s on the Bay, Rumba, Jue Lan Club Southampton, and the Shinnecock Lobster Factory.
The app is expected to eventually service East Hampton town, as well.
As with other food delivery apps (like GrubHub and Seamless, neither of which is currently available out east), diners can choose their restaurant and then order digitally from an online menu. The app also offers an opportunity to leave a tip, should they so choose.
Diners must first download the app and input their delivery address. The app will then list the restaurants providing delivery. Customers can also put in a delivery order for the future if, say, a restaurant has not yet opened for the day or if he or she wishes to put in a delivery order now for a meal later on in the day.
Considering how few East End restaurants have a residential delivery system, Uber Eats—assuming it makes it all the way to the End—could be a real game changer.