COVID-19 creates new restaurant trend: Family-friendly finish-at-home meals
Vail Valley restaurants are continuing to adapt to the new normal of COVID-19. With dine-in options currently off the table, many local restaurants have transformed to offer takeout and delivery options — offerings that might stick around even when things start slowly opening up.
One trend gaining momentum with local restaurants is ready-to-go, pre-organized meals that take less than 30 minutes to prepare in a home kitchen. The meals often include multiple courses and are designed for chefs of all abilities, as well as families looking for something to do together.
Morgan said she knows people will eventually be coming into town that might not want to venture out as often, she said.
“We want to make sure this is available throughout the summer, fall and possibly even next winter since it’s going so well,” Morgan said.
Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard offer two finish-at-home options, priced at $25 and $30, and provide free delivery. Like most restaurants delivering, there is no contact, and the drivers for Sweet Basil and Mountain Standard are their friendly servers.
La Tour in Vail is offering oven-ready meals, choosing from a variety of appetizers, entrees, salads, multiple sides as well as a “bottled craft cocktail.”
“It’s like starting a whole new business,” La Tour general manager Jared Corbin said. “We can do all the prep work for somebody, like we’re your little sous chef.”
La Tour, a French-style restaurant, is also serving its regular to-go menu as well, like many restaurants doing cook-at-home options. It’s also offering picnic baskets, featuring a baguette, cheese and more, designed for an afternoon lunch in the backyard or on a hiking trail.
Most of the restaurants offering cook-at-home options recommend ordering at least one day in advance — Sweet Basil’s Mother’s Day brunch item sold out in less than 24 hours, Morgan said.
“It’s just going to be another thing people can expect from us,” Corbin said of La Tour’s new service. “I think people are getting tired of cooking rice and beans at home.”
By creating meals at home designed by local chefs, at-home cooks have the opportunity to work with some local ingredients as well, as restaurants like Sweet Basil feature meat from local ranchers, “right here in Edwards at Eaton Ranch,” as well as bread from Hovey & Harrison in Edwards.
Both Morgan and Corbin said it was a learning process for the restaurants. With intricate dishes, regular takeout has its challenges enduring a delivery. However, local restaurants like theirs spent weeks working on the product before unveiling it.
At Sweet Basil, chef Taylor Frankel and sous chef Maria Busata spent three weeks testing, using their own servers and bartenders as test subjects.
“It was really those two women that came up with the idea and have been in the kitchen,” Morgan said of Sweet Basil, adding she herself tested it at home with her teenage kids. “That’s what we’re really trying to do is bring families together to cook.”
Pizza, ice cream sundae parties
Marko’s Pizzeria in Edwards has always gotten a major portion of its business through takeout, co-owner Mark Esteppe said, but the local pizza shop has seen a decrease in orders recently.
To help spice things up, Marko’s Pizzeria is offering homemade pizza kits for those looking to roll, toss and bake some dough. Packages include the homemade dough (two if you’re a first-timer “just in case”), pizza sauce, cheese and one topping. Cost is $10 for a small and $14 for a medium.
“It’s fun,” Esteppe said of making pizza. “I’ve been doing it here at Marko’s for 25 years. It’s a fun thing for parents and kids to do all together.”
At Sundae, an artisan ice cream shop with locations in Vail and Edwards, a variety of flavors is available to go, and toppings can be served on the side — perfect for a Sundae sundae party at home, maybe on Sunday. May’s flavor of the month is Malted Sweet Cream Ice Cream with dark chocolate chunks and crushed malted milk balls folded in.