No Cooking Required – From North to South County, ready-made meals are good to go
If preparing delicious and healthful meals every night is getting to be too much, and pizza or Chinese take-out are becoming way too regular, Berkshire County offers two excellent and creative options.
Molly Johnston, who runs Back to Basics in New Ashford, has branched out from her traditional catering services to offer meal delivery. Johnston is not only a chef, she also has a degree in nutrition science, giving her the added expertise to tailor her meals to the specific health needs of her clients. And she brings it right to people’s front door.
“They can go to my catering menu and they can choose an entrée, two sides, and a dessert,” she says. Her regular customers include seniors, professional couples, and visitors to the area who rent vacation homes. One example is Hudson Hideaway, which includes in its rental’s packet of information the contact details for Johnston.
Weekly meals generally cost far less than comparable dinners in a restaurant, and range from $9 to $13.75 per person. Meal orders placed on Sunday are guaranteed delivery for the following Tuesday to Friday.
For those who want to cook their own meals but don’t want the hassle of grocery shopping—particularly when a recipe calls for one or more unusual ingredients—Molly recently launched a meal kit service that might be just the ticket. The chef gathers the ingredients for the chosen entrée and delivers the package to the customer’s home along with complete instructions on how to prepare the one-pot meal. Cost is a reasonable $9.99 per person per kit.
In South County, a completely different take-out business model has formed. Braiseworthy, the start-up enterprise of Jeff Blaugrund and Austin Banach, focuses on locally sourced ingredients for its frozen dinners.
Yes, frozen dinners. But what Braiseworthy offers is certainly not your typical TV dinner in a foil tray. “We can cook meals that are normally not convenient for people to cook—really good convenient food that doesn’t need additives or preservatives,” says Blaugrund. “Braising takes hours, but we can do it at an economic scale. Freezing is the best way to preserve it. There’s something that happens at the cellular level when you reheat them. The cell tissues expand when the water inside them expands, so it releases more flavor. It’s more tender.”
Blaugrund was inspired by a guy named Jim Slama, whom he met at a food conference. He runs an organization out of Chicago called Family Farmed that urges people to eat food produced as locally as possible using sustainable, humane, and fair practices. Braiseworth sources as much of its ingredients locally as it can. At that same food conference, he met Marcel Van Ooyen, president and CEO of GrowNYC, who told him, “Whatever you do in local, just make sure you are accountable to it.”
What does local mean? The answers varies, says Blaugard. “When companies are making claims about local, there’s nothing to agree upon what does local mean. Is it a 100-mile radius or is it a 500-mile radius? It means different things when you’re in different parts of the country.”
Braiseworthy buys from farms in Massachusetts and the Hudson Valley, and its beans from Maine. Their chickens travel the greatest distance, from Pennsylvania. Its meals are sold on a CSA-like model directly to the consumer: Customers subscribe on the company’s website for weekly or bi-weekly deliveries and choose a pickup location. The three current locations are in Great Barrington, South Egremont, and Pittsfield, with more to come. Quarterly subscriptions are $10 per meal and monthly subscriptions are $11 per meal.
Braiseworthy currently has nine meals in rotation and is planning to release seven more meals, including three more vegan options.
À la carte ordering is also available. And the company has a food truck that travels to business sites and pop-up food festivals. The truly unique aspect of Braiseworthy meals is that consumers can see the actual source of the ingredients used in them. Every frozen meal package gets a batch number. Put that number in the ingredient tracker on the company’s website and get the source of farms that are contributing to the meal. A distinctive model to be sure, but Blaugrund says, “We feel pretty solid in this position.”
Back to Basics can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling them at
413-822-2349. Learn about meals available at braiseworthy.com or contact via email: