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Of food, technology, movies, music, and travel—or whatever else strikes my fancy

Food delivery and takeout services, unmasked

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Though the provincial medical advisory panel advised against it (literally predicting that will be a “disaster”), most of Ontario has been allowed to reopen to some extent, including Waterloo region. As we near a year of this “hiding in our basement” thing, and vaccines are finally rolling out in higher numbers, it would just be annoying to get infected now. So I’m trying to stay cautious. I’m finding the lure of haircut harder to resist with each day of increasingly shaggy hair. But I’m good with sticking with takeout over indoor dining (now allowed, with up to 10 patrons).

This Friday’s takeout target was Public Kitchen & Bar, where they do a very nice pot de foie and delicious fruit crepes, among other things. A difference in reopening is that we waited just inside their doors for our order to be assembled, instead of for them to deliver it to our car. They have an open view of the kitchen, and peering in to that, I couldn’t help but notice that none of the four or five cooks in there were wearing a mask.

And that seemed… odd. But I’ll get back to that later.

People ask for our takeout restaurant recommendations, and there’s no doubt what was the best: Langdon Hall, where we got our Valentine’s Day dinner. And the highlight of that meal was the first course—chilled poached sea scallops with seasoned buttermilk, citrus jam, lime leaf, and fine herbs. It was an explosion of complex but complimentary flavors that really did take us to that “fine dining” place that we haven’t been able to experience in a while.

Sea scallops in buttermilk sauce with herbs and lime dust

We enjoyed that with Peller Estates Ice Cuvee, an ice wine-infused sparkling. (Noting that all wines were from our collection, not from Langdon Hall.)

The next course was truffle soup with Parmesan shortbread, rich and delicious, and served with an excellent Pinot noir from Exultet Estates in Prince Edward County. The main course was seared beef loin and King crab umani butter, served with potato gratin, vegetable fricasse, and Madeira jus. They had cooked the beef sous vide, and it was incredibly tender. The potatoes were seasoned just right, the vegetables delicious. The dinner wine was Spanish Tempranillo, Lan Crianza ($17 at LCBO, and really delicious).

Beef loin with crab, potato gratin, vegetables

Dessert was a passion fruit bomb with vanilla Chantilly and almond frangipane.

Remembering that meal is fun, but the takeout recommendation is of little use to you now, because Langdon Hall is no longer offering takeout, given that they can partially reopen. You can, however, console yourself with a meal from Loloan Lobby Bar, our next favourite, almost as good as Langdon, and who have resolved to continue with takeout for now rather than reopen for indoor dining.

Both those places do require you to finalize (reheat, assemble) the meal yourself, so if wanting less work but still kind of fancy food, I think I’d suggest Janet Lynn’s Bistro (for entrees, the duck or the lamb). Other places that we’ve tried, which were decent, include Redhouse (which also has meal kits), The Bauer Kitchen, and Swine and Vine. Mind you, it’s simply true that some ethnic food like Indian (we go for Raja Fine Indian Cuisine), sushi (Watami Sushi), and Italian (Ennio’s Pasta House) stand up better to the travel from restaurant to home, so they’re good to have in the mix, also.

Most days of the week we’re preparing our own food, of course, so that means grocery shopping. I know a lot of people have switched to getting groceries delivered, or having some else do the shopping and going to pick up the items. At the start of this latest lockdown, we did try Sobey’s Voila service. The ordering process was fine; the delivery fee was $8, which seemed reasonable; the items—including produce—were good quality; and they did deliver within the 1-hour scheduled window (albeit with a small mountain of plastic bags). However, I didn’t find they had quite everything I wanted, so even despite the delivery, I still went to the grocery store for the rest. It also seems to be a very popular service, so the next available time slot is generally a few days away, which is more planning ahead than even I like.

So, I’m still going to the grocery store weekly (Wednesday nights, when it’s not very busy), and just supplementing with deliveries. Eco Cafe, in St Jacob’s, brings us the freshest, most delicious coffee beans once a month., in Guelph, is useful for certain items I have trouble finding at the grocery store: high-fiber pasta, sugar-free mints, organic Chai tea, unscented hand soap… That sort of thing. Like all online food services, they were overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic, but they have it down now, and orders roll out from there pretty efficiently.

And for ages we’ve been getting organic produce delivered biweekly. Our supplier, Pfennings Organic, was also somewhat overwhelmed at the start of the pandemic, but as a long-standing customer, our service continued without too many bumps.

….Until I found out they were conspiracy-minded anti-maskers, that is. I got a first inkling of this from Twitter, then more digging around Instagram and Redditt, and finally it made it the local TV news and newspaper. They were inspected, found to be in non-compliance with masking and distancing orders, fined—and they doubled down. No, they didn’t think masks were effective, no, they didn’t oblige their staff to wear them. (They were even going to be interviewed by the far-right (and racist and sexist) Rebel “news” organization, until they thought better of that one.)

I couldn’t keep supporting them. So in cancelling my order, I did give the reason (service and products good, mask policy bad), but without going on about it. Two short sentences; that’s it. They, in turn, sent me a lengthy reply on the dangers of mask wearing, complete with links to the dark corners of the web to “prove” their point.

Lordy. Anyway, now I’m trying a new organic food delivery service, Mama Earth. Remains to be seen how much I like it, but at least they have a full page listing all their covid safety protocols, so that’s a good start.

… Which brings me back to Public Kitchen & Bar. Much like my organic food delivery guy, the unmasked cooks posed no danger to me. And all restaurant staff out in the public area, who handed us our food, were masked. I’m not totally clear on what the guidelines are for kitchen staff, who I guess have to taste food semi-regularly. But it just doesn’t seem smart, does it, to risk them all infecting each other? Can’t they just lower a mask for tasting purposes, then put it back up?

So I’m a bit perplexed as to whether they deserve a spot on my “businesses I avoid because they have unmasked staff” list (currently consisting of two pet food stores and one coffee shop, along with the afore-mentioned organic store).

Opinions from the peanut gallery welcome.

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