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D.C. hospitality businesses continue to reinvent themselves as they struggle to survive during the pandemic. The latest round of innovation comes in a box. Bars, bakeries, and restaurants are packing up at-home cooking kits designed to help quarantined customers beat boredom while also boosting their businesses’ bottom lines nearly eight months into the public health emergency.
Tiki Drink Kits from Archipelago
Maybe you’ve figured out how to make yourself an Old Fashioned or Negroni during the pandemic, but trying to recreate your favorite tiki cocktail at home is a next-level skill. Enter Archipelago’s “End of the Week” tiki boxes, debuting Oct. 30. The U Street NW oasis offers two sizes for pick-up or delivery within D.C. proper that can be ordered online.
The small ($60) gets you two cocktails containing a total of four to six servings and the large ($110) comes with three cocktails containing a total of eight to ten servings. Archipelago will change up the contents off the box every week and each box comes with a playlist, an occasional video, and fun garnishes so you can get the full Archipelago experience at home. Remember, these are the people behind the immaculately crafted banana dolphin that sits atop their banana daiquiri.
Place orders by Wednesdays at noon for pick-up or delivery on Friday evenings between 5 to 8 p.m. Since the first kits are available on Halloween weekend, the small will come with one skull mug and the large will come with two skull mugs. The drinks are always a surprise, but co-owner Owen Thomson says the Halloween kit will feature a Zombie cocktail.
Later on, customers will be able to tack on items such as bottles of falernum or orgeat, and Archipelago is planning special kits for Christmas that capture the feel of the pop-up bars they’ve hosted over the past couple years.
Baking Mix Kits from Buttercream Bakeshop
Buttercream Bakeshop co-owner Tiffany MacIsaac says you only need a bowl, a whisk, and a pair of hands to make three of her Shaw bakery’s most popular treats at home. Starting on Oct. 31, Washingtonians will be able to pick up baking mixes that come with short Instagram video tutorials on how to make Cinnascones, Unicorn Bars, and Mexican chocolate cookies.
The Mexican chocolate cookies and Unicorn Bars are for novices. “They’re a one-bowl recipe,” MacIsaac says. “The Cinnascone is more complicated. You have to make dough, chill it, roll it out, and roll it up. But there are videos that go alongside it. Everything is easy if someone shows you how to do it.”
While Buttercream Bakeshop was test-driving its baking mixes, MacIsaac says a group of parents bought 20 Mexican chocolate cookie boxes that they all made together on Zoom for a kid’s birthday party.
In addition to virtual parties, MacIsaac says the baking mixes make good gifts. Come November, she says they’ll add an apple pie kit that only requires customers to add apples, butter, and water. She envisions families who can’t get together in person making apple pies in unison online.
Kits cost $20 to $22 each. Online ordering is already available for kits that can be picked up on Oct. 31 between 10 a.m. and noon.
Kid’s Lunch Meal Kits from Ellē
If you’re juggling distance learning along with other responsibilities, take making your kid’s lunch off of your to-do list by ordering from Ellē. They started selling kid’s lunch meals today. “It’s something fun for the kids to look forward to and gives parents a break,” says Lizzy Evelyn, who has two kids and co-owns the restaurant.
It’s $10 and comes with a ham & cheese sandwich on house-made white bread with the crusts cut off, house-made potato chips, rainbow carrot sticks with ranch dip, poached pears, a funfetti brownie, and a choice of a kid-friendly drink. There are also some helpful diversions. Ellē made two colors of edible play dough in house—one is stained green using spinach and the other is purple from hibiscus. There’s also crayons and an activity sheet created by local artist Hannah Dean.
The kid’s meal kits are available Thursdays, Fridays, and even on Saturdays should families want to plan a picnic. Rock Creek Park is down the hill from the Mount Pleasant restaurant. Evelyn says the goal is to have the kits ready at 8 a.m., but customers can specify what time they’d like to pick them up when placing orders online.
There are plenty of options for adults to treat themselves to as well such as a Cubano sandwich, vegetarian Reuben, and a charred broccoli salad.
Date Night Kits from Caruso’s Grocery
Caruso’s Grocery chef and partner Matt Adler is taking a big risk. He’s boxing up a feast showcasing what diners might expect to taste when his full-service Italian American “red sauce” restaurant eventually opens next to The Roost on Capitol Hill. Typically a chef would want to tightly control diners’ first impression of a restaurant by providing a full dine-in experience. But Adler’s antsy to get cooking and show Washingtonians what he’s been working on.
The preview menu, which costs $38 per person, includes an antipasto plate, five-cheese garlic bread, baked Sorrentina-style gnocchi, chicken Marsala, broccoli with roasted garlic and hot chilies, Nutella cannolis with chocolate chips, and a choice of a two-ounce pour of an amaro.
Pick-up and delivery is available this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night. It’s part of Neighborhood Provision’s ongoing “date night” series that highlights a different chef each week. The delivery radius includes all parts of the District, plus Montgomery County, Maryland and Alexandria and Arlington in Northern Virginia. Pick-up is available at Bluejacket in Navy Yard, Rustico Alexandria, Rustico Arlington, Red Apron in the Mosaic District, and Owen’s Ordinary in North Bethesda. Orders must be placed by 9 p.m. the day before your preferred pick-up or delivery date.