My Journey by Donna Karan

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. This looks different for everyone, whether you’re having a romantic evening, partying with friends, or catching up on “Vanderpump Rules” because they make anyone else’s dysfunction look normal. One thing is certain though: food should be involved.

If you are looking for something totally different, then PopKitch has you covered with their “Love in a Box” package, which brings the restaurant experience (minus the strangers dining around you) straight into your home in the form of a gourmet dinner.

You can even arrange to have a butler serve you in your home and clean up the mess.

Marie Tabela: First off, tell me about PopKitch.

Marcos Rodriguez: We take street food and make it high end. We’ve found that a lot of catering companies focus on one type of cuisine, and we wanted to focus on some of those nostalgic flavors that people are familiar with and elevate them. My favorite thing is also making sure that food is as comforting as any of our traditional recipes are, but always having a little twist to it to make it healthier. I cut back on the use of butter, flour, and saturated fats. I start to use items like xanthan and other thickening agents so we can make a vinaigrette so it binds, but it doesn’t end up being all oil.

MT: What inspired you to start “Love in a Box”?

MR: I’ve been looking at starting a quicker way for people to order last-minute catering and so the idea of “catering in a box” is where we started. Then it evolved into what we could do for people who don’t have a date for Valentine’s Day, or who didn’t want to deal with the hassle of having to go to a restaurant and being among a bunch of people they don’t even know, and having it be so expensive. I was thinking, “How do we create your own space?”

MT: I love that idea! What all comes in the box?

MR: For this one, it comes with a mini charcuterie plate with some of my choices of domestic and imported dried meats and cheeses, some seasonal fresh and dried fruit for texture and complementary flavors, and we do an assortment of artisanal crackers and bread. That’s something they could share before moving into the actual dinner, which consists of a salad chosen from three options we give them, then a main entree, and they can choose one or two depending on how much they want or what they want from our choices. We serve up a carrot and yam puree with roasted seasonal vegetables, which are root-based right now. The last thing is a dessert. The choices are pot de creme or triple berry trifle with olive oil cake.

MT: I LOVE olive oil cake.

MR: I do too! I love it seared in a pan with butter.

MT: Yes!

MR: And a lot of recipes use orange juice, but I’m much more into lemon or lime juice.

MT: Oh yes please! What are the choices for the entree and salads?

MR: There is a roasted beet salad with mixed greens, roasted Marcona almonds, and balsamic vinaigrette. Then we move into the second choice of orange fennel salad with fresh orange pulp and roasted fennel, red onion and mint. It’s much more of a Moroccan feel.

apple and machengo salad on a plate

MT: That sounds so good.

MR: (laughing) Uh, yeah! We normally pair it with cumin and coriander champagne vinaigrette. Then we have fresh and baked apple with Manchego over mixed greens.

MT: These all sound amazing! I need like five orders.

MR: Yes! One of the things I strive for with these items are color and vibrancy to give it a pop culture feel to it as well.

MT: They all sound really pretty.

MR: The choices for the main course are beef, chicken and veggie. The beef is a braised short rib with tomato and red wine reduction sauce. The roasted chicken is an airline cut seared off with a chicken demi, which is like a reduced wine with butter. The vegetarian item is stuffed portobello with leek spinach tapenade and topped off with a Romesco sauce.

MT: I’m getting hungry! So do people pick them up, or are they delivered?

MR: We can do either one. There is a delivery option as well as a pick-up option. One of the other cool options that I thought would be nice is offering the option of us scheduling a butler for serving and cleanup. They can help plate and serve the meal.

MT: How much lead time do you need for an order?

MR: 48 hours, but we will always try to take a call.

MT: Is it the same lead time for the butler option as well?

MR: Yes.

MT: Is there any cooking involved at all for the customer?

MR: No, the customer should just have the oven on warm [to warm up the food].

MT: How many people does it serve?

MR: These packages are set for six.

MT: How much does it cost?

MR: It’s set at $315 plus tax, so it becomes a really good deal if you’re splitting it up with other guests and couples. Tell everyone to bring a bottle of wine so everyone can each have one!

MT: Do you have vegan and gluten-free options as well?

MR: Yes! The grilled portobello is both vegan and gluten-free, and the pot de cremes are unbaked and completely gluten-free and vegan without the whipped cream.

MT: Can you do the other entrees as gluten-free as well?

MR: Yes.

braised short rib sizzling in a pan

MT: Will you be offering these boxes or similar boxes after Valentine’s Day?

MR: Yes. We’re moving into offering them for other social holidays and get togethers, and eventually we will move it towards catering in a box. You know the idea of Blue Apron? We want to do something like that where the customers take on the cooking or finishing of it. We call it “catering in a box” because we can prepare it to the point of you finishing it without losing any of the quality.

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