Love in the time of COVID-19? It’s still possible, as long as you wash your hands. Those opting to self-isolate don’t need to sacrifice romance for safety thanks to the Stay at Home Date Night. This timely collaboration between Venue Unknown and other local businesses offers dinner for two and some additional treats.
Jennifer Sanderson, founder of Venue Unknown, which offers pop-up culinary experiences, said she came up with the idea out of desperation. As restrictions for public interaction became more limited, she had to put much of her other work — planning for Venue Unknown and Neighborhood Pop Shop as well as PR work — on hold.
"The community’s health should be our first priority, but I had to quickly think of a way to pivot my income streams," she wrote in an email. "Without being ones of those jerks buying up supplies and reselling at a steep markup."
Along with looking for something that would work in the current market, she also wanted to bring in fellow friends and clients who own small businesses and not compete with what restaurants and stores were already doing.
"I also kept seeing people post anxious and sad posts about being cooped up, and having to cancel parties. My own stepdaughter has her 21st birthday this weekend, and there won’t be any place for her to go.
"I thought what people need is a way to bring a little extra joy home, and still find ways to celebrate."
So she created a mini-event in a box, designed for two.
The team-up features products from eight other businesses: The Kitchen, Autonomy Farms, Hillside Mushrooms, Broadfork Acres, Baker's Outpost, Oleander + Palm, House of Flowers and Tiki-Ko.
A meal for two prepared by chef Richard Yoshimura of The Kitchen is the highlight of the package, which also includes Oleander + Palm taper candles, a surprise bottle of wine, floral bouquet from House of Flowers and a $20 gift card from Tiki-Ko (to be redeemed when the downtown bar can reopen).
There are two options: "lite eaters," which is the choice of half a chicken from Autonomy Farms or a small mushroom tart made with Hillside Mushrooms fungi; or "regular eaters," which is a choice of a full chicken, a large mushroom tart or the combo of a half-chicken and small tart.
Each dinner comes with Baker's Outpost bread, salad of Broadfork Acres produce, vegetarian potato side dish and shortbread cookies from Oleander + Palm.
Yoshimura and Sanderson worked out the menu to highlight the vendors.
"We needed to keep things simple and delicious, but still elegant," she wrote. "Take-out food is a bit different than being able to plate a multi-course menu in a restaurant. Richard really wanted to use as much local product as possible, even down to the seasoning (Phil’s 21 Spice Rub, which is made in Bakersfield)."
Cost is $130 for lite, $145 for regular. Customers can also opt to add an additional large mushroom tart for $20. Curbside pickup is available at The Kitchen, 1317 20th St., between 4 and 6:30 p.m. Friday or Saturday, depending on the order. Diners can also opt for a no-contact home drop-off for $15.
The packages are available for Friday or Saturday but orders must be made and confirmed by noon that day. Orders must be emailed to info@VenueUnknown.com with an indication of curbside pickup or home drop off along with a preferred time. After the order is received an online invoice will be sent, payable via credit card or PayPal.
Sanderson said she thinks they're on track to sell out, but take heart, lovebirds: She's planning future "dates."
"I have had many people request it for later dates, because they are first trying to eat perishables this weekend."
She is also looking into family birthday packages, anniversary dinners and more for weekend deliveries. Price ranges will vary, depending on other vendors involved, to appeal to those with different budgets.
Sanderson also said she's impressed with other businesses who are getting creative in a time of crisis, pointing out Dot + Ott's great St. Patrick’s take-home dinner, Heather Laganelli at Locale, and Roy Scarazzo and his awesome team from Tiki Ko who "have some super cool things rolling out over the next few weeks."
" ... The ultimate goal is for the virus to be contained and for America to go back to life as usual, but as long as we are stuck inside, entrepreneurs are going to try and make the best of it. It’s all we can do."