Happiness… is a catering subscription

In a recent roundup of restaurant news, I mentioned Dear Grain Bakery. I love sourdough bread and the fact that they deliver seemed like a nice indulgence on a cold day. I ordered and really enjoyed my Super Seeded bread.

The special of the week – Chocolate Cherry Loaf – was scrumptious and they both devoured with their maple sea salt peanut butter. I noticed they offered a bread subscription plan and started exploring that approach to food service.

First, some generalities. Some subscription services require you to “sign up” immediately, although all state that subscribers can suspend or leave their plan at any time. There may be a “first order” discount. Payment is generally “as you go” with some cost reductions for longer term subscriptions. Food delivery (sometimes take-out) can often be varied, ranging from once a week to once a month. Delivery can be free or linked to the size of the order. Perishable foods may arrive frozen with serving instructions. Weekly promotions are communicated in a newsletter and/or on social networks. The price varies.

Dear Grain Bakery: Super Seed Bread, Chocolate Cherry Bread, and Maple Sea Salt Peanut Butter.Photo by Diane Galambos

Dear grainfor example, has more than one rate plan for three freshly baked loaves delivered every one, two, three or four weeks with always free delivery, anywhere in Ontario and Quebec.

Here are some other subscription services. This list is not exhaustive and I have not tried them all:

Kitchen island. You can find the talented Alex Shimshon and his artisan baked goods in pop-ups and markets, but the real treat is to order one of his matching baking boxes – a delicious rotating variety of sweet and savory treats. I loved that they were delivered to your doorstep on Sunday mornings. Do it occasionally or join the Breakfast Club.

Kitchen Island: Assorted Baking Box - Onion Soup Pockets, Cabbage Rolls, Cinnamon Twists.
Kitchen Island: Assorted Baking Box – Onion Soup Pockets, Cabbage Rolls, Cinnamon Twists.Photo by Diane Galambos

Eat Porta launched in late 2021. I found out it was tied to Terroni’s, a Toronto restaurant I frequent. As their delivery service extends to Burlington and Hamilton, I gave them a try. Subscription plans vary, choosing a combo of pizza, pasta, and dessert – what they describe as “Italian classics handmade by our chefs.” Frozen foods arrive with simple instructions (written and video) regarding the final preparation. Their beautifully colored pasta is outstanding with delicious sauces. The delicately spiced bolognese sauce proves that you can, as they promise, bring the restaurant home. Thumbs up for the Budino (caramel toffee pudding) which seems so easy to make but which I never do. They have plans to eventually add more options.

Eat Porta: delivery of pasta, pizzas and desserts.
Eat Porta: delivery of pasta, pizzas and desserts.Photo by Diane Galambos

Clever Ramen is another service that is not local. They have noodle shops in Guelph and Kitchener, but ship anywhere in Ontario and offer subscriptions. You control the “what and when”. According to their website, all “products are made from fresh ingredients, without the use of preservatives or MSG. We make everything we can at home, from our broths to our noodles. If you want to try them out before committing to a subscription, buy a kit from Crown Point Market. Instructions are on the box, but I found their online video instructions much better. Choose from 11 types of ramen and a gyoza kit.

Crafty Ramen: Homemade Spicy Negi Vegan Ramen Kit.
Crafty Ramen: Homemade Spicy Negi Vegan Ramen Kit.Photo of clever ramen

Dundurn Market is nothing new for subscriptions that have perfected the delivery of their Market Boxes, a customizable selection of fresh produce each week from local, organic and sustainable farmers. The list of what you can add to your delivery includes produce from local entrepreneurs, ready meals, bread, baked goods, pizza, meat — even wine/beer, and flowers. Make your delivery à la carte or subscribe.

Merk snack bar. For prepared meals, sign up for Merk’s Meal Plan and eat five fresh meals per week. A newsletter and social networks alert you to the menu of the week inspired by chef/owner Mark Baker. Dine at Merk’s if you need to be convinced that their food is excellent. Weekly/monthly plans offer good value for money.

Merk Snack Bar: Sample meal plan, beef and chicken taco salad and Nashville coleslaw.
Merk Snack Bar: Sample meal plan, beef and chicken taco salad and Nashville coleslaw.Merk Snack Bar photo

East Hamilton Cheese Co. The contents of their monthly cheese box vary, broadening your horizons when it comes to cheese consumption. A recent box included Mountainoak Celery Gouda and Oxford’s Harvest Toasted Onion from Gunn’s Hill. Subscriptions are paid as you go or for several months. Pickup in progress with delivery to come.

Prepared fresh. Founded by Juan Buitrago (originally with students in mind), healthy, ready-to-eat meals are prepared in collaboration with Equal Parts Hospitality and Cake and Loaf Bakery. Food can be ordered in single or multiple portions. They sold 17,000 meals in Hamilton, Burlington and surrounding communities.

Chef Nina’s creative cuisine sells hot and served meals (including desserts) in individual or family format. Calling the meal plans “clean foods,” they’re free of dairy, gluten, and refined sugar.

Chef Nina's creative cuisine: Korean-style beef stir-fry on cauliflower rice.
Chef Nina’s creative cuisine: Korean-style beef stir-fry on cauliflower rice.Photo of Chef Nina

Amo tea markets Afternoon Tea Boxes and bimonthly subscription boxes. These include three full-size packages of loose leaf teas prepared by owner Heather Peter, a certified tea sommelier, as well as tea accessories, a teatime treat and a surprise gift.

Black-owned Hamilton promotes local businesses and entrepreneurs and now offers boxes with products ranging from edibles to candles and personal care.

Abygail, left, and Ashleigh Montague with a Hamilton Black History Month box (including the sweater Abygail is wearing) with Camille Malabre, owner of Amorphous Hair Group.

Do some research and you’ll discover a variety of subscription boxes. Some examples: retro candy, chocolates, artwork, books, flowers, coffee, wine and personal/beauty care.

Where to get it

Black-owned Hamilton

blkowned.ca/

instagram.com/blkownedhamont/

Chef Nina’s creative cuisine

289-456-2071

chefninascreativekitchen.com/

instagram.com/chefninascreativekitchen/

Clever Ramen

craftyramen.com/collections/monthly-ramen

instagram.com/crafty_ramen/

Crown Point Market

162 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton

crownpointmarket.com/

instagram.com/crownpointmarket/

Dear Grain Commissioner

103 Vine Street, Hamilton

905-528-8877

deargrain.com/collections/subscriptions

instagram.com/deargrainbakery/

Dundurn Market

346 Dundurn St. S., Hamilton

905-518-1433

mrktbox.com/

instagram.com/dundurnmarket/

East Hamilton Cheese Co.

187 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton

905-920-2314

facebook.com/easthamiltoncheeseco/

instagram.com/easthamiltoncheeseco/

Eat Porta

eatporta.com/

instagram.com/eatporta/

Kitchen island

kitchenisland.ca/products/join-the-breakfast-club

instagram.com/kitchenisland__/

Merk snack bar

189 Ottawa Street North, Hamilton

905-869-9159

merksnackbar.com/meal-prep.html

instagram.com/merksnackbar/

Prepared fresh

[email protected]

prepdfresh.com/

instagram.com/prepdfresh/

Amo tea

289-237-4099

teaamo.ca/products/tea-amo-subscription-box

instagram.com/teaamoca/