I have found that, in the age of COVID-19, I have replaced much of my usual time spent on dating applications with a more familiar and loyal lover. My refrigerator. The coronavirus has put me into a serious romantic lockdown and thus, my only access to any warm and fuzzy feelings is my not-so-socially-distant fridge. There he sits, merely two rooms away, humming away day and night, always ready, always acting totally chill, and always fully loaded.
You see, this never-ending pandemic has caused me to miss many of my favorite past times – all connected to food, of course – including dining out with friends, ordering in for a night of Netflix, shopping at the neighborhood grocery store and going to the local farmers market.
But, as we begin to talk about re-opening of our local businesses and economy, we must also continue to be focused on our community’s relief efforts and turn to the next chapter of taking good care of our neighbors, friends and most vulnerable members of our workforce .
Some of my favorite ideas of relief have come over the last three weeks at the Putting on the Pounds Market dreamed-up, hosted and curated by the incomparable and indefatigable Lee Brian Schrager. A fellow Gable-ite and uber-foodie, Lee is our cherished local celebrity de gastronomy who puts his money where his mouth is and leads by example with a heart as big as a dozen Night Owl Cookies.
As we all know, at the very beginning of this crisis, our hospitality industry was devastated overnight as restaurants were forced into a delivery/take-out mode with the flip of a switch. Suddenly, and without warning or blame, thousands of restaurant employees were out of work and in dire need of support. Most already lived paycheck-to-paycheck and so to be told to stay safer at home meant no income. No nada.
Add to that the fact that restaurants that were open, only had a take-out and/or delivery option and many local consumers like me turned to third-party delivery companies to bring them their dinner. Gone were business lunches and breakfasts and social distance became the norm. Zoom meetings replaced the quiet table for two in the corner of the restaurant to cut the next big business deal. We were living out of our refrigerator more and the restaurants lived the pain.
Enter Lee Schrager to the rescue – on a white horse shaped like a bagel wielding a croquetta-shaped sword. He was our knight in shining armor. Never at a loss for creative ideas, he called upon his vast empire of friends and colleagues to help. They immediately jumped into action and helped him create our very own Putting on the Pounds (LBS) drive-thru market. This brilliant, thoughtfully curated, and dangerous to only the waistline, market has been a smash hit. Selling out in mere minutes, pound packers like me line-up in your vehicle every Sunday morning, place your order through the window, fork over some life-saving cash and head out with the loot.
There are artisan pops, croquetta boxes, scones, mojito mixes and more. It is literally quite simple to indulge and it not only brings a smile to your face, it reminds you that doing good can also taste really good, too.
I have been amazed at the partners who have stepped up each week: Night Owl Cookies, Chef Hedy Goldsmith and her buttery cheddar biscuits, Macchialina and their mind-blowing baked ziti, the Bagel Club, Gables’ own Mojo Donuts, to name but a few. Every week there are new faces and places to sample. These generous purveyors donate all of their food and every dollar raised goes to help the SOBEWFF and Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism at FIU. This hospitality relief fund is a delicious hit and I can’t wait for Sunday to roll around each week.
I hope to see all of you in the line-up this Sunday at Noon and thank our friends at the City of Coral Gables for helping make it happen logistically and safely.
And don’ forget, bring some cash, your market wish list, an empty stomach (so you buy more) and a big hungry smile. You might even get lucky enough to be served by the masked maestro himself.
Thank you Lee – we will see you this Sunday on Hardee!