Curbside pickup from White Orchids, one of our local Thai restaurants, brought the spicy flavors we love to our date night during life in the time of coronavirus. We’ve tried to spread our support of local businesses over several of our favorite restaurants. Although we hadn’t eaten at White Orchids in several months, the time seemed right to do curbside pickup. I pulled an actual white orchid off my planters’ rack, and my husband looked up music from Thailand on his phone. We were ready to satisfy our “spice teeth.”
(In case you haven’t been following my Life in the Time of Coronavirus series, check out my first installment to see how to make takeout into a special occasion.)
Curbside Pickup Restaurant: White Orchids
Location: The Promenade Shops in Center Valley, PA
Our recent curbside pickup from Torre, our local higher-end Mexican restaurant, served two purposes: supporting a small business and giving me a night off from cooking. It gave us a break from the now-normal routine of life in the time of coronavirus. As I wrote in an earlier blog, you can create a special date night out of curbside pickup. In this case, we chose another ambience. Different food, different mood.
If you don’t live near Center Valley, PA, find your own local restaurant to support. They will appreciate it.
During life in the time of coronavirus, traveling your backyard can relieve stress while reminding you that you are part of the world. While we hunkered down inside, spring arrived. Birds belt out their mating songs, and long-dormant plants push through the leaf litter and mulch. Those of us fortunate enough to own our own property can spend hours outside without leaving its borders. After all, lots of spring work lies ahead. But even city dwellers can avail themselves of the outdoors. If you can’t walk outside, open the windows. Look and listen carefully. Mindfulness doesn’t apply only to eating and meditation.
Most of us are at home, adapting to life in the time of coronavirus, struggling with losing a job or being kept from loved ones or wanting to scream at the walls closing us in. World Oyster, usually devoted to travel and fine dining, will temporarily shift its focus to dealing with the isolation and to supporting the local community. Life in the time of coronavirus means that we all have to be creative.
Because several nearby restaurants offer curbside pick-up, my husband and I decided to support them while treating ourselves to a special evening. After all, we still have to tend to ourselves. We started with curbside pick-up from Cascade at Durham Springs and found ways to create an intimate, elegant dinner in our own home.
To set the stage for the evening, you will have to do some pre-planning. After you’ve decided which restaurant you’ll support, consider how to enhance your upcoming meal with ambience. Think dining, not eating. Take it as far as you’d like.
The Kimpton Hotel Palomar Philadelphia has historically been one of my favorite hotels in downtown Center City. This time, however, we experienced a few glitches that took it down a notch in my estimation. Not that I wouldn’t return, because I would. It just won’t be my obvious first choice when I stay in the Rittenhouse Square area. Still, this luxury hotel in the heart of the city offers a comfortable haven from the bustle of the city.
I had wanted to try Vetri Cucina in Philadelphia for a long time, ever since a friend mentioned it. On a recent trip to the city to celebrate our wedding anniversary, my husband and I finally had our opportunity. For the average person, Vetri will be viewed as insanely expensive; however, for a foodie like me, it provides a whole evening of entertainment, with a price comparable to a ticket to a Broadway show.
We booked the first seating, at 6 pm. It took almost three full hours before we walked out, just in time to make room for the second seating. I loved the experience so much that I named Vetri Cucina as one of my top restaurants of 2019.
Recommended strategy: Let the chef choose for you unless some items turn you off.
Favorite dishes: Sweet onion crepe with truffle fondue; proscuitto cotto: almond tortellini with truffle sauce; fig caramelle with gorgonzola; porcelet chop; pistachio flan
Cuisine: Upscale Italian
Most surprising: The building once house the renowned Le Bec Fin.
Dress: Business casual to urban chic. No formal dress code.
Décor: Old World
Price: $165 per person, excluding alcohol and gratuity.
This week finds World Oyster at the Easton Public Market. Opened in 2015, the market is one of the newer attractions in this small eastern Pennsylvania city. It joins Lafayette College, the Crayola Experience, and the National Canal Museum as a local attraction.
Best Lunch: Mister Lee’s Noodles
Second-Best Lunch: Taylor Taco Shop
Decadent Treat to Go: Macarons from Chocodiem
Most surprising: The quality of the dining options
Most disappointing: The small size limits the number of stalls.
Parking: There’s a small parking lot at the back of the market, but it fills quickly. The best bet is to find street parking nearby.
Within easy driving distance from Bethlehem, Allentown, and New Jersey, the Easton Public Market is a fun way to spend an hour or so. Locals will grab a quick lunch or buy a few things for dinner that night. While the offerings are hardly expansive, the market does offer some gourmet options as well as more traditional fare.
Mister Lee’s Noodles
Chef Lee Chizmar is famous in the Lehigh Valley for his excellent farm-to-table French restaurant Bolete. A 2015 James Beard-nominee, Chizmar knows how to coax maximum flavor out of the simplest ingredients. The opening of Mister Lee’s Noodles in the Easton Public Market caused a lot of excitement. Despite knowing all that, I never would have guessed that ramen noodles could taste as rich and as flavorful as they do from this counter. Most hot bowls are topped with a “60-minute egg” — I assume sous-vide — but you can order your dish without one, as I did. Cold bowls tend to include hard boiled eggs.
World Oyster at the Easton Public Market rates Mister Lee’s Noodles as the best food by a slim margin.
Recommended: Hot & Spicy Ramen, cold Korean BBQ Beef noodles, whatever the daily special is.
Taylor Taco Shop
I love spicy food, one reason why I love the Hot and Spicy Ramen at Mister Lee’s, but that’s not the only spicy option at the Easton Public Market. Taylor Taco Shop offers customized tacos, burritos, and bowls. Although it’s modeled after Chipotle, the fillings are much more distinctive and delicious. You can customize or order one of their combinations. When I last visited, the options included two vegetarian (The Taza with falafel and the Fried Sweet Potato) and one meat (Roast Duck.) You can also dictate exactly what you want. Bowls with seared mahi-mahi and pork carnitas were excellent.
For those with a sweet tooth, World Oyster at the Easton Public Market must note Chocodiem. The glass cases display a fabulous array of Belgian chocolates and macarons, and everything tastes as good as it looks. Since I’m partial to French macarons, I can’t leave the market without a box of these. Yes, they are expensive, but oh-so-worth-it!
Chocodiem has two other locations, one in Clinton, NJ, and the other in the Bourse in Philadelphia.
Olive With a Twist
Olive With a Twist offers a selection of cheeses, olives oils, vinegars, and other gourmet items. The cheese selection is more limited than I’d like and offers nothing beyond what I can get at Wegman’s. Regardless, it makes a good stop if you are already in the Public Market.
Dundore and Heister
Although I haven’t shopped at Dundore and Heister myself, people rave about the meats sold here. It offers local, pasture-raised, and organic meats.
This small grocery store brims with produce and gourmet items such as local honey. The Highmark Farmstand‘s produce is pricey, but the display of it looks inviting enough to convince you to “strive for five” — or maybe six or seven. Pick up a jar of butterscotch peanut butter for a treat!
I’ve have never seen The Kitchen’s space used. As I understand it, you can watch cooking demonstrations, take classes, or attend a food-related education workshop. All I know is that I’d love to cook behind those glass windows.
Other Shops of Note
Silvershell Counter + Kitchen is another Lee Chizmar/Erin Shea venture. On my last visit, it had just opened and looked a little . . . not quite open. They offer freshly shucked oysters, fried clams, and lobster rolls as well as foods-to-go.
Full of Crepe (my favorite Easton Public Market name!) is a popular stop. You can get made-to-order sweet or savory crepes, plus salads.
Scratch uses a brick pizza oven, and it serves its own beer. I was annoyed when I tried to get pizza there during its supposedly open hours and found a “be back soon” sign. Not good on a Saturday. It did open about 30 minutes later, a little after noon.
Although I wish the Easton Public Market were larger, I still found the stop interesting enough to repeat. The dining options offer something for everyone, from traditionalist to gourmet.