When restaurant dining rooms were shuttered this past spring to slow the spread of COVID-19, area businesses had to think outside of the box to keep producing and selling food. With stay-at-home orders in place, many folks were procuring groceries via curbside pickups and cooking a lot more at home.
The first month or so of caring for your sourdough baby or finally mastering pasta from scratch is fun and all, but cooking every single thing you eat every day can also become exhausting. There is no shortage of creative take-out options available in Wheeling for folks who may have grown tired of cooking or of pizza delivery.
WINE TASTINGS TO GO AND MORE
Good Mansion Wines swiftly began to offer their Friday wine tastings in a “to-go” form. Owner Dominick Cerrone says that, at one point, they were serving well over 150 tastings as customers immediately took to the idea of a safe and fun “night in a box” at home.
In addition to tasting wine from the comfort of your own home, Good Mansion has offered a weekly “Supper Club” long before the dining room was closed. The recipes are largely from the Le Marche region where Cerrone’s maternal family hails from in Italy. Think of this one more as a “meal kit,” as it includes excellently sourced ingredients directly imported from Italy and measured for the recipe, along with a recipe to follow and the option of adding the wine pairing.
A truly unique experience during the pandemic, Good Mansion Wines also offered a series of French take-home dinners in collaboration with guest chefs. With dishes like Beef Bourguignon, stuffed tomatoes and zucchini, French wine pairings and desserts, they offered yet again a rare opportunity to experience fine dining safely at home, preparing over 50 servings a week. Cerrone said these dinners may reappear in the fall — keep an eye out so you don’t miss out!
Good Mansion continues to offer tastings to go as well as curbside pickup for food staples and wine.
TAKE-HOME FROM SARAH’S
Sarah’s on Main also pretty swiftly pivoted to offer a weekly take-home dinner option on their website. This was a new option for the bakery/café on Main Street, but Sarah Lydick, chef-owner, says it was always in her business plan to offer “quick, fresh and healthy dinner options.”
In addition to the dinner selection for the week, you can add Sarah’s delicious salty bread, baked goods and granola to your pick-up order. Sarah’s dinners are ready to eat. Just heat them up and serve.
Though Sarah’s is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday for folks to come in and order off the menu for takeout and/or sit in the courtyard and eat, Lydick says they like making the dinners and will continue as a way to “help customers with dinner throughout the week and help our community.”
Social distancing, mask ordinances and dining restrictions don’t seem to be going anywhere, but many local chefs see that summer produce is in full swing and fleeting in the valley. Chef Ryan Butler of Wheeling Brewing Company in collaboration with the Blended Homestead Farm offered a pop-up, three-course, farm-to-table dinner in early July. They are scheduled to repeat the offering on Aug. 23.
Featuring local proteins, vegetables and fruits all raised in the Ohio Valley, it’s an excellent way to support many local businesses at once. The farm-to-table dinner at Wheeling Brewing Company can be eaten inside the brewery with your choice of wine or beer, or it can be picked up to enjoy at home.
Chef Ryan and Blended Homestead have added the option of purchasing the entire meal (three courses) or the courses a la carte, priced individually.
FROM COOLER TO HEAT AND EAT
Public Market, in the Intermodal building on Main Street, has always offered “meals to go” in a cooler located at the end of the narrow store near their open kitchen. These meals, featuring locally raised ingredients, are fully cooked and ready for you to “heat and eat.” You can find meals like vegetarian lasagna, chana masala with tomato chutney and raita, grain-free macaroni and cheese as well as an array of fresh salads, hummus, yogurt and granola, and chia puddings.
Public Market has also experimented with the option of a take-out dinner offering a three-course Indian meal for pickup in August. As the chef at Public Market, I fully intend to continue to think about creative ways to get local food into the community safely and to give our customers a special experience dining at home but feeling like you’re in a restaurant.
As we head into slightly cooler days, the weather is perfect for getting takeout from your favorite restaurant and enjoying it at the most beautiful dining room in town, Heritage Port. Or, take a short drive and enjoy your meal with the scenic backdrop of Oglebay Park.
I hope the trend of creativity and collaboration continues to rise in the food scene here in Wheeling amid the pandemic and beyond.
We’ve got some awesome options for making eating at home more exciting because even the most enthusiastic home cook needs a night or two off.
• Melissa Rebholz was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, to a Sicilian/German family. She grew up in a household revolving around food. In 2007, a summer of volunteering for GrowNYC (New York City’s Farmer’s Markets) led her down the path to culinary school at The Natural Gourmet Institute and 10 subsequent years of farming from Long Island to Sonoma to Tennessee. Working simultaneously in kitchens to support her farming habit, Melissa migrated back to the rustbelt in October of 2019 to help Grow Ohio Valley open the Public Market as the head chef. Her hobbies include foraging, baking, dinner parties and exploring her new home of Wheeling, West Virginia.