Amazon Prime teams up with Sprouts to amp up its grocery delivery

Amazon Prime has been delivery groceries in Austin for two years, but it was somewhat limited in its offering, focusing mostly on dry goods. The big warehouse in North Austin didn’t have the capacity to do fresh produce, raw meat and refrigerated goods.

That all changed today when Amazon announced its partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market (a grocery store, not a farmers market, I’ll note) to offer one- and two-hour grocery delivery in Austin.

Amazon Prime is now delivering Sprouts to customers in Austin, but the delivery time depends on where you live in the city. It costs $7.99 to get the one-hour delivery, but free after that. The prices are similar to what’s in the store.

Sprouts has five locations around Austin, which makes it easier for Amazon shoppers to hit that one-hour mark, something that is difficult to do with only one warehouse and crazy Central Texas traffic.

But here’s the catch: You can only get the one- and two-hour delivery if you’re in certain ZIP codes. I don’t live in a part of town where I can get the one-hour delivery, but I was able to book a future delivery for free, so I went shopping.

Some details about the delivery zones: Amazon doesn’t release specific details about which ZIP codes or areas of Austin it offers delivery; the company only suggests that customers go online to put in their ZIP code to see if they are eligible. When I initially started shopping, I didn’t have the option of getting a two-hour delivery, but a few hours later, I was eligible.

It sounds like availability can change based on demand, but the bottom line is: You should be able to get one-hour delivery in the parts of Austin that are somewhat near a Sprouts store, but you might have to wait an hour or two longer if things are really busy or you’re just a little too far.

Amazon Prime launched one- and two-hour delivery in partnership with Sprouts Farmers Market this week.

The Sprouts prices are the same prices as in the store, at least as far as I could tell. I picked out coffee, soda, a ton of fresh produce, a half-gallon of milk, raw chicken and some of their fresh sausage, which is one of the items that usually draws me into the store in the first place. It took a little digging around, but you can also order from their bulk section, another competitive advantage over stores with smaller bulk offerings.

Some of the snacks I wanted to buy (Chex Mix, Cheez-Its) Sprouts doesn’t carry, but I was able to order them for a separate delivery from Amazon. (Yes, that means two deliveries. More on that in a second.)

Unless you enter the site through the “Sprouts” banner on the Prime homepage, the search function automatically includes results from both Amazon and Sprouts, so if you’re only trying to schedule one delivery (and pay one tip), it can be challenging to make sure you’re picking all Sprouts (or Amazon) items. (You can filter the results to only show one store, but the site drops the filter with each new search. It’s a small fix that I hope they’ll make.)

I ended up needing enough stuff that Sprouts didn’t have (I’ll do a lot for a box of Cheez-Its) that I placed another order on Amazon for delivery at the same time. Because they weren’t one-hour deliveries, both were free, and I included a $5 tip on each, so in my mind, I spent an extra $10 to not have to go to two stores.

Both deliveries arrived near the very end of the delivery window, which made me feel silly for rushing home to try to get there before the groceries arrived, but on that particular day, I was willing to pay $10 not to have to go to two stores. I ended up with about 15 paper bags that made me feel like I was wasting a lot of trees for that convenience, but the meat and milk were cold and the avocado and mango I ordered were perfectly ripe. In a pinch, this is a good option for grocery delivery, but I wouldn’t want to fall into the habit.

I like being in touch with what’s on the shelves at the actual store, and I hated having to wait for the delivery driver, especially when I was hungry and ready to start making dinner but couldn’t until the ingredients arrived.

 

Veteran chef takes new approach with one of Austin’s first delivery-only restaurants

Fernando Saralegui has spent plenty of time in the restaurant business, which is exactly why Papi’s Kitchen, one of Austin’s first delivery-only restaurants, isn’t exactly traditional.

The Cuban native, who grew up outside New York City, studied theater set design in college and dabbled in documentaries. “Working in restaurants was supposed to be the means to the end, but then it became the thing,” he says. He worked with Alice Waters at Chez Panisse in Berkeley and Keith McNally in New York City before opening two restaurants of his own in New York before moving to Austin in the early 2000s.

Saralegui, a former director of the now-defunct Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, wrote a cookbook in 2003 called “Our Latin Table” and in 2004, he cooked a Cuban-inspired Thanksgiving at the James Beard House. A few years ago, however, after a break from cooking for a living, he didn’t want to get back into the industry with a big team of investors, so he started considering other options and decided to open the Cuban-themed Papi’s Kitchen, which sells Cubanos and other sandwiches, tacos, burritos and classic Cuban rice and black beans.

The Cuban sandwich from Papi’s Kitchen is available only through delivery via UberEats or GrubHub. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

“(Virtual restaurants) have always existed, but in different guises,” Saralegui says. Pizza and sandwich shops, even some Chinese restaurants, might have a few seats in a lobby, but for the most part, those restaurants aren’t expecting to serve most of their customers in house.

With low overhead, you can sell a lot of food from a small kitchen, without having to wait until a table finishes to seat a new round of customers. “The price of entry is significantly cheaper, cheaper than a food truck,” he says. You can try new concepts and pivot quickly on those ideas based on customer feedback, or you could even operate multiple concepts out of the same commissary kitchen, but with different branding and websites.

MORE: Are Virtual Restaurants Dining’s Next Hot Trend?

But virtual restaurants, which have opened in cities across the country in the past few years, are a double-edged sword, he says. Marketing a restaurant without walls can be a challenge because people can’t drive by and see a “Now Open” sign or meet there with friends for a bite to eat, but what he misses the most is walking through the dining room and soaking up the convivial atmosphere.

“I’m a social animal, and it’s a little hard to not be in the front lines.”

Rising restaurant costs make this model appealing to both newbies, like the guys behind The Falafel Guys, who work out of the same kitchen space as Papi’s Kitchen and only sell through UberEats, and veterans, such as Saralegui and Rebecca Meeker, the former Josephine House chef who just launched her own prepared meal delivery company.

Delivery-only restaurants have some advantages over traditional restaurants, but longtime industry veterans like Papi’s Kitchen founder Fernando Saralegui says they occasionally miss the buzz of a full dining room. Addie Broyles / American-Statesman

He’s only a few weeks into operation, but he’s gaining as much feedback as possible to help him make decisions about where to take the business next. A brick-and-mortar restaurant isn’t out of the question, but Saralegui is happy to be exploring a new path he hasn’t already been down before. To reach new customers, he spends a lot of time on social media to interact with the Austin food community, and he wants to host pop-up events or farmers’ markets to interact directly with diners.

“This project is not a ghost,” he says in reference to the term “ghost restaurant,” which has been used to describe this kind of business. “This is me and my place, and I want to bring as much me to it as possible. I want to give the food integrity and the story behind it.”

You can currently order through UberEats, GrubHub and papiskitchen.com, and he’s open from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 6 p.m. to midnight on Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Fernando Saralegui runs Papi’s Kitchen, a delivery-only restaurant in Austin that is open most evenings. Customers order for delivery through UberEats or GrubHub. Contributed by Papi’s Kitchen.

Green coconut curry to go with your moment of soup cleanse zen

If eating better and mindfulness are on your resolution list, you might check out Nicole Centeno’s “Soup Cleanse Cookbook: Embrace a Better Body and a Healthier You with the Weekly Soup Plan” (Rodale, $24.99), which offers a little Zen with her zucchini-filled ratatouille.

1472535021Centeno, who grew up in a family of doctors with a strong curiosity about our bodies and our habits, started the soup delivery company Splendid Spoon, which ships soups across the lower 48 states. Each delivery for the full program includes 10 soups, five for lunches during the week and another five that are meant to reset your body’s optimal organ function. Four of those soups are lighter, drinkable soups such as carrot turmeric or a vegan broth that you can sip hot or cold, and other soups include cauliflower coconut, pumpkin pear hempseed and tomato basil.

If you want a smaller delivery, you can also order just the five lighter “cleanse” soups or the five lunch soups. You don’t get to choose each week’s soups, but you can order them one week at a time ($95 per week, including shipping) or pre-pay for one, two or three months ($80 per week).

More than 70 of Centeno’s recipes are in the book, but it is the author’s beginning chapters and side notes where you get a real feel for her mission. You can use the book simply as a set of recipes or as a guide to a set of new habits — eating more plant-based soups, intermittent fasting and increasing general awareness about your mind and body.

This green curry soup with broccoli, for instance, comes with this message: “The Buddha taught, ‘Mind and body are united. What I think I become.’ Before you soup, close your eyes and stretch your spine so you are sitting or standing tall, as if a string is holding up the crown of your head. Silently repeat to yourself. I am strong, I am confident, I am at ease. Your souping habit is helping your body strengthen, which will increase your confidence and put your spirit at ease. You are doing this now, so go ahead and claim that full mantra in present tense! Sit up tall and repeat it again at the end of your souping ritual, or whenever you have a few moments.”

broccolisoup
Nicole Centeno, the founder of a soup delivery company called Splendid Spoon, has written a new cookbook called “Soup Cleanse Cookbook,” which includes recipes such as this green coconut curry with broccoli. Contributed by Tara Donne

Green Coconut Curry with Broccoli

Light sweetness from the coconut’s rich milk and oil combine with green leafy flavors from broccoli and bok choy and fresh curry spices. The most beautiful curries are the ones made with freshly ground spices, but if you don’t have time, you can find green Thai curry paste at an Asian grocer or order online.

— Nicole Centeno

2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 large onion, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped (use gloves if your skin is sensitive to hot peppers)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 Tbsp. green curry powder or paste
1 head broccoli, broken into small florets (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup plus 1 quart water, divided
1 can (15 oz.) coconut milk
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
1 head bok choy, green leaves only, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the onion and pepper, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until fragrant.

Stir in the green curry powder, broccoli and 1/4 cup of the water, cover and cook for 5 minutes while occasionally stirring.

Add the coconut milk, salt, black pepper and the remaining 1 quart water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium to simmer. Add the bok choy and cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes, or until the broccoli and bok choy are tender but still al dente.

Enjoy warm or chilled topped with the cilantro, if using. Add a few slices of fresh jalapeño for more heat.

— From “Soup Cleanse Cookbook: Embrace a Better Body and a Healthier You with the Weekly Soup Plan” by Nicole Centeno (Rodale, $24.99)

 

Food delivery news: Randalls launches in-house grocery delivery; Shipt partners with H-E-B

There’s so much food delivery news these days, it can be hard to keep up. Here’s a whirlwind of delivery news to keep you abreast of your options for getting groceries delivered without leaving the house.

Shipt (shipt.com) is now offering grocery delivery from H-E-B and Central Market stores in the greater Austin area, including a number of suburbs. You can find out more about the services and sign up for a yearly membership, which costs $99 and includes free delivery for the year, but then you’ll place your orders through the company’s app.

Instead of partnering directly with a third-party company, Randalls has launched its own in-house delivery service. Customers can order through shop.randalls.com or through the Randalls app for same-day delivery. There are various fees for the delivery, depending on the amount of the purchase.

Instead of partnering with a third-party company, Randalls is now offering in-house delivery from its stores in Austin and Houston. Contributed by Randalls
Instead of partnering with a third-party company, Randalls is now offering in-house delivery from its stores in Austin and Houston. Contributed by Randalls

Whole Foods offers several methods of delivery, but the newest partner is DoorDash, which is specializing in the delivery of Whole Foods’ prepared items. You can browse the offerings through DoorDash’s app or website, doordash.com.

If you just need something quick from the convenience store, you might check out GoPuff (gopuff.com), which promises delivery to many areas of Austin in less than 30 minutes. The company has been in Austin for about a year and is based in Philadelphia.

Full Fridge wants to bring you a week’s worth of prepared foods for $75

Full Fridge is a new delivery service that sells 15 meals’ worth of prepared food for $75. Photo from Full Fridge.
Full Fridge is a new delivery service that sells 15 meals’ worth of prepared food for $75. Photo from Full Fridge.

Having a full fridge of ingredients and one that’s full of already prepared food are two very different things.

When we go to the grocery store and come home with a week’s worth of food to prepare, we still have to do the cooking. The founders of a new Austin company called Full Fridge know that there are plenty of us who don’t like, want or have time to cook and would rather just have a fridge full of prepared food to eat.

“We are bringing homemade delicious meals to people who don’t really care about grocery shopping or cooking,” says co-founder Mokshika Sharma. To keep the price at $5 per meal — or $75 for 15 meals a week, the only option currently available — Full Fridge doesn’t package each meal in its own container, which cuts down on packaging waste and is a departure from many prepared meal delivery services in operation.

Customers don’t have any choices about which meals they receive, another tweak to how many similar companies operate that is designed to keep the price down. Each 15-meal order contains about nine different dishes, including those you might eat at breakfast, lunch or dinner. A recent menu included smoky sweet potatoes, pork chops, pasta casserole with cauliflower, chickpea salad, pork stew and bangers and mash, the British breakfast dish with sausage and beans.

“We wanted to offer convenient and affordable meals, but we’re not going for the gourmet crowd,” Sharma says. “You can mix and match the sides, breakfast, lunch and dinner items to make different meals” and the quantity of your serving can vary, depending on how hungry you are. Customers can place an order as late as Sunday for delivery in much of the Austin area on Tuesday. You can find out more about the service at fullfridge.com.

Farmhouse Delivery revamps meal kits based on seasonal produce

IMG_6723 In many ways, produce boxes paved the way for meal kits.

Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, boxes have been around for a few decades now, but it’s only been in the past five years that they’ve gone somewhat mainstream. Customers buy boxes of vegetables, herbs and fruit — usually recurring through a home delivery subscription and directly from a farm — without much say about what goes in them, but that’s part of the appeal. Instead of picking out the same four vegetables from the grocery store, CSAs force you to try new ingredients and can really help you break out of a cooking rut.

For seven years, Austin-based Farmhouse Delivery has been selling CSA-like bushels of produce that it sources from a number of local farms, including Rain Lily, the East Austin farm where the company started. Last year, Farmhouse purchased Greenling, a competitor in the food delivery space that offered a similar service as well as meal kits, which include all the ingredients you’d need to make a certain dish at home.

After the acquisition, Farmhouse Delivery decided to reconfigure those meal kits so that they complement the bushels that the company was already selling to hundreds of cooks throughout Texas. (Farmhouse operates in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.) Instead of packing up every single grain of salt and ounce of vinegar, Farmhouse would prepare some of the components of a meal, including the sauces, rubs, marinades and dressings, at a commercial kitchen, which not only cut down on packaging — all those little plastic containers of ingredients has been one of my complaints about meal kits from the beginning — but also the amount of work the cook has to do at home.

Farmhouse hired Ren Garcia, a chef and butcher formerly of Kerbey Lane, Vespaio and Dai Due, to oversee what they are calling the Farmhouse Supper Club. The four dishes that are available every week change with the seasons and are developed to incorporate whatever produce is available at that time of year. Last week, they included pork ranchero enchiladas, lamb-stuffed summer squash, jerk grilled chicken and caramelized onion and blue cheese burgers. A few weeks ago, I got to try cheese ravioli with corn and basil that also came with a tomato bisque.

Instead of having to make the ravioli, pasta sauce and bisque, all those elements arrived on my doorstep ready to heat-and-eat. All I had to do was cut the corn kernels off the cob, chop the onion, chiffonade the basil, boil the pasta and heat the bisque. The ravioli, it turns out, are from Pasta & Co., the fresh pasta shop at 3502 Kerbey Lane that I don’t visit nearly as much as I should, and it was really nice to already have a high-quality creamy pasta sauce that I didn’t have to try to whip up myself on a weeknight. The tomato bisque was a good complement, especially because I didn’t have to dirty up my food processor to make it.

For the most part, Farmhouse sells these meal kits as add-ons to their weekly bushels, but you can also buy them separately for a slightly higher fee. The meals cost $10 per serving if you already buy a bushel, and $12 per serving if you don’t, with a minimum order of four servings, which is in line with the per-serving cost and minimums from national companies such as Blue Apron and Plated. For more information about the meal kits, bushels and other proteins and prepared foods you can order through Farmhouse, go to farmhousedelivery.com.

IMG_6726Cheese Ravioli with Corn, Squash and Basil

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 small yellow onion, small diced
Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
2 ears corn, kernels cut from cob
1-2 small summer squash or zucchini, thinly sliced
8 oz. store-bought creamy pasta sauce
1/2 lb. Pasta & Co. cheese ravioli
3 oz. grated aged cheddar
Fresh basil, stems removed, chiffonade

Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add diced onion, a pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper. Cook for 2 minutes until onions are translucent. Add corn kernels and squash and continue to cook for 4 minutes. Add creamy pasta sauce and stir. Remove from heat and set aside.

Drop raviolis into the boiling water and stir. Boil for 5-6 minutes and drain.

Bring your cream sauce mix back to a simmer and add raviolis and aged cheddar. Toss gently to coat raviolis with the sauce, roughly 1 minute. Divide raviolis with sauce onto two plates, topping each with chiffonade basil. Serves 2.

— From Farmhouse Kitchen executive chef Ren Garcia

Meal delivery service Nimble Foods shuts down

Nimble Foods is a new company that delivers freshly prepared meals, including dishes like this roasted chicken, for $7 each with no delivery fee. Photo from Nimble Foods.
Nimble Foods delivered prepared meals, including dishes like this roasted chicken. Photo from Nimble Foods.

As UberEats said that it would continue food delivery in Austin, another option for ordering meals is no more.

Nimble Foods announced on its website that it has ceased operations:

“After 2 years of cooking up great meals and delivering it quickly, Nimble Foods has come to the difficult decision to close its doors.
We’re honored to have served every single customer and we’re proud of the many accomplishments of our Nimble Foods’ team.
For example, we recently celebrated our 50,000th delivery. While we’re hungry for more, the realities of our business leave us no choice but to conclude this chapter.”