Holiday Goodies Week: Baked & Bottled

I promised you an exciting week, didn’t I? A week filled with finds, exclusive offers, discounts, and giveaways, every single one of them terrific for busy parents (and, come to think of it, nearly anyone else)? Well, let’s get started.

First up, Baked & Bottled.

A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend a tasting party for a new prepared-foods company. Baked & Bottled was created by the co-editor of Good. Food. Stories, Casey Barber, and her friend and colleague Natalie Hoch. Peeps, they knocked my socks off. Since I’m on Weight Watchers I couldn’t dive face-first into bowl after bowl of deliciousness, tempting as that notion was. Instead, I took samples of things, little nibbles of this and that and the other. And then I went back for more. And more. This is some seriously good stuff. Cheddar-Chive Scones. Three different kinds of gougeres. The most delicious little dumplings. Meatballs and sauce nearly as good as Little Gram’s. And chocolate chip cookies that made me swoon with pleasure—theirs have a sprinkling of sea salt and giant shards of chocolate, which give a completely different effect than the chunks in my own.

The idea behind Baked & Bottled is ingenious; think of it as semi-catering. As much as we’d like to cook everything ourselves, for many of us there just isn’t time. There’s work, there’s parenting, there’s laundry… But convenience foods, while—yup—convenient, are often high in sodium and fat, and some of their ingredients are downright scary. Wouldn’t it be nice to have homemade food that you don’t have to, y’know, cook from scratch? That you can heat up and claim as your own, and nobody will ever guess otherwise? Perhaps you want an entire meal, or you might prefer to fill in some gaps to support your own efforts. Maybe you want to invite a few people over for after-work cocktails, but don’t have time to make the nibbles yourself. That’s where Baked & Bottled comes in. They’ll bring their custom-made food to your doorstep, ready to heat and serve. They’re caterers, but only as far as the prep goes. You’ll have a meal to be savored, even envied, a meal you cook, with very little work on your end. This is a thousand times better than Sandra Lee’s open-a-box-and-add-stuff tricks.

If you live anywhere but New York City or northern Jersey you can stop reading, unless it’s just to fantasize. I’m sorry, I really don’t mean to be a tease, but right now, delivery is available only in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and several counties in New Jersey.

Here’s how it works: You browse through B&B’s menu, and decide you’d like to order, say, some ranch dressing along with fresh semolina orecchiette, that fantastic sauce, and a loaf of freshly-baked ciabatta. And trust me, you also want some apple butter, to spread on a slice of leftover bread the next morning. (That’s what you see pictured above—the spices are phenomenal.) You place your order and schedule a delivery time.

That’s when Casey and Natalie swing into action. They make your food to order. Some items, like the gougeres and the dumplings, arrive formed, frozen, and ready to cook, because the result is so much better than pre-cooked and reheated (and they travel better frozen). Other things, like the sauces, dressings, and breads, arrive ready to eat. I love their twist on the chocolate chip cookies: when you order, you get to decide whether you’d like to bake them yourself or just dig right in. If you don’t have time to make The Best Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookies in the Entire World, I’m pretty sure you can’t do any better than popping a tray of B&B’s babies into the oven. And guess who makes the delivery? Either Casey or Natalie. That’s right, the chef brings the food right to your door, in case you have any last-minute questions. Before she leaves, she’ll tell you what you need to know to pass off this fantastic food as your own. All you have to do is heat and serve.

Baked & Bottled is fully booked for Thanksgiving orders (told you this was hot stuff, no?), but they’re accepting Christmas orders through December 12 for delivery up until December 22. After that, they’re shut down until 2011. (My suggestion: Order some of those ethereal gougeres for your New Year’s Eve party; since they arrive frozen, they’ll hold. Same deal with the dumplings. Or try one of their fantastic dips, which last for a month in the fridge. I especially like the Curry-Lemon.)

What’s that you say? I said there’d be special offers? Yes, I did. In this case, it’s an especially sweet one: You, my dear readers, get first crack at B&B’s holiday special. Casey and Natalie have created two different shortbreads, Peanut Butter-Chocolate and Savory Rosemary Parmesan. Gotta say, I think Peanut Butter-Chocolate Shortbread may be the most inspired cookie I’ve ever heard of. They’re $14/dozen, available for a limited time. These delicate little beauties will be offered to the general public on December 1. But you can order them today! That’s right: readers of Words to Eat By have exclusive access to these treats for the next ten days.

Now you can’t say I never gave you anything. Go, order, enjoy! And come back tomorrow for a deal on my favorite, favorite, favorite handcrafted stoneware.

There’s a new product, and a new special offer, every day during Holiday Goodies Week (even on Thanksgiving!). Don’t miss a single one: subscribe to Words to Eat By, either in a reader or your in-box.

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