Friday, April 29, 2016

Kitchen Helper in the Internet Age -- Umi

Sunday Afternoon in Gowanus

The famous rustic hat on the Eureka building in the Gowanus
This past Sunday afternoon was an idyllic spring day in New York City. The air was dry, sky clear and temperature perfect -- in the mid-60s.  After enjoying a lazy morning, savoring fresh croissants, jellies, fruit and bold coffee on our sunny terrace, we set off to enjoy the outdoors in our beloved Brooklyn. We had only a single commitment -- the launch party of start-up home chef food delivery service, Umi.  Since we needed to be there by noon, and it was located in the trendy, every changing Gowanus, we decided to make a day of it.

There is so much to say about the Gowanus. This historic, eclectic section of the borough is surrounded on all sides by upscale, refined, brownstone communities, and therefore, feels rustic in camparison to its pricey neighbors -- Park Slope, Boerum Hill and Carroll Gardens. Once the home to metal fabrication companies, tanneries and tire producers, the Gowanus, like so much of Brooklyn, is undergoing a rennaissance, and is now popular with artists, exercise facilities and young eco-friendly start-ups.

Ample Hills Creamery. Organic ice cream located
on the Gowanus Canal,  and our daughter's favorite. 
Named for the canal that runs through it, an industrial waste site that environmentalists are ardently working to clean up, the Gowanus is one of Brooklyn's real estate hot spots. One can't help but notice the irony in this -- pricey condominiums built along the shores of the most toxic water canal in the city.  But, like its people, this is how it is in New York -- always reinventing despite common logic.

Gowanus' famous Coignet Stone Building -- the earliest known concrete
building in NYC. It was salvaged as part of the deal to build Whole Foods on the
property.  So happy it was saved from the wrecking ball!  

Like so many of the industrial parts of old Brooklyn, where everything old is new again,  the Gowanus is an artistic mix of bygone, ramshackle factories sitting alongside trendy, upscale
restaurants and hotels.  The newly build Whole Foods Market sits across the canal from a scrap metal recycling facility. Blue collar industry in the shadow of organic, yuppie food -- this is so Brooklyn!
Start-ups are attracted to the area because the industrial buildings and warehouses provide ample space to support climbing wall centers (Brooklyn Boulders) and trendy shuffle boards clubs and even tennis and fencing facilities.  The conveniences of the suburbs seem to be migrating into the city.

After checking out all these hot spots, we headed to the event space at Threes Brewing to attend the launch party of start-up meal delivery service -- Umi, named for the Lebansese word for mother.  We had ordered from Umi earlier in the week and were impressed with the concept. They connect cooks with customers who are, perhaps, a little tired of ordinary take-out, and are looking instead for a home cooked meal.  Basically it's delivered food with an infusion of tender care. Think virtual mom meets college care package meets Seamless. At the event, about 30 home cooks provided food samples that can be found on the Umi menu. It was a little like attending Brooklyn Smorgasbord -- two large wedding tents filled with eager Umi chefs peddling their favorite comfort foods -- all willing to dish on the dishes.

Umi kitchen is the brain child of Khalil Tawill and Hallie Meyer whose resumes would make a college counselor blush. And while the concept is innovative,  Umi is still in its nascence, and some kinks need to be worked out. The expertise of the chefs seems to vary, and over time, some may need to be cycled out. But, that said, our favorite home cook, Shalini, is a curry miracle mixologist.  We have now ordered from her kitchen multiple times.

Ostensibly Umi is a solid platform for quasi-professional chefs, ones that aren't interested in going all-in for a restaurant. It's a great place to start, because if you can make it in Brooklyn, you're golden!

Check it out:

Dumpster diving during our Gowanus excursion, this double X table can be resurrected, surely!

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