Newspapers? Sure. Farm boxes of vegetables? Of course. But a subscription for pie? Meltingly decadent pluot-raspberry or bourbon-peach, encased in flaky pastry, and delivered to your doorstep?
Absolutely. That's what you can get if you think outside the farm box, say Rob Spiro and Alon Salant, the self-styled gourmet geeks behind Good Eggs, a San Francisco-based startup inspired by the community supported agriculture (CSA) movement.
The idea, Spiro says, "is not to invent a movement, but to build software to support one that already exists."
In this case, the Silicon Valley expats created a one-stop online shop that connected farmers and food artisans, such as pie makers Lenore Estrada and Anna Derivi-Castellanos and bento chef Sylvan Mishima Brackett.
Aimed at a Bay Area public with an appetite for delicious, locavore things, pie is just the start. About 40 vendors have signed on, offering everything from organic baby food to bento boxes with a Chez Panisse pedigree.
However, the pies are the perfect way to explain the appeal -- to vendors and pastry-philes alike.
Childhood friends Estrada and Derivi-Castellanos were raised in the Central Valley in families that were fruit pickers and pastry makers, and they've been baking buddies for more than 15 years. Their business, Three Babes Bakeshop (there was a third babe originally, but the name just stuck) started out as a pop-up shop last year that was run out of a
Soon, they were baking late into the night, enlisting the help of a small army of friends and family, and schlepping their handmade pies -- filled with seasonal organic, locally sourced fruit, cream or custard -- around the city. It was exhausting, and it didn't leave much time for growing a business.
"The logistical difficulty of creating something fresh, day after day, is hard to convey," Estrada says. "Things go wrong, and it takes your whole day to fix them. We get tired. Profit margins are small."
Meanwhile, Spiro and Salant were looking for their next tech project.
Spiro had been a product manager for Google+ after Google acquired his social Q&A site, Aardvark. Salant, an enthusiastic jam maker who makes a wicked Meyer lemon marmalade, had helped launch Carbon Five, a software development firm.
Last year, it occurred to them that while the Bay Area is brimming with artisanal food producers and avid gourmets who would love to have their wares, there's a problematic middle ground in an area that could benefit from a little tech innovation.
Good Eggs helps farmers and food producers handle payments, billing, marketing and distribution -- basically, the not-so-fun but necessary stuff that every successful food enterprise needs to manage -- while building a community and making things like pie, charcuterie and gluten-free treats more easily accessible. They added a blog to feature recipe ideas from chefs and restaurateurs, including Samin Nosrat and Alice Waters, and to showcase seasonal produce.
The idea, Spiro says, is "to nourish local food systems so they thrive" sans supermarket.
The online food hub, which went live in July, includes picklers and preservers, a gluten-free baker and a baby-food maker. It sells fully prepared foods, including Neapolitan-style pizzas and Ethiopian cuisine. Several Good Eggs' purveyors peddle protein, including
Adding to the fun is a chef's market box option, which includes seasonal produce and recipes hand-picked by a chef, such as Lauren Kiino of San Francisco's Il Cane Rosso, who shared recipes for lamb burgers with cherry tomato salsa, olive oil mashed potatoes, and a green salad with a peach vinaigrette.
With a click of a mouse, people can place a one-time order, sign up for a subscription, and arrange for pickup or delivery at prices that range from $3.50 for a 4-ounce jar of baby food to bento boxes, which are $13.25 and up but have a $75 minimum per order.
One of those pickup spots is Ironworks, the Berkeley rock climbing gym, where owner Lyn Barraza orders bento boxes, meat and "Luke's Local Box," an assortment of fresh produce and prepared foods, for her family too. The more vendors the site adds, she says, "the more I think Good Eggs could blow up into something big. The first time you're ordering sight unseen, but I've been impressed so far."
Good Eggs has pickup points in Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco, but it's set to spread to South Bay locations later this fall -- and it will have company there. Others are thinking outside the CSA box, too, including Anna Larsen of Siren SeaSA. Her community-supported fishery delivers fresh seafood to subscribers in Mountain View as well as other sites.
San Jose native Paige Bayer recently launched SV Local Market, an online service that distributes produce and food products from farms in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties. Unlike typical CSA produce boxes, subscribers choose what goes into their box.
"Not everyone can make it to a farmers market," says Bayer, a former Hewlett-Packard employee who quit her job to launch her food business. "This is a convenient way for people to eat what's in season."
As for the vendors, Estrada says, "We can focus on baking our pies."
Good Eggs: This website lets you order pies, bento boxes, organic baby food and other foodstuffs for pickup or delivery at a variety of sites in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. South Bay sites will be added later this fall. Details: www.goodeggs.com.
SV Local Market: Choose the produce in your farm box and add gluten-free bread, blackberry jam, honey and other items to the mix. Pick up your box in San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos and other South Bay locations on Wednesdays. Details: www.svlocalmarket.com.
Siren SeaSA: This sustainable seafood subscription service delivers a weekly catch -- black cod, Dungeness crab and salmon from Bodega Bay, for example -- from shore to door, with drop-off locations in Mountain View, San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. Details: www.sirenseasa.com.
Bento boxes: Kyoto-born Sylvan Mishima Brackett, the Oakland chef and Chez Panisse alum behind Peko Peko Catering, fuses authentic Japanese cuisine with a Slow Food sensibility to create tempting bamboo bento boxes that include, for example, Marin Sun beef with sweet onions over mustard green rice ($13.25), or fried rock cod with summer greens rice, a rolled omelet and kombu pickled cucumbers ($14.25).
Organic baby food: Claire Hoyt saw a hole in the holistic food market even before the arrival of her son, Forrest, but when he developed a food sensitivity, the San Francisco mom launched Big Dipper Baby Food's line of fresh, organic baby purees. Among the possibilities: 4-ounce Mason jars ($3.50) of roasted Japanese sweet potatoes; combinations such as poached pear, blanched spinach, roasted banana and mint; and a beef marrow combo that includes whipped parsnips, apple and cardamom.
Seasonal pies: Anna Derivi-Castellanos and Lenore Estrada's all-organic Three Babes Bakeshop offers a range of pies and crumbles, including blackberry crumble, bourbon-peach pie and a particularly popular salty honey walnut pie, that start at $30.
-- Available through GoodEggs.com