Sisters Sharon Grey and Fran Valle, together with Mary Smith, opened Dinnersmith, a “meal prep” outlet that’s happy to accommodate customers who follow vegetarian and other special diets, in May.
February 14, 2008
This hot spot on Maplewood’s Springfield Avenue, located just across the way from the soon-to-be-closed Rabbi L. Sky Bookstore, is the talk of the virtual town on Maplewood Online.
It’s part of the growing number of “meal prep” establishments around the country and in New Jersey, where customers prepare their own meals from fresh ingredients under the guidance of the proprietors. (Easymealprep.com lists 1,411 meal preparation companies nationally, including 18 in the Garden State.)
With no rabbinic certification, it’s not kosher. But Dinnersmith accommodates those who follow vegetarian and other diets and is developing a customer base among those who keep a lenient form of kashrut. Two of the owners — Sharon Grey and Fran Valle — are sisters who grew up in a strictly kosher home on Long Island; they understand the ins and outs of kashrut, they said, and will go the distance for this clientele. And Dinnersmith is becoming a popular stop for Reform synagogue gatherings: Events were planned in February for Temple Sharey Tefilo-Israel in South Orange and Temple Sha’arey Shalom in Springfield.
(Grey belongs to Sha’arey Shalom; Valle was until recently a member of Congregation Beth El in South Orange. Their partner Mary Smith is a member of an Episcopal church in South Orange.)
For the newbies, here’s how Dinnersmith works. You drop in, wash your hands, grab a never-before-used container, follow some simple instructions, and prepare your entree. Consider pecan-crusted tilapia, vegetarian chili, or southwest strata, a sort of Mexican casserole. Ingredients are pre-chopped and sit in small plastic containers complete with measuring spoons. One of the owners stands by your side and talks you through the recipe — or chats with you about the day’s news. It takes about 15 minutes to prepare each entree.
It’s fun, it’s fast, and when you’re done, you have a delicious entree with no grocery shopping, no unused ingredients to worry about, no chopping, and no mess in your kitchen to clean up. All you have to do is take it home and cook it according to the directions (or pop it in the fridge or freezer for later use).
Nothing is cooked; nothing is premixed. You control every ingredient that goes into the dish. The owners cover the counters in plastic if requested. They show you the labels and substitute ingredients if you ask. There are always vegetarian entrees and fish entrees on the menu. And every entree comes with two sides, a vegetable and a starch — also uncooked. Everything goes into a foil container or plastic bag that has not been used before. The owners said they are considering purchasing separate knives.
Plastic containers hold the already-chopped ingredients, and customers use plastic measuring cups. Customers do any mixing in large stainless steel bowls that may have been used for other ingredients. (However, all containers and utensils go through the 180-degree dishwasher cycle between recipes.)
Recipes change monthly; drop-ins are welcome, but reserve in advance to choose your entrees. The price is $25 per entree ($20 for more than 12 meals); each feeds four-six people.
Dinnersmith is located at 1908 Springfield Ave. in Maplewood. Contact the establishment at 973-763-2333 or via email.
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