Last Saturday night I got the call that everyone dreads.
“Is this John?” asked a voice attached to a toll-free number. “Well, I’m afraid I have some bad news…”
That Thai food delivery we had been anticipating for the past 30 minutes wasn’t coming. It wasn’t going to come — ever.
The call came at about 9:30 last Saturday evening, just as we were trying to avoid handfuls of cereal and blocks of cheese because we thought nam sod was just around the corner.
We had ordered through GrubHub, a web-based restaurant pick-up and delivery service (pictured in the screen shot above) that recently rolled into Atlanta. It has a huge presence in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities — and I can see why.
Customers sign in with their accounts, choose take-out or delivery, and then browse all the available menus. Once you choose your restaurant, you click to add items to your basket and then check out with a saved credit card. Delivery fees are stated up front — usually a buck for restaurants that do a lot of it (Chinese, pizza, etc.), to a bit more for smaller operations (sandwich shops, Mediterranean restaurants) that might not deliver otherwise. You can download an app for mobile devices, which makes things easy. Pull up a recent order, modify it and — boom — you’ve got dinner ordered in about eight clicks.
GrubHub had served us well until this evening. They had been unable to reach the restaurant by phone to confirm the order, so they had no recourse but to cancel it. They credited my card and added a $5 coupon for the hassle.
“It’s no problem,” I lied, feeling peevish and gearing up to rampage through the Frosted Flakes.
But we decided instead to see what if anything we could scrounge from the fridge. A good number of vegetables, a tub of frozen chicken stock and a can of coconut milk provided the foundation for a right tasty vegetable curry stew. Once we turned off the TV, got off our butts and started cooking, we were happy for the change in plans.
Just as we were sitting down to eat, my phone rang. It was the delivery guy, at the front door. They had the order ready to go.
Sure enough, both the restaurant and GrubHub had tried to call to say they could rush the food, but I was too focused on cooking to pay attention to my phone. So we sent the delivery driver away with the order and ate our curry instead.
I still prefer GrubHub to hunting and pecking through a bunch of different restaurant websites. It was a godsend the night I was caught in gridlock traffic coming back from the office and could place a quick order that arrived at house 2 minutes after I did.
Zifty seems to feature better restaurants, but the higher delivery fee and concerns about how well the food would travel have kept me from trying it out. GrubHub seems to focus more on the kinds of places that are used to carryout orders.
But I’ll keep all the fixings for a curry on hand just in case.
Heat the oil until it shimmers in the bottom of a large, heavy pot. Add the slivered shallot and fry just until golden. Add the curry powder and fry until fragrant (20 seconds). Add the tomato paste and fry until it just starts to brown. Add the stock, canned tomatoes and coconut juice and bring to a boil. Add the vegetables and reduce heat to an active simmer. Continue simmering until the vegetables are cooked to your liking. (We added some pasta, as well, which helped thicken the sauce.)
Finish with lime juice and fish sauce to adjust flavor. (I like to collect unusual condiments, so we also added some Indian kokum, a souring agent made from dried mangosteen skins, as well as a funky fresh Vietnamese soy sauce with a strong fermented flavor. Big ups to both. )