Food for Thought

Who doesn’t like new food options? How about having someone set up an impressive spread for a dinner party? Lucky for us, these special food businesses have sprung up to deliver fresh, delicious food to your door.

1 MAIKANA
For Jamieson Van Loan, who has lived all over the world and loved cooking from a young age, she was destined to be in the food business. She grew up in Fiji, moved to Darien for high school, attended college in North Carolina and planned to go to law school. “Food was always a passion for me. I grew up reading Gourmet magazine and eating amazing meals cooked by my mom, but I never thought you could be a chef and actually make a career out of it,” she says.

Van Loan ended up going to culinary school in NYC instead of law school and never looked back. The next several years brought her success as a caterer and personal chef, before moving to Costa Rica in 2011 where she opened, owned and operated a restaurant for five years. “Organic and farm-to-table food is a way of life there, and in my beach-fusion restaurant we served everything from eggs Benedict to fish tacos,” she remembers.

When Van Loan moved back to Darien in 2015, she had to run from store to store to source the best of everything. “I had never struggled to eat healthy, but it was so inconvenient to go to several different places to find what I needed. I thought others must be struggling too, so why can’t I build a business that combines healthy food with convenience?” Not long after, she founded Maikana.

“At Maikana, we’re believers in conscientious, mindful eating,” she explains. Van Loan is an avid yogi and incorporates a mind/body/spirit attitude in her business. “I’ve noticed that a lot of people count calories and make eating a very stressful process,” she says, referring to the pervasive fearmongering about food these days. “My goal is simply to provide clean, organic balanced meals. Eating well makes you feel better, which affects every aspect of your life,” she says. Besides eating in a way that fuels your body, Van Loan encourages people to enjoy their meals. “Mai kana” means “come and eat” in Fijian. “Fijians love mealtime, and this is an invitation they use frequently,” she says.

Menu items stay seasonal and change weekly. Van Loan designs the menus and nutritionist Katie Kiehl is on-staff to make sure meals are balanced. “When you use Maikana, you get your own experienced chef, a personal nutritionist and through my blog there’s a spiritual aspect as well,” says Van Loan.“Nothing makes me happier than being able to share a wholesome, happy approach to eating.”

Offerings change, but choices like pulled-pork tacos with pineapple-broccoli slaw and harvest healing bowls with turmeric-roasted cauliflower and a lemon-tahini-ginger dressing are just a couple of the offerings.

Place an order on maikanafoods.com. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are offered as a one-off (roughly $10 per meal), or you can purchase weekly ($40) or monthly subscriptions which include 15 meals per week. Orders must be received before 3 p.m. for next-day delivery. Maikana offers free delivery to Darien, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, Wilton and Greenwich. Delivery to other towns incur a fee.

Healthy, colorful bowls are always on Maikana’s menus. – Contributed

2 NIT NOI PROVISIONS
Nit Noi Provisions, a broth company that offers organic vegetable broth, pasture-raised chicken and pasture-raised beef bone broth and other Thai-based menu items, was started by North Shutsharawan and his wife, Jillian. Shutsharawan grew up in Bangkok and later owned a Thai food catering company in New York. When he moved to Norwalk several years ago, he noticed that people and businesses ordered take out a lot. “I wanted to bring that convenience to people by delivering healthy food to their doorstep,” he explains. With the idea that his company could be a big fish in a small pond, he began selling at the Westport Farmer’s Market. In no time, Shutsharawan garnered a big following, with customers waiting in line to buy his broths as well as dumplings and other popular dishes including guay teow gai, known as GTG. “It’s like the chicken sandwich of Thailand, featuring one of our broths combined with rice noodles,” he says.

Everything on Nit Noi’s menu is either made with, or comes with, a side of broth that he makes from his mother’s recipes. Try the tradional guay teow gai with rice noodles, baby bok choy and organic chicken ($12) or a paleo version with veggies instead of noodles and your choice of chicken or vegetable broth ($14) among a slew of other options.

“I believe that sampling ethnic food is important, and experience has shown me that while people may not make a full Thai dish, they use a little bit of our broth or condiments to enhance the flavor of their current recipes,” he says, noting that Nit Noi means “a little bit” in Thai. He adds, “Eighty percent of people we surveyed at the Westport Farmer’s Market say they drink our broths as a healthy supplement, and some add them to their current recipes to improve flavor, but we want to encourage people to incorporate broth with every aspect of their meal.”

In addition to providing delicious healthy meals, Shutsharawan’s main mission is to be a sustainable food company, from the sourcing of the product to the packaging. “We want to be educators on how we can change the way people buy, package and consume food. We need to be more cognizant of how we treat the planet,” he says. Currently, Nit Noi uses paper soup containers for packaging but hopes to move to metal cans, a more sustainable option, in the future.

You can find Nit Noi’s products at the Westport Farmers’ Market, Walter Stewart’s Market in New Canaan, Village Market in Wilton, Mike’s Organic Market in Stamford, Double L Market in Westport and Myx Kitchen in Greenwich. Pre-order online the night before at nitnoiprovisions.com for delivery to Norwalk, Westport, Darien and downtown Stamford. Or visit them at their kitchen in South Norwalk to grab and go.

left: Everything on the menu comes with broth. right: Nit Noi’s signature broth can be added to recipes or taken as a healthy supplement. – Contributed

3 TOASTS
Christine Naylor and Stephanie Sisk have been good friends for over a decade. In 2017, the two moms found each other at an event that helps bridge the gap between motherhood and the workforce. Naylor and Sisk left with the idea that they wanted to get back to work together and on their own terms. “Neither of us wanted to do our previous life’s work—Steph was in finance, and Christine owned a frozen baby food company—and we knew we brought different strengths to the partnership—a yin and yang of sorts,” explains Sisk. She holds a master gardeners certification, which helps her better understand the connection between gardening and food, and Naylor graduated from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco and brought an entrepreneurial vibe, plus both women love to cook. After much discussion and deliberation on how best to satisfy their creative outlets and serve our local area, TOASTs was born.

“We know you taste with your eyes first, so we wanted healthy, beautiful, environmentally-conscious food that we love to eat,” explains Naylor. Over time, the company evolved into what others wanted, too. TOASTs’ most popular items are their grazing tables, which start at four feet by 18 inches, are customizable and as beautiful as they are delicious. Sisk and Naylor personally arrive at your venue and in about an hour “build” a feast atop your favorite table, kitchen island or other surface. Amidst an artistic layer of fresh fruit, veggies, cured meats, cheeses, crackers, chocolates, bread and freshly made dips, Sisk tucks in seasonal flowers or other flora, making the end-product look like a gorgeous painting. TOASTs offers themed tables, too, like its Wellness Table with smoothie shots, fruits and veggies, and a Spring Grazer that includes a subtle pastel palette, to name a few. In the summer, TOASTs has requests for outdoor grazing tables to be delivered everywhere from back yard to marina to country club.

The company’s Culinary Boxes ($60 to $165) are another big seller. Its popular Charcuterie Box includes a selection of cheeses, meats, grapes, and dried fruits. “We started to do these for happy hour and now businesses order them for meetings, people have them for cocktail parties, and during holidays like Thanksgiving some families use them as a pre-dinner course,” says Naylor. Also on offer are their Salad, Skewer, Steak, Chicken and Dessert boxes.

Sisk and Naylor source and buy all its food locally, and hand-prep and deliver everything in glass containers or washable mesh bags from their local kitchen in Darien. All TOASTs’ serving pieces are made of paper or bamboo and can be reused or recycled. “We really think about ways to reduce environmental waste,” Sisk says. As far as cleanup, it’s a non-event. “With our boxes or grazing tables, roll up the butcher paper or close the box and throw it away or compost it,” says Sisk.

Everything is fresh, made to order and customizable, and the TOASTs ladies love to help people plan their perfect event. “We, ourselves, have been entertaining for so long, that we’re always thinking of how to make hosting easiest on the host,” explains Naylor. After all, the duo named their business “Toasts” because they want others to celebrate meals and be inspired by special occasions as much as they are.

For more info, check out toastsct.com, and to place an order, email order@toastsct.com.

left: One of TOASTs’ grazing tables, set up on an outdoor deck in New Canaan. right: Details of a grazing table include sweet and savory snacks. – Contributed
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