City Bites

City Bites Insider: Thyme & Again debuts summer Cottage Kits

You’re heading to the cottage straight from work. You’re craving comfort food and fresh local ingredients, but don’t want to spend an hour shop-hopping en route. Thyme & Again to the rescue!

This week, the innovative caterer launches its online Cottage Kit. The tagline? “Spend more time on the dock and less time in the kitchen.” What’s not to like?

The premise is simple. Get online at least 48 hours before you plan to head out, order the cottage-friendly foods you’d like, and pick them up on your way out of town. Thyme & Again will have everything pre-packed and ready for your cooler. Don’t have a cooler? Ten bucks gets you a reusable thermal tote with ice packs. Don’t have time to stop by Thyme & Again? Still no problem. Five bucks gets you delivery to your home or office.

The Cottage Kit program runs Thursday through Saturday throughout the summer.

City Bites caught up with owner Sheila Whyte and communications and programs manager Jessica Sims just days before the Thursday, May 19 launch.

Frozen pizzas make for an easy cottage meal

Cottage Kits. Brilliant idea! Who came up with it?

Jessica: It was Sheila’s vision — one of those ideas that come from talking to customers. Many of them have cottages and stop by to pick up supplies as they head out. The Cottage Kit makes it even easier.

Sheila: Shopping for the cottage can be a big hassle when you’re short of time — I thought, “There has got to be a better way.” The Cottage Kit makes it simpler to just grab everything you need in one quick stop.

When can cottagers start ordering?

Jessica: Right now. You have to order at least 48 hours ahead, so you have until May 17 to order for the May long weekend [the first weekend of the Cottage Kit program, with pickups May 19, 20, and 21]. Or start ordering ahead for the May 26th weekend and the rest of the summer.

Your website lists three kits, tell me about them.

Jessica: There’s the Ready-to-Serve kit, which is filled with dishes that are the easiest to prepare. Everything is completely prepped.

Sheila: The second kit is the Grill-Ready and is aimed at people who love to dabble and cook. Think barbecue lovers. We’ve done all the groundwork like marinating, but nothing is pre-cooked. You can stand with your sangria while you barbecue.

And the third kit?

Sheila: It’s called Thanks for Hosting. How often are you invited to a cottage and can’t think of what to take? This fills that niche. It shows your appreciation for your host — and guarantees you’ll be invited back. It’s a selection of mini appetizers.

I see some Thyme & Again classics in the kits — like your coleslaw and family-style potato salad. What new dishes are you excited about?

Sheila: The Fogo Island fish, definitely. It has been selling like gangbusters at the store and we’ve got the cod fillets with lemon and fresh thyme. You can order them pre-cooked or raw so you can throw them on the barbecue.

Jessica: I’m very excited about the build-your-own tacos. There’s a fish version and a chicken version.

Sheila: Everything’s ready to go so you can just take it all down to the dock, build your taco, and enjoy the sunset.

Jessica: The seasonal grilled veggies with herbs are new, too. The chefs will change up the selection depending on what they find at the market each day.

Thyme & Again’s Cottage Kit includes the option of “build your own” chicken or Fogo Island cod tacos. Photo credit: Eric Vance

I see that each kit includes a Seasonal Sangria Kit option. Inspired!

Sheila: That was my friend Kate’s idea. Who has time to get all the ingredients ready for sangria? We marinade seasonal fruits in brandy so that you just need to add wine.

Jessica: It’s so perfect for a Friday night when you get to the cottage and you’re tired.

Sheila: And you feel like you can start enjoying a sangria on the dock around 2 pm the next day, too.

Your selection of cottage desserts includes a S’Mores kit. What makes yours special?

Sheila: That’s an easy one. Everything’s homemade — our marshmallows and cookies combined with fabulous chocolate. It’s the quintessential s’mores kit.

What excites you most about this new initiative?

Sheila: The feedback. We’ve just started promoting it and we’ve already had so many people texting and emailing. We’ve even had customers asking if we’ll do a fall/winter kit because they’re skiers and go to Tremblant every weekend. So now we’re already thinking about a ski package. Stay tuned.

Jessica: Because it’s a new program, we’re also excited to see how it evolves.

Thyme and Again D4S1328 by Michelle Valberg
Each of the Cottage Kits includes four or five salad or grilled veggie options. Photo: Michelle Valberg

Time to take a stand. What’s your dream meal from one of the kits?

Sheila: The Muffaletta picnic sandwich. It’s perfect for eating on the dock or for taking out on the boat when you go fishing. When we opened 25 years ago, it was one of the first sandwiches we made. Now we’re bringing it back.

Can you describe it?

Sheila: First you bake a huge round loaf of sourdough bread, which you then slice across the centre and hollow out. You then layer pesto, cold meats, cheese, artichokes, and grilled veggies and drizzle with olive oil. It’s pressed down with weights for 8-10 hours to compress it. When you slice the wedges, you can see the beauty of the layers. It’s a true Italian sandwich.

Jessica, do you have a dream meal?

I do love the Muffaletta. It’s the perfect combination of pie and sandwich. But, for me, it’s the fish taco kit with the Fogo Island cod.

Sheila: For dessert, I’m craving the dark chocolate quinoa brownies. Everyone loves them. In fact, if I were invited to someone’s cottage, I might just grab a selection of our Cottage Kit desserts.

Every launch is special, but I hear this one is especially so.

Sheila: We’re coming up to our 25th anniversary in August. We’re planning lots of events to celebrate, but I consider the Cottage Kits to be the first of our big “celebration launches.”