It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight years since I first met Luke Chappell, when his nascent Luke’s Local was a charming little kiosk inside the San Mateo Hillsdale Caltrain station, selling fresh produce, coffee and meals-to-go.
Today, it’s a much larger San Francisco-based operation, which partners with local farms and food companies to deliver gourmet groceries and freshly prepared provisions to homes and offices around the Bay Area.
The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in his family. After all, his family founded Tom’s of Maine.
Recently, I was invited to try out gratis his expanded family-style catering delivery service. It’s an option for when you want to feed a crowd, whether for an Oscars viewing party or a business lunch.
What is noticeable first and foremost is how fresh and vibrant the food is. All of it tasted as if it were just made, not sitting around for hours.
There are many dishes to choose from. The wraps are huge. The roast beef one ($12) makes use of beef from artisan purveyor BN Ranch, founded by Bill Niman. It’s rolled up in a flour tortilla with a crunchy, spicy slaw, mixed greens, horseradish, and a generous amount of cheese. In fact, I almost wished there was a little less cheese, because it kind of overtook everything else. The roast beef was tender, and slathered with just enough horseradish to give a quick hit of heat rather than blow your palate out.
The smoked chicken salad wrap ($11) was one of my favorite items that I tried. It’s loaded with big chunks of smoked chicken tossed in a restrained amount of house-made aioli. Wrapped in a flour tortilla with red onion, celery, dried cranberries, parsley and greens, it’s big on smoky flavor.
The ricotta meatballs ($55 for a small that serves up to 8 people) are one of the most ordered items. One bite and it’s easy to see why. These huge meatballs are moist and tender, and enrobed in a creamy tomato sauce. They are incredible all on their own. They’d also be fantastic tucked into a hoagie roll. The directions said to heat in the oven. But I microwaved my sample of meatballs instead, and they came out fine.
Sides include honey-chili rainbow carrots ($35 for a small that serves up to 8). It’s always challenging to roast carrots, since they don’t all come in the exact same size. Some of these could have done with a little more cooking time. But the sambal and honey glaze was downright addictive. The roasted Brussels sprouts ($35 for a small that serves up to 8) are whole and halved sprouts with a perky apple cider dressing. These are delicious served cold or at room temperature.
Salads range from a picnic-perfect smoked tomato pasta salad ($35 for a small that feeds up to 8) to a classic coleslaw ($25 for a small that serves up to 8) in a creamy house-made dressing to an autumnal chicory salad ($45 for a large that serves up to 10) tossed with roasted butternut squash, black olives, red onion, and crunchy almonds to a simple arugula salad ($45 for a large that serves 10) with a range of textures from dried cranberries, pickled red onions, and goat cheese.
There are also dips such as a garlicky white bean hummus ($4.49 for 8 ounces) that’s less rich tasting than a traditional garbanzo-tahini one, and a red pepper one ($4.49 for 8 ounces) that would jazz up any veg, sandwich, lamb, chicken or seafood dish.
Luke’s Local doesn’t necessarily come cheap. The minimum delivery order to the South Bay and the East Bay is $150, with a delivery fee of $30 tacked on. For San Francisco, the minimum order is $75 with a delivery fee of $15. But the quality is undeniable.
Winner of the Food Gal Contest
In my last Food Gal contest, I asked you to tell me how you incorporate heart-healthy habits into your life. Best answer wins a $100 Macy’s gift card, plus some fun swag from the American Heart Association in honor of February being Heart Healthy month and to salute the Go Red for Women program aimed at educating women about heart disease.
Karen from SC, who wrote, “While the focus here is food, it encompasses a whole lifestyle: how to have a day full of joyful activity, savoring each element. I try to ensure that, in my own days, everything I take in – whether by mouth or eyes or hands or nose – is as healthy as possible. So the garden includes flowers for the pollinators as well as food for me; the renovation of the house used materials that lessen the need for artificial heat and air conditioning; the porches are inviting for afternoon tea to have fresh air (and refresh my energy); and the bowls of fruit and veggies on the counter make an easy-to-pick snack in addition to a pretty still life. Approaching heart health in a whole way, in the spirit of it along with the literal meaning, helps me remember that enjoyment is a big factor in achieving that.”