One day soon, when the trying time we all lived through together is well and truly behind us, when all the devastating experiences slowly fade in our memories, and when our hearts start to heal from the losses, it would be gratifying if some of the good moments that got us through stayed with us.
Those were dismal days, but one thing that my household looked forward to every week for the last year-and-a-half has been Friday afternoon food deliveries from a local chef who brings us exciting dishes he might have cooked at any of the acclaimed restaurants he once ran — scallion pancakes, pot stickers, charred broccoli with miso dressing, slaw with fish sauce vinaigrette, papaya salad, chilled spicy noodles, grilled beef salad with toasted rice, mezze plates, flatbreads and roti, smoked bluefish pate, spicy feta spread, Asian-style barbecue, an array of tacos and fillings. On taco weeks, says the chef, Tim Maslow of Fishy Fish Market, who sends out the orders, “We get crushed hand-rolling tortillas. I’m not talking about a tortilla press.” He also offers fish from Captain Marden’s Seafoods in Wellesley, and poultry, eggs, and meat from Feather Brook Farm in Raynham.
Even as life is opening up and diners are returning to restaurants, Maslow will continue to send out his food (no Grubhub here; the car that pulls up to your house is driven by one of Maslow’s own staff). The chef isn’t sure where he’s eventually headed. It might be to a storefront, which will operate as a commissary with grab-and-go meals out front and a few seats.
Maslow has an impressive resume. On the team for eight years at David Chang’s Momofuku restaurant group in New York, Maslow came to Boston to cook at his father’s former place, Strip-T’s in Watertown, and turned a neighborhood sandwich shop into an industry hotspot. Then he opened Ribelle in Brookline, which Globe restaurant critic Devra First awarded a coveted four-stars. He closed that dining room and later launched the Japanese-inspired Whaling in Oklahoma, in Boston’s South End. He shuttered the place just before the lockdown.
After Whaling, Maslow made the shift to private chef, but the pandemic brought it to a sudden halt. Still, customers wanted fish. To service them, he kept a small fridge on his back porch filled with orders. “I had up to 40 people driving to my house,” he says. After so many years of 70- and 80-hour work weeks, the change, he says, “was calming.”
Eventually, he started delivering the fish to customers along with poultry. Word of mouth quickly built Fishy Fish into a full-fledged business, and he started offering his own cooked meals. “It was so weirdly organic,” he says. “I’d never had anything in my life happen like that” — except perhaps Strip-T’s, which put him on Boston’s culinary map the minute he started cooking there. With Fishy Fish, “people just kept referring each other. It’s an interesting notion these days. There’s all this marketing and branding today.” He did none of that and the business blossomed. Now he’s making 30 to 40 stops every week, all inside 495, and some to customers who have organized their own Fishy Fish pods.
I am one of those. There are six families in my pod. The Fishy list appears on Monday via e-mail. Tuesday morning, I send in a single order for everyone, keeping track of each family’s requests. At the end of the week, I forward the Fishy Fish invoice to my group and let them tally their own bills, to which they add a few dollars toward the $15 delivery fee. I pay Maslow the full amount and each family reimburses me. On Friday afternoon, I put a big cooler with ice packs on the front porch and when the order arrives, I divvy it up and separately package each order. Sometimes the other families just pull theirs out of the cold box without ringing the bell, sometimes they stay to chat. Last week, some of the pod came in for a glass of wine and we had an impromptu cocktail party, which, honestly, felt like a gift after all this isolation.
At the beginning of his new venture, Maslow was cooking and his kid brother, Zack, and some of Zack’s friends, home from college, were making deliveries. Or Maslow himself would jump in the car, much to the chagrin of his wife, Mallory Shackford, who operated as business manager. “I’m not good at this,” he’d say, when he returned to my doorstep with a forgotten item. “Organization is not my strong suit.” Some weeks, “Zack and I would have to meet up somewhere — there were days we’d have to meet up two or three times — because I had put something in his car that should have been in mine.”
Mallory, who was front-of-house at Coppa in the South End, is now in a graduate education program. Theresa Paopao (pronounced “pow pow”), who met Tim years ago at Momofuku when she was the company’s wine director, has taken over the business end of Fishy Fish. “Tim and I have a decade of friendship and professional work under our belts,” she writes in an e-mail. “He is like a brother to me (I get to sass him unlimitedly); we are thick.”
When Paopao joined Maslow, she kept her job as operations manager for Oleana and Sofra; she has worked with Ana Sortun since 2004. She also works for The Spirited Gourmet in Belmont, and has arranged wine pairings for Maslow’s food from the shop (purchase and delivery is through their site).
Fishy containers are supposed to serve two-plus, but in my experience, each serves three. Most dishes are under $20. There are items from other chefs (”I miss the community of restaurants,” Maslow says); some weeks you can order a Surprise Bag with six to eight dishes and a surprise treat to serve two generously (around $80). At the bottom of every delivery bag you find a handful of tiny hard candies.
Maslow’s familiarity with a range of world cuisines is exceptional. “He can’t be bound to a cuisine or a style or a dining room,” writes Paopao. “He thrives on flexing, he is a master at so many flavors. It’s shocking to me sometimes!”
The chef’s own objective, he says, is to send out delicious food. “I want people to have fun new things they haven’t had before. I’ve dabbled in all these cuisines” — that is, Asian specialties, along with Japanese, Mexican, and Middle Eastern — “but I’m a master of none.”
This pod begs to differ.
Fishy Fish Market, www.fishyfishmarket.com. The weekly e-mail goes out on Monday, orders are due Tuesday night, and deliveries ($15) are made on Friday afternoon.