Just about all of us have opted for delivery. Inquirer reporter Samantha Melamed shares stories of the people who are in the middle of this, bringing food and other packages to our doors in a charged atmosphere.

Also this week, we round up charitable efforts and woes in the restaurant industry (including closings), and give you ideas for grilling, wine-sipping, and yeast-free baking.

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Michael Klein

What it’s like to deliver food during the pandemic

Under the stay-at-home order, Philadelphia restaurants have transformed into e-commerce operations, their front windows retooled into loading bays, and grocery stores shifting to delivery hubs. The workers, meanwhile, are bearing the brunt of potential health and safety issues as well as public scorn. Samantha Melamed illustrates this issue. And she does it literally. Melamed, who was an art major at the University of Pennsylvania, accompanies her article with gouache paintings of her subjects and scenes. Lovely read, all around.

Restaurants feeding front-line workers

Generous groups and individuals have been raising money to buy meals from restaurants and then sending them to health-care workers and first-responders. One effort, Fuel the Fight, is at the fore of this in the region.

Companies big and small have also gotten involved with direct donations. Tork, the Philly-based paper napkin giant, just gave $100,000 to eight chefs whose restaurants have been feeding the workers.

And two years ago, North10 Philadelphia, which works to help people in the city’s Hunting Park and East Tioga neighborhood and operates the Lenfest Center, hosted a disaster/emergency prep workshop. Reality has set in. North10 is partnering with the community-development entity Called to Serve on a project that buys meals from neighboring restaurants Pho Don, Caribbean Feast, and CityView Pizza & Grille and sends them to Temple University Hospital’s Emergency Department. Right now, they’re handling 100 meals a week and expect to step up to 150 shortly. Both North10 and the Lenfest Center were founded by Chase Lenfest, son of the late H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, the onetime owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, who donated it to his Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

Grilling and sipping ideas for your weekend

Whether you’re nervous about the meat shortage or just want to get back on track after a bout of pandemic-spawned stress eating, fruit and veggies are perfect for the grill. Inquirer reporter Grace Dickinson chatted up Andrew Henshaw, executive chef of Laser Wolf, whose charcoal grill handles 75% of the menu, for guidance.

And with this Memorial Day weekend honoring our nation’s sacrifice, go American with your wine choices. Wine writer Marnie Old suggests bottles that are on sale via Pennsylvania’s Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores.

Tamales take their place in the spotlight

From South Philadelphia to Northern Liberties, guest chefs have been creating tamales for COVID-19 fund-raisers and pop-up sales to keep families going. “We’re raising resources and awareness about a community that’s in a vulnerable situation right now," chef Ana Caballero of Lost Bread Co. told Inquirer critic Craig LaBan. “But celebrating their food culture is also empowering.”

Updates on the restaurant crisis

We’ve expected a wave of restaurant closings as a result of the coronavirus, and the first ripples are being felt with the announced shutdowns of Farmicia in Old City and Mad River in Manayunk.

Also this week came the closing of South Philly Malaysian BYOB Sate Kampar, a regular on every critic’s best-of list. Its shutdown has some ties to the coronavirus crisis, but it really points out an inherent issue that befalls many other restaurants and retail businesses.

So what would it take for restaurants to survive?

"The sentiment among restaurant operators is that only 20% of us are going to survive,” says chef-restaurateur Tyler Akin of the Stock restaurants and Res Ipsa Cafe (plus the forthcoming Le Cavalier at the Hotel Du Pont in Wilmington), citing a James Beard Foundation survey of 1,500 restaurateurs, of which 80% indicated they were uncertain if delivery and takeout would sustain them. Inquirer reporter Jenn Ladd picked Akin’s brain about efforts to lobby on behalf of the industry and fix the problems with the government’s Paycheck Protection Program.

How about easy quarantine baking projects?

Jenn Ladd admits she’s no baker. But as the quarantine continues and her ennui grows, her thoughts turned to flour. She decided to take on a baking project or two, with a couple important constraints: There would be no yeast, and the recipes needed to be creatively challenging but technically doable. “Know your limits, or you’ll wind up sponging batter off the backsplash" was her guiding thought. Behold her efforts: lemon meringue bars, homemade Oreo cookies, and no-yeast cinnamon rolls.

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