By Kristin Boza
Small business owners have been getting really creative lately. A new brand of small business has taken Beverly/Morgan Park by storm: small batch food and cocktail delivery. These home cooks, chefs, and mixologists featured in our first “Best of” series are some of the coolest new delivery entrepreneurs in our community. Be prepared to break all of your New Year’s resolutions with some good eats and tasty cocktails.
Lizzy Benner, owner of Steering Cocktails, is well-known for her creative cocktail work at local bars, restaurants and events. She started cocktailing for home Christmas parties in 2018 as a side job to her regular bartending. Like many in the service industry, Benner lost her event coordinator job when Covid hit. Luckily, she was able to focus on Steering Cocktails with cocktail-making demos and home delivery.
“I realized this is the perfect time for Steering Cocktails because everyone’s stuck at home,” Benner said. “I started creating cocktails, made with my homemade signature liqueurs, and delivering them to people’s homes.”
The premise of Steering Cocktails is to provide everything a host needs for the most fabulous cocktail party ever. Small batch, handcrafted cocktails are her specialty, and she was a staple at the socially distanced events held at Edna White Garden this summer. Benner has two beds at the garden dedicated to growing herbs for her cocktails.
“The Edna White events brought so much awareness to the garden and all that we do. We were able to bring the community together and do socially distanced parties with live music, which also put musicians to work during this tough time,” Benner said.
Benner offers Zoom demos on building the best of her signature cocktails, complete with a cocktail kit for $45, making it the perfect stay-at-home date night. Since she makes all of her own liqueurs for the drink concoctions, her cocktails are the absolute most exclusive drink in town.
“Are You Ready for a Brand-New Beat” is one of Benner’s favorite signature cocktails; it’s a take on a Summer Old Fashioned and includes bourbon, homemade honey/Meyer lemon liqueur, homemade pink peppercorn, Meyer lemon gin bitters, topped with a garnish of pink peppercorn and Meyer lemon peel. Her other favorite is “Peace Without Illusions” consisting of gin, mandarins and lemon sage, homemade rose hip and Bergamot liqueur topped with prosecco.
Coming up next: Benner hopes to take the show on the road, literally, by outfitting a cocktail truck to cruise to neighborhood parties in style. Find out more, book a virtual cocktail demo, staff an event, or order a batch of craft cocktails by visiting Steering Cocktails on Facebook and Instagram.
The Soup Nancy: Yes, Soup for You!
Nancy McGourty launched The Soup Nancy in October, her business name a play on the iconic Soup Nazi character on “Seinfeld.” For the last six years, McGourty dabbled with the idea of selling her fresh, homemade soups and finally took the leap to satisfy soup lovers around the neighborhood. She partnered with another neighborhood resident, Donna Somerville of Somerville Design, to create her adorable logo — a strong woman based on Rosie the Riveter holding a soup ladle.
“Since we’re all huddled up in our homes, we may as well have something cozy to eat!” McGourty said. “While I consider myself an overall very good cook, I have a particular affinity for soup making; I even recall my now grown son saying ‘Mom, can we please have something that I can eat with a fork?’ I believe soup is good food and we should all drink it in.”
Each one of McGourty’s soups is made from scratch. She tackles her weekly soup making process in stages. “One day I shop, another day I make the stock, and on Fridays I prep by chopping vegetables. Saturdays are for assembling and cooking the soup and delivery or pick-up is Sunday or Monday.” She makes her own stock fresh without the added boxed broths and never freezes the soup — it’s always delivered fresh. She makes approximately 45 quarts each week – that’s 400 quarts sold since October.
Two unique soups are created each week based on her cooking mood. The options are noted on her website and social media pages every Sunday night; orders are due by 5 p.m. each Wednesday and the cost is $10 per quart with a delivery fee of $2.50. “I’ve been sold out most weeks, so it’s best to get orders in early,” she said. “The community response has been great, and I already have several regular customers. I’m always open to suggestions and will consider them all.”
Her favorite soups are those with “velvety” textures, like butternut squash, but she also makes a killer toasted garlic broth-based soup. “I’m just trying to offer a good variety. I offer everything from vegan, vegetarian, or gluten-free soups to those with full fat and lots of butter and cream,” McGourty said.
A “million” combinations of flavors in one space, Samantha Rossi’s charcuterie boards are delightfully delicious. Rossi, a classically trained chef, launched Fancypants Boards in October, delivering morsels of goodness and handcrafted accoutrements to neighborhood living rooms.
After working as a chef for a decade and transitioning to specialty food sales, Rossi enjoys spending time in the kitchen. However, a life-changing event turned the trajectory of her career. When her daughter was born at 24 weeks and spent four months in the NICU, Rossi realized her true calling was to become a NICU nurse with one semester to go before graduation.
“We all have these daytime jobs that we really care about, but there is that one creative outlet that we need; Fancypants Boards is my passion project that allows me to be creative,” Rossi said. “I intended to start small and my first weekend I did 30 boards, and it hasn’t slowed down since.”
Rossi pays particular attention to the cheeses included on the boards, and all the board are created based on what she’s feeling that weekend. There are always three cheeses, a few types of meat, fresh or dried fruit, and two types of accoutrement that she makes herself.
“I always choose to add something sweet and something pickled on every board, and my favorites include pickled asparagus, pickled green beans, butternut squash mustard, and tomato jam,” she said. “If you take a tour around the board, you can find a million combinations; there’s nothing that doesn’t belong with each item.”
Three sizes are offered: the “Mind Your Business” serves one for $25; “Charcuterie and Chill” serves four as a snack or two for dinner for $40; and “Friends Forever” serves eight as a snack or four for dinner for $55.
Rossi chooses sustainable boards, so there is no plastic to throw away after the food is devoured. She’s used fallen palm leaves in the past and is currently working with recycled wood pulp that is molded like a cafeteria tray.
Each week, a Google form is uploaded to her Facebook and Instagram pages with the week’s charcuterie flavors. Orders are due by midnight each Thursday and she delivers on Saturdays and Sundays. “The community response has been incredible! We moved to Beverly not too long ago and we didn’t know anyone. Through different neighborhood Facebook groups, I’ve been able to meet so many nice neighbors,” Rossi said.