Goldbelly.com, I’m begging you. Please. Stop. You’re killing me.
You’ve got to know I’ve gained nineteen pounds during COVID. You’ve got to know I’m stuck at home, self-isolating as I wait for that last Moderna shot to make me fully vaccinated. You’ve got to know I’m missing my hometown of Los Angeles so much, and that’s why you keep showing me ads with those adorable little Cakewiches from Cake Monkey on Beverly Boulevard, and the irresistible Burnt Ends BBQ kit from Ugly Drum.
I respectfully request you quit toying with my deep-seated food cravings or else I’ll need to ask my nutritionist to send a cease and desist letter.
Over the past few months, I’ve met a new definition of the Devil, as in the Devil made me do it. Or eat it in my case.
Before last Christmas, I’d never heard of Goldbelly.com, the website that connects foodies with a curated list of celebrity chefs, bakeries, restaurants, and delis, all of which will supply them with their drug of choice, shipped to their doors from across the U.S.
Then I participated in an online Secret Santa exchange for which my gift giver sent me a package with no markings other than a return address in Manhattan. I’d vowed, before participating in the exchange, that I wouldn’t open my gift until Christmas, but the box was labeled with a giant red sticker that read PERISHABLE.
Curious about what was inside, and concerned the contents might spoil before the designated day, still more than a week away, I did a Google search on the return address. It turned out to belong to Ladurée, a garden café in Soho in New York, which is a U.S. satellite for a famous macaron shop in Paris, France.
Okay, so I’m one of the freakish few who doesn’t like macarons (it’s the meringue, I’m not enthusiastic about whipped and baked egg whites), but I rationalized opening the package early, based on the PERISHABLE sticker alone. I was pleasantly surprised to discover my gift included sugared almonds and Roi Soleil tea sachets, both in small, exquisite boxes that were keepsakes in themselves.
Jordan almonds, that ubiquitous wedding favor given out by cost-conscious brides everywhere, had nothing on Ladurée’s sublimely coated nuts. They vanished in a day. Sorry, couldn’t help myself. Meanwhile, I’m strictly rationing the tea, a blend of green tea, bergamot, and rhubarb, among other ingredients, to one cup a week
The Etsy of Food
What I soon learned was that my gifts had been ordered through Goldbelly rather than directly from the café, which is how a lot of artisanal food and meal purveyors in the U.S. reach distant clientele these days.
Though the site encourages trying food from far-flung places you might not have visited, the vibe caters to people missing their hometown eats.
Do you salivate just thinking of Lavo’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in New York City? Can’t survive without another bowl of Seafood Gumbo from Commander’s Place in New Orleans? Texas Smoked Brisket from Snow’s BBQ near Austin? San Francisco Sourdough Bread from Boudin? I mean, you do know it’s impossible to make that tangy wonder with a super chewy crust outside the Bay Area. Just doesn’t happen. Something in the air there. Swear to God.
Goldbelly hears you. They’ve got you. As their website explains:
… we believe in the emotional power of food. For many of us, food is a language of love. It’s more than just nourishment. It’s memories, it’s connection, it’s comfort.
Comfort doesn’t come cheap, however.
Chef Carla Hall’s Nashville Hot Fried Chicken Dinner for 4–6 will set you back $179, though, like most offerings on the site, the shipping is free. If you want a taste of what your favorite actors or actresses might be eating at a Hollywood awards dinner, you can order Truffle Mac and Cheese for 4 from Wolfgang Puck for $129.
As far as baked goods go, the selection, I discovered when Goldbelly ads began stalking me online, is robust. You can order the dizzying array of treats embedded in the Spank Me Cake from Misha’s Cupcakes, bagels from New York’s legendary Ess-a-Bagel, or cartons of “cookie fries” from The Cookie Joint in Northbrook, Illinois.
Goldbelly doesn’t have everything, unfortunately.
As a Los Angeles native who hasn’t been home in years, I desperately wanted a Chinese chicken salad from Chin Chin on Sunset. Missing my “third grandma,” Annie W., who passed away in the 90s, I wished, how I wished, I could get a corned beef sandwich from Canter’s Deli like we used to do together.
Neither restaurant sells on the website.
A Shock and Awe of Ads
Immediately after I explored the website, the assault of temptations began. They peppered my social media feed with sweets and meats. Plastered websites with photo grids of culinary delights, as many as four ads to a page. I was stalked from Facebook to BuzzFeed, eBay, and PopSugar. On YouTube, my Skip Ads intro often featured the company’s CEO, Joe Ariel, a likable pitchman in the role of cheerleader for the passionate makers behind crepe cakes, cannoli, pizza, and more.
With its exhaustive coverage, I can only guess Goldbelly’s promotional budget must rival some smaller nations’ GDPs.
At first, I clicked on the photos in the ads because whatever they depicted was so over the top I couldn’t figure out what I was looking at, a gigantic donut that was somehow a croissant and a s’more at the same time; the explosion of
rainbow colors that turned out to be a blondie; the “Levee High Apple Pie” from Missouri with a domed crust like the nose of a cruise missile smothered in caramel and pecans. It’s one of Oprah’s Favorite Things.
Now, three months later, the ads have done their work, begun to wear me down. I’m no longer simply clicking because I’m stymied, trying to visually decipher some random food artist’s wild creation. I’m considering adding an order to the site’s shopping cart.
Believe me when I say I am not in Goldbelly’s target demographic. My income or, more specifically the lack of it, places me squarely in the 4 for $4 Meal at Wendy’s crowd.
My birthday is coming up in a few days, however, and gee, that Burnt Ends BBQ Sandwich Kit from Ugly Drum sure looks good. Drool.