For those tired of fixing dinner, "meal assembly" is the next big thing. Popular in Seattle, this do-it-yourself-with-a-little-help approach has found an outlet in Gaithersburg at the Neighborhood Kitchen.
The effort by the pizza/panini cafe Doughboys (251 W. Market St.) and the cooking school Ronaldo's of Potomac works like this: You visit doughboyscafe.com, scan the menu, order a minimum of four meals (each feeds two), and pick a night to put them together. Each meal takes five minutes to assemble, and you get instructions.
Recent meals--$17 to $19 for portions that feed two--have included skirt steak with shallots, purple potatoes, and chimichurri sauce; shrimp jambalaya and wild rice; and fontina-and-cheddar macaroni and cheese with roasted vegetables.
All the components for a meal are there--steak, shallots, potatoes, and sauce. Patrons can choose to omit some items and double up on vegetables instead. Fixings are ordered fresh and are partially cooked in Doughboys' wood-burning oven, so heating time at home averages about 15 minutes--labels include directions. In addition to main courses, there are salads, pizzas, breads, and desserts.
Assembly nights--usually the second and fourth Mondays of the month--can get lively, says Doughboys co-owner Ali Bagheri. "Sometimes friends come together and have a glass of wine while they go from station to station."
If you plan to eat one of the meals that night, it can be heated upstairs in Ronaldo's ovens. Feeling lazy? Doughboys will do it all for you and deliver, too, for an extra charge.
Doughboys: 251 W. Market St., Gaithersburg; 301-330-3212; doughboyscafe.com.