Thursday, September 24, 2020

Warming the Community Through Food and Friendship, Tarasque Returns its Service

By Cotter Wilson and Tim Sandkaulen
Hottytoddy.com interns
cbwilson@go.olemiss.edutsandkau@go.olemiss.edu

For Tarasque Cucina owners John and Lauren Stokes, preparing simple but scrumptious food for the patrons of Oxford has brought them great joy, and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, being a familiar place that promotes simple pleasures has been “magical.”

After all of Oxford’s businesses were required to close their in-dining options, John and Lauren shifted to a curbside pickup service. They said the biggest thing that has kept them going in these times is the need people have in the community for food and a friendly familiar face at a safe distance.

The rigatoni with sausage and peppers at Tarasque. Photos by Sarah Odom.

“[Families] will come pick up a family size salad and pasta from us and enjoy it for a few days, and they feel safe doing so because of the processes we implemented so early on,” Lauren said.

With everyone being cooped up in their homes, it can be monotonous for families to cook meal after meal. Tarasque wanted to continue to provide an easy and tasty option for everyone, whether they are families with young children or elderly couples who want to avoid the grocery store.

John Stokes is the culinary inspiration behind the pasta and small plates at Tarasque.

“John is trying to keep the menu fresh as he always does, rotating new small plates in very often,” Lauren said. “Essentially, he is creating an entirely new menu every week.”

She says these continued rotations help keep things fresh in a small town like Oxford.

Additionally, Tarasque continues to use locally grown produce whenever possible, which is especially important amidst the COVID-19 crisis’ impact on small businesses. And to the Stokes, it makes sense to do this for a variety of reasons.

“It has biomes that are better for you, the money goes directly into local communities and farmer’s pockets, and there’s less emission related to transporting the food,” Lauren said.

Even though there is much uncertainty surrounding how life will continue to take place on a day-to-day basis, the Stokes plan to continue serving the people of Oxford the best possible food as long as they are able.

“We’ve tried to run a business built on positivity, respect, and great food. When we find ourselves lagging, the same attributes we try to show to everyone come back to us tenfold, and we get lifted up by the beautiful people we serve. It’s amazing,” Lauren said.

Serving customers curbside may not be the best way to provide a great experience or warmly interact with customers, but it still allows John and Lauren to communicate the best way they know how – through the food itself. Loyal customer Alexa Bortles claims she has never eaten a meal at Tarasque where passion was a lacking ingredient.

“Tarasque is the type of place I as a customer look forward to putting my money into as the delicious flavors are just part of the exceptional experience they provide on a daily basis,” Bortles said.

John and Lauren said people have been extremely accommodating and onboard with the entire process of curbside pickup. It seems to have even become its own little community.

“The parking lot during the busy time is sort of like a social hour – lots of rolled down windows and chatting,” Lauren said.

The Stokes have also gotten uplifting support from many of their patrons through people checking in over the phone and writing encouraging notes.

“We could cry with how sweet and thoughtful all our patrons are,” Lauren expressed.

Tarasque is currently open for curbside pick up and delivery onlyWednesday-Saturday 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.