Blue Apron Vs Plated: What’s for Dinner?

This past week I had the opportunity to try, not one, but two (!), well-known food delivery services, Plated and Blue Apron. My parents have done Plated a few times and a good friend of mine has been raving about Blue Apron. And, when I heard that I would get delicious ingredients and easy recipes, based upon my preferences, delivered right to my doorstep, it didn’t take me long to sign up for their trial week.  This new concept takes grocery delivery and combines it with pre-portioned, ready to cook meals! Who hasn’t come home from a long day of work and wished the menu was already planned for the night? We’ve all been there…okay okay except for maybe me since my boyfriend does the cooking and we plan all of our meals for the week but still…you get the point. It’s nice to have healthy meals planned and pre-portioned for you.

My meals arrived Saturday afternoon in a neatly packaged cardboard box lined with ice packs to keep the contents cool for a few hours. Both packages (blue apron and plated) contained all of the ingredients needed to cook each meal, feeding 2 people, complete with recipes and photos. Literally, EVERYTHING is included from the major poultry and fish items all the way down to the lemon, butter, and fresh herbs, such as mint and basil. The only things not included were olive oil, and salt and pepper. Blue Apron even included little bags for each of the meals, called “knick-knacks,” which included items like butter and cheese for their beet pasta dish. This added bit of organization went a long way as I tend to lose things in my refrigerator.

We started with one of our Plated meals first, which consisted of Swordish with Spicy Mango Salsa and Israeli Couscous. The meals for both services range between 500-750 calories ( a little high for me), but use healthy ingredients for the most part. What I really loved was that with Plated you can choose between vegetarian or omnivore dinners. By selecting land, sea, or veggie, you will presented with a variety of options to choose from each week.  The menu is released a few weeks prior to delivery so if don’t like it, you can opt out a week! Unfortunately with Blue Apron, you don’t have much of a choice for what you get for the week you select, so we got stuck with beet pasta, which we don’t really eat. Plus, I would say, with Blue Apron, it’s not as healthy as Plated.

Instructions 

So our first attempt was the Swordfish. While the recipe card came with step by step photo instructions, the list was quite cumbersome and overwhelming. On the website, it said this meal was easy (they have different difficulty levels listed) and certainly it was easy to prepare but it took forever! I was under the impression that everything came prepared, which some of it did, but for the salsa, there was still a lot of peeling, rinsing, cutting, mincing, and chopping that had to be done, which took quite awhile to do. An hour and a half later and dinner was finally served!

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Unimpressed with the overall flavors, I don’t think this dish was worth an hour an a half of my time. The couscous were bland and honestly I felt like I didn’t get enough swordfish. I left hungry after this mediocre meal and I wish there had been more veggies. The only thing left to do was try Blue Apron!

On the menu for the week was: Lemon Parsley Chicken thighs, Fresh Beet Pasta, and Maple and Ginger Glazed Salmon. We decided to try the Lemon Parsley Chicken Thighs first. I liked how a separate instruction sheet was sent describing all three meals. It told us that our chicken is done when the juices run clear and that thinly slicing the yellow squash and zucchini is the best way to serve them. This was super helpful in addition to the recipe care they provided us for all 3 meals.

Similar to Plated, the recipe card came with step by step photos instructions, but once again there was plenty of peeling and mincing to be done. I couldn’t believe the amount of prep needed! However, this meal came out MUCH better than the Plated meal. This one was full of flavor, rich and delicious, and actually left me completely stuff afterwards. There was more than enough veggies, protein, and quinoa, and I finished the meal 100% satisfied, with plenty of leftovers too! After further consideration as an RD, I would even say this meal yielded enough for 3 or 4 people.

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Not only did this meal taste great but it looked great too! At the end of the day, I was very pleased with both options, but do wish they had some more health conscious and paleo friendly options.

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(Maple and Ginger Glazed Salmon)

Here are the pros and cons in my opinion

Pros

Convenient and ingredients sent to you

Great way to get more people comfortable with cooking

Fun activity to do with a partner
Meals will keep for at least a week

You can skip a week

Emphasis on local and seasonal food.

Some specialty ingredients you likely won’t find on your own

Cons

Time consuming! Definitely not practical for me during the week
Reoccuring payments if you are not careful to skip a delivery or opt out of the service-you would automatically be shipped another week by default.

Need lower calorie options

Not always the freshest produce

Plated Vs Blue Apron Prices $$

Blue Apron- $10 a person per meal for 1 week- this includes 3 meals for two people

Plated-$12 a plate Membership Price / $15 a plate A-la-Carte

At the end of the day you are paying for convenience. And while I absolutely loved trying new foods and recipes and getting to experiment a little, I won’t be using this weekly meal service. Both services impressed me with their organization and their ability to make my in-home dining experience feel a little bit more luxurious. I applaud them for their creative menus and who knows maybe I will periodically order from them! I just don’t have an hour and a half to spend during the week for non-paleo meals!

 

Tell me: Have you tried Blue Apron or Plated? What did you think? Do you prefer one over the other?

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A Foodie’s take on Whisk Boston: A “culinary experience”

If I’m being completely honest, it takes a whole heck of a lot to impress me. It’s no easy feat just ask my boyfriend. But, when I had the chance to experience Wink and Nod’s new culinary experience, known as Whisk Boston, I was more than impressed..I was blown away. 

A little difficult to find, I practically stumbled upon it after walking down a flight of stairs into a dark room, searching for the nearest staff member and asked if I had arrived at Whisk. Certainly, I had, but being a pop-up restaurant, Whisk was located at their newest location, Wink and Nod in the south end. If you have ever been to Lolita in Boston, this will kind of remind you of an upscale Lolita. Kind of eclectic but quaint and fun at the same time!

Upon meeting and greeting the other guests, I noticed the cute arrangement on each of the tables, put together by Jill Kerri, our wonderful host for the evening. 

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We started out with a Caraway Sourdough bread paired with salted and peppered butter. The black pepper was such a nice touch to the butter!

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Whisk collaborates with different restaurants around the city, by “popping-up, and showcasing their innovative display of flavors and somewhat bizarre combinations. By doing so, they are able to have full control over their kitchen and creatively express their culinary genius. Jeremy Kean, chef and one of the owners, uses his idea to take students from prisons as well as the street and put them in a kitchen. It is also clear that through his work he strives to elevate the dining experience. 

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For our first course we had a Strawberry Gazpacho, paired with an island creek oyster, fennel, and smoke. Remember what I said about bizarre combinations? Yup- never would have ever thought of a strawberry gazpacho with an oyster, but of course together, it all made sense as the sweetness of the strawberry blended with the saltiness of the oyster. Whisk has partnered with Wink & Nod’s “cocktail/wine/booze etc” program, so I of course embarked on a wine pairing journey. With the gazpacho dish I had an Alma Negra Malbec- my favorite wine of the night. 

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For our Second Course, we were served a black bass with faro, orange, and ponzu. I had a chateau de labourons with this course. An incredibly fun dish overall!

Third Course: Foi Gras Torchon served with a white chocolate veloute, sea scallops, and lime, paired with a Fino Sherry. Again, taking the sweet and pairing it with the salty. I am not typically a fan of Foi Gras but this was hands down my favorite dish of the night. 

For our Fourth Course, we had a Kalbi short rib with cherry and tiny veggies (literally half the size of my thumb), paired with a Pecchenino-Dolcetto. Where they get the veggies I have no idea, but one of the things I appreciate and respect about Whisk is that they prepare everything in-house and use local food, seasonal ingredients whenever they can. I do apologize for the spelling of the wines as I don’t typically venture out of my Malbec comfort zone. Part of the fun of this whole experience for me was definitely getting to experience some news wines that you won’t generally see elsewhere. 

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Okay, onto the Fifth Course: Whipped Brie (yummy!), with chocolate, honey, morel, and a thin cracker. Another one of my favorites for the night. I have never had cheese with chocolate! With honey-totally! Chocolate- never! It was super tasty and a perfect pairing once again. 

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Lastly, for our final course, we are served a deconstructed rhubarb parfait with a pistachio base and cherries. Elegant and sophisticated- taking a common dessert from my parent’s era and making it over for the younger generations 🙂 With this course, however, I did think the jelly on top had kind of a weird texture and wish there was another texture element such as something crunchy or a smooth, cold ice cream. The cherries were also quite strong, which semi-overpowered the dish. 

Nonetheless the food was impeccable and it is quite clear the passion that these chefs have and the love they pour into their dishes. I am not sure how long they will be around at Wink and Nod, but you can join their mailing list on their website for news on the next spot! (Their website is here.)

Of course, the night did not conclude with just great service and even better food. Jill, our host, made sure we left with a goodie bag full of stuff and also put together a few raffles! To tell you a little bit about what was in our bags, we received a bottle of wine from Sweet Baby Vineyard, located in New Hampshire, a quote printed out by Kal Barteski, Sparkly Soul Headbands, and a candle that says OWP and is not just a candle! You can WEAR IT: It’s a solid perfume, MASSAGE IT: it’s warm massage oil, BURN IT: it’s a candle. Objects With Purpose are made from organic coconut, shea, apricot butter with essential oils.

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We also received little mesh bags from Blue Mercury filled with petite samples and $25 gift card! Annnddd adorable Kiel James Patrick bracelets, which I wear daily now, along with a plethora of other goodies! 

I am so grateful for experiences like these, and can’t thank Jill and the other bloggers enough for such a wonderful night!

Whisk is located at 3 appleton st in the South End currently. 

Soon Spoon Pop up w/ PHaDe Food Labs

There is something so stimulating about fresh seasonal fare hitting your nostrils and tastebuds on a rainy night, huddled in a warm apartment, amidst laughter and conversation. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spent my Saturday night, surrounded by 6 other bloggers and one rather famous “twitter-er” (if that’s what they are called). The occasion? A pop-up dinner hosted by a new Start-up referred to as Soon Spoon. Soon Spoon connects foodies with local fine-dining restaurants in Boston and helps YOU obtain a last minute reservation. If you sign up, you will receive a notification as reservations become available by either email, twitter, or text. Hmm– notifications about opportunities to dine last minute at Boston’s most-booked restaurants? Yup- count me in!

Farmstead Table, Puritan & Co, Tupelo, Stir, Menton, Clio, and Uni are just a few of the restaurants Soon Spoon has partnered with
for reasons such as, they are highly creative, small, and special. These restaurants focus on hospitality above all as well as focus on detail and seasonal ingredients to provide their customers with the best dining experience. You certainly won’t find Legal or Morton’s on their list ( not that they aren’t special too, but you know what I mean.)

People who frequently book with Soon Spoon will have the opportunity to receive points as a reward that they can use to attend pop-up dinners- which are completely free! However, cancel a reservation? Bye-bye points!

So, I was invited to attend one of their pop-up dinners, catered by PHaDe Food Labs who served us 6 courses with 6 wine pairings. What’s not to love about that? Plus, the food was spectacular! We arrived around 6:30pm for assorted amuse bouches and wine.  Dinner was served at 7pm, with the first course featuring an Arugula + Beet + Goat cheese salad- a perfect pairing of flavors, textures, and colors. The menu had been thought over for days, tweaked, and finally cooked and served to perfection. Each meal was intricately designed and artistic, such that it pleased both the eyes and palate. Our second dish was a Nantucket Bay Scallop “Sea and Sand” dish that was my absolute favorite. It was my second experience with gastronomical cooking, which includes cooking with modern tools and manipulating ingredients so that they are presented outside of their usual form. This dish in particular included a sea “foam,” and brown butter powder as the sand. It was spectacular and incredibly unique.

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Next came out the Maccheroni and Lamb Ragu with Cacao nibs. A perfect balance of sweet and savory, soft and crunchy. What I loved most about the chefs were that they paid particular attention to colors on the plate as well as flavor combinations. I especially enjoyed the 2011 Barbera/Croatina – Cordani La Magia, that accompanied this dish.

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Slices of tenderloin sat over a blue cheese puree for our fifth course, paired with smoky asparagus and topped with tidbits of sea salt. This was paired with a 2012 Merlot/Cabernet Calluna from California.

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Lastly, what meal would be complete without dessert? Caramelized banana + Miso Chocolate and something known as “shroombread,” rounded this meal out. Although everyone but me couldn’t seem to get enough of the dessert, it was a little to savory for my tastebuds and I found a heavy mushroom flavor coming through. Nonetheless, I appreciated the synergy of the sweet and savory dish and overall the entire experience was one I will never forget. I can’t give enough credit to Soon Spoon for their innovative idea, generosity, and the chefs at Phade who cooked such a lovely meal for us all.You can book PHaDe for a private event in your home using Kitchensurfing  and follow them on Twitter.

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On our way out, as if we weren’t already treated like royalty, we all received a parting gift of chocolates wrapped in a petite brown box and sealed with a pink ribbon. Inside were the most delectable truffles provided by Chocolee and handcrafted by Lee herself.

Between the cozy brownstone apartment, foodie enthusiasts, endless glasses of wine, generous hosts, and a few incredible chefs, I had one of the most enriching experiences of my life. One that cannot be understood unless experienced for oneself. So, if you want in on this secret feeling provided by such an experience, I suggest you sign up for Soon Spoon because you can expect many more dinners like this one! You can also follow them on twitter! Here’s to spontaneous dining!

 

Jerry Remy’s NEW Paleo Menu Review

Located in the heart of Fenway, Jerry Remy’s is your quintessential sports bar and grill, with a menu full of standard “sports bar” fare..ie. burgers, sandwiches, and fries. So, when my cross fit box, CF Southie, was invited to try out a sampling of some of their paleo-friendly options, I was psyched! A lot of restaurants are beginning to “up” their game with gluten free, vegan, and vegetarian options and Jerry Remy’s certainly isn’t falling behind.

We had the chance to sit down with General Manager Don Bailey while he informed us of his new menu, the purpose being to offer athletes healthy fare while dining out! Come- on, just because they train hard does not mean they eat junk or want to eat junk all of the time! As a CF athlete my diet is one of my #1 priorities during training and I appreciate places like Jerry Remy’s making an effort to combine the fun aspect of a sports bar with healthy, delicious food.

His servers then graciously began serving us some of the soon to be menu options. Of course, with any great manager and chef, the opinions of the consumers must first be considered. Is this stuff athletes and cross fitters would really eat?

We started out with the Paleo options first, which included a grilled chimmichuri steak served over a healthy bed of grilled vegetables, honey roasted pork belly tacos wrapped in lettuce leaves, and herb seared atlantic salmon finished with a balsamic glaze and again over grilled veggies. The salmon was impeccable! I don’t know what seasoning they used for the grilled vegetables but it was delicious!

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The steak was also cooked to perfection, and the tacos could have used just a tad more seasoning or sauce!

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For those looking to get their vegetarian on, we were then served the grilled tempeh burger with arugula, soy mozzarella, and fresh avocado. Probably one of my favorite sandwiches of the night. Oh! And did I mention it was served on a Gluten-free bun? I don’t eat Paleo 100% of the time so this would be a nice option to have if I was in the mood for healthy bar food.

Next came the Kale and Crisp Apple salad, a vegan option. Unfortunately, this was me least favorite dish of the night. It was super bland and could have definitely used some seasoning and maybe even some pine nuts for a tasty addition. Oh well- this was the point of this dinner! To provide feedback and make some changes before rolling out the menu to the rest of the public.

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Our last dish was a cashew avocado sandwich that was also just incredible. The flavors blended so well together and I had to apologize to the rest of the table for not sharing!

Lastly, what meal would be complete without a little booze? Us cross fitters like to drink too ya know! We were served FIVE drinks to round out the night. FIVE!. We were first served two varieties of blood mary, one with a celery salt rim (yummy) and the other with a chili flake rim (holy hotness!). I am not a bloody mary fan and these set my mouth on fire. What was cool about them though was there unique names: Bloody Grace and Bloody Fran (name after cross fit workouts)…hehehe. Then came the Paleo Bellini (peach puree and Prosecco).  I could have had about 3 more of these it was that good. The peach puree was such a nice touch and really added some smoothness to the drink. Next came the “Stairclimber Margherita,” a Paleo-guru’s fave. Tequila and lime, that’s all we need! A little too alcoholic for my liking but nonetheless pretty darn good!

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And finally, my favorite drink of the night! The “Not-A-Colata.” White rum, coconut water, and coconut milk round this drink out, making for a dessert-like experience. I am already dreaming of when I will consume this drink again.

Anyways, all in all, we had such a great time an Don and is staff were so gracious to us. We walked away having had a wonderful experience and will definitely be back! It was nice being able to dine out at a place where we could order a few things without any modifications needing to be made. That was a real treat!

Private Chef Dinner Party Courtesy of KitchenSurfing

A few weeks ago I attended the Boston Blogger meet up as you may have read about in my previous post. Well, while there a fellow blogger and friend of mine raved about this site called Kitchensurfing. Having multiple allergies, she raved about how nice it was to be able to sit back and allow a chef to put together a meal based upon your preferences and needs. KitchenSurfing is essentially a platform for chefs to market themselves. You need a chef? Tell KitchenSurfing how many guests will be attending, your budget, preferred date, and then they will connect you with chefs who then send you their suggested menu and ideas. Not a fan of what they offered? No problem! You can customize your menu and work with the chef before booking your event!

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KS allows you a variety of options to enjoy a meal in the privacy of your own home. These range from private cooking lessons, to meal deliveries, or a plated meal for you and your significant other or you and many of your friends!

There are two ways to book:

  • You can browse the chefs and then select yourself which one you might like to have cook for you. This is what I did.

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This past Friday Adam, myself, and a few friends enjoyed an incredible 3-course meal with Chef Matthew Harker. Matt originally had a menu in mind but was willing to work with our dietary needs, wants, and budget. The finalized menu consisted of an arugula salad with fire roasted pine nuts, rainbow peppers, and a balsamic reduction as a starter, Malbec braised short ribs with sweet potato mousaline as our main entree, and a honey poached pear with ginger cake and hazelnut gelato for dessert. Truly impeccable! My guests were quite impressed and it was wonderful to be able to entertain them while not fussing over the meal and being distracted with some of the nuisances of cooking and hosting.

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We would definitely use KS again! Chef Matthew blew us away with his culinary expertise, his professionalism, attention to detail, perfectionism, and his passion for nutrition and local food. One of my favorite things that Chef Matthew brought for us was the Hazelnut gelato. I specifically asked for hazelnut because it is one of my favorite flavors and Matt did not let us down. This gelato is and will likely remain my favorite. Cold fusion provides hand-crafted gelato that I swear tastes better than what I had in Italy. The ingredients are simple, all natural, and delicious.

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I chose Chef Matthew due to his extensive background in being a private chef as well as where he pulls his inspiration from, which comes from many Mediterranean influences. Lastly, how could you disagree with his three favorite ingredients (olive oil, blood oranges,  and fresh herbs??).

Everything was delicious, the presentation was spot on and, he left the kitchen better than he found it when he arrived! He also left us leftovers, which I am eating to this day. Chef Matt clearly far exceeded our expectations and I would highly recommend him to anyone looking to have a private chef come and cook for them.  Having a private chef prepare a meal provided the perfect personal experience for me and and my guests.

Next event? Definitely a cooking lesson!