Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Home Meal Reviews Round Up

It's been a fun journey of culinary delectation over the last few weeks. I have sampled a huge array of offerings from every company that I could find who operates in my area. This year, there is likely to be a lot of consolidation and failure in these offerings. The press has already cottoned onto the ridiculous nature of the 'Unicorns' of Tech and these companies are in a similar fold.

Here is a rundown of the various services that I have tried:

Company Meal Cost (based on 6 meals/week) Self Make / Ready Made Return Packaging Pros Cons
Gobble $11.95 Simple Self Make Yes Simple and Tasty Limited delivery options
HelloFresh $11.50 Self Make No Tasty Instructions are not great
Freshly $11.50 Ready Made No Convenient & Fast Food seemed very bland
Blue Apron $9.99 Self Make Yes! (super efficient) Cheap The recipies were very up and down
Peach Dish $12.50 Self Make At a cost Delicious Food travels a long way
TableRunner $12-$15 Ready Made Yes Tasty Expensive
Plated $12 Self Make No Tasty, comes with everything Expensive
Munchery $10-$15 Options for Both Not needed Really Tasty and a good range. A Bit Expensive
Green Chef $13.50 Self Make No Delicious Limited Delivery Options
Eat Mise $10-$15 Ready Made Not needed Good Choice A Bit Expensive
Luke's Local $12.50 Ready Made Yes Flexible Delivery Didn't taste good!
SunBasket $11.50 Self Make Yes Tasty Large lead time before delivery

So who won?

Well I am going to cheat a little here and break things out into a few different categories. Not everyone wants the same thing out of their delivery service so here are a few options, depending on what you are after:

The Quick Fix: Table Runner

If you are after something that comes in a box and can just be thrown in the oven/microwave and comes out tasting fresh and delicious... frankly you can get that sort of thing from your local supermarket and probably for a lot less however I would say that Table Runner offers good choice and quick prep times.

Learning to Cook: Green Chef

I have several friends who have opted for these services as a way of helping them learn to cook with minimal outlay and maximum simplicity. The winner for this one for really great recipe cards and a simple layout - Green Chef.

Best Value: Blue Apron

The cost of these as I have given in the chart above doesn't seem to be that big of a deal, but a $2 increase per meal equates to $48/month which is quite a lot of money. If you want to be a little budget conscious, Blue Apron is the cheapest of the options out there as well as being one of the bigger ones. Of course if you are really budget constrained... going to the supermarket is always going to be cheaper.

Variety & Flexibility: Munchery

If you want a mix of quick fix and prep yourself that tastes delicious and has a menu that is always changing and evolving - Munchery is the way to go.

Personal Choice: Gobble

I have to be honest, this has been a great ride but I am not renewing any of these. I enjoyed almost all of them, but if I was to go for one of these, for my personal needs as someone that wants fresh food with minimal prep time, a decent selection and some recipe cards to refer back to later on... Gobble gets the award, however until I become a multimillionaire... you'll find me down my local farmer's market/supermarket like everyone else.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Home Meal Reviews: Week 12 - SunBasket

It's been a while but after a lot of hassle and rescheduling I have finally gotten the last of the food deliveries. This week, I present... SunBasket:


Meal 1 - Tofu Soba Salad

Surprisingly tasty, the tofu was especially good.

Meal 2 - Grilled Steaks with Broccoli Rabe and Radish Butter

Great steak, although a little underdone when following their instructions (I think because the meat was thick).


This service is simply not convenient. It will take at least two weeks from when you decide you want it to be able to actually get your first delivery, which will arrive on a Wednesday (and I thought Tuesday was bad!). This basically means that whenever I am away for a week... I'd have to cancel this service for two weeks... I mean WTF. You also have to decide your food options super far into the future which drives me nuts. The selections are ok and most options looked pretty appealing although


These meals are the usual, full on chopping affair although it seemed as though they had been designed to at least make sure that only one or two of the ingredients needed this meaning prep time actually took what they anticipated (15-20 min). The recipe cards were strange. They seemed to have a good structure but often put the prep in the middle of cooking. I think this is doable but I ended up making two passes - one for prep and another for cooking just to stay on top of things.


For the most part I was happy with the quality of the ingredients although there was some decay on the mint which was a little disappointing and the meat arrived so frozen that I wasn't able to use it the first night which really annoyed me. The meals were probably a little larger than they needed to be and the noodles was definitely too much.


I was pretty impressed with the meals overall although they seem to always add an embellishment that I find unnecessary (Radish butter and the Salad Dressing for the Soba dish).


If you are ok with having your meals planned a long way in advance & getting the food half way through the week then this is a pretty decent option. The meals are simple and tasty, there is variety every week and the food really is on the table in 45min or less.

Next week: A Rundown of all the services, the winners and losers

Friday, February 26, 2016

Home Meal Reviews: Week 11 - Luke's Local


Luke's Local offer a whole bundle of different things as part of their delivery service however one of the categories is 'Chef Meals' offering a handful of meal options each week. I decided to go with the family package that offers the somewhat standard 3 pairs of meals for a week of eating.


A range of delivery days is pretty nice feature. I am a particular fan as one of the days is Monday! And even better, it arrived at a reasonable time. The food arrives in a non-descript brown box with rather minimal insulation and some modest ice packs that despite their lack of flamboyance, seemed to do the job as well as many of the more excessive options I have seen.


As with Table Runner et al. these are oven or microwave however, unlike those offerings - these don't come out as well. The salmon was slimy, and the black beans in the beef short rib were so dry they crunched...


The food had problems but the provenance of the ingredients was impossible to find and really the nutritional value in general was minimal.




Well it had to happen sometime, a truly disappointing service.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Home Meal Reviews: Week 10 - Eat Mise


A big range of 'professionally chef' meals delivered, ready to cook, to your door. The service seems very organised and friendly but there is not a huge amount of information or delivery flexibility:


Delivery is on Saturday... no choice and no time. That's better than a Tuesday but it does mean come the tail end of the week - the meals can look a bit sorry.


As with Table Runner and the Munchery ready meals, these are oven jobs with a microwave option. Simple instruction and not much to manage here although the outcome is not quite the same caliber.


The ingredients look to be pretty decent quality but there is very little information on the site to go off of.


Not as good as either TableRunner or Munchery although I have to say, I did really enjoy the Papusas. In retrospect I think I may have a rather high bar for Ramen given I live in the Bay Area but I have seen every attempt from a food service pan out pretty badly.


Mise has a great selection of meals and this seems to be growing and changing regularly however the meal quality seems to be fairly variable (from my limited sample) and overall not the same caliber as some services.

This was the highlight of Mise.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Home Meal Reviews: Week 9 - GreenChef


Meal 1 - Monday: Steak & Beat Panzanella

I am constantly surprised by these companies' ability to make Kale edible.

Meal 2 - Wednesday: Pumpkin Stuffed Shells

This looks a little burnt, there was not enough to fill the pan so the edges
burnt but it was rather tasty.


Green Chef basically only delivers on a Friday (at least in my area) and requires in excess of a week's notice. I think that once you are committed, this is probably not the worst, although the Friday delivery is simply terrible in every way. I am likely out on a Friday (and I suspect I am not alone judging by parking anywhere near any restaurant in the Bay Area) - this means that the food will be sat outside my apartment several hours before it get's unpacked. One good thing is that this company is available in almost all of the contiguous US with delivery dates seemingly dependent on location. There is no packaging return process, which having been doing these for a while, I am starting to see as really pretty necessary. Quitting this service, while not as bad as some of the previous, is still a hassle that cannot be done purely online.


These meals come with a similar level of preparation requirement to HelloFresh or BlueApron, about 30-45min. They are actually less on the chopping side and have a few different things going on. There are a lot of components that come pre minced / diced or pureed for convenience which is nice. the recipes are also pretty good in showing what to do and when, so that everything comes out warm and together. The one thing I would warn is - STAY ON TOP OF TIMINGS! If you mess it up, you will end up needing to do two or three things at the same time.


Green Chef is very loudly organic, the recipes have a healthy bent and a lot of information on them on their site which is always nice. The ingredients come in lots and lots of little pots and bags but unlike every other service, they are not bundled so you end up rummaging through the fridge for ten minutes trying to find the last little jar of horseradish creme fraiche that has inexplicably ended up somehow embedded in the middle of the Sherry Trifle your Aunt brought over last month and you never quite threw out.


This was another set of solid meals, the portions are actually 2 decent dinners unlike most of the others that will generally give you left overs. The food managed to be both healthy and tasty.


Green Chef is great if you are not in the Bay Area, also the menu options are pretty good. There are offerings for Paleo / Carnivore / Veggie even Gluten-Free which makes it very inclusive, however I am not sure if this will really work that well for couples where only one of them has these restrictive diets (it makes me think of this line in Pulp Fiction *Warning not family friendly*). Not my favourite option but the good recipes and tasty meals make it a decent option.

Still to come:

We are rapidly coming to the end of this experiment as I run out of places to try out and after all this eating I will have to go on a major diet! But before that day we will still be covering:
Eat Mise
Magic Kitchen
Good Eggs
Sun Basket
Luke's Local