(Note: No one paid or encouraged me to write this review. I just want to share my food experience with others!)
Does anyone else find themselves in a food rut from time to time? Usually around January every year I find myself in a “food rut.” I’m tired of the same old recipes we’ve been making for the season, but I can’t seem to think of anything interesting or exciting to make. Or if I do come up with a different idea, I don’t have the time or inclination to make it on a weeknight.
Some of my work colleagues swear by Chef’s Plate, one of the many meal kit services that deliver door to door. I was intrigued by some of the recipes—Spicy Chicken Taquitos, Greek Turkey Burgers, Pork and Ramen Stir Fry. These were recipes I could easily make myself, but hadn’t thought of on my own. Like most people, I have my usual repertoire of recipes, and have to be in the right cooking frame of mind to do something completely new.
My colleagues raved about the food. “Everything has been delicious!” one told me. I was a bit skeptical, as my colleagues happily eat stale cookies and think those are fantastic. Nevertheless, I wanted to get outside my food rut.
We decided to order food for the week. You have a choice of how many suppers: two, three, or four. To get the best price with our introductory discount, we choose three suppers. The box of food was delivered by courier, and packed well: produce on the top, followed by a divider, with ice packs and the meat on the bottom. The meat was still partially frozen when it arrived, which alleviated my fears about the fish and chicken.
First Night: Lemon and Za’atar Basa with Broccoli Tabbouleh
I was intrigued by this meal. I had never eaten Basa before, and I like broccoli. Unfortunately, the website does not allow you to filter out (or pick out) most foods you don’t like. I do not like fresh tomatoes, so I set those aside.
All of the ingredients were portioned out, from the spices to the vegetables. The recipe cards are very time specific, and you have to follow the steps exactly. My cooking tends to be a bit more freestyle, with a bit of mis en place and a bit of chopping and adding extras to taste as I go. I did my best to follow the steps religiously, and the timing of the meal (30 minutes from start to finish) was pretty much spot on.
I admit, I doctored the meal. Firstly, I don’t like raw garlic or tomatoes. So I added the garlic and about 5 baby tomatoes to the millet as it cooked. I also added some chicken stock paste to the water to better flavour the millet. When mixing the millet “tabbouleh,” I added some feta cheese as well.
Result: The meal had good flavour. I liked my changes to the broccoli tabbouleh, especially the added feta, which added a nice salty, creamy hit to the roasted broccoli. Roasting the broccoli was delicious, and I would do it again for different recipes. Because I had extra tomatoes left over, I gave them to a colleague the next day.
The fish was good with the za’atar, but better with only lemon. The texture was a bit soft for our tastes. Perhaps a piece of sole, or a thin piece of cod would be tastier.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 plates
Second Night: BBQ Chicken with Warm Potato Salad
This meal was one of the “15 Minute Meals,” so everything is pre-chopped for you. The instructions, again, were pretty straight forward.
The green beans were a bit sad looking, so I chopped the ends off. I usually buy much smaller, tenderer beans. The beans included were very old and stringy. I wasn’t sure how they would turn out.
I had to dry off the pre-roasted potato chunks, then warm them in the oven with the beans. Chef’s Plate uses a LOT of the same style of cooking: something in the pan, and something roasted in the oven. This recipe was consistent with that style.
The potato salad, again, required doctoring because we don’t like fresh dill. Instead, I chopped up some green onion and swapped out half of the regular mayo included for Miracle Whip. It needed a bit of sugar as well.
The chicken needed more BBQ sauce. This was an easy fix with our bottle of Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Result: Like the first night, this meal also had good flavour. I don’t think I would roast beans again with panko crumbs, but we agreed that we would make the potato salad again. The chicken portions seemed a bit small, though we didn’t feel hungry after eating. Less leftover sides this night.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 plates
Third Night: Balsamic Steak with Parmesan Potatoes
I was particularly looking forward to this supper, because I like to eat a good piece of steak!
After cutting the potatoes, I decided that they seemed a bit anemic seasoned only with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Some paprika and oregano helped kick the potatoes up a notch before I started roasting them.
The salad was simple: lemon juice, honey mustard, oil, salt and pepper, and oil. All of the recipes assume you have some sort of oil on hand, so for the dressing, I used a lemon-infused olive oil, which ramped up the flavour. We also added some dried cranberries and feta to the salad for texture and flavour, because spinach leaves on their own aren’t terribly exciting.
The balsamic reduction for the steak didn’t make enough. I increased the amount of balsamic vinegar and butter, and added a bit of sugar to counterbalance the sourness.
As for the potatoes, I was immensely disappointed that the meal kit included a package of ground canister-style “parmesan.” If you are going to have parmesan, have the real umami-filled Parmegiano Reggiano (or at least Grana Padano). Of course, I grated some real Parmegiano to add to the potatoes.
Result: This was probably our favourite meal. The salad was tasty. The potatoes we would definitely make again. The steak sauce was luxurious with the buttery balsamic shallots. However, the steak itself had a big piece of grizzle running through it. We had to hack around it, and gnaw at it like Neanderthals. Flank steak is not my favourite cut of beef in the least. I also wanted a shade more meat, since there was a fair bit of wastage once we got the grizzle out.
Rating: 4 out of 5 plates with a different cut of steak
Overall, I thought it was worth a try. It did give us some different recipes from our usual, and I enjoyed having everything delivered to my doorstep. However, there was a LOT of packaging—everything was individually packaged in little bags or containers. At least it is nearly all recyclable or reusable.
For a person who doesn’t cook much, or needs a lot of guidance in the kitchen, a meal kit would be a great way to improve their cooking. If you have a hard time with portion size, or cook only for one, it would also be a good investment. For me, though, it was fun to do for a week, and I like getting ideas from their upcoming menus, but it won’t be a regular thing.