Monday, April 13, 2015

Blue Apron - Restaurant-Style Food Delivered Right to Your Door

I really love to cook but one of the things that is a real challenge sometimes is trying to figure out what to make. Sometimes that extra effort of coming up with something delicious, healthy and not too time consuming is just enough to make me head to my favorite local restaurant.

One of my co-workers told me about Blue Apron and I was immediately intrigued. Not only do they provide the recipes, they also send you every ingredient (except olive oil, salt and pepper) that you need to whip up tasty restaurant quality meals. This sounded like the perfect solution to my weeknight meal prep problems.

It sounded too good to be true but I decided to take the plunge thanks to 3 free meals from my co-worker. The normal cost is $10 per meal, per person so it's less than eating out but slightly more than shopping for yourself. I signed up and couldn't wait for my first box to arrive. 
All of the non-meat items are on top and the meat/seafood items are tucked away below surrounded by freezer packs.

I was really impressed with how organized everything was. As you can see in the photo below, everything is labeled. This really comes in handy when they send you produce items that you've never seen before! 
The first recipe we made was chicken tacos with a jicama slaw. 
The jicama avocado slaw was the star of the show. The tacos were ok, but nothing special. 

The other two recipes in our box were much better. The Beef Bolognese had an interesting twist - brussels sprouts!
Beef Bolognese with Fresh Pappardelle Pasta & Brussels Sprouts
Brussels sprouts showed up again in the Roasted Brussels Sprout & Freekeh Salad. This was our favorite of the bunch. 
Roasted Brussels Sprout & Freekeh Salad with Pickled Raisins, Shaved Parmesan & Hazelnuts
Since then, we've ordered many boxes, usually every other week. It's a great way to spice up your normal dinner routine. While it's more expensive than shopping for the ingredients yourself, it saves a lot of time and running around, and there's no waste.

We've enjoyed every meal we've gotten from Blue Apron. 
Some of our top picks:
Farro Jambalaya with Crispy Maitake Mushrooms
Farro Jambalaya

Pan-Roasted Salmon with Spicy Miso Broth & Wakame
Pan Roasted Salmon with Spicy Miso Dashi Wakame

Banana Leaf-Steamed Cod with Spiced Rice, Yu Choy & Coconut
Banana Leaf Steamed Cod with Rice

Korean-Style Tteok with Spicy Pork "Rag├╣" & Gai Lan
Korean-style Tteok with Spicy Pork Ragu and Gai Lan
I'm so glad we joined because it makes weeknight cooking a lot more fun and easy. My hubby even likes to join in. 

So - what did we think? 
  • What quality would the ingredients be? - Excellent! When we had issues (receiving everything frozen during the coldest part of the winter), they were promptly addressed.
  • What would the portions be like? Would be still be hungry? We are never hungry after eating our meals and we even have leftover side dishes sometimes. You get one protein per person per meal unless it's vegetarian. Sometimes we add extra ingredients (more carrots, add a sweet potato, etc.) to ensure leftovers for lunch the next day.
  • Would the recipes be good? Unique? We love the recipes and really enjoy trying new ingredients. If you are a picky eater, you may not be as thrilled with the program as we are.
  • What would the prep be like? Prep is easy. Even with all the cleaning of veggies and chopping, most meals are on the table in about 1/2 an hour.
Our only real complaint is all the packaging and that everything is shipped from far away. While it's nice not to have excess food or have to buy exotic ingredients that you may never use again, there's a lot of packaging. Boxes, ice packs, mini bottles and more baggies than you can imagine. And it doesn't have a very good carbon footprint either. For this Green Girl, I struggle with these aspects of the service. 

Does this sound awesome to you? Do you want to try it? I have one free 3-meal shipment available to share. You'll have to sign up for the service so you can give them your meal preferences, allergies, etc. but there is absolutely no obligation to continue. And I don't get any compensation if you sign up. They just make sharing meals an option after you've been a customer for a while. This offer is only available to new customers so if you've already joined Blue Apron, you can't get the free meals. (their rule, not mine!)

So how do you win my free meals? 
Leave me a comment telling me either your greatest struggle with getting dinner on the table every night or share a favorite fast and easy weeknight meal. Bonus entry for sharing this post via Twitter or Facebook. If you Tweet or post on Facebook, share your link in the comments. Make sure you leave your contact information so I can get a hold of you if you win. I'll pick one winner on Friday 4/17 at 9am. Good luck!

Photo credit: photos are from the Blue Apron website except for the 1st three

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Provenance: Food and Wine Inspired by Art Giveaway

One of my favorite restaurants is Provenance at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Not only is the setting unique and beautiful, the food is equally fabulous. We're always looking for an excuse to pay them another visit and they definitely have created an event series that entices.
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
Provenance has started a new monthly dinner series that reflects the seasons and offers great flavors with artistic menus and presentation. Food and Wine Inspired by Art includes a chef’s amuse-bouche as a starter and four courses each paired with wines. The culinary team, under the leadership of Chef Partner Douglas Katz, creates an artistic experience for the senses. In addition, Chef Katz is on hand to discuss each dish, its preparation and what is at the heart of local and seasonal food.
I was asked to attend last month's dinner and was blown away. Everything from the food to the service was exceptional, as always.
When we entered, we were greeted with bubbles - the perfect way to begin any party! As we took our seats, we got our first glimpse of the menu.

Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
Reading this definitely increased our excitement: great menu with interesting seasonal ingredients - we knew we were in for a treat! As we continued to sip the Bortolott Prosecco, we were served the amuse:
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
cauliflower dauphine with smoked salmon and chive
This prosecco was not too sweet and not too dry - perfect!

Next up was a beautiful bowl of soup that was perfect for a winter's night:
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
French green lentil soup with maple-glazed bacon, whipped
creme fraiche, candied lemon and micro greens
This is not your typical lentil soup! And the maple-glazed bacon and candied lemon took it to another level. 

Our wine was a riesling from Germany - Eitz "Ein Zwei Dry" - a drier riesling that is absolutely delicious. This is a white wine that I will definitely seek out.

The next course was bright and light:
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
Green City Grower' lettuces with roasted radish, red beet, cucumber, candied pecans and Lucky Penny goat cheese with a pink peppercorn, red wine and local honey vinaigrette
The dressing on the salad was just the right combo of savory and sweet and the roasted radish was a big hit at the table.

Our main course was hearty and chock full of flavor. This truly captured the winter season:
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
Heritage Lane bison and roasted garlic confit meatballs with whipped potato-sunchoke puree, glazed carrots, pearl onions and swiss chard with a local mushroom jus
There wasn't a lot of talking during this course because everybody was too busy gobbling it up. I've had celery root, cauliflower and parsnip purees but this was my first sunchoke and potato combo - great flavor combo!

Our wine was Marco Marengo Nebbiolo Valmaggiore from Italy. It was good but lacked the body of typical nebbiolos.

And even though we were pretty full at this point, we definitely made room for this. It looked so pretty but that didn't stop us from digging in.
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
Solstice Roasters coffee and cinnamon spiced bittersweet chocolate mousse
with whipped cream and pistachio-orange biscotti
I'm not a huge fan of chocolate mousse or chocolate and cinnamon together but somehow I loved this combo. I think the addition of coffee in the mousse brought everything together for me. 

The wine with this course was Mas Amiel Maury Vintage Fortified Grenache from France. I've never heard of a fortified grenache and was excited to try it. It's really similar to port but less heavy and was a perfect ending to this amazing meal.
Food and Wine Inspired by Art Provenance Cleveland Museum of Art
the wines we were served - an interesting and unusual mix
The next dinner is April 15th. Check out this menu!
spring onion bisque
grilled local ramps, extra virgin olive oil, dried kalamata olives
dry creek, chenin blanc, sonoma county, california

first course
shaved iowa prosciutto
braised artichokes, local feta, micro basil, roasted pepper-fennel chutney
au contraire, chardonnay, russian river valley, california

second course
scallop & jumbo lump crab
roasted asparagus, glazed radish, lentil chickpea-almond pilaf, green goddess sauce

third course
grass-fed filet of beef
anna potatoes, red wine jus, fried sage, shallot butter
justin, cabernet sauvignon, paso robles, california

fourth course
strawberry rhubarb crisp
minted local yoghurt
                                                               domaine chandon, brut, california
Other upcoming dinners are 5/20, 6/10 and 7/15. 

The cost is $90 per person (CMA Museum Member price is $70) plus tax and gratuity.  The dinners begin promptly at 6:30 p.m. Reservations are available exclusively by phone at 216-707-2600. 
Thanks to the lovely folks at Provenance, I have a gift certificate to giveaway to one of my lucky readers. Just enter using the Rafflecopter below. Be sure to actually complete each task to get credit and leave me a way to contact you. If you don't, another winner will be selected. Contest ends 4/19. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

** Disclosure: I was invited to attend with a guest in exchange for hosting this giveaway. 
As always, the opinions expressed are my own. **

Friday, March 27, 2015

Feast of the Bloggers at Jim Alesci's Place

So if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I've been crushing on Jim Alesci's Place in Solon for a long time. They were the first Favorite Places post that I shared with you and have been loving the new and greatly improved store.

Recently they reached out to the Ohio Blogging Association and hosted a blogger meetup to spread the word on what they have to offer. I obviously said yes because you know, I need another excuse to go there :)
While I've been a fan for years, I learned a lot about the Alesci family during the event. They were extremely warm and welcoming and really made us feel like part of the family. And in true Italian family style, we were treated to an amazing feast that far exceeded our expectations. So much that I heard comments like "It's like being at a wedding, but better!" 
Yes, it was that kind of event. Check out this menu:
As we got settled in and mingled, we dug into this gorgeous assortment of Italian meat and cheeses.
And were greated by this smiling face and tasty bruschetta:
As we looked around the store, I spotted this in the bakery case. Turns out it was a Cleveland-style cassata cake that they would serve us later. Ah, the anticipation...
After a tour of the store, we were served two green salads:
And wedding soup in demitasse cups:
And the food kept coming...
Frank Alesci serving up an assortment of flatbreads
Super cute tiny chicken pot pie in a mini mason jar
Beautiful veggies
Italian beef sandwiches
And of course there was dessert. Not only the cassata cake, but a whole tower of sweet treats that made everyone swoon.
My favorite was the toasted almond amaretto cake. 

They showed off their beautiful Lavazza espresso machine and an variety of coffee drinks:
And of course there was wine:
Affordable and easy drinking - this is a good wine choice for your Italian feast.
The Alesci's were unbelievable generous to us - not only did they feed us incredible food, they gave everyone a t-shirt and a $10 gift card. 
I put my gift card to use immediately. Here's some of my favorite finds:

Orange and basic olive oil

Get these for your Easter Basket!
Now these are ice cream sandwiches - oh my!
We even learned about a local company Peaceful Fruits that is making sustainable fruit snacks from wild-harvested acai and met the founder, Evan. They are healthy treats, taste great and are helping people in the Amazon have a better life. They are available at Alesci's too.
**Disclosure: As a member of the Ohio Blogging Association, I was invited to attend this event. Food, beverages, t-shirt and gift card were provided by Alesci's. I loved them before the event, and continue to be a huge fan. 
As always, opinions are my own. **