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There has been a recent influx of meal delivery services popping up on the webs. When I say meal delivery, I don’t mean the pre-cooked / ready meals like Sprig or Munchery (of which I should review as well), I am talking about services that deliver the ingredients for one to actually prep and cook their own meals at home. It appears that the top contenders in this market currently are Blue Apron, Plated, HelloFresh and Forage (coming soon).

I recently tried out Blue Apron to see what it was like and I turned out to be pleasantly surprised!

Background

Blue Apron is a subscription service where you can pick a day of the week (Tue-Sat) to deliver ingredients to make 3 meals for 2-4 people.  The meals are pre-determined each week, so there is no flexibility if you don’t like the menu other than to cancel that week’s delivery.  You do have the option to select vegetarian or opt out of certain types of meat/seafood.

Pricing is $9.99 per meal / per person which is pretty reasonable.

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Plan Options

Delivery

Delivery went seamlessly.  I’m lucky because I can buzz people into my apartment lobby remotely, so the delivery guy just left the box next to my front door.

I do have to say that the packaging is very professional looking, but the box is HUGE.  Ridiculously big.  Plus there is a shit ton of insulation and ice packs inside.  Whilst I do appreciate keeping my food cold and fresh, the effort to clear out and recycle all of this material is way too much.

I was so shocked at how much extra packaging was in the box that I had to google how to recycle it and print the instructions to make sure I got it right.  Blue Apron do say that “packaging is made from post-consumer waste and much of it is recyclable”.  I feel like there has to be some way to optimize this packaging so I don’t have to break everything down every single time and feel like an asshole to the environment every week.

The Meals – Prepping, Cooking, Eating

I love cooking.  I hate shopping for ingredients.  The reason I hate trying out new recipes is because I hate having to purchase every single ingredient to make a meal.  Like buying an entire 5lb bag of rice and a bottle of rice vinegar to make sushi rice and then it sits there forever wasting away until I throw it out.  Or when I prep for a new recipe and then realize halfway through that I forgot some obscure key ingredient and either run out to shop to get it or do without and potentially ruin my meal.

Blue Apron solves all of these issues.

No longer do I need to worry about the ingredients.  Or ending up with too much of something that I will never use again.  The waste on the food front is cut significantly.  I don’t have to worry about forgetting something key.  I don’t have to worry about buying a bag of celery when I only needed one celery stick.  And as an added bonus, everything is pre-measured so I’m not sitting there figuring out exact quantities.

I love it!  I can finally focus on what I love doing and that is cooking.

Recipes

Recipe Cards

The recipes have actually been interesting.  At first I thought that some of them were a bit simple and stupid, but after reflecting I realize that I would never have thought to make some of them.  It literally would never occur to me to whip up a BLT.  I also kind of like that I don’t have an option and I have to cook what they send me.  It has given me the opportunity to try things out that I wouldn’t have picked out from my typical recipe repertoire.

The recipe sheets that Blue Apron includes are really great.  They are printed on high-quality glossy paper that allows you to get spill stuff on them without getting damaged. The images are clear and beautiful with some nice tips. They are easy to follow and one thing I really appreciate is Blue Apron goes out of their way to optimize the clean up.  Whenever possible they try to utilize a one pan approach and tell you to wipe out the pan and reuse it.

My wishlist on the recipe sheet is that I wish it would have an estimated prep / cooking time, nutritional values and recommended equipment. And I wish they made the left margin a little big wider so I could holepunch and put them into a three-ring binder to save.

Prepping

The prep work is pretty simple.  I like that everything is done mise en place with the recipe so once you start cooking it is smooth sailing like a cooking show.  I would recommend that one have some ramekins on hand to feel like a professional.  There hasn’t been anything that requires any special equipment other than a pan, mixing bowls, a knife and a baking sheet so most home cooks (even bachelors) should be covered.

The little knick-knacks bag is nicely packaged in a brown paper bag with all the extras that you need during cooking.

Cooking

Once you are done with the prep it is time to move onto the cooking portion of the program.  The fun!  The website says that each meal should take about 35 minutes to complete.  This has pretty much been true.  Following the recipes is simple enough for anyone with a tiny bit of cooking ability.  I’d suggest reading through the entire card before embarking to get some timings correct, but for the most part you’ll be ok if you simply follow along.

Eating

Blue Apron says that they source the best seasonal ingredients directly from farms, importers and family-run purveyors.  I like that.  So far the quality of the ingredients has been really fresh and tasty.

The meals that I have cooked have turned out fantastically.  Even plating has looked amazing.  And the taste has been outstanding.  I know that I am a good cook, but this has made me feel pretty proud of myself every time.  I’ve served a few of these meals for other people and they were equally impressed.  Win!

Oh and the portions sizes are darned big.  I have made a few things that were for 2 people that could have easily fed 4 people.

Examples of What I Made

farro

Scallops on farro (I modified this from original recipe)

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BLT with tomato avocado salad

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Chicken & Snow Pea-Radish Sauté

Wishlist

There are a few things that I wish Blue Apron had:

  • More economical packaging – less waste!
  • Meals for 1 – poor little me ends up cooking a lot of food.  I do my best to eat the leftovers for lunch, but I wish sometimes I could cook just one meal.

Overall

As if you couldn’t tell, I love Blue Apron.  I am shocked at how much I love them actually.  At first I had this notion in my head that these kits were somehow cheating the complexity of being a real cook.  I have since gotten over that because you still have to prep and cook these recipes, you just don’t have to deal with all the extract bullshit to source the ingredients.  I have made every meal that has been sent to me (6 so far) and I have enjoyed cooking and eating every single one.

Side note: I have tried out Plated (review coming soon), but I have gone back to Blue Apron.

I just came back from an awesome week in Oregon.  I went out there for the XOXOFest and ended up staying a few additional days so that I could head down to Cannon Beach to have a few days of solitude.

Portland is such a great little town.  I am completely smitten by it.  Not only is it beautiful with the trees and hills surrounding it, but there are tons of great restaurants to get fat at.  We had a great time testing out a few of them.

Nostrana

This happened to be around the corner from my airbnb and was recommended by my host.  The first night I was in town I headed over there and was super impressed.  I was so impressed that I ate there a second night in a row.  Highly recommend!

What I Ate

It was “Gnocchi Thursday” so I obviously had to try out the gnocchi.  Gnocchi is a tricky one.  In the States it usually ends up being a gluttonous ball of mess that sticks in your stomach making you feel bloated and tastes a bit like paste.  This was not the case at Nostrana.  It was perfect rivaling the best Italian restaurants that I’ve eaten in (like Locanda Locatelli in London).   I had the shrimp / clam version in a butter lemon sauce.  This was the first seafood gnocchi I have ever eaten and it was delicious.

nostrana gnocchi

Following that I tried their nectarine crumble which takes a 20 minute pre-order.  Whoa.  This was mind blowing. Crispy hot and soaked in buttery goodness.  Big enough for 2 people.  Nom nom.

nectarine tart nostrana

I ended up going back to Nostrana the following evening and having a delightful salad and a shrimp ravioli.  Just as delicious.

About Nostrana

Nostrana’s menu focuses on the intensity of flavor created by cooking in the wood oven and wood-fired grill. According to Bon Appetit Magazine, “Many of the dishes offered (at Nostrana) are otherwise hard to find in this country, but are just what an Italian food connoisseur might crave.”

Cathy Whims, Nostrana’s executive chef was named James Beard’s Best Chef Northwest in 2014.

Menu changes daily.  Gnocchi Thursdays!

Be sure to book ahead as the restaurant was packed both evenings.  They have a great happy hour after 9pm with wood-fired pizza’s for $5 and a glass of wine for $4.

Nostrana
1401 SE Morrison St
Portland,OR 97214
(503) 234-2427
http://nostrana.com

Pok Pok

Pok pok spread 520

What We Ate

Ike’s Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
Half dozen fresh whole natural chicken wings marinated in fish sauce and sugar, deep fried, tossed in caramelized Phu Quoo fish sauce and garlic and served with Vietnamese table salad.

If you want to make these bad boys at home here is the recipe.

Neua Naam Tok
Spicy Isaan flank steak “salad” with fish sauce, lime and chili powder dressing, shallots, lemongrss, mint, cilantro and toasted rice powder.

About Pok Pok

Expect a wait.  We were lucky to get a table, but when we came out there were about 15 people sitting around waiting.  You can make a reservation for parties of 5 or more online.

A seasonally rotating menu generally focuses on the Northern Thai regions of Issan and Chiang Mai. There is also some Vietnamese crossover in this cuisine.

Andy Ricker – James Beard Best Chef 2011 – Northwest

Pok Pok
3226 SE Division St
Portland, OR 97202
(503) 232-1387
http://www.pokpokpdx.com

Le Pigeon

FD Roundup AwardWinners LePigeon dj01 stock DarrylJames 652x521

Le Pigeon serves adventurous French-inspired food, along with a varied selection of wines in an intimate dining room on Portland’s East Burnside Street. We take reservations at our communal tables, and offer our chef’s counter for walk-ins.

What We Ate

Butter Lettuce blue cheese, chives, radish
Hey, it’s a salad.  A really good and simple salad.  No complaints here.

Foie Gras & Vadouvan Curry Terrine tomato foie gras jam, marjoram honey ratatouille escabeche
Well obviously we had to order the foie considering it is banned here in California.  Sadly, I am unable to partake too much in the consumption of foie gras due to my stomach all but rejecting it in large quantities, but I did get a taste of this and then let Scott do some real damage to it.  My only complaint – and this is more of a universal complaint – is that restaurants never give enough of that good grilled bread to go with the foie (or terrine or pate).  Two pieces is simply not enough unless you are a complete glutton who piles an entire loaf of foie onto one piece.  Other than that it was rich and decadent and delish.  Kind of difficult to fuck up foie.

Beef Cheek Bourguignon ‘2014’
Boom.  This is one of their signature dishes.  Super hearty, super yummy.  Probably better on an evening in the winter, but I don’t think that Scott minded because he ate all of it.  It was cheek on top of a garlic mashed potato.  Yum.

Rabbit bacon and beaujolais creamed corn, tomatoes, plums, thyme pistou
This was my main.  Yummy, yummy bunny.  The creamed corn was so good.  The rabbit was breaded in panko and was so darned good.  Without a doubt the best rabbit that I have ever had.

For Dessert

Crème Brûlée, german chocolate pot de crème coconut, pecans, cake
Yes.  Simple and good.

“Cream Soda Float” peach passion fruit sorbet, vanilla ice cream ricotta beignets
I was all over this one.  Loved the soda float.

Foie Gras Profiteroles caramel sauce, sea salt
Can I say that I ate this entire dish by myself?  Like a BOSS.

About Le Pigeon

Securing a reservation was fairly easy on OpenTable, but that was because I booked a month in advance.  We ended up at a communal table nonetheless, but it was still intimate enough to not be annoying.  The service was impeccable.  Our server was so kind as to take pity on me and comp the Foie Gras Profiteroles because Scooter didn’t want to have them and I did.  Love!  Everything was delish.  Highly recommended.

Le Pigeon
738 E Burnside St
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 546-8796
www.lepigeon.com

Lardo

lardo-sandwich-shop-crowne

 

What We Ate

Tuna Burger wasabi mayo, pickled red onion, avocado, butter lettuce
I didn’t even try this, but all of their sandwiches look pretty darned good.

Kale Salad

Kale Salad

Fall Kale Salad apples, candied walnuts, blue cheese, sherry vinaigrette
This salad came in a huge portion.  It was just what I needed after all that rabbit and pasta and Vietnamese…  I was pretty certain that I had hazelnuts and not walnuts, however.

Dirty Fries w/ pork scraps, marinated peppers, fried herbs and parmesan
Oh wait, I was just saying how I needed a salad to be healthy and then I go and order some dirty fries.  GOD DAMN IT.  These were so good.  I die.  I need these again and again and again.  In my mouth.

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies

Hush Puppies honey butter
Yes.  I ordered some deep fried balls of dough.  Fuck me.  They were so good.  And the honey butter?  Even fucking better.  Seriously.  I should be from the South and a lot fatter.

About Lardo

Starting life as a food cart in SE Portland, rarely has a spot been so aptly named. Rocking an ancient charcuterie moniker that truly serves as a harbinger of things to come, Lardo is a sandwich shop that worships at the altar of bovine & swine. Using old-world techniques, contemporary flourishes and a gonzo approach, Lardo proudly celebrates its excesses. Pushing a menu that features pork drenched double burgers, a giant meatball Banh Mi, and hand-cut french fries (again) smothered in pork, Lardo also has beer. Lots of beer, actually. Rotating taps of knee-buckling craft brew greatness, backed-up with a refreshing mix of premium cocktails. Operating on both sides of the river, Lardo serves as a mecca for those seeking a uniquely smash-mouth deli experience.

Lardo
1212 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, OR 97214
(503) 234-7786

I have been told that this is an actual thing: Ukulele Acquisition Syndrome (or UAS).  Apparently I have been infected with it over the last few months.   I started this whole journey last year when on a whim at 5am (I woke up super early for whatever reason) I bought a ukulele on Google Shopping Express.   That one was a Mitchell MU70 concert at a (I thought) reasonably priced $99.

 

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It arrived.  I tinkered with it a bit, but it sounded like dinky, tinny shit.  Basically, it sounded like what one thinks a ukulele should sound like.  I wasn’t terribly impressed with it.  The build quality was fine.  The stock strings were garbage.  And, again, sound was BAD.

Moving along.  For Christmas my mom bought a Komoa Tenor as my gift.  She had recently taken up ukulele and after a trip to Kauai she was in love with these little tenors.  The Komoa is a great little uke.  The sound is loud and crisp.  The build quality is nice.  It is a pretty little instrument.

af1ea7117b62438e9e2deacc1d503b67Komoa Tenor

I would say that for a beginner uke I would definitely recommend this guy.  I recently had a Mi-si pickup installed so I could do some recordings.  Shout out to Bruddah Edgar over at Aloha Warehouse for installing that quickly.

Next up.  I started to obsess over a koa wood ukulele.  I spent hours pouring over different options and reading forums, but my teacher really insisted that I should go and try out a bunch of options at Aloha Warehouse to see what I really wanted as opposed to doing my regular purchase online.  I’m really glad that I took that advice (or really regret it because I spent so much money) because I found my true love.


Kanile’a Super Tenor Premium Gloss from Hawaii Music Supply on Vimeo.

The Kanilea Super Tenor.    Mmmn.  I’m telling you that she sings to me.  I tried a bunch of other options, but the sound of this one kept pulling me back in.  I had to have her.  The super tenor is interesting in the ukulele world.  It is a baritone body on a tenor neck which gives it a bit more resonance and sustain.  Some people think that it is ugly because the body is off proportion with what resembles a giant ass.  It has been referred to as the Nicki Minaj of the uke world.  I think it is beautiful.  The wood so silky.  Definitely a keeper for all ages.  I replaced the string with some flurocarbon Worth’s which I absolutely love.

I acquired my next uke because I was travelling to Europe for some business and was worried that I would slip up on my practice so I started looking for something slightly more portable to take with me.  Yes, I know, a uke is pretty portable to begin with, but I didn’t feel like lugging a hardcase with me and since I have trouble walking distances I thought it would be best to keep my load as light as possible.  This is how I came across the Kala concert travel uke.

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I love this little uke.  It is so incredibly thin and lightweight that it slides right into my bag.  It is really cute with a spruce top.  And the sound is surprisingly full and loud for such a tiny instrument.  After playing the tenors it is always fun to play the concert because of the thinner neck.  It makes bar chords so much easier that I feel pro.

Last up (for now) is the Les Paul epiphone concert.

41Imdh56rBLThis one is pretty much a toy that looks good.  Some people are big fans.  I bought it because I wanted an electric uke and I thought it was cute.  I changed out the strings for some Aquila’s because the stock ones were complete garbage.  I also had to file the bridge a bit to get the low G to even fit.  I still don’t like the sound of this one and since I got the pickup installed in the Komoa I don’t use this for recording either.  But it looks really good hanging on the living room wall and was reasonably priced at $99 from Amazon so why not.

That about covers it for now.  I ended up giving the Mitchell away to my nephew because I simply couldn’t stand the sound.  That has left me with four ukes in the house.  I think I’m good for now although I have been eyeing a banjolele!

OxyLED Q3 Ultra-thin Portable Touch Control Smart Rechargeable LED Desk Lamp with 3-Level Adjustable Brightness

I’ve long been looking for a lamp to use at my desk for doing my makeup.   My vintage lamp didn’t quite cut the mustard and even though I do my makeup mostly in the morning before work the actual daylight isn’t quite strong enough to keep me from looking like a clown.  I had originally dreamed that the desk would be able to have some sort of lighting around the mirror, but that was a bit too difficult to pull off without some electrical plug.

My first attempt at getting lighting was with an LED flashlight that I bought at the hardware store.  This did nothing but blind me.

Then I came across this little diddy when searching around.  It was a great price at Amazon on special for $29.99 and seemed to have the features I was looking for so I bought it.

OxyLED Q3 Ultra-thin Portable Touch Control Smart Rechargeable LED Desk Lamp with 3-Level Adjustable Brightness

Introducing the OxyLED Q3.  It is an ultra-thin, portable, touch control, rechargeable, LED desk lamp.  Yeah.  That is a lot to take in all at once, isn’t it?

It really lives up to all of those claims.  The thing is crazy thin and light.

It charges via USB which I totally love because I don’t have to find an electrical socket.  I haven’t actually run the battery down, but from what I’ve read it can last about 3 hours on a charge.  The light itself is very bright and has a touch control with 3 levels of brightness.  The flexible neck is great.  I bend this in different angles for different things.

As for looks it is a cute little thing.  It comes in black or white.  I got the white one.  If I didn’t already have the expensive vintage desk light I would be totally happy with this as a desk lamp.

Overall, it is super useful for any kind of crafting you might do or makeup.  I have ended up dragging this into other rooms to use when I’m doing my nails or used it for reading sheet music even.

TL; DR – Buy!  Get it at Amazon