Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Review: A Gold Star for Blue Apron

Photo credit: N/A
Unless you've been living under a rock (or simply super busy with life), you most likely have heard about, read about, or even, perhaps, gotten an invitation to join Blue Apron--the food delivery service whose mission is to "make incredible home cooking accessible to everyone." At only four-years old, the New York-based startup with over 2,500 employees and already valued at over $2 billion dollars, continues to steadily add subscribers. Being curious for a while now but receiving a recent invitation to join and receive my first week's food supply for only $19 instead of its standard $59, I decided to finally give it a go.

Before we "dive in," let's cover the basics. The weekly subscription service offers two plans: one for a family of two or one for a family of four. The weekly cost is $59 for three complete meals, which includes recipe cards and every single ingredient you'll need to prepare each meal. You provide the cookware, of course. Your credit card is charged weekly but you are allowed before noon each Monday to cancel the following week's order and NOT be charged. At signup, you'll be given a short questionnaire on your food preferences, from which Blue Apron will create weekly menus based off of your choices. Three recipes each week are then pre-selected for you; however, you'll have the option to swap out any of the three meals with three additional choices. So, having completed all of these requirements in less than :30 minutes, my foodie adventure began.

In a genius move (one growing ever popular with other delivery services), Blue Apron actually delivers on Sundays, which is the delivery date I chose so I could start the week off on a culinary high. There I sat on my porch step (skeptically) awaiting my Sunday delivery and at 4:30 p.m., the delivery truck pulled up in front of my house. Happy, happy; joy, joy.

Photo credit N/A
All of the ingredients for the week--fish, chicken, beef, garlic, ginger, green beans, rice, etc.--were labeled and neatly packed in a recyclable, foil-lined box surrounded by ice packs to keep everything fresh. I unloaded the contents, placed them in the refrigerator, and reviewed the recipe cards for the week to see how much sweat this adventure would actually require.

Now, if you already have a good command of the kitchen (as I'd say I do), Blue Apron isn't so much going to teach you how to cook as it is going to expand your "cooking creativity." Fine by me. I was raised by Southern, meat and potatoes-eating parents, so my cooking style largely reflects that (cue comfort foods like chicken and dumplings, chili, and jambalaya, and I'm surprised I still fit most of my clothes, but I digress). So, I was looking forward to having fun with such recipes as Seared Salmon & Miso Soba Noodle Salad with Fairy Tale Eggplant & Baby Greens and Spicy Chicken & Korean Rice Cakes with Sweet Corn, Shiitake Mushrooms & Ginger Cashews.

Photo credit: Erica Kennedy
At around 7:50 p.m., with both my excitement and hunger growing after a day of lazing around (read: anxiously awaiting Starz' latest episode of "Power" to debut), I decided to get busy. Sunday night's offering: Curried Catfish & Coconut Rice with Green Beans & Golden Raisin Chutney. Ingredients assembled. Check. Pots and pans on deck. Check. Recipe card "standing" at attention. Check. And so I began. The recipe card stated a 15-minute prep time and a 30-minute cook time, and I am happy to report the entire process actually took 40 minutes or so. It may have gone faster, but I admit--even though the cards contained pictures of the step-by-step process--I did have a few pauses, as the pictures of certain ingredients I'm not familiar working with were shown in their diced or shredded form as opposed to the form in which they arrived (cue me squinting at the recipe card and uttering "WTH is that?" a few times).

At 8:30ish, my creation was complete and closely resembled Blue Apron's photo of the same dish (see below). But would it taste like a literal blue apron or like something I'd be happy to present to a guest? Friends and family who knew of my adventure anxiously awaited my response. Two bites and I was happy to fire off a few "Yooo, this is da bomb!" [translation: "This tastes fantastic!"] texts, for it truly was everything Blue Apron proclaimed their dishes to be: both fresh and flavorful. I savored every bite and, being a party of one who purchased the two-person plan, I have one word for you: LEFTOVERS--which I happily devoured as soon as I got home the next day. Also, on that two-person plan, if you're a party of one, it allows you to cook every other night, thus expanding dinner over the course of a week instead of just three nights. Score for my single folks (smile).

There are still two more meals to cook awaiting me and I couldn't be more optimistic and excited to whip up them both. So, for you guys and gals looking to impress a dinner date or for you couples wanting to literally turn up the heat in the kitchen, I recommend Blue Apron with two thumbs up. Also, a new addition to the subscription service is wine pairing; however, it may be easier (and more cost effective) to take their suggestions but purchase bottles at your own local spirits store. All Blue Apron needs now to make the culinary experience complete, is to offer a dessert option you can add to the meal plan. If that happens, it's a good chance I'll never leave the house again. Cheers and happy cooking to you!


Blue Apron's Curried Catfish (Photo credit: N/A)
My Curried Catfish (Photo credit: Erica Kennedy)

Addendum: Hi all! Just returning to this post to announce that day two with "da Blue" was also a success, so it wasn't "beginner's luck" after all (for those wondering). The proof is in the picture below. Enjoy!

Photo credit: Erica Kennedy

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