Several weeks ago a lovely couple came into the shop. They were staying in a nearby hotel and were (1) looking to occupy some time and (2) hoping to get a recommendation for a good spot in Carlisle for dinner.
They explained to me that they were on their way to JFK to catch a flight to Paris and that the front desk clerk had recommended Hoss’s for dinner. So what’s wrong with this picture? Recommending Hoss’s to someone on their way to a Paris vacation is like recommending StarKist Tuna to someone looking for caviar.
So I asked what kind of foods they liked and what kind of experience they were hoping to have and then I recommended a few different places – none of them chain restaurants. Now I know, there are those of you out there who will only eat at a chain restaurant when you’re travelling – I know you’re out there, but I certainly don’t understand you. When I am travelling, I love to eat in one-of-a-kind restaurants that I cannot find at home. Even when I’m at home I am not likely to eat at a chain restaurant – I like to experience a local chef’s riff on the food I eat and, even better, I love to eat local foods – you know, foods that you can only get or that are just better than “normal” in that place – like Maine blueberries when you’re in Maine, maple syrup when you’re in Vermont, etc. That’s not to say that blueberries and maple syrup aren’t good in other places, but they’re bound to be spectacular in Maine and Vermont respectively.
I talked with the couple about many things – the products in the shop, food and being foodies, travel, etc. We had a pleasant conversation and then they went on their way with the names and addresses of several Carlisle restaurants.
The next day I received a lovely ‘thank you’ email from the wife for the recommendations along with the gift of three Blue Apron meals. If you’ve not heard of Blue Apron, (1) are you living under a rock? and (2) you can visit Blue Apron for additional information.
Prior to receiving this gift, I had heard about Blue Apron from several people and read about it on several blogs and websites. The first person to tell me about Blue Apron was my orthopaedic doc. Jeff and I were meeting with him and he told us he learned about it from his son. He went on to explain how it works and told us about his experience.
Well, kind of like when you’re shopping for a new car and end up seeing that model of car everywhere you look, after hearing about Blue Apron for the first time I started seeing and hearing about it everywhere. And I wanted to try it.
Now, with this generous gift, I was able to try it at no cost – how sweet is that!?! And the timing was terrific – Jeff and I schedule our Blue Apron delivery for the week we returned from vacation, which meant no meal planning and very little grocery shopping when we returned from vacation!!!
The day after we returned home was filled with laundry and errands…and fortunately a visit from the UPS driver (or maybe it was the FedEx driver) with our Blue Apron delivery.
Everything was packed in a cardboard box that housed a cooler. Each ingredient was individually packaged (in a zip top bag or clamshell or tiny bottle) and we received exactly the quantity needed for the recipe – for example, the recipe for Stir-Fried Ginger-Basil Chicken called for 2 Tbsp. of Ponzu Sauce. We received exactly 2 Tbsp. in a tiny squeeze bottle neatly labeled and ready for use.
I unpacked all the ingredients, saved the packaging for later use and organized everything by recipe and by refrigerator vs. non-refrigerator items. That way when it was time to make each recipe I didn’t have to go through all the ingredients again.
The following are my impressions, in no particular order:
- Blue Apron is a great way to ensure that you don’t waste food because you only get what you need for 2 servings (or 4 servings if you specify and pay for 4 servings). I can’t tell you how many times we’ve wanted to make a recipe and had to buy wwwaaayyy more of an ingredient than we needed and ended up not using it before it went bad.
- Blue Apron is a great way to try new ingredients without having to buy a large quantity of them that may go unused. Back to the Ponzu Sauce as an example. If I wanted to try Ponzu Sauce in a recipe and had to get it at the grocery store, I’d likely have to buy a 10 oz. bottle – even if I only need 2 tablespoons of it. With Blue Apron I was able to try cooking with Ponzu without buying a whole bottle and possibly never using again. Some of the items I received from Blue Apron that I hadn’t previously used in my cooking include: Ponzu Sauce, coconut milk powder, and Shishito peppers.
- Although there is still some work involved in meal preparation, having the majority of the measuring and all the shopping done for you saves considerable time. Now, I’ve talked to folks who aren’t as well-versed in the kitchen as Jeff and I are who think some of the recipes are complicated, but I have to say that I think they are mostly easy to follow.
- In spite of my comment in number 3, some of the directions could be clearer. While I don’t think the techniques are difficult, I do think some of the instructions could be clearer. For example, one of the steps in one of the recipes we made read, “cut the eggplant into 1-inch-thick rounds on an angle.” Now, had I not had some experience in the kitchen I might have been baffled by this instruction – because when you cut the eggplant on an angle – no matter how you slice it (pun intended) – you will not end up with a round.
- Blue Apron can help with portion control and calorie pre-planning. If portion control and calorie counting are issues for you (as they are for many, including me), Blue Apron just might be your answer Each recipe tells you how many people it serves and the approximate number of calories per serving. If you stick to one serving, you could look at the calorie count in advance and plan your other meals accordingly so as not to exceed a particular daily calorie intake.
- This next statement has to be couched because it will not be true for everyone when you factor in other things. I find Blue Apron to be expensive when you calculate the cost per meal (of course, my trial was free so I’m certainly not complaining). I can feed two people a nutritious meal for less than $20 and you probably can too. However, if you’re not at the grocery store as much as I am and you have to make a special trip and you factor in the cost of your time, then you may not find it expensive at all. And/or, if you hate meal planning or just don’t take the time to do it until 5 minutes before dinner and you end up eating the same thing(s) over and over again, you may think the expense is worth it. Again – saying Blue Apron is expensive is not necessarily a fair statement when you consider other factors. For me, it is.
- This is another impression that other people may not share; however I found it difficult to fit all three meals into a week because I also test recipes for future classes several nights of the week. I know it’s a good problem to have, but I had to really be purposeful about cooking my Blue Apron meals before the perishables perished.
- Sometimes you get things you don’t like. While you can specify certain dietary restrictions, you cannot control all the ingredients you receive. For example, one of the recipes Jeff and I made was Seared Salmon & Panzanella, which included cucumbers. While neither of us is what I would consider a picky eater, we don’t particularly care for cucumbers…so I left them out. It would have been nice to have something different in the salad, but without a trip to the store (or to the garden) a replacement wasn’t readily available. Also, then I was left with a cucumber that I didn’t want to waste and for which I had to find a home.
- Each dish comes with an 8.5″ x 11″ “recipe card” with photos, instructions, nutritional information, special ingredient info, etc. This is a very nice feature. Particularly in that it allows you to recreate those recipes you really enjoy!
- This may sound nitpicky, but I couldn’t find an option on their website for odd-numbered families. Having spent the last 20+ years cooking for two the majority of the time, worrying about an odd-number of people in the family isn’t an issue for me; but it is for some. You’d end up spending more money than you had to and having leftovers or eating more than one serving. For many this wouldn’t even be a blip on their radar, but I know there are those of you out there who hate leftovers!
- Although it didn’t take me long to separate the ingredients into piles by meal, it would have been nice if they had been grouped in separate bags within the larger package so that I didn’t have to spend the time separating ingredients. The “knick knacks” (or smaller ingredients) were separated by recipe, but the fresh veggies and meats were not.
The following are some pics of Jeff and I putting together one of the meals:
While I am so grateful for the opportunity to try Blue Apron and the experience was surely a good one, in the end we decided that it’s just not the right fit for us in this season of our lives. However, I can definitely see where it would be a great option for other people – people who don’t like to cook or plan meals, people with schedules that don’t have them at the grocery store and/or in the kitchen as much as my schedule does, people just learning to cook, etc. My sister and her husband use and love Blue Apron – it fits well into their lifestyle. I do think Blue Apron would make a nice gift – particularly for folks in an especially busy season of life.
So, a special thanks to the travelling-to-France-and-staying-overnight-in-Carlisle couple (you know who you are) for this generous gift. I am grateful for the opportunity to try Blue Apron and will definitely keep an eye on their website from time to time to see what changes they are making that would make them a better fit for us. And who knows what kinds of changes may be coming down the pike in our lives that may make Blue Apron a good fit – what’s that old saying”? If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans!”
Have you tried Blue Apron? What were your experiences and impressions?