Home Cooking

Quick, Healthy, Easy: Hello Fresh Meal Plan Delivery

April 06, 2017

If you follow me through my social media channels you'll know that not only do I like to check out new restaurants, I love cooking at home too. But cooking at home isn't always easy for me after a twelve hour shift - especially if it's my third in a row.

Back in November I tried out the weekly meal subscription service by Chefs Plate and was impressed by their business model and quality of ingredients. Their weekly delivery of ingredients and easy recipes made healthy eating and meal planning so much easier. At the start of 2017 Hello Fresh emerged on the Canadian market as an alternative to Chefs Plate, so I had to find out if there were any differences between the two!

Hello Fresh was actually founded in 2011 in Berlin and operates in several locations in Western Europe and North America. Similar to Chefs Plate, Hello Fresh is a subscription-based meal delivery service that promises to deliver local, farm-fresh ingredients to your door with chef-curated recipes.

Hello Fresh offers three different types of boxes: the pronto plan, family plan, and veggie plan. The price changes according to the type of box and the number of people you're ordering for (2 or 4 people), so you're looking at spending anywhere from $10.83 to $12.33 per person per meal depending on your preferences. As it is a flexible subscription service there is also the option to skip deliveries if you're planning to be away for the week or have different dining plans.

So how exactly does it work? It's super simple:

  1. The week prior to your delivery, pick and choose the meals you want according to your meal plan (pronto box, family box, veggie box), and specify your delivery date (Tuesday or Wednesday). 
  2. Hello Fresh will purchase, portion, and package all of your ingredients and ship it right to your door. 
  3. Receive your box and get cooking! 
Hello Fresh currently offers delivery via Purolator to Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Newfoundland, and the Maritimes. The company is quickly expanding to meet demand and will hopefully make it to your province soon if you're outside of these areas. Deliveries arrive at your door in a fully insulated box with ice packs to keep all the ingredients fresh, so you don't even need to be home at the time of delivery. That's what I call convenience!

Hello Fresh set me up with a two person pronto box and a two person veggie box to try and I was very impressed with both plans. All the dry ingredients and vegetables arrived fresh while the proteins were packed separately at the bottom of the box with the ice packs.


Shrimp Banh Mi Burger

The recipe cards were visually appealing and easy to follow with pictures accompanying each step in the recipe. Like Chefs Plate, the ingredients and amounts were listed out in case you wanted to recreate the dish in the future, and nutritional information was available. But what I was really impressed with was that each recipe listed out kitchen tools required and potential allergens in each ingredient. This is wonderful for people with food allergies as it isn't always apparent when you're cooking something new.

When it comes down to packaging, everything was recyclable, from the box, to insulation, to ice packs. What I appreciate about Hello Fresh is that the ice packs can actually be sent back to the company through their recycling program to be reused. It feels much better to be able to give the ice packs a second life than to open and drain them down the sink as instructed by Chefs Plate!

While comparing the two companies I also noticed some other subtle differences:

  • in the Chefs Plate ingredient boxes there is no branding other than with the Chefs Plate logo, meaning that you don't know what brand of ingredients you are using, and additional packaging was used in sending the ingredients to you. With Hello Fresh, small items like broth concentrates, sour cream, vinegars and hot sauces are branded, so there's less packaging wasted. 
  • Hello Fresh does not include items like oil or butter in their boxes while Chefs Plate does, so you need to ensure you have some on hand prior to cooking 

After giving the two boxes a try, I have to say I really loved the Hello Fresh experience. All of the recipes were easy to follow and the meals were on the table ready to eat in 35 minutes or less. I felt that although you were restricted to choosing from 4 recipes (Chefs Plate allows you to choose from 7 recipes), there was still a variety of different choices. I cook a lot of Asian (Thai, Vietnamese, Korean) and Italian food at home and yet I felt that a lot of the recipes I cooked in the two week period pushed me out of my comfort zone. I found myself making dishes with Egyptian and Mediterranean spices, and I even followed a Tunisian recipe. I found new recipes I loved and will definitely use again in the future.


Greek ragu

A lot of people have asked me whether Chefs Plate or Hello Fresh is a better option, and I honestly enjoyed the Hello Fresh experience more. Hello Fresh is a bit more expensive ($80 per week versus $66), but I enjoyed the Hello Fresh recipes more and being able to return the ice packs for recycling is a big plus as it is important to me.

If we're comparing ingredients, both companies offered very fresh, locally sourced products. When it comes to the dishes themselves, more often than not, I found myself saying 'wow' after the first bite of every recipe from Hello Fresh - something that didn't happen for me with Chefs Plate. The recipes are truly delicious and you get near restaurant quality results in your own home with Hello Fresh. I also found that each recipe made enough for three portions, bringing down the cost per meal. So for me, it's a no-brainer to go with Hello Fresh for their meal delivery service, but I do encourage people to try both and compare for themselves. If you're interested in giving Hello Fresh a try, use my code ANDREA50 for 50% off your first box and let me know what you think!

*Disclosure: I was sent two Pronto boxes from Hello Fresh for review. Views expressed in this post are solely mine. This post is 100% my opinion, and as always, my priority is to you, the reader, to present an unbiased, thorough review.

Chef in Residence

Recap: NAIT Hokanson Chef in Residence Luncheon With Amanda Cohen

March 29, 2017

I've said it before and I'll say it again - Edmonton's Northen Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) has one of the top culinary arts programs in the country. There is incredible talent that comes out of the kitchens and every year the students have the opportunity to learn first-hand from a renowned chef. This year's Hokanson Chef in Residence program welcomed Chef Amanda Cohen of New York City's Dirt Candy.


Image courtesy of NAIT

The Hokanson Chef in Residence program, now in it's ninth year, welcomed Chef Amanda into the teaching kitchens from March 6-10. At the end of each residency the culinary arts students work with the chef to prepare a three-course luncheon highlighting the different dishes and techniques learned throughout the week. With the current shift towards vegetable-centric menus and urban agriculture, it didn't come to me as a surprise that Chef Cohen was featured this year. What did surprise me though was that Chef Cohen herself is not a vegetarian.

Chef Cohen was a vegetarian in her early years and noticed a gap in the market for a restaurant that put vegetables first. With her love for vegetables and ability to transform them, she opened Dirt Candy in 2008 and hasn't looked back. Although labelled as a vegetarian restaurant, Chef Cohen loving describes Dirt Candy as a 'vegetable restaurant,' where she comes to work to play and have fun transforming vegetables.


Beet Juice

Since opening, Dirt Candy has become the first vegetarian restaurant in 17 years to receive 2 stars from the New York Times. It was also recognized by the Michelin Guide 5 years in a row and won awards from Gourmet Magazine, the Village Voice, and many others. Chef Cohen was also the first vegetarian chef to compete on Iron Chef America, so it was exciting to see her in action at NAIT!

The first course at the luncheon was Chef Cohen's take on the popular pork belly bao. Roasted carrot buns filled with carrots and a carrot hoisin sauce were accompanied by a rainbow carrot, cucumber, and ginger salad. I really enjoyed how the sharp flavours in the salad contrasted against the sweetness of the buns!

Our entree was a celebration of Chef Cohen's love for corn, and what better than with stone ground grits? Chef Cohen really wanted to highlight the natural sweetness of corn, a flavour that almost always disappears in the preparation of grits. The creamy dish was mixed with pickled shiitake mushrooms and served with a tempura poached egg, making the dish full of varying textures and punches of flavour. Little dots of huitlacoche, a corn fungus known as the 'Mexican truffle,' also brought forward an earthy umami flavour. But overall, the dish had a beautiful sweet flavour that I won't be forgetting anytime soon. Grits will never be the same!

At Dirt Candy the vegetable-centered dishes don't stop when it comes to desserts. Celery Cheesecake and Cucumber Semifreddo are just some of the unique dishes you'll find on the menu. To finish off the luncheon, Chef Amanda paid homage to her Canadian roots with a sweet pea and mint Nanaimo bar. I find Nanaimo bars can be very sweet, but this version was refreshing and a lovely end to the meal.

I always assumed that a vegetarian meal would leave me wanting more, but I found myself pretty full at the end of the meal! I personally enjoy vegetables, but I'm not the type to deviate much from their original form. Chef Amanda's meal was definitely an eye-opening experience for me as I now realize there are so many possibilities when it comes to vegetables. NAIT continues to raise the bar to bring in world-renowned chefs for their Chef in Residence program, and Chef Amanda Cohen was an excellent choice to mentor the culinary arts students. I'm already looking forward to seeing who comes in next year!


Edmonton food

Greek to Go: Little Village Opens it's Brick & Mortar

March 23, 2017

When Edmonton's food trucks started to appear in and around the city in 2011 everyone was pretty excited to see that the trend had finally reached our city. If you were anything like me, you were determined to try every single food truck. That quickly became a difficult task when more and more trucks emerged onto the scene.

Little Village - 14816 Stony Plain Road - Edmonton AB

Fast forward a few years and there are still many food trucks parked curbside in the warmer months, but some of Edmonton's favourites have shifted toward opening up brick and mortar spaces. Filistix and The Local Omnivore are a couple examples, and the latest food truck to join them is Little Village.

If you've ever had the food from Little Village food truck you've met owner/operator Theo Psalios - the guy inside the truck that always greets you with a smile on his face. Theo brought Little Village to life in 2012 and has been serving up his take on Greek dishes ever since. Operating out of a food truck means food service is dictated by the weather, but now that Theo has a storefront where you can get a taste of Little Village any time of the year.

Located along the hustle and bustle of Stony Plain Road, Little Village occupies a small, brightly lit space in a strip mall. A few seats are available for those who wish to dine-in, but Little Village primarily offers ready-made meals for take out.

As you walk in you're greeted by large chalkboards and two glass displays with food ready for consumption. While the offerings have some overlap with the food truck (like the lamb sandwich and lemon potatoes), there are also a variety of classic Greek offerings like moussaka, pasticchio, and dolmades.

The chalkboards outline the grilled/rotisserie meat, sandwich, and salad options, while the glass display cases are stocked full of cold side dishes and hot Greek classics. Prices are very reasonable given the quality of ingredients and convenience, so I may just find myself here quite often given the close proximity to my home.

I stopped by with a friend on opening day and I knew I couldn't leave without my favourites - the roasted lamb and lemon roasted potatoes - so we picked up a 1/3 Lamb Shoulder ($14.75). All the rotisserie meats are served with a side of potatoes and tzatziki, rounding out the meal. The lamb had a beautiful crust, was well seasoned, and was fall-off-the-bone tender. The potatoes were soft and packed full of flavour, and everything together was a killer combination.

The Lamb Gyro ($10.50) was also on my radar, stuffed with roasted lamb, vegetables, and herbs. The pita held up well to the combination of ingredients and was fairly filling, but I found myself wanting a side with it.

Last but not least we picked up a portion of Moussaka ($6.50/slice), which I lovingly refer to as lasagna's eggplant cousin. The Little Village Moussaka is loaded with eggplant, tomato, ground beef, and creamy bechamel sauce. The mild flavours blend well together, and makes for pretty good comfort food.

The food truck will still be found at the 124 Street Grand Market and various events around the city in the summer months, but now that Little Village is open, lemon roasted potato lovers can get their fix year round. Trust me, they're that good. Stop by and grab a bite Tuesday through Saturday, 11am - 6pm (530pm on Saturdays!).

Little Village Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Downtown

Port to Prairie: Grandin Fish 'N' Chips

March 07, 2017

For months Edmontonians have been teased by five little words on the window of the space beside The Common: Fish 'N' Chips Coming Soon. Finally the coverings are off the windows and Chef Jesse Morrison Gauthier's second restaurant is ready to serve his take on a British classic.

Grandin Fish 'N' Chips - 9902 109 Street - Edmonton AB

Located right next door to it's older sister, Grandin Fish 'N' Chips is a fast-casual restaurant serving up fish 'n' chips with a prairie twist. Taking inspiration from dishes in London and the East Coast of Canada, the restaurant hopes to be a modern, sustainable, and health conscious seafood option in Edmonton.

As you walk through the door you'll find yourself below framed chalkboard menus outlining all the restaurant's offerings. When it comes to the fish 'n' chips at Grandin, the classic version features fresh fish coated in tempura batter and served with a side of fries, coleslaw, and tartar sauce. Haddock, Cod, and Basa are always available, and the 'fish of the day' is an additional option. Alternatively, you can ask for your fish to be pan-fried or cooked using a gluten-free batter, both of which are gluten-free options.

As the restaurant is fast-casual there is the option to dine in or ask for your order to go. The dining room can seat roughly 25-30 people and can get quite busy during the lunch rush from 11am-1pm. Dinner time is slightly different with sit-down service, so the pace of your dining experience is more dependent on your server.

The best thing about the restaurant space is the use of nautical-themed decor. I love the contrast between the stark white and blue, especially in the whimsical wallpaper designed by local tattoo artist Heath Smith. There's some fish bait in one corner, a fishing line in another, and there's even a cheesy collage of children and adults with their biggest smiles sharing some of their best catches. The space has a fun, casual vibe, and is a great space for a casual date or to meet with friends for a quick meal.

I met with a friend for lunch and we ordered a couple items to share. First up came the Cod + Chips ($16) with the standard accompaniments. We were surprised to find that for the price there was only one piece of fish, but it was perfectly cooked and flaky inside of the light tempura crust. The cod itself wasn't seasoned, which allowed for the sweetness of the fish to come through, and the fried batter was barely greasy. A quick squeeze of lemon and a dip into the slightly tangy tartar sauce gave the dish all the flavour it needed.

The Haddock + Chips ($14) came next with two pieces of fish and felt like better value given the portion size. It was cooked just like the cod - flaky and coated by a crisp batter. The coleslaw with both orders wasn't much to write home about, and the fries were pretty standard. We ordered a side of Jalapeno Mayo ($1.50) sauce for our fish, but found the kick of heat to pair better with our fries.

In addition to our fish 'n' chips we ordered a side of the Fried Brussel Sprout Bubble and Squeak ($5). I must admit I mostly wanted it just because the name was intriguing, but also because brussel sprouts are delicious! Bubble and Squeak is a traditional English dish made with leftover roasted vegetables fried together with mashed/crushed roasted potatoes. The name comes from the bubbling/squeaking sound that cabbage makes when cooked. This version at Grandin Fish 'N' Chips brings together roasted and caramelized brussel sprouts, parsnips, and potatoes to give you a unique side to accompany your main.


Flaky fish!

Using products from suppliers like Fins Select and Effing Seafoods, you can be assured that your meals at Grandin Fish 'N' Chips are responsibly sourced and sustainable. There is even the option to purchase fresh seafood to take home from the retail case by the entrance of the restaurant. While there are endless dining options in the downtown core, Grandin Fish 'N' Chips is a great addition as a seafood option, so check them out when you're nearby.

Grandin Fish 'N' Chips Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

bakery

Everyone's Invited: Doughnut Party

February 20, 2017

Word of mouth travels pretty fast in this city, so if you've got a sweet tooth I'm sure you've already heard about Edmonton's latest sweet spot. But if you haven't, you're in for a sweet deep fried treat.

Doughnut Party - 10938 119 Street - Edmonton AB

Simon Underwood and Matthew Garrett are the minds behind Moonshine Doughnuts - the delightful treats that you can find at various farmers markets throughout the city. For the past five years Moonshine Doughnuts has been one of the main sources for vegan and gluten-free cake doughnuts for customers with specialty diets, and they're pretty darn tasty.

A few months ago the duo secured a space at Holland Plaza for their first brick & mortar shop, sharing a kitchen space with Duchess Provisions/Duchess Atelier. But the vision for this storefront is a little different from their vegan market offerings - this sister shop is expanding into the world of deep fried doughnuts. Armed with a new mascot and hot pink pastry boxes, Doughnut Party quietly opened their doors at the end of January and have been selling out everyday since. They hoped to keep their presence in the neighborhood a secret, but like I said - word travels fast!

Although Doughnut Party isn't located on a main road, this little doughnut shop isn't difficult to find. In fact, you'll have more trouble finding a parking spot in the parking lot, but the trouble is worth it. As you walk in you're greeted by a bright space with pleasing symmetry of the horizontal and vertical lines accenting the counters and floors. Next you'll find yourself in a little lineup, but service is quick so you have just a bit of time to decide just how big of a doughnut party you want!

On any given day there's six different doughnut flavours available, and the options will change fairly frequently. Depending on how many doughnuts you want to order, you can go with a Party for One ($3/1), Half a Dozen ($16/6), or a full blown Doughnut Party ($30/12).

On the day of my visit, the six flavours on rotation were:
  • Almond Joy - dipped in chocolate & topped with coconut like the Hershey's candy bar
  • Birthday Cake - vanilla glaze & dusted with birthday cake crumbs
  • Hibiscus - light & dipped in pink glaze
  • Lemon Matcha Sugar - lemony and rolled in matcha green tea sugar 
  • Rhubarb Cardamom - sugar glazed with bits of rhubarb and cardamom
  • Pineapple Rum - heavily glazed with chunks of pineapple 
While each donut had it's own unique flavour, I found the dough to vary slightly from one doughnut to the next. The hibiscus and lemon matcha sugar donuts were light and fluffy, without the sugar/glaze weighing them down. These two were actually my favourite of the six given their light texture. The Almond Joy and Birthday Cake donuts were more cake-like and richer due to the weight of their toppings. Rhubarb Cardamom and Pineapple Rum had a lighter dough, but came across heavier with the presence of fruit and a heavy glaze.

Although each doughnut varied from one another, two things were consistent within the box - all the doughnuts were incredibly soft and weren't greasy when bit into. Doughnut Party fries up their donuts perfectly so that you don't feel guilty when indulging in their delicious treats. It's pretty much a win-win. I will mention though that if you happen to have any donuts left over from the day you buy them, they do dry out quite quickly! So buy what you can eat in a day, and it will give you a reason to return and try more.

A good secret is hard to keep, so it's no surprise that Doughnut Party has been selling out daily. Pssst, if you want to get your hands on some delightful doughnuts, arrive early - doors open (8AM Tues-Fri, 9AM Saturday) until the shop is sold out! That's the one secret I'm willing to share.

Doughnut Party Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Canadian

Off the Beaten Path: Bündok

February 09, 2017

With a new year comes the anticipation of new exciting restaurants. A handful of eateries have announced their intentions to open in and around the Ice District in early 2017, so there is plenty to look forward to this year. One of the latest to is Bundok - a trendy spot along 104 Street committed to celebrating the community and local ingredients.

Bundok - 10228 104 Street - Edmonton AB

Located in the Fox condo tower, Bundok (derived from the word Boondock - meaning rural place/off the beaten path) is a 40 seat restaurant with Chef Ryan Hotchkiss (Jack's Grill, Bar Bricco, Red Star Pub) at the helm. As you walk in you are greeted by a beautiful stocked bar followed by the open kitchen, both of which are surrounded by ample seating for post-work drinks or a casual dinner. Throughout the dining room, dim lighting and minimalist decor give the space an upscale feel perfect for a more intimate dining experience.

The menu at Bundok is separated into two sections - breads/tartines and larger plates. While the menu isn't extensive, there's enough variety between the plates that there will be something for everyone. Everything on the menu can be shared, so we started our evening with the four different tartines on the menu.

All the tartines are served on lightly crisped bread made in house. First up came the Grilled Apple Tartine ($9) featuring grilled Pink Lady Apples, Oka cheese, and clover honey. I've never bought into the appeal of combining cheese with apples, but the combination worked on this tartine. I loved the softened, grilled texture of the apples against the bread, and the sweetness of the honey paired great with the cheese.

The Lamb Merguez Tartine ($10) with mint salad and yogurt with baby kale arrived next. The tartines were topped with a generous amount of the sausage, which was well seasoned and not overly gamey. There were hints of the mint and yogurt, but I would have appreciated a bit more.

Next up came the Chicken Liver Tartine ($8) with onion jam and a sprinkling of coarse salt. The pate was very smooth and the sweetness from the onion jam helped bring out the flavour of the liver, while the bits of salt added a hint of savoury to balance out the sweet. The tartines themselves didn't look appetizing, but the flavours definitely made up for it.

Last but not least came the Beef Tartare ($11), which at first I didn't realize was served as a tartine. The tender cubes of beef had been mixed with egg yolk and pickled black mustard seeds before being garnished with a citrusy kale leaf. The beef was just lightly seasoned and I enjoyed the bits of acidity coming through from the mustard seeds.

Our last appetizer was the one that had the interest of the entire table the moment we first scanned the menu: Fried Chicken Skin ($8). Each order comes with two pieces of melt-in-your-mouth, crispy chicken skin. It's a salty, one-bite appetizer complemented well with a dab of honey mustard. You'll want to order enough for one piece per person because you would be a fool to share your piece with someone else.

For our dinner we opted to share three larger dishes off the menu amongst the four of us. Our first choice was the Pan Fried Trout ($25) served with carrots, great northern beans, and a rich beurre blanc. The trout was seared perfectly golden, giving it a nice crust before breaking away into the soft flesh of the fish. Unfortunately we found the dish to be underseasoned, and the beans could have been cooked a bit softer for my liking.

Our second protein dish was the Grilled Game Hen ($25), herb marinated and accompanied by charred cabbage, mushrooms, and wheat berries. I was happy to see wheat berries on the menu as they're a great Canadian grain and one that I feel are underappreciated. I love the chew and texture to them! Like the trout, our game hen was beautifully cooked, but again the other components of the dish could have used more seasoning.

As a side to our mains we ordered the Gnocchi Parisienne ($18) cooked in a brown butter sauce with roasted squash. The gnocchi looked amazing covered in a dusting of grated cheese. Each piece was a soft pillow of dough with a hint of nuttiness from the brown butter. Unfortunately, like our mains, a heavier hand could have been used in seasoning to make this dish truly stand out.

We ended our meal with one of each of the desserts available on the menu. The Chocolate Tart ($9) looked different from a typical tart, this one with a cookie-like tart base topped with a layer of dark chocolate and three little meringues. I found the base to be a little thick and dry for my liking, but appreciated that the tart wasn't overly sweet.

The Citrus Posset ($9) was my preference of the two. A posset is a cream-based pudding-like custard, similar to a panna cotta, but just a little heavier. Possets are also usually citrus-flavoured as they require acidity to thicken the cream. Bundok's version was silky smooth with a sharp, but not overpowering, hit of citrus. The posset was topped with chunks of apple, fennel, and earl grey syrup, all which added contrasting texture and contrasting sweetness. I would happily have a bowl of this dessert all to myself.


Fried Chicken Skin - salty, crispy goodness

I applaud Bundok's commitment to using and showcasing Canadian ingredients, so the menu will be changing seasonally to reflect availability of produce. I personally loved the feel of the space and it's a great spot for dinner before a concert or game at Rogers Place given that it's within walking distance to the arena. With so many restaurants coming into the Edmonton food scene, new restaurants will have to work hard to be noticed. Our dinner at Bundok had some hits and misses, but hopefully a bit of time will bring more consistency to the dishes coming out of the kitchen.

Bündok Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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