TWENTY-TWO. Blue Apron

 

Our 3rd and final box is Blue Apron!…for now….as I have learned of some more local sustainable companies that are starting to put out boxes…. stay tuned!  Blue Apron got its start in 2012 by a truffle and avocado wholesaler and 2 associates from venture capital firms.  An odd bunch?  Yeah, I’d say so!  But these 3 gentlemen rolled out their first test boxes in Manhattan.  Within months, the company blew up and received 3 million from early stage venture capitalists and by November 2014, shipping over a million boxes a month!  That’s some massive growth in a very short amount of time.  Over the last 2 years, the company improved on ingredients by teaming up with more sustainable farms and purveyors and also a wine program perfectly paired every month.  Now, I understand that they had the financial leverage from the start, unlike most startups, however, they put it to good use and continued to make the company better and reinvest into research and development.  That says a lot to how a company looks at growth and their continued commitment to making a better product for consumers.  Being a business woman, I can respect that business model because it’s what you continue to succeed in that makes you successful, not what you have already accomplished…you can’t always rest on your laurels.  Blue Apron has the largest market share when it comes to these dinner kits and that’s because of the finesse behind the business process.  I waited until the end to test out this popular pioneer…here’s what I found!

Ordering:

At this point, all the sites really are set up the same in terms of choosing delivery date, dietary preferences and then meal choices.  Blue Apron’s referral program is better as I was able to get my box for FREE because of a referral from a friend, while the others were just discounted.  This already made this process a little better 🙂 I also noticed a wine box option that allows you to choose a wine box each month that pairs with your Blue Apron delivery.  I was going to get that, but I figured I would start here, besides, that was NOT discounted! 😉   I chose the normal box which is for 2 ppl, 3 meals for the week.  

Weekly Meal Options (per person, per meal ranges between $8-$10)

Classic Box

2 People, 3 meals, $59.94

4 People, 2 meals, $69.92

4 People, 4 meals, $139.84

 

Delivery:

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So on Tuesday, 1 day before delivery, I got an email from Blue Apron that outlined delivery and storage instructions, suggested links to step by step instructions and materials only available online and also recycling information for the packaging.  That’s neat, at least they care that I am getting a box, gives me a20160423_202640.jpg chance to go online and learn the recipes and other tips and tricks.  I get a delivery email that same day and the box was delivered THE NEXT DAY, not 2 days later and the box was in good shape, also the email told me what I was getting next week too!  Nice!!  I unpacked the box and the 20160420_192414produce was separate from the meat and from the additional ingredients.  That could get confusing later as pink lemons and lemons kinda look the same to the untrained eye unless you cut them both open.  I thought the little brown bags that had the additional ingredients in i20160420_191254t were a cute touch, I loved the “knick knacks” terminology.  The only downfall about not having a transparent bag is that I had to open the bags and see which one needed to be refrigerated…eh, there are worse issues.  The three dinners I got were Seared Salmon and “Green” Potato Salad, Creamy Lemon Pasta and Za’atar Chicken and Pearl Couscous.   First up, Seared Salmon & “Green” Potato Salad!

Seared Salmon & “Green’ Potato Salad with Pickled Mustard Seeds

salmon front.PNG salmon back.PNG

Calories: 570 per serving

Store Cost: $12.04 for 2ppl

Process:

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The recipe card was precise and looked a lot like the one from Plated.  There is a suggested wine pairing on the recipe card which is a nice touch.  There is almost too little information as I didn’t know what equipment I needed which adds to prep time as I have to dig out stuff during the process.  However, if I had gone online to view the recipe, they actually have a lot more information, which is great, except I don’t always have my iPad or laptop in the kitchen handy.  Not sure how I feel about that, but had I done some research before actually doing the cooking, it probably would have helped, ALOT.  So, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!!!  OK, back to the recipe…so pickling mustard seeds.  There’s 2 ways to look at this…. why the heck didn’t they just give me a jar of mustard seeds??  I mean, really?  I just want to cook my fish, boil some potatoes and top it with some condiments, come on now.  The other way is that if you always wondered how to pickle anything, here’s your chance to learn and maybe now it’s less intimidating??!!!  It’s really how you look at that glass.  I know how to pickle, but I went on their recipe, and thought the water content was too high for the amount of seeds given, which turned out to be right as I had to strain the seeds before using them.   Side note:  My neighbor got the same recipe and actually ended up caramelizing their seeds, so the inconsistency there bugs me, I thought these recipes were fool-proof…HAHA!!! who’s the fool now, huh?  What’s up now Blue Apron????  Ok, I’m sorry, I was boxing earlier in thy gym today, still kinda worked up…it was fine, the seeds were still pickled, I’m over it.  The scallions again were limp and I had a hard time getting clean garnish cuts, but it seems to be an issue all around.  I love how they instructed us to cut the celery and scallions at an angle and I was pleasantly surprised at slicing the potatoes as I thought they might get waterlogged.  The cooking process of the potatoes was perfect though, so kudos!  Cooking and pressing the water from the spinach was a good trick as well, most people don’t’ realize how much water spinach retains even after being cooked.  I used about 1/4 tsp salt and 8 grinds of pepper for the spinach.  The salmon was gorgeous!  You can tell that they use a purveyor that believes in quality and that the freshness of the salmon was preserved well.  The color of sockeye salmon is always pretty and the fact that they gave us sockeye and not atlantic made me happy 🙂 The fish process was simple, but I was a bit thrown off when I was told to cook it flesh side first and not skin…normally it’s the other way around as skin side needs more time to crisp up.  Anyhow, it didn’t make a difference…weird.   Assembling the salad was easy and plating was a breeze!

Taste and Presentation:

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 This was good!  The fish was cooked great and it was nice and flaky.  The potato salad was fresh and the textures were nice with the soft fish.  The mustard seeds were the perfect sweet pop in your mouth in each bite.  The colors looked great on the plate, it was a solid dish.  

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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 After a shaky issue with the mustard seeds that was easily rectified, this was a breeze of a dish. I love the details in the diagonal cuts of the vegetables, it was a nice touch.  The cooking times were spot on and hassle free.  I just have this issue with limp scallions, but I think that’s more of a process issue in packaging than the quality of produce, as scallions are fickle as it is.    All in all, I give this dish a 4/5.  Next up, Creamy Lemon Pasta!!

 

Creamy Lemon Pasta with English Peas, Mint & Garlic Breadcrumbs

pasta front.PNG pasta back.PNG

 Calories: 700 per serving

Store Cost: $11.91 for 2ppl

Process:

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Alright…so, like all other boxes, I always ask for a veggie dish.  The first thing that started me off bad was that I had to shell my own peas…really, what is this?  1955?  You can’t give me a bag of peas?  The reason this gets me is that there is nothing learned by shelling peas, it’s busy work that doesn’t teach me a thing, unlike pickling the mustard seeds from the previous recipe.  I hate wasting my time doing useless labor that doesn’t cost much more if it had been done for me.  My time is worth something…nope, not over it.  It’s just stupid and completely bogus…Nonetheless, I shelled those peas, begrudgingly.  I prepped the rest of the produce and loved how they taught us how to zest a lemon without a zester, again, that’s productive, not shelling peas…nope, not over it still.  Then we get to a process of quartering and deseeding the lemon, also something that doesn’t add that much value and can be a nuisance.  Moving on…the pasta shape is called Campanelle, it’s Italian for “hand-bells” It’s a cute shape and serves a function, really (you’ll find out later).  The cooking of the pasta and then adding the peas in the final minutes in interesting, not sure if I liked that.  I was worried about over cooking my pasta and undercooking the peas, no one like hard peas, it’s like eating bbs (“you’ll shoot your eye out, kid!”) … they just hurt your teeth, that’s no fun.  Anyhow, the spinach was cooked just like the recipe above, so good there.  The garlic breadcrumbs process I am stealing!  I liked the idea of getting a light sauté on the garlic clove first and then adding the panko, it worked like a charm and was so easy to do!  I am stealing that and using it for other infusions, it’s funny how something so simple can change how I do things, even I don’t know everything!  Here’s where things get weird, as I cooked down the shallots and garlic, I was annoyed at the stringiness of the sliced shallot, it should have been minced like the garlic, however the process itself was easy enough and was executed pretty easily.  

 

Taste and Presentation:

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 I mean by looking at the picture of this dish, it’s simple, colorful and is a well-crafted pasta dish.  It was ok though, which was kind of upsetting, because I had high hopes for this dish given the flavor profiles were right up my alley.  There wasn’t enough creamy sauce to make it creamy and the PEAS WERE UNDERCOOKED….so no, still not over the peas.  The stringy shallot, remember that thing…well, yeah it was a problem, it got goopy and wasn’t properly dispersed through the dish.  There were globules of shallot with sauce and peas that I had to break apart so I could get a little in each bite…pasta does not need to be that labor intensive.  Good news…the pasta was cooked perfectly and the shape was perfect as it had little crevices (ew, bad word) that picked up sauce, herbs and breadcrumbs nicely.   I love when I can get a bite of everything in one forkful 🙂 The mint was fresh and appreciated that they instructed me to chop it right before I garnished the dish, smart move.    I just wanted a little more sauce thought…darn!

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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I think this dish could have been perfect.  I didn’t like some of the useless busy work because it didn’t add to the value of the dish.  I mean frozen peas and a normally cut lemon would have made the dish the same.  I loved the use of the pasta and the mint was the perfect touch.  I definitely would have minced the shallot as it would have made the dish cleaner.  I loved the breadcrumbs from start to finish, so major points there.   All in all, I give this dish a 3/5. Final dinner…Za’atar Chicken and Pearl Couscous!

 

 

Za’atar Chicken & Pearl Couscous with Asparagus and Pink Lemon Compote

chicken front.PNG chicken back

 

Calories: 700 per serving

Store Cost: $13.40 for 2ppl

Process:

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I am finally on the last recipe of this entire series of dinner box kits!  Yaaay!  I am excited to go back to cooking my own food…I just hate being told what to do!  Yes, I have issues with authority…wonder why I have my own business, eh?  Anyhow, as the pattern continues, this last dish is a chicken recipe.  The produce is great and fresh, and again I loved the little detail of cutting the asparagus on an angle, just makes things so much prettier! ♥ Now, let’s get to the pink lemon that is in this dish.   Yes, a pink lemon…basically a transgender citrus fruit…has the color and tartness of a pink grapefruit, but the sweetness and size of a lemon…yeah, I’m gonna let you ponder that one for a min… ready?  Ok, the recipe instructs us on how to “supreme” or segment the lemon…which is cutting out the flesh from the membrane without have to take apart the fruit.  This is not an easy thing to do for a trained chef and honestly, not the most fun process either, but it had to be done.  As suspected, it was messy and didn’t come out as clean, but hey we did it.  This is another process that I think could have been side-stepped and traditional methods of just peeling the lemon and separating it by hand would have worked just fine…but, if you ever wanted to learn how to do this, here was your chance!  There is even a tutorial on it on their website!!  Cooking the couscous was simple and the trick of using cold water to keep it from sticking was great!  There was a little issue cooking the chicken as the breasts were uneven in thickness, so 5 minutes a side was too much, but I couldn’t risk undercooking the thicker breast and thus risking drying out the thin one. I don’t know why this makes me think of a tanning salon.  I also used ALL the seasoning on the chicken and thought it went on a bit heavy, but I did what I was told!  Getting the asparagus and couscous together was simple and loved that they told me to use the same pan and incorporate whatever was left from the chicken, adds tremendous flavor!  The compote was easy and fresh and the finishing touches of this dish were simple!  Kudos!

 

Taste and Presentation:

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This dish was great!  I know the picture may be a bit misleading, almost looks like the chicken is burnt, it’s not.  Going back to the heavy seasoning, yes, spices crust and look burnt, which is the case here.  The chicken was good, the thin breast was a tad on the dry side, but was expected as I was not going to be good with an undercooked breast!  The couscous was perfect and the asparagus added great texture.  The compote was amazing!!  The balance of salt, sweet agave, tart pink lemon and fresh chives was spot on!  It gave the dish some great acidity and freshness in each bite, couldn’t ask for a better accompaniment!  

 

Final Thoughts & Rating:

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I don’t think there is much I would change about this recipe.  I can see if someone may find the chicken a bit strong with the Za’atar spices, it’s a bit intense and off the beaten path.  I would probably use 3/4ths of it if I wasn’t familiar with the spice.  The brightness from the lemon made the dish and I would make it again myself!    I give this dish a 5/5.

 

Conclusion/Wrap-Up:

What I loved about Blue Apron is that I got exactly what I expected and what I paid for.  Of the three meal boxes, it was actually the least expensive.  The best part about Blue Apron is the consistency of the recipes.  Nothing was horribly bad and everything was approachable and great to eat!  I loved some of the “challenges” in the recipes such as the pickling and the pink lemon.  I like that they highlight interesting produce and included literature on what the pink lemon is and its origins.  It shows how vested they are in providing something new for their clients.  You can tell how much research goes into their recipes and how effective their business model really is.  Although Plated visually looks higher in quality, the proof comes down to the flavor of the dish and the quality of the recipe.  I finished all my plates from Blue Apron and enjoyed this box from start to finish!  Blue Apron gets a 4 /5.

Cheers!!!

 

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