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Posts tagged ‘gnocchi’

Meal Plan Box Review: Good Food

Website: https://www.makegoodfood.ca/en/pricing

This is the second meal kit I’ve decided to try.  This box was selected next, not only because I received a 50% off coupon in the mail, but of the meal boxes that a coworker and friend of mine had sent me (coupon codes for discounts wherein the person who recommends also gets a credit to their account), this one had the most appealing menu for the week in question.

Unlike Hello Fresh, GoodFood is a Canadian company headquartered in Montreal and founded in 2014.  If I forgot to mention in my review of Hello Fresh, they’re a German company.

Like Hello Fresh, GoodFood has three plan options: Easy Prep, Classic, and Family.  The Easy Prep Basket is, as its name denotes, meant for a dinner done quickly and is the most expensive, priced at $13.33/serving.  The Classic Basket can be purchased as vegetarian or regular and is priced at $11.33/serving and $12.33/serving respectively.  The Family Basket is the cheapest priced at $10.88/serving (based on unit price).  However, unlike the other two baskets that have the choice between 2-4 recipes and 2 or 4 servings, the family is 2-4 recipes for 4 servings, which makes it, easily the most expensive box.  We chose to go with the Classic Basket, four recipes and four servings, but with the discount, it brought it down to an affordable amount.

I liked that I could choose a weekend delivery date as opposed to with Hello Fresh, which only allowed for weekday deliveries.  This was convenient because, even though the food comes in an insulated box with ice packs, I would much rather be home to receive the delivery (and even though I said leave on front porch, I can at least check once in a while to see if it has been delivered, even if they do ring your doorbell, just to make sure it isn’t being stolen).

From the Classic Basket we ordered the Brazilian Chicken Stew with Toasted Coconut Rice, Fresh Spinach Rotolo, Pan-Seared Gnocchi with Crispy Bacon, Peas, Lacinto Kale & Mascarpone Sauce, and the Seared Steaks with Lemon-Oregano Potatoes & Roasted Zucchinis.  Our plan was to space out the pasta, do the gnocchi on the first day and the rotolo on the last, but as you will find out later in this review, that’s not exactly how it happened.

When I unboxed the ingredients, I was really happy to find that they had fresh gnocchi, but the clumping had me concerned that I wouldn’t be able to separate the individual gnocchi…how right I was going to be. We did start with the gnocchi on the first day and it took me 45 minutes to prep all the ingredients.  It didn’t help that I had cut myself pretty badly a couple days prior (cut my index and middle fingers on my left hand and the bleeding wouldn’t stop for an hour).  This recipe really tested my patience.  Normally, I like to cook things that have quick chemical reactions.  So, I’m really terrible at waiting for fat to render or cooking vegetables on the stove top that require some time to steam.  Everything was going well until I put the gnocchi in the pan.  The first few gnocchi fell off easily and I thought, okay, this isn’t going to be too bad, but as time went on, I got really frustrated and went with a “create a size” approach to the gnocchi.  I was really annoyed that they thought it would be ok to put it in the box without oiling or flouring them or separating them in some way to prevent sticking to each other.  The gnocchi was able to get some colouring on tasted amazing, the others…not so much.  Those were more like pasta mush.  The sauce was surprisingly good, but you know, when you fry things in bacon fat, it’s gonna be delicious.  I do like that they made a bottle of demi-glaze to include because after making that sauce I looked up how to make my own demi-glaze and that would have taken forever to make!  The kale was very nice in here, especially since I’m not huge on leafy green vegetables except for lettuce which I just eat on the side of everything I make anyways.  The only grievance I had was not with this recipe, but with kale in general.  It is such a pain to have to cut the leafy part off and into smaller pieces, but it is definitely worth all the time to do it because it was delicious.  Peas and bacon are a classic combo and the mascarpone was a really nice addition to elevate that sauce.  I will definitely be making this sauce again.  If not for gnocchi, it would work for pretty much any pasta dish.

The second dish we made was the Seared Steak.  Since Val loves lemon potatoes, I let her make them extra lemony (like the ones she loves at Van Gogh’s, a restaurant in our community).  Turns out, she made them so lemony I wanted to die.  I have never tasted something that was so lemony that it went bitter.  To be fair, it also had lemon zest, which is a little bitter in and of itself.  The steak itself could have been sliced more consistently (one piece reminded me of a slice of cheesecake, haha).  It definitely would have made it easier to cook.

We ended up making the Rotolo as the third dish because we thought the stew would be too inconvenient to pack for lunch the next day.  Well, the Rotolo as an unmitigated disaster.  Not only did the fresh pasta sheets fall apart in the pot as we were cooking them, the Rotolo we put in the oven almost caught fire.  That one was our fault, but taste wise, it wasn’t good.  For those who are asking, Rotolo is essentially just flat sheets of lasagne noodles used to wrap a filling within and then they are baked.  It’s very similar to the idea of a cannelloni or manicotti.  The most common filling I’ve come across is ricotta.  Usually the ricotta is mixed with something; in this case, it was spinach and pesto.  I started with the ricotta and pesto and it smelled delicious.  I had high hopes for it.  But after wilting the spinach and attempting to squeeze some of the water out before adding to the ricotta, that’s when things started to go south.  I started on the sauce shortly after.  The spice mix that was provided contained thyme, basil, garlic, oregano, marjoram, rosemary and sage.  My first issue with the spice mix was that “Italian” was misspelled.  My second was that the addition of marjoram gave it the weirdest taste.  I always make a recipe exactly as instructed the first time just to try the dish as the recipe’s creator intended, after that, I can and will tweak it to better fit my tastes.  I was excited since this sauce included mushrooms.  Since this dish was completely vegetarian, the mushrooms would give a nice hearty meatiness to the dish.  However, my issue with this was that the recipe card indicated that these mushrooms in the kit were cremini mushrooms.  They were very clearly not; they were ordinary white mushrooms which are fine, but they are not the same thing and someone who didn’t know that might try to recreate the recipe and end up with mushrooms that taste and feel totally different.  Alternatively, the inclusion of the incorrect kind of mushrooms might lead to people thinking that white and creminis are the same thing or mixing them up.  After all that, I would have preferred the creminis to the white.  Even though I seasoned everything with salt and pepper (though I really wasn’t sure how much seasoning I needed because almost every step told me to season with salt and pepper and I was afraid to over season), the dish still came out bland.  When I was describing this dish to people, the majority said it sounded really good.  On paper, it sounded really good to me too.  However, now I know that I prefer my tomato sauce to the one that was instructed in the recipe.  I know that I need to squeeze out way more water from the spinach and I know not to put oiled parchment paper into the oven under the broiler.

Our final dish was the Brazilian stew.  I was quite happy with how it turned out considering my apprehension about cooking rice on the stove.  Last time I tried to make coconut rice it turned out pretty bad.  This time, I stuck to the instructions like glue and it turned out really good.  Sure it was a little wet on the bottom and there were times I was worried I’d burn the rice or that it would come out soggy or uncooked, but overall, I did much better than the first time.  The flavours in the stew were quite similar to the flavour profiles I was used to in Asian cooking, particularly the use of aromatics like ginger and garlic to develop a deep and varied flavour of the stew.  Due to the fact I was storing the meat outside in the box it came in with the ice packs and the fact that it had snowed the few days before, the centre of the chicken breasts had frozen slightly.  This made it easier to cut into chunks, but brought in the concern that the pieces wouldn’t cook all the way through.  Being both Asian and lazy, I just decided to season them in the pan as they cooked rather than to mix them in a bowl and then toss them into a pan.  This probably made for a less even seasoning, but considering that it was about to go into a bunch of sauce with the same seasoning, I wasn’t hugely concerned.  Then came the stew.  I added everything just as the recipe said, but my stew wasn’t thickening.  Even after 15-20 minutes simmering, it was still more soup like than stew like.  I knew that the spinach that I was to add at the very end out add a lot of water to the sauce so I definitely had to thicken it up before I added it in.  I started by adding a bowl of corn starch slurry, hoping it would thicken up.  It didn’t work, so I thought maybe flour would work.  I added a small amount of that so it wouldn’t clump, but it still didn’t work.  So, I went back to my original plan and made a larger bowl of corn starch slurry and added it in and it worked!  It started thickening up really fast and then I got worried it would become too thick, but after adding in the spinach, it came to the right consistency.  Although it was not in the recipe, I added cilantro along with the lemon zest and toasted coconut on top of the stew at the very end and it was delicious.  The cilantro added the much needed fresh element to the dish.  As Val said, it was similar to an Indian curry, but a lot lighter and didn’t leave you feeling bloated at the end.  I think that partially had to do with the lemon juice that was added to the sauce as well as the lemon squeezed onto the individual portion at the end.  The acidity level provided in the sauce was perfect for Val; I had to forgo that extra lemon squeeze at the end.

For meal kits on the market as a whole, a good point that my friend, Carmen brought up was that these are great for people who don’t already know how to cook.  The other people I hear from are the ones who say they’re too uncreative to come up with these dishes, especially after a long day at work.  I get that, but as a creative person, when I don’t know what to cook, I just google the ingredients I have and see what comes up.  That’s always a great way to come up with new recipes to try out.  But also, because I do know how to cook a little bit, going on any of these meal kit websites will allow me to peruse the recipes they have and generate my own ideas.

Compared to Hello Fresh, it was inconvenient that I had to email the support team in order to cancel my subscription, whereas on Hello Fresh I simply just had to unsubscribe.  It took them about three days to get back to me, which isn’t terrible, but it would have been easier if I could have just deactivated it myself.

As this is only my second box, I will reserve judgment on its ranking.  Once I’ve had a chance to try out other boxes on the market, Chef’s Plate (which has apparently been purchased by Hello Fresh) and Miss Fresh, I’ll do one final review ranking all the meal boxes I’ve tried.

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GoodFood box – also super heavy especially since they put it in front of the door that opens outwards and I had to kick it far enough away to open the door

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Pan-Seared Gnocchi with Crispy Bacon, Peas, Lacinato Kale & Mascarpone Sauce

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Pan-Seared Gnocchi with Crispy Bacon, Peas, Lacinato Kale & Mascarpone Sauce

Food

Seared Steaks with Lemon-Oregano Potatoes & Roasted Zucchini

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Seared Steaks with Lemon-Oregano Potatoes & Roasted Zucchini

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Fresh Spinach Rotolo with Pesto & Ricotta, Tomato Sauce & Sautéed Mushrooms

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Fresh Spinach Rotolo with Pesto & Ricotta, Tomato Sauce & Sautéed Mushrooms (oops, fire)

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Fresh Spinach Rotolo with Pesto & Ricotta, Tomato Sauce & Sautéed Mushrooms (mine was just microwaved)

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Brazilian Chicken Stew with Toasted Coconut Rice, Fresh Tomatoes & Wilted Spinach

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Brazilian Chicken Stew with Toasted Coconut Rice, Fresh Tomatoes & Wilted Spinach

Restaurant Review: Vin Room

Location: 2310 4 St SW (Mission Location)
Website: http://www.vinroom.com

This was the second time I had been to Vin Room Mission. The first time was some time in the last year of my undergrad, but we came primarily for drinks rather than food. The menu had intrigued me since and I finally got the chance to try it out.

After an entire summer of promising to hang out and see each other, the plan to do so finally came to fruition. Being a tapas bar, I knew that portion sizes would be small and prices would be high. We started small and ordered five dishes: wild boar gnocchi, chicken meatballs, beef carpaccio, lobster nachos, and crab cakes. The wild boar gnocchi is not quite a tapas item, it was large enough to be considered a dish on its own if you wanted. The purpose of the gnocchi was primarily to fill us up (and gnocchi is very filling since it’s essentially fluffy pillows of carbs). This is one of the best gnocchi I’ve had to date for Brae, it’s one more dish I can add to the list of things he likes to eat. The biggest surprise were the chicken meatballs. On the menu, they didn’t seem like they’d be anything special, but the chili jam that came with it elevated it to a fine dining status. The biggest disappointment for me were the crab cakes. It was my most highly anticipated dish, but it fell flat on many levels. I understand that crab cakes are inherently “crumbly,” but I just expected it to hold together much better than it did. There was a lot less curry sauce than I expected and I was only able to detect hints of the curry because there was so little of it. Of course I don’t need the cakes to be swimming in it, but enough to drizzle over the cakes or provide more than a hint of flavour was along the lines of what I was looking for. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of tatakis or carpaccios (which are essentially the same thing, save for the seasonings -one being Japanese and the other Italian). Combined with the arugula and russet potato chip that it was meant to be paired with, the delicate flavour of that particular carpaccio got lost. The lobster nachos were exactly as I expected: chopped up lobster piled on top of tortilla chips with a whole bunch of plain chips below. I found the best way to eat them was to take one chip that had been loaded with lobster and divide it between two or three other plain chips. However, there was still so much extra that I started putting the ground wild boar from the gnocchi on them and this turned out to be a great idea. Not only was it delicious, but it made sure none of the boar went to waste.

We had tried to stick around until happy hour as the oysters would be offered at a discounted price. In an attempt to prolong our visit, we ordered a calamari. Calamari is typically my favourite and this one didn’t live up to its potential. While the dipping sauce and breading were well done, the calamari itself was a little problematic. The first bite was normal, but as you continued to chew, a sort of liquid started seeping out, leaving a rather unpleasant aftertaste in your mouth.

For a Friday night I found it to be quieter than I expected. Perhaps it was because we had an “early” dinner (the reservation was at 7pm, but regardless). I’m guessing that most of the patrons were seated on the patio to enjoy the last days of summer. As we found out later, their patio is dog friendly and two of the friends I went with had dogs so one of the waitresses gave them each a small doggy bag with treats to take home, inviting us to bring the dogs next time we visited. We were served by two waitresses and one of them seemed like she was a location owner or at the very least a manager as she was dressed differently from everyone else. According to Brae, the waitress that was the first to help us grew increasing irritable by the end of the night. I didn’t quite understand why she wanted us out of there so quickly. I mean there were plenty of empty tables and we were still kind of ordering food.

Despite those minor hiccups, I still thoroughly enjoyed my time here. Taking everything into consideration, I would rate this place a 3.5/4. I would return here, but probably not in the recent future as the price is expensive and the menu has not changed much since I was here the first time.

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Chicken Meatballs

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Crab Cakes

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Wild Boar Gnocchi

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Lobster Nachos

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Lobster Nachos

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Beef Carpaccio

Restaurant Review: Via Cibo

Location: 101-104 Country Village Rd NE
Website: http://www.viacibo.com/

Years ago, I went here with my parents and sister after our trip to Italy, but I don’t remember much of it.  The only thing I remember of that trip was getting a macchiato and having my dad say, “That’s even stronger than what I drink.” It made for a good laugh.

This time, I had the fortune of going with my boyfriend, his cousin, and her kids. The best part about this was that we got to share everything family style, allowing us to try out more dishes off their menu. Via Cibo isn’t like your typical sit down restaurant. It’s setup more like Vendome’s is: you order at the counter and are given a number. Once the dishes have been prepared, they are brought out to your table.

Most everyone had a generic drink (soft drink or juice), but I ordered an Italian soda. Since they had cherry, I went for it. Usually it’s my sister who has the Italian soda, but today I felt adventurous. There was a nice balance of syrup to carbonated water making it so that it wasn’t too bland or too sweet.

That evening we ordered a pepperoni pizza for Braeden and two formaggio (cheese) pizzas off the children’s menu (which is actually a meal combo which comes with a drink and gelato) for Cindy’s kids, Keenah and Taye. The pepperoni pizza isn’t like the chain pizza joints’ style of pepperoni pizza. The crust was thin where the toppings were and airy around the edges.  It was garnished with rosemary which set it apart from most other kinds of pepperoni pizza, giving it an almost more high class, refined taste. And the pepperoni tasted like cured meat usually tastes, unlike pepperoni on store bought or chain pizza restaurants, which tastes just like salt.  Cindy and I ordered the Gnocchi and Steak Italiana to share. The Gnocchi was a no brainer as it had been a recommendation from Cindy/a friend of hers.  The Gnocchi consisted of a Gorgonzola cream sauce, pancetta, and slow roasted tomato, garnished with green onion and Grana Padano. I am typically apprehensive about dishes that contain Gorgonzola or any form of bleu cheese because of its strong taste and smell. However, this was not the case with this dish. For those who don’t know, pancetta is essentially Italian bacon, which of course enhanced the flavour of the dish, potentially masking.  Another reason could be that Gorgonzola is a milder bleu cheese than others I have had. One bite of the gnocchi was all it took to send me to cloud nine. If luxury was a dish, this would be it. The richness of the dish made me feel as though I was dining in a high end, expensive restaurant rather than a place serving Italian street food. My only reservation about this dish is the addition of the tomatoes. They did not serve to enhance the flavour or add anything to the dish. The second thing, I’m not sure if this is a reservation or not, but the balance of gnocchi to pancetta was off. I’m not sure if that was originally how it was or if it was because the gnocchi was so good that we were too focused on eating that and not paying attention to the pancetta. The Steak Italiana was something more reminiscent of Italian street food. It consisted of Grilled Steak, arugula, carmelized onion, slow roasted tomato, Grana Padano, and a Pesto Aioli. The steak was perfectly cooked.  The tomatoes had far more utility in this dish than in the gnocchi. There was a nice balance of sweet (tomatoes and onions), salty (steak and Grana Padano), bitter (arugula), and richness (onion and aioli) in the sandwich. The sandwich came with a small salad that provided the acid the dish needed. However, since we got so much food, I wasn’t able to finish the salad on my own. Lastly we got Tuscan fries to share (regular for the kids). The Tuscan fries were aggressively seasoned with rosemary and salt with a hint of white truffle oil, garnished with Grana Padano and served with a spicy aioli. I found the fries to be a little on the salty side, but they had good flavour and crunch.

For dessert the children consisted of Nutella gelato. Brae got the mango pineapple gelato, and I got a pistachio affogato. Turns out Brae loved it so much that after we left, we actually came back later that evening to get another one and came back again the following day. This was my first time getting an affogato. An affogato is  gelato with a shot of espresso. Although I chose pistachio, I feel like coconut or something creamier (chocolate -which they were out of- or vanilla) would have complemented the espresso better because pistachio has such a light flavour that it got lost. The next day, when Brae came to get his mango pineapple gelato, I got the coconut one. It is more like a sorbetto than a gelato and I’m thinking it probably wouldn’t have worked any better.

If I had another stomach I would’ve tried the mushroom pizza they had on special. If their pizza was anything like the one I had at Scopa, I would have died. That pizza is truly the most amazing, delicious pizza I have had in my life. Maybe next time I go they’ll still have it.

Based on my experience this time, I would rate it 4.5/5 and would definitely return. I love restaurants with an open kitchen so that I can watch them cook, but also because I can see exactly how far along they are along with my dish and watch them walk my food out to me. The wait staff was patient and very helpful and friendly. I can’t wait to come back here again another day.

kitchen

Kitchen

cashier

Cashier

cheese-pizza

Formaggio (Cheese) Pizza

tuscan-fries

Tuscan Fries

steak-italiana

Steak Italiana

pepperoni-pizza

Pepperoni Pizza

gelato

Mango Pineapple Gelato

affogato

Pistachio Affogato

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