See this? It's the "before" shot. All these ingredients arrived at my apartment last Friday at 3:30 pm, right smack in the middle of their ETA, with a note to IMMEDIATELY refrigerate them. I admit, I opened the cute little carrying case and peeked inside at my new friends before I stashed them away: wild Steelhead salmon, even dices of potato, shitake mushrooms similarly miniaturized, fresh mushroom stock, Satsuma mandarin orange glaze, confetti of leek, shallot and ginger, and a big bag of mustard greens. Most of the ingredients were local and organic, and since humans have been known to go insane without dessert, a separate box housed three cheeses from Cowgirl Creamery (I'll get to those later).
What sort of delivery was this, you ask? It was a Farm-Fresh Meal Kit from Besos Foods, a San Francisco-based home delivery service (and the only one of its kind in town) for folks who appreciate great cooking but are too tired, busy, unskilled or lazy to go the distance all on their own. Unlike other meal delivery services, this one needs more than reheating - you actually have to cook - but everything is pre-prepped. I prefer this variety because it gives you the satisfaction of cooking yourself (and teaches you a thing or two while you're doing it). Plus, who wants to reheat or microwave their food, no matter how skillful the professional chef that prepared it? Stuff like that is just upscale Lean Cuisine. This is fresh.
And, let me just say, wow. Yep, that's right, wow. A top-notch operation from A to Z. I highly recommend it to the lazy and the motivated alike. Mr. Food Musings and I dug into our Satsuma-glazed Wild Salmon with Shitake & Yukon Potato Hash, Mustard Greens, Pickled Daikon and Organic Edamame Salad and it was like our tastepuds had paid a visit to Batman's Gotham. "ZING!" and "POW!" reverberated around in our mouths and I kept looking at Mr. FM like, "I made this! Me! Little old meatloaf-loving me!" (Spare me the rolling of the eyes. I know I cook a lot, but I'm not a fancy cook. I go for comfort food and I never plate anything that looks like this!)
So let's back up. I ordered our dish on Thursday evening, and admit I was tempted by the achiote-crusted chicken with chorizo sausage, but I went with the salmon. Forsaking sweet for savory, I skipped over the local XOX Truffles and clicked on the cheese plate. It hurt to leave the chocolate behind, but Mr. FM is prone to migraines and a girl has to think of her love's comfort above her own (well, at least once in a blue moon she should try to). Delivery options ranged from a 3-hour window for $3 (which I selected) to a teeny half-hour window for the seriously busy ($7). And, as already noted, my cute little white (recyclable) cardboard tote arrived promptly at 3:30. A sticker on the side let me know the food wouldn't be good after April 4, and instructed me to throw it in the fridge right away.
An instruction card came tucked inside the box. The front listed the items I should have received (they were all there) and pointed out which were organic (73% qualified). Next to that was a list of the kitchen and pantry items that were needed - olive oil, salt and pepper, a pan and a few other simple tools, plus substitutions if you're out of, say, aluminum foil - the basic cooking steps, the time allotted and a way to speed things up if you're comfortable watching two pans at once.
I took the easy way out (so I could pay attention to my glass of Grüner Veltliner, a mineraly 2002 Alte Reben by Felsner) and fished one non-stick pan out of the cupboard. Opening the card, I read the detailed instructions. Down the left side runs a timetable to keep you on track, while the middle holds step-by-step directions. As an added bonus, and for those in need of constant encouragement, the right side is full of tips explaining why you're doing what you're doing and affirming that you're doing it right (e.g. "Potatoes will continue to cook so they should remain slightly firm during this step.")
Everything went off without a hitch (well, I browned the leeks, shallots and ginger overly much but I think it's because our stovetop cooks hot, which I forgot to adjust for) and 25 minutes later, dinner was on the table.
And oh, the dinner! The salmon was perfectly cooked, soft and pink inside with a crisp, crunchy crust on the outside. The Satsuma glaze reminded me of a well-done sweet and sour sauce with both notes present, as well as a hint of cilantro (though we only used about 2/3 the amount they gave us and I'd recommend you do the same). The mustard greens were peppery and the shitake-potato hash redolent with the earthy flavor of the 'shrooms. We ate up every last bite.
Portions were perfect, and the salmon was cut in two (which wasn't obvious from looking at the shrink-wrapped package, resulting in the near loss of one fillet to the garbage can - but I saved it just as it started to slide south). Both Mr. FM and I were full without feeling stuffed.
And then I trotted out the cheese plate, put together by Cowgirl Creamery. The cheeses also come with a card explaining each one (though some detective work was necessary to match the rinds to their description on the card so we'd know what we were eating). Crackers, roasted almonds and a honey stick accompanied the cheeses. My only quibble? I wish they'd told me which cheese the almonds best complemented and ditto the honey. (I think we figured it out, but I would have liked to know for sure.) The cheese was enough for four folks or two dinners (we'll be feasting on it again tonight).
And the value? The total for food and delivery was $53. Compared to a restaurant meal of equal caliber, with wine, service and tax I think it holds up as a great value. Clean up was minimal - one pan and two plates.
Next time you want to impress your friends, order enough for four and hide the evidence. That's what I plan to do.
Besos Foods, San Francisco, www.besosfoods.com. Order by 2 pm the day of delivery, M-F only.
SPECIAL 20% DISCOUNT FOR FOOD MUSINGS READERS: type "foodmusings" in the coupon code when ordering for your 20% discount. Good through May 30th. (How cool is that?)