Edmonton Things To Do: Evoolution’s Taste the World of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar

Main course for the tasting at Evoolution.

Personally, a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar brings me back to some of the best dinners I’ve had with friends. It seemed like such a fancy thing when I was younger to have a restaurant serve that mixture as a dip for fresh bread because it wasn’t something we ever did at home. It was such a simple thing, yet it was also a treat.

Nowadays, we’ve got a couple of great shops that specialize in these products. Oliv Tasting Room and Evoolution are on a mission to get high quality olive oils and balsamic vinegars into the hands of Edmontonians and Albertans. I’m a fan of both, having frequented each a number of times over the years. However, working downtown, Evoolution on 104 Street and 101 Avenue is the most convenient.

The Evoolution shop on 104 Street in Edmonton.

Often times, I’ve found myself hanging out there during lunch or after work eating cubes of bread doused in a variety of flavours. Bottles range in size and price depending on the the type of oil or vinegar. Nevertheless, there’s always something to please each palate, and they make wonderful gifts, especially for family members or friends who like to cook.

Recently, I was attempting to find an activity for my friend and I to do together. As per usual, I ended up on the Eventbrite app, and that’s where I came across several listings from Evoolution (104 Street & Enjoy Centre locations). Once or twice a month they hold events in the evening. After the store is closed, they prep the space to seat a large table of about ten people — more can be accommodated in St. Albert’s Enjoy Centre — who will be taken through an educational tasting and full 3-course meal that highlights how olive oils and balsamic vinegars can be used at home.

A booklet with lots of info on their products and the menu for the evening.

For $35 plus tax per person, we were taken through the proper way to taste olive oil using the strippaggio method (similar to how one might taste a fine wine). A dark blue tulip glass is cupped in the hands and warmed before taking a sip. With teeth clenched, you then have to suck air into the mouth until the oil hits the back of the throat. Doing so allows for the oil to be stripped and the flavour to be revealed. The difference between basic store bought extra virgin olive oil and the premium ones sold at Evoolution is staggering. Signs of an excellent olive oil come down to three things: smell, taste, and texture. Surprisingly, the colour and clarity doesn’t matter so much. What you are looking for is an earthy/grassy scent, a pepperiness on the tongue (high polyphenols, a.k.a. antioxidants, bring that out), and a smooth finish with no film or residue left in the mouth.

Better quality olive oils shouldn’t even list an expiry date. What needs to be indicated, though, is the crush date of the olives used to make the batch. It should last for 12 to 14 months after the bottle is opened without any issue. Still, it’s ideally consumed within 6 months since the freshness starts to break down as soon as it’s opened and continues to do so every time air comes into contact with the oil. Nonetheless, you’ll know if it has gone bad as olive oil does become rancid. We also learned that the best olive oils tend to have high smoke points because of their fatty acid content, making them fantastic for use at high heats of up to 450 degrees. That’s contrary to the myth that they are not to be used for cooking.

Complimentary mini bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar were given to each guest.

Next up on the agenda was an info session on balsamic vinegars. Honestly, it’d never crossed my mind to question what balsamic vinegar was made of. I was flabbergasted to find out that it’s made from grapes. White Trebbiano grapes to be exact. When crushed, the syrup from the grape juice is what is extracted, fermented and aged either in stainless steel or wooden barrels. The flavour, viscousness, and concentration of every balsamic vinegar is determined by the amount of time aged, evaporation of the liquid as it ages, and oxidization of the syrup when exposed to the barrel used. Lighter balsamic vinegars are usually processed in stainless steel or light wood barrels. Inkier ones are made using dark wood. Due to the fermentation of the product, they can easily last 3 years. I suspect, it’s also why balsamic vinegars have an effervescence when sipped on their own.

Don’t store either olive oil or balsamic vinegar in the fridge though. Condensation in the bottle can spoil them. Just keep them away from direct light and heat and they’ll be fine.

When we finished going over the finer points of each and had sampled half the store, that’s when dinner began. There was a platter of crusty bread to be eaten with our choice of oils and vinegars as well as four different tapenades. Evoolution’s famous truffle butter popcorn was served as well. I’m not a popcorn person, but I could eat a ton of that. Their butter olive oil is made with a plant extract, so it’s free of dairy. Yet, it tastes just like the real thing. Uncanny. To drink, we were given glasses of club soda mixed with their gravenstein apple balsamic vinegar. Turns out that balsamic vinegar is the perfect natural product to flavour water with. For anyone who uses drink crystals or those squeeze bottles to make their water taste “better,” you can stop doing that now.

Supper was more than filling. We were first presented with a spring salad with fresh mozzarella, basil pesto, and black currant balsamic vinegar. Our entrée consisted of an autumn wild rice pilaf — hearty winter veggies, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, olives, and butternut squash seed oil — likely made in their back room using a Crock-Pot and a hot plate (they don’t have a kitchen, so we were impressed). Dessert was an elaborate pumpkin pie cheesecake decorated with vermont maple balsamic candy.

As our host, Christine, pointed out, the menus are made on the fly. Usually they’re created on the day of the event, and the courses are determined by what kind of fresh ingredients are found at the grocery store. Having run these tasting sessions for quite some time, she was confident that within the last year they had yet to duplicate a menu or a single course. I declared that she may as well save me a spot every month because I’d be willing to spend the money on a meal like this regularly. Since they don’t prepare a menu in advance, it may be difficult for attendees to know if their dietary concerns can be accommodated. However, Christine assured us that once a ticket is bought, they can be contacted and informed of issues or allergies, so they can work within those parameters.

When we were finished eating, we were then able to shop the whole store at 15 per cent off. Considering Evoolution never really offers any sales, it’s certainly a plus to attend a tasting event just to get this bonus, particularly around the holiday season.

If you’re looking for something new to do in Edmonton and you like to eat, I highly encourage you to look into the next events at Evoolution. The cost of admission is well worth it. My friend and I learned so much about these kitchen staples while being “wined” and dined. It’s time that you experienced Evoolution like this, too.

Versus: Edmonton Food Delivery Services

The four current food delivery platforms in Edmonton.

Admittedly, I wasn’t the first to jump on the food delivery band wagon. For a while, I was aware of Just Eat or Nomme, but I never made the foray into using their services until players like SkipTheDishes, Uber Eats, DoorDash and Foodora joined the game in Edmonton. I dabbled with them just a little bit starting in 2015, and slowly increased my usage over the past few years.

Nowadays, UK-based Just Eat has actually bought out SkipTheDishes, originally a Winnipeg-born enterprise, in order to expand their territory. However, instead of shifting business over to Just Eat, they’ve kept the SkipTheDishes brand, continuing to offer delivery under that umbrella. Nomme, on the other hand, has joined forces with food ordering platform DoorDash, headquartered out of San Francisco. Users of Nomme are now redirected to the DoorDash site.

That recently left me with four apps to test. You may ask why I decided I needed to do a compare and contrast between them. The answer is that exceedingly worse service and one bad experience in particular with SkipTheDishes made me wonder if the others were also declining.

Here’s the background. At work on a Thursday (when we got our first official snowfall of the season), I convinced our manager to order our team pizza. He told us to arrange it and we could expense our lunch. Instead of getting the typical Pizza 73 or Panago, we decided to try Famoso Jasper Ave (just a 6 minute drive away). They deliver exclusively through SkipTheDishes, so I input our selections and submitted our order by 11:24am. The tracking information updated and provided a very standard expected delivery time of 30 to 40 minutes. Great.

About 30 minutes later, I received an automated message from SkipTheDishes informing me that there was high demand for delivery that day and a delay was expected. Fine. Next thing I know, another 5 to 10 minutes go by and I get a phone call from Famoso. Their culinary supervisor wanted to inform me that our food was prepared 20 minutes ago, but no courier had shown up. I let him know that we did get a notification from SkipTheDishes, so I was aware, and we were willing to wait it out. After all, how much longer could it take?

Really? Almost an hour into our wait and still another 75 minutes to go…at least?

Well, I pulled up the tracking information at 12:10pm. It showed a new delivery time of 75 minutes and it was stuck at “Famoso is preparing your order.” I knew that was a lie. I had spoken to someone at Famoso and they clearly had our food ready to go, which meant the problem didn’t lie with them. What’s most interesting is that I’d been watching the courier name change over and over again over the past 50 minutes. At least a dozen or more drivers had been assigned at this point. I was thinking, what gives?

Most emails sent to businesses typically aren’t responded to for at least 24 hours. So, I figured that my best bet was to try to reach out to SkipTheDishes for help through their app chat function. The problem with using chat is that it takes you out of the tracker and eventually, if you exit the chat function for too long, it boots you back out and the message you typed disappears. Should you attempt to begin another chat, you go to the back of the queue once more. On this particular day, there were around 160 people ahead of me all three times I tried to contact someone that way. This went on until about 12:50pm. That’s when I decided a phone call might be best. I ended up on hold for over 30 minutes. If you’re counting, we were pretty much at the 2 hour mark.

In the meantime, I had phoned Famoso’s culinary supervisor back. He let me know that there was no courier in sight and he felt terrible about sending off cold food to us by the time a driver would be available. I asked if there was any way to cancel the order with SkipTheDishes. He was a bit apprehensive at first because a cancellation placed on my end meant they’d still get charged by SkipTheDishes on their end. I didn’t want that to happen. It wasn’t Famoso’s fault and they shouldn’t have to take a hit because SkipTheDishes couldn’t meet the demand. Ultimately, Famoso phoned in the cancellation for me. I was grateful that they managed to get through to the restaurant customer service line much quicker than I could get a hold of anyone.

I was eventually phoned by a SkipTheDishes agent (at the same time someone finally picked up that 30 minute call I was on). My order was stricken and a refund would be issued to my credit card. Okay. No food yet, but I was going to get my money back. Famoso was nice enough to remake our order on the spot. We ended up sending a team member to pick up our pizzas from the restaurant and we paid them directly. The last I had seen on the SkipTheDishes tracker before everything was cancelled was that it would be at least another 40 to 50 minutes. If that was the case, we probably wouldn’t have had our food for another hour or more.

Speaking to the SkipTheDishes agent, they really had no explanation for why this happened. All I can chalk it up to is that they’re expanding much too quickly without the necessary structure in place. Colleagues and friends that I’ve discussed this with have also noted more frequent delays with the service at SkipTheDishes, so I don’t think it’s uncommon. Is it always as awful as this incident? I certainly hope no one else has had to deal with this.

I followed up with SkipTheDishes by email the next day, and didn’t receive an answer from them until a week later. That was only after I prompted them a second time. It was then that I realized they never issued a refund to my credit card, but they actually only provided me with a Skip Credit for the Famoso order. It took approximately another week for them to reply and rectify that. There was no way I was going to have my hard earned money tethered to SkipTheDishes when they hadn’t done anything to deserve it. The way that this was handled, I can’t say I’m likely to utilize SkipTheDishes anymore. Not soon, anyway. My confidence in them is shattered, which is unfortunate.

That’s when I decided to test run the other players in the city. Next up was DoorDash. I placed my order on another particularly wet and miserable day. It went in at 12:10pm at the peak of lunch service. I had selected Joey Restaurant Bell Tower to order food from, which is actually much closer than Famoso to our office (just 2 minutes by car), so I took that into account. Nevertheless, it didn’t matter. Everything was prepared and delivered to my door within 30 minutes. DoorDash had no problem assigning a courier to bring my food to me. It was quick and simple. Their app is designed to keep you up-to-date through the whole process using text messages.

DoorDash is probably the next largest service available in Edmonton. For quite a time, they were the only one to offer delivery from Splash Poke. Although, recently Splash Poke decided to join SkipTheDishes, too, due to overwhelming demand from customers. Thankfully, for now, they are sticking with both platforms. Had they opted to leave DoorDash, I would have been utterly heartbroken. Not just because they’re one of my favourites, but because DoorDash has a more reasonable delivery fee of $1.99 versus $3.45 between my office and their 109 Street location. The only downside to DoorDash is that they don’t have as many restaurants available in the southwest corner of the city, so my options are kind of limited when I’m home. But, downtown workers and residents have a lot to choose from.

Foodora’s app is similar to the rest. Unlike SkipTheDishes, they made it in about 30 minutes.

Foodora was test case number three. This is a business based out of Berlin. They expanded into Edmonton last year, basically taking over the social media pages of local influencers. Couriers carry bright pink delivery packs and can arrive either by car or bike. Their branding was definitely on point. But, I’ve noticed that they haven’t grown as quickly as the other delivery services. Regardless, they have some decent options for the downtown area (don’t bother if you’re far south as they don’t do delivery there; the only choice is to pre-order for pick up).

My order from Nosh Cafe on 124 Street was placed at 11:30am. This was, thus far, the furthest location from my office with an estimated 9 minute drive. Again, distance didn’t seem to matter. My lunch showed up at our office doors by noon and I was eating butter chicken at my desk five minutes later. No issues with the food or the courier.

A few days later, I put Uber Eats up to the challenge. I will state that I had fully intended to order my lunch from Let’s Grill Sushi & Izakaya (107 Street and Jasper Avenue); however, come time to order, their business sat greyed out and listed as “unavailable” in the app. I thought it was odd since it had previously listed an opening of 11:30am (so I waited), but I let it go when it didn’t work and I found an alternative. My second choice was Parlour Italian Kitchen (108 Street and 103 Avenue), which had a drive time of 4 to 5 minutes through Google Maps. Holding true to what I expected, Uber Eats followed suit with DoorDash and Foodora by delivering my Veal Parmigiana at 12:07pm. A total of 27 minutes, 10 minutes less than the initial estimate.

My only complaint was that the item the restaurant prepared was incorrect. Parlour had made a similar, but different dish off of the menu. Additionally, the veal was so tough that I found it to be entirely inedible and had to throw the whole piece away. I noted these issues with the food in the app. By the next day, I had received responses from their help desk, including an apology and a notice that the order had been refunded in full directly to my credit card. I didn’t have to fight them about it, they simply did it. The customer service from Uber Eats far exceeded my experience with SkipTheDishes the week prior.

I should also mention that Uber Eats doesn’t ask for a courier tip on top of the standard delivery fees prior to arrival. It’s optional to add one after your food has arrived, but it’s not mandatory. I suspect they get paid pretty well from their cut of the delivery fees alone since the driver said he was happy to have so many orders coming through that day and I hadn’t even tipped him yet. Also, on occasion, Uber Eats offers some great promos. You just have to keep an eye out for them. The following week, I happened to be looking on the app in the morning when I noticed that they were advertising free burgers from McDonald’s. I managed to snag one of the limited codes and I got to try the Creamy Black Pepper Angus burger for just $2.09 after fees. It made for a decent, inexpensive lunch that day, so it can certainly pay off to keep the Uber Eats platform as well.

I know that this was a very lengthy post, but I felt like it had to be written. I’m no newspaper, and I’m well aware that I didn’t test all of the platforms multiple times in a short span to see if service with each is consistent to what I mentioned above (sorry, I’m not rich enough to order delivery every day). But, I’ve used all of them long enough to realize that service through SkipTheDishes has been steadily diminishing. I’ve heard horror stories of orders having to be made and remade by restaurants because it sits too long while they’re waiting for a courier to come. So, what are your thoughts? Have any of you experienced the same thing as me? Or, do I have bad luck? So many people seem to be on the SkipTheDishes bandwagon (as seen in a poll published on Splash Poke’s Instagram stories last week), but they put me through the ringer and I just can’t support them like I used to.

Meal Kit Box & Recipe Review: Goodfood

Goodfood’s welcome card.

If anyone has been following my posts this year, they’ll have read about my experiences with Chefs Plate, MissFresh, and HelloFresh. All three of those services deliver meal kit boxes across Canada. Their aim is to simplify the prep and cooking process for those who want to eat at home, but who feel as though they don’t have the time to plan everything themselves.

In the fourth installment of this series, I’ll be talking about the last of the bunch. Goodfood is the name and they’re based out of Montreal.

Truthfully, there isn’t a whole lot more to add. All of the services function in the same way. The website lists the upcoming menus. Once satisfied with the choices, register as a member online. During the sign up, select food preferences and the weekly delivery date. If necessary, skip upcoming shipments in the calendar. Or, should the user be happy to pay full price, keep the subscription rolling on a regular basis. Boxes land at the doorstep, leading to some antics in the kitchen and an arsenal of new recipes.

Unlike the rest, Goodfood was the only one to ship with Loomis (the others opted for FedEx). While their free delivery didn’t come with a tracking number, it seemed as though the Loomis delivery guy cared a bit more. Sure, he didn’t read the instructions provided to dial our number on the intercom. However, the man did phone my cell number. When I missed his call and phoned him back a few minutes later, he answered. It was smooth going from there and he was able to bring the box right to our condo door. FedEx didn’t even bother to buzz up to be let in, often leaving our box right in the lobby of our building where anyone could grab it (luckily no one ever did).

Their insulated cardboard box used for shipping.

The packaging is also slightly different. Instead of double wall corrugated cardboard boxes, Goodfood sticks to regular cardboard with ice packs at the bottom and insulation liners covered in plastic. The felt-like material reminded me of what might be found inside the walls of a home. I was surprised to see that, but hey, it worked. Ingredients for the individual meals were also stored inside large resealable plastic bags. Certain produce, such as the leafy greens, were supplied in breathable baggies, allowing ventilation that prevented condensation and rot. The recipe cards were nicely printed with colourful photos and clear directions.

Again, we ordered three meals with two portions each. At the regular price of $74 weekly, it would work out to $12.33 per serving. Thankfully, I was able to try it for half off. The dishes we picked all rang in at 40 minutes of prep/cook time and included: Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Pork Chops with Rösti Potatoes, Ground Beef Pizza with Crispy Kale, and Haddock with Chermoula, Mejadra & Roasted Brussels Sprouts.

My fiancé and I found the Pork Chops to be a hearty meal as the butterflied meat was stuffed with Swiss cheese (an extra slice or two would have really hit the spot) and spinach. The side of potato pancake made for a slightly more creative take on the typical roasted, mashed or baked variety. Our only issue came when trying to shave the potatoes down. Without a sizeable grater, we ended up having to make do with a peeler. Ultimately, it got the job done, but it could have been better with the right tools. All remaining spinach was combined with sliced carrots and a simple vinaigrette to become a side salad. I’m not usually a fan of carrots. For some reason, I find the flavour of carrots to be slightly off-putting, but these ones were so fresh and sweet that they were divine. This dinner earned a solid 7 out of 10.

Supper number two was a fun homemade Ground Beef Pizza with Crispy Kale. By the time we got to this recipe, the ready-made dough had actually risen so much that the sealed bag it was packed in was about to burst. After we cooked the ground beef and prepped the sauce — a can of Hunts tomato sauce flavoured with onion and garlic — we spread the dough out onto a rectangular baking sheet. It was then topped with the beef, onions, and some Parmesan cheese. As that baked, we also tossed a pan of kale into the oven to crisp the greens up. Those were the finishing and best touches to the pie. In all honesty, this wasn’t our favourite. There was way too much onion (half would have sufficed), the sauce was thin (a tomato paste may have been preferable), the crust was too puffy and soft, and there wasn’t enough cheese. With modifications, this could definitely be a winner. Unfortunately, in this instance, it only warrants a 5.5 out of 10.

Our third kit was the Haddock with Chermoula. What exactly is Chermoula? That’s a great question because I didn’t know. Yet, I learned that Chermoula is a type of Middle Eastern garnish consisting of parsley, vinegar, spice, and olive oil. I can’t say that either of us really enjoyed the flavour. Personally, I think there may have been an excess of vinegar, coming across as overly acidic. On the other hand, the fish was superb. Thick fillets pan fried well on the stove, and the meat was moist and flaky. Mejadra, a mix of rice, lentils, and fried onions was delicious, and went so well with the roasted Brussels sprouts. Although we could have done without that first major component of the meal, it still ended up being our favourite of the three recipes, garnering an 8 out of 10.

Looking at all of the boxes, Goodfood falls between the costly HelloFresh and slightly more affordable MissFresh and Chefs Plate. The quality of the recipes and ingredients were pretty much on par. Plus, similar to the others, Goodfood’s dishes were hit or miss, too. We were willing to chance it on new things, which turned out great. Whereas, the more familiar meals like pizza ended up being a bit of a dud. Still, these services are a fun option, especially when discounts are available. I certainly cannot justify purchasing meal kit boxes all the time, but I do understand the appeal, and I believe that they can be useful on occasion.

This review is in no way affiliated with Goodfood. I purchased these meal kits on my own and have chosen to share my thoughts here. If anyone is interested in signing up for a subscription, please use my Goodfood referral link to save $40 off of your first delivery.

Meal Kit Box & Recipe Review: HelloFresh

HelloFresh’s welcome booklet.

This year, I’ve been on a meal kit subscription kick. So far, my boxes from Chefs Plate and MissFresh were discussed in previous posts. Both Canadian businesses provide delivery across the country. Today, I’ll be talking about option number three: HelloFresh.

Unlike Chefs Plate and MissFresh, launched in 2014, HelloFresh emerged out of Berlin, Germany back in 2011. Within five years, they expanded to the UK, USA, The Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, and then Canada. It is one of the largest scale meal kit delivery services in the world.

Their Canadian branch is based out of Toronto and, from what I’ve received, it’s apparent that the meat and most of the produce is sourced through partnerships with local farms. Smaller items such as a packet of Bonne Maman honey comes from a family-owned French company and Colavita balsamic vinegar as well as a pack of orzo seem to be from Italy.

Similar to the other services, all of the food arrived in an insulated box shipped through FedEx. Vacuum sealed meats were ice packed at the bottom and then partitioned to separate them from the remainder of the items. All of the other ingredients were sorted into heavy paper bags that were closed and labelled with stickers that indicated the meal to which they belonged. Welcome info and recipe cards were placed at the top of the package.

Surprisingly, even though only three of the week’s available recipes were selected for my order, they provided all five cards in my box. I suppose if I’m ever inclined to try out the other options, I can actually do that. My fiancé thinks HelloFresh prints the sets as a cost saver to the company because they can just toss them into every box. They don’t have to spend the time separating the cards out or printing a specific number for each recipe. He’s probably right. Either way, it’s a tiny thing, but I kind of appreciated the extras.

The individual meals and items were all packaged really well. Greens that needed to breathe were placed into resealable baggies that had perforated holes on the backside. Everything else came in sealed plastic. All components were clearly labelled. Some of the veggies had even been prepped ahead of time, shaving off several minutes of washing, cutting, chopping and dicing. Butter, oil, milk, salt, and pepper is assumed to be a staple at home already, so those are not supplied.

For my first box of three meals for two people (regularly $79.99, including free shipping), my fiancé and I picked the following recipes: Moo Shu Pork Tacos, Crispy-Skinned Chicken, and Seared Steak. Each of them took 30 minutes or less to cook and the calorie count ranged between 520 to 1,000 per portion. However, a full nutritional breakdown is not to be found unless viewing through their website.

Moo Shu Pork Tacos shifted things into gear. These were simple to make. The process pretty much required just a single pan and a couple of dishes, which is ideal when it comes to cleanup after dinner. We both loved the depth of flavour from the spice (Note: Moo Shu Spice Blend is a mix of garlic powder and ground ginger, if you want to recreate this) as well as the Sriracha mayo. With three meat and cabbage stuffed 6-inch tortillas allotted for each person, this was actually an incredibly filling meal. I can definitely see why the calorie count is much higher for this dish. My only issues with this kit were the sliced radishes (too thick) and the lack of Sriracha and mayo to make the sauce. Had there been enough mayo, it may not have been necessary for us to add extra cheese to taste. Still, after a minor change or two, this is a recipe that we’d happily make again. This selection deserves an 8 out of 10.

The Crispy-Skinned Chicken was likely our favourite of the week. This consisted of skin-on chicken breasts, smashed potatoes, roasted green beans, leeks, and a rosemary pan sauce. I did find that the chicken was a little bit greasy as we may have drizzled a bit too much oil into the pan when roasting the meat and beans. Yet, the texture of the chicken skin and flavours from the sauce and leeks helped to elevate the dish further. This was hearty without being heavy. We award this recipe an 8.5 out 10.

As experienced with Chefs Plate and MissFresh, the steak dishes were always one of the best in the bunch. Therefore, we left the Seared Steak and its accompanying roasted broccoli and warm caprese orzo salad for last. Unfortunately, HelloFresh truly disappointed. The cut of meat was sub par; even though it was cooked to medium, it was much chewier than we like our steak to be. It was also incredibly bland as they instructed the steak to be pan-seared using just a drizzle of oil and nothing else. The orzo pasta had a decent dressing made using a honey and balsamic vinegar base, but the only added pop to the entire dish came from the tart grape tomatoes and basil. Bocconcini cheese, which has an okay mouthfeel is rather flavourless without some sort of heavier dressing to go with it. Sadly, this supper only warrants a 6 out of 10.

Compared to the other meal kit subscriptions, this one is more expensive. While the others work out to $10.99 per portion for the basic plan of three meals for two people, HelloFresh is ringing in at a lofty $13.33 per person for each recipe. We found the quality of the packaging to be fantastic, but the quality of a few of the ingredients to be less than expected. On the one hand, it’s certainly convenient. On the other, the dinners were hit or miss. Should there ever be a chance for me to try a second HelloFresh box at a discounted rate, I’d be delighted to give them another go. Until then, I will have to pause deliveries as the savings aren’t quite there. If it’s feasible for you, I’d recommend testing HelloFresh yourself, so you can see if it’s a good fit for your life.

This review is in no way affiliated with HelloFresh. I purchased these meal kits on my own and have chosen to share my thoughts here. If anyone is interested in signing up for a subscription, please use my HelloFresh referral link at checkout to receive $40 off of your first delivery.

Meal Kit Box & Recipe Review: MissFresh

MissFresh’s welcome card!

As promised in my earlier post about the Chefs Plate meal kit delivery service, today, I’m going to go over my experience with MissFresh. Where Chefs Plate was based out of Toronto, MissFresh is headquartered in Montreal. Still, both are Canadian-based businesses, which is something to support.

I learned of MissFresh through Groupon. In January 2018, they offered a deal on the discount site for two weeks of delivery for the price of one ($65.94). Additionally, I was able to save an extra 25 per cent off with a promo code. All in, I spent just under $50 for six meals that provided enough food for two people.

After buying the voucher, I pulled up the MissFresh web page to see what was on their upcoming menus. Nothing peaked my interest at first, so I waited a week or two before I found a few recipes that I liked enough to place my initial order. Upon signing up to the subscription, I had to decide on the level of service I wanted (number of meals, number of portions, frequency of delivery, types of recipes, etc.). Then, I got to pick the meals that would be sent to my condo. Past that point, they take your address and payment information as well as any discounts that need to be entered. I put in my Groupon code, and, once everything was processed, it showed that I had another coupon awaiting use for a later date.

Ordering is straightforward and simple. What can get tricky is remembering to confirm or skip shipments before the cutoff date each week (every Wednesday before 11:59pm EST). I forgot to do that at the beginning of March. This resulted in me having to ask the company to cancel meals I didn’t want, and, now, I also have a full price credit applied to my account as they wouldn’t issue me a refund, only a coupon to be used towards a box at another time. Regardless, if I can keep on top of this, it’s kind of nice to know that I have the option of choosing when I want to receive a delivery. Customers are not locked into purchasing every single week. Currently, my calendar is set to skip all boxes for the next two months. I think the majority of users register to test it out and continue with the service as needed. Members can even deactivate their accounts indefinitely to ensure they aren’t inadvertently charged for anything.

Like Chefs Plate, MissFresh is one of the more affordable meal kits out there. The two are comparable in cost. Both shipped packages for free through FedEx who always managed to deliver by noon, but on one occasion left our shipment in the communal lobby of my building when I missed their call to be buzzed in. However, what I noticed is that MissFresh doesn’t quite have the same polish as Chefs Plate. The box it ships in is fine — thick insulated cardboard lined with recyclable ice packs — and the produce is decent with meats vacuum sealed. But, the ingredients are stuffed tightly in basic plastic bags. They don’t really allow things to breath as well. Plus, the recipe cards are printed on pretty flimsy paper.

What is important, though, is that the food is fresh, the recipes are clear, and the meals are tasty. For the most part, I think MissFresh fits the bill. The meals came with everything we needed to cook the dishes, save for oil, salt, and pepper. Our six recipes included: One-Pot Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Spinach, Turkey Cordon Bleu Ballottine, Seared Sirloin Steak, Crispy Battered Sole, Maple Pork Fillet, and Cajun Chicken Pasta.

Starting with the One-Pot Pasta with Smoked Salmon and Spinach, this was just alright. Personally, I love the flavour and texture of smoked salmon after it is cured. So, I wasn’t too keen on cooking the fish over any heat. Sure, the smoky taste remained, but the fish became flaky rather than smooth. I enjoyed the combination of dill, cream cheese, and lemon juice as it popped on the palate. Yet, the sauce wasn’t creamy enough for me. My fiancé and I would give this one a 6 out of 10.

I found the Maple Pork Fillet to be a really nice cut of meat as it was succulent and lean. The buttery baby potatoes that accompanied the dish were yummy. I’m also a big fan of portobello mushrooms for their fleshiness. Nevertheless, this was far from my favourite. The maple glaze had a wonderful flavour; however, the consistency, even when we left the sauce to reduce on high heat, was rather runny. Most of all, I never succumbed to the sharpness of the Gorgonzola cheese that was stuffed into the mushroom. It overpowered much of the plate and gave everything a wine-like aftertaste. Rated out of 10, this one should be considered a 6.

The Crispy Battered Sole was a bit of a surprise. Served with the fish were pan-fried plantains. When I had selected this menu item, I had pictured the mini bananas found at the grocery store. To my amazement, we received two huge plantains that looked unripe (the peel was lime green in colour). We pulled them apart, sliced up the fruit, and tossed them into hot oil to fry them up as we made the fish separately. This transpired into a beautifully bright meal with the golden brown sole, yellow discs of plantains, slaw, guacamole (oddly prepacked instead of freshly made with avocados), and lime wedges. It was light, zesty, and refreshing. It felt like summer on a plate. What was unexpected was that the sweet scent of the plantains as they cooked wouldn’t come across on the taste buds. In fact, they were rather bland. As it turns out, this fruit is typically used as a replacement for starches like potatoes as they share a very similar texture. For that, this recipe is graded with a 7 out of 10.

When I was perusing the menus on the MissFresh website, I was excited to see their Cajun Chicken Pasta with Sun-dried Tomatoes. The photo was appealing and the ingredients all sounded great. It was a quick recipe, too, clocking in at around 25 minutes to prepare and cook. It became one of my fiancé’s top picks of the meals we tried. It’s probably because this dish utilized the Cajun mix, generating a lot of spicy heat on the tongue, which he likes (if he can put Sriracha on something, he will). Since I love them, I would have increased the amount of sun-dried tomato used. Not only would it have punched up the flavours more, but it would have balanced out the Cajun spice better. We’d slot this plate at a 7.5 out of 10.

Turkey is often thought of as dry and tasteless, but I thoroughly appreciated the Turkey Cordon Bleu Ballottine. Stuffed with smoked ham and Swiss Cheese, the tender poultry became the star. Our mashed potatoes weren’t as smooth as they could have been. We’ll chalk that up to not having the necessary tools to make them properly. Even with onion powder folded into the potatoes, they were somewhat mild. Swapping out the onion powder for a more potent garlic powder would have improved this dish further. On the plus side, the roasted Brussels sprouts were delicious. The outer layers of the sprouts were crisp from being broiled in our choice of olive oil, salt and pepper, providing another textural element. Out of 10, this deserves a 7.5.

Last, but certainly not least was the Seared Sirloin Steak. The quality of the cuts of sirloin were top notch. We were able to sear in the juices and cook the meat to a gorgeous medium rare. We even elevated the recipe by adding a smoked balsamic vinegar to the meat to amplify the flavour. When it came to the side, neither of us would ever think to use barley in place of rice. Yet, here, the broth and cooking white wine soaked into the barley nicely, giving every bite of the starch full body. Hands down, this was our preferred dish out of the six we ordered, and it’s one that we’d be inclined to make on our own again. This one merits an 8.5 out of 10.

Much like Chefs Plate, the MissFresh meals took between 20 to 35 minutes to prep, cook and plate, meaning it was relatively fast every day. The recipes were also quite healthy with the highest caloric intake listed at just over 750 to the lowest at under 400. I do believe that MissFresh can improve their packaging a little as they don’t have the same level of professionalism that I’ve seen with the other meal kit delivery services. Nonetheless, their offerings get the job done, and, in a household that might be too busy to spend ample amounts of time shopping for groceries, or who just want to make some simple home-cooked food, but don’t know where to start, this could be an excellent option.

This review is in no way affiliated with MissFresh. I purchased these meal kits on my own and have chosen to share my thoughts here. If anyone is interested in signing up for a subscription, please use my MissFresh referral link or enter my coupon code (CRYSTALLEE) at checkout to receive $35 off with your first delivery.