Cooking: Home Chef After a Few Months

A few months back, I wrote about our experiences with Home Chef, a weekly meal delivery service. It’s time for a fuller review.

One of the things that I think make anyone a better cook is technique.  If someone gives both Eric Ripert and myself the same ingredients and kitchen, his food will always be superior because his technique would be superior.  Home Chef does a good job with its picture recipes.   Thankfully, there are also videos on their website, if you search for them, on how to do things.

We have had a few incidents with packaging.  Sometimes stuff is not completely tightened causing leaks.  One week we got our meal delivered on Thursday. One Saturday, I went to cook steak sandwiches that had cheese.  The cheese was moldy, so we took a picture and sent it to them.  Even though the response was “I’m sorry to hear that the cheese you received arrived less than fresh in your delivery this week” which seemed like odd wording, they did issue us a $10 dollar refund.  There customer service did respond within 72 hours.  I would have liked that to be a little quicker, but it’s not horrible.

My biggest issue with Home Chef is also the thing I like the most about it. What drew us to Home Chef was that each ingredient was pre-portioned.  This is brilliant because I don’t need a huge bottle of truffle oil or a whole pack of hamburger buns. However, a lot of the packaging comes in small plastic containers, some much larger than what is inside causing more waste then is necessary.  Yet, it is way more cost effective for me to order this than to waste both packaging and food.

One website we read before we ordered said that each recipe card had wine and beer suggestions.  I didn’t go through all of them, but I looked at two just now and didn’t see that at all.

So, is home chef worth it?  Yes, but it might also allow  you to ween your self from it. The recipes are mostly easy to follow.  If they don’t have special ingredients that are waste of money to buy from stores in large amounts, then they can easily be recreated in your kitchen.  For instance, I made an artichoke au gratin this weekend to go with some ribs I smoked on the Big Green Egg.  In fact, when it comes to most sides, I’ve recreated quite a few of them because it was just as cost effective to do it at home. Again, when it comes to recipes that require bread, demi-glace, specialty oils, it makes sense to do Home Chef. Those items in any quantity more than what can be used in one meal is normally thrown away.  Being a family of two, I’m not sure we have ever finished a loaf of bread or pack of hamburger buns before they would go bad.  And the aforementioned Big Green Egg compels me to buy meats to smoke when cheap filling up my freezer so that isn’t an option either.

Some of our favorite meals so far:

  • Nashville Hot Fried Chicken:  spicy buttermilk chicken…simple but fantastic.
  • Brown Sugar and Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin Medallions: Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple made this recipe while I was on a business trip.  Since she rarely cooks (her chicken cacciatore proves she can cook), this was a good test of how easy it was to follow a Home Chef recipe.  It was delicious.
  •  Huli Huli Chicken Thighs:  great sauce put this meal over the top.
  • Coffee Rubbed Steak and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes:  I never actually tried coffee rubbed steaks before, preferring just salt and pepper.  I will be having them again.
  • Fettuccine Alfredo: pine nuts and crushed croutons gave his pasta dish some much welcomed crunch
  • BBQ Chicken with Fried Pickles:  I don’t like fried pickles, but Mrs. Nola Nerd Couple does.  However, cooking them was easier than I expected.
  • Double-Double Crispy Ranch Chicken Sandwich:  ranch is a flavor that I never really warm up to until I tried it as a seasoning on chicken.  It’s excellent. \
  • Bone-In Pork Chop with Honey Mustard Cream:  Actually all pork chop with a sauce recipes have been stellar.  Pork chops can be dry and boring, but having the sauce elevates it.
  • Fig-Glazed Pork Tenderloin:  Pork tenderloins are going to be a huge part of cooking from now on.

We have had a few smoothies and they have all been delicious.  We haven’t tried the breakfasts yet, but there is a buttery chicken and waffles coming up soon so we might order that one.

Home Chef has made our lives easier and healthier.  We eat out less often because we do have something to cook.  The meals are pre-portioned so we have also lost about 10 lbs just from this change to our diet.  We might not get our whole week from Home Chef but I foresee us getting at least three meals a week from them for a long time.

Eating: Philadelphia Eats

Normally, Nola Nerd Couple researches moderately priced local priced places to eat on our travels. Philadelphia was different. We were there for Wizard World Philadelphia (we will definitely have more about that in a series of upcoming blogs). While we were going to do some sightseeing, our schedules were determined by the convention.  We figured we would probably eat at some chain restaurants, and we did. Besides those times, we did get some really good meals in Philadelphia without researching ahead.

Of course, if you are in Philly you have to get a cheesesteak. We knew about the famous ones, but we didn’t head there basically because we were too tired to walk to them.  Nearer to the Independence Hall area was Sonny’s Famous Cheesesteaks. We looked on Yelp! and surprisingly it got great reviews.  We got there and three people had Phillies shirts on which made me more confident in my choice. I ordered mine with onions and cheez whiz; Cristina went with American cheese only.  We both ordered bacon on it. We also went with bacon cheese fries. After taking a couple of bites of the sandwich, I realized we made a mistake. This sandwich didn’t need bacon.  Let me be clear, this was the first sandwich, ever, that bacon didn’t improve. It was perfect just as it is.  It was also better than any I have outside of Philly.

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Before…

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…and after

Listening to the Thinking Outside the Longbox podcast, they mentioned a donut shop that was mostly staffed by Amish people.  This donut shop, Beiler’s Donuts and Salads, is located inside of Reading Market Terminal. This old rail station has been turned into a giant food court.  There was everything here ranging from Thai to Greek to Mexican to Cajun. When we go back to Philly, I plan on eating more meals here.

The first day we were there, we didn’t get the donuts, opting for some lunch. Those meals, ribs and chicken wings, were good and packed a lot of food in for the price.  The next morning we headed to the donut shop.

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Hey look, it’s Long Box Mike!

 

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I got a caramel apple and strawberry filled glazed donut. Cristina opted for maple bacon and a glazed donut. These donuts were so good they would make Richard Dawkins say oh my god!. They were so good I texted my sister, a Type-I diabetic, and told her if she ever makes it to Philadelphia that these donuts were worth her losing a foot.

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We did get another meal at Reading Terminal.  The sausage with sour kraut was fantastic and relatively cheap especially when I compare it to a favorite Nola spot for similar food. The potato pancake was perfectly done and paired well with applesauce. Cristina opted for a hamburger with mac and cheese that was not as good as Cowbell’s, but it wasn’t that far behind.

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Outside the convention center, they had revolving food trucks each day. Surprisingly, they were not very crowded even at lunch times. That’s a shame because one, Chef Donte’s Delicious Dishes, had a fantastic crab cake sandwich and lamb burger. The honey mayo that went with the sweet potato fries was a perfect compliment to the fries.

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The final day in Philly we went to the Rocky steps.  Using the maps feature on our phone, we found the Kite and Key restaurant. They had excellent bar food and great service. It was Philadelphia Beer Week so I had a Yards Orang’n of the Species. If I didn’t have to walk a mile or more back to the hotel, I would have had several.

We had such a good time in Philadelphia that we want to go back. There is still a lot to see. Next time, I will do my research because of these meals are any indication what Philly’s food scene has to offer, we will be eating well.

Cooking: An Early Look at Home Chef

Home Chef is a food delivery service.  You pick the number of meals you want from a variety of choices each week and they are delivered to your front doorstep.  Cristina’s sister, and Nola Nerd Couple guest blogger Cara, has been doing it for awhile now and loves it.  Each meal comes out to about $9.99 per person. This really isn’t that bad. In fact, on a recent road trip, I paid the same price for a crappy hamburger, fries, and coke.  This is much better than fast food.


I consider myself a fairly competent cook. I can take a recipe and follow it. Home Chef makes this easy especially since they send a binder with recipe cards that are very easy to read and contain plenty of pictures.  Some people will find value in that, but I find the value in the food delivery service.

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The Juicy Lucy from Home Chef with some WowWee sauce.  Came out delicious!

Now, yes I can go purchase most of these things at the store and save some money. So why do it?  Because when you cook for two, quite a bit goes to waste.  The first meal we cooked was “Juicy Lucy” stuffed hamburgers.  We rarely eat hamburgers, because we would only eat one.  That means we would have six other buns in a pack.  Now some people would say freeze it.  However, we have limited freezer space especially since we got the Big Green Egg.  I’m always looking for cheap meats to slow and low. So my only other option is to eat things on buns for at least four meals before they go bad. This means they usually go bad.

Another example of why I like this menu is that we did a meal called Grains of Paradise Crusted Sirloin Steaks.  This came with a sauce which was tasty and made the steaks different from how I usually cook them.  These are the ingredients I wouldn’t normally have on hand and would not pay for me to have for regular cooking: two green onions (I would probably have to buy more), sherry, veal demi-glace. Do I need those ingredients for this dish? Not really, but it is nice to have it and to have it only the amount I will use.

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Berbere Chicken Thighs with apricot-almond couscous and green beens.

This isn’t a service for everyone.  Larger families, it would probably make more sense to do the shopping themselves.  For a family of two it is perfect. We get to try new meals without throwing away unused portions of ingredients.

If you want to try it out, please use our link right here to get a $30 credit. You could easily get one meal for under that price just to try it out.

Eating: Lebanon’s Cafe

Rosemary Lamb Chops from Lebanon's Cafe

Rosemary Lamb Chops from Lebanon’s Cafe

Graduate school put a dent in our dining out.  Going to school 2-3 times a week, in Hammond, often forced us to eat poorly.  In addition, the expense of gas (only our last semester saw the prices drop) and time required of us to study forced us to cut out dining out from our budget and schedule.  When we graduated, we wanted to try somewhere new.  A friend suggested Lebanon’s Cafe on Carrollton.

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Eating: Drago’s

The Original Charbroiled Oysters at Drago's.

The Original Charbroiled Oysters at Drago’s.

I married well for a number of reasons.  One reason is that Cristina has family in Panama City Beach, Orlando, Washington DC, Italy, and Australia.  It is truly a chore to have to travel to these locations to see family. (By the way Cristina…when are we going to Australia?).  Another is that when they come to New Orleans they want to eat at places they can only eat at here.  Not a bad deal, if you ask me.  This time it was Drago’s.

Drago’s is known for oysters but they do have a lot of stuff on the menu.  Most of the pasta’s are really good as is the shrimp and grits.  The only thing I think they do poorly is fried foods.  There is a complete lack of seasoning in the food as if they are cooking for people with high blood pressure.  Being someone who has high blood pressure, if we are going to cheat and eat fried foods then please season the hell out of it.

However, you really should not go to Drago’s for the fried seafood.  If you have developed a taste for oysters, which I admit is an acquired taste, then you go to Drago’s for oysters.

First, we had a few appetizers.  Their cheesy appetizers are excellent.  Moreover, this comes from someone who is not supposed to eat cheese food.  I had to stop myself to make sure I could eat my oysters.

Cristina’s mom ordered the shrimp and grits.  Having had them once before, they are very good.  Cristina’s step-dad went with an eggplant dish that looked very good even if the shrimp were smaller than the shrimp in the shrimp and grits. Cristina does not like eggplant so it is one of my go to dishes to order when we are out.

However, tonight, for Cristina and I, it was about the oysters.

Cristina is a charbroiled girl.  For any readers outside of the area, a charbroiled oyster is an oyster covered with cheese and butter and broiled until they are charred.  Simply put, they take a great food and make it better.  Drago’s serves the oysters with bread, which allows the diner to consume all the leftover butter and cheese.  In addition, it saves Drago’s some time from cleaning the oyster shells. And the plate.

Since this is an “R” month, I went with a dozen raw.  What were put in front of me were 12 beautiful creatures.  Large, plump, and briny, this was the best meal I have had this year.  If I had not had a large lunch, I would have had a second dozen.

Raw Oysters at Drago's

Raw Oysters at Drago’s

If you like oysters, few places that you can go are as good as Drago’s.

Eating: A Tale of Two Chain Restaurants

Recently, for various reasons, we did something we rarely do. We ate at chain restaurants. Now, we are not snobs. I could eat at IHOP anytime anyone suggests it. Cracker Barrel is truly a tradition for us when on the road and that comes from both sides of our families. We patron the local chains like Zea’s, Copeland’s, and New Orleans Seafood and Hamburger Company on occasion. We love that chicken from Popeye’s Fried Chicken. Yet, in an area like New Orleans it does not make sense to go to the national chains often. There are too many other cheaper local choices.

While I don’t expect much from the food at a chain restaurant, I do expect a lot from the service. This is what they are supposed to be good at. This is why people go to them because they are experts at treating people well. This is not a food review or a restaurant review. This is a look at how two national chain restaurants made mistakes and how they went about fixing them.

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Eating: The English Tea Room

The English Tea Room

The English Tea Room

Cristina has been very indulgent of my new tea obsession. She has encouraged me to get the right tools I need and does not say a word when I buy a new tea just randomly. So, when I took her to the English Tea Room in Covington for Valentine’s Day she did not complain.

The English Tea Room is in Old Covington. It is a beautiful small house converted into a restaurant. The décor is pretty much everything British you can think of. Instead of being too much, it is very charming especially since they made every room a theme.

Having had lunch, we ordered scones. And of course tea.

I went with the classic Darjeeling, while Cristina went with the Strawberry Kiwi fruit tea. The Darjeeling was smooth and a little toasty. In other words, it was perfect. Cristina’s fruit tea was not sweet but wonderfully tart.

I purchased some loose leaf teas for home and the Strawberry Kiwi was one of them. In fact, I do not drink alcohol often but it seems perfect for a vodka infusion. The other two teas I purchased were a black tea called Windsor Castle, which is a blend of Darjeeling, Assam and Kenya teas. The other was a white tea called Tangier Lemon. After a few more brews, I will start posting reviews of those.

Now, if you do not like tea, you should still go to the English Tea Room. The scones were that good. Sweet and filling, they make for a perfect desert. Every dish that came out to a neighboring table looked delicious.

I cannot wait to run out of tea to go back.