Blue Apron Believer: A Review

I'm a Blue Apron Believer!
Disclaimer: I received no compensation for this review and after the initial free week, have paid full-price for each subsequent week of meals.

When a colleague offered me one of his free week links from Blue Apron in July, I was ready to hop on the offer immediately. My husband, Josh, on the other hand, is super skeptical of subscription services and wasn’t thrilled about the idea of getting stuck in a subscription that would be difficult to cancel. We received our first box the week of the 4th of July and we have never looked back.  We LOVE it. We’ve only had one or two meals we didn’t care for, but most nights, I get serious compliments from Josh on dinner. It’s not stuff I would have normally chosen to make, whether it be because of ingredients I’m not used to working with (or have never heard of) or because it’s a cuisine that I’m not a fan of, but I love that it takes me out of my comfort zone and makes me try new ingredients and cuisines that I may not have otherwise attempted. According to our year-end report, I cooked meals from 13 different cuisines in 2016. That’s probably 9 more than I would have otherwise.

Blue Apron Year in Review
I love that I only have to have salt, pepper, and olive oil on-hand to make 3 fantastic meals and you get to choose (with some limitation on the combinations) from 6 different options each week. If you don’t like one of the proteins from one of the “default” three meals, you can switch to another meal instead, as long as you change it enough in advance of the shipment. I love that I’ve got our meals planned out for the next 5 weeks right now and I know exactly what we’ll be having from Blue Apron each week.

Also, no more food waste! We use exactly what they send us and we don’t throw out any rotten fruit or veggies or meat we didn’t get to. I used to throw out hundreds of dollars worth of food that went bad in the fridge or that I stuffed in the freezer, thinking I’d use it in a reasonable amount of time, but found it hiding in the back with several years of accumulated freezer burn.

Because it costs more than I would have spent previously (each serving is $9.99), I make cooking those three nights each week a priority and schedule which nights I’m going to cook. If I know that I have meetings each night one week, I’ll skip that week ahead of time so we don’t waste the food. This also means we don’t make excuses to order delivery or go out to eat when I’ve got Blue Apron on the calendar.

As far as how long it takes to cook each meal, plan for a little longer than the recipe cards say, unless you’ve got experience in a professional kitchen. Maybe I’m just too much of a perfectionist, but it takes a decent amount of time to cut and prep the fresh veggies before you even start heating anything up.

Subscribers are occasionally given the opportunity to share free weeks with friends and family and, so far, I’ve had 7 friends cash in their free weeks from my referrals.  I know that a couple of them just tried the free week and decided to pause their subscription until they finish grad school, but others are still subscribers and love it, as well.

Josh and I travel a lot and we were on vacation for 2 and a half weeks in October, then two days after we returned, I left for a work trip to London for a week. We skipped Blue Apron deliveries for the whole month of October and picked right back up when I returned from London in early November. Skipping weeks is incredibly easy, you just have to remember to stay on top of it if you know you need to skip a week.

Blue Apron has changed the way we eat and has given me the opportunity to get out of a cooking rut that included casseroles most nights and very little fresh fruit and vegetables.  I’m cooking with ingredients I’ve never cooked with before and am learning to love things I’ve never tried before.

If you’re on the fence about trying Blue Apron, I encourage you to seek out a friend who might have a free week to offer and give it a shot.  You’ve got nothing to lose and so much great food and experience to gain!  Bon Appetit!

Jarritos Nation Contest

Today, I was contacted by someone from Jarritos, a soda manufacturer from Mexico.  They seem to be expanding in the US and asked me if I would sample some of their products and let you all know what I think about them.  I’m excited to receive my package and will let you all know what I think after I’ve had a chance to test them.

In the meantime, check out the Jarritos Nation contest! It’s a website designed to bring all fans of Jarritos together and award prizes for posting photos. Entering is very easy – just head to www.jarritosnation.com and “claim” a location on the map with a photo. Prizes range from packages of Jarritos to digital cameras and even a 12 day cruise to Hawaii!  Good luck!

NYC Trip Review #11 – Famous Original Ray’s Pizza

Our last stop in NYC before grabbing our luggage and heading for Laguardia was Famous Original Ray’s Pizzeria on Lexington Avenue.  We had visited here on our first day in the city too, but wanted to grab another slice before heading home.  On the first trip, we both had the sausage and pepperoni slice, but this time, I tried the Ziti and Meat Sauce slice and Josh went with the Sausage and Pepperoni again.  I have to say, I prefer the sausage and pepperoni.  The ziti pizza is kind of a novelty and I’m sure some people would love it, but it was just too much starch for me.  I LOVE thin cruse pizza and this one just over-did the bread for me.  It was still good, but definitely filled me up faster than I would have liked. 

NYC Trip Review #10 – Bouchon Bakery

Another stop on our last day in NYC was Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner building.  This building also houses many retail stores as well as a Whole Foods in the basement.  We visited the Whole Foods but it was close to lunchtime and it was mass chaos in there, so we went ahead and went upstairs to Bouchon.

Bouchon Bakery was founded by famous chef Thomas Keller (of French Laundry fame) and has locations in Yountville, New York and Las Vegas. 
  
The TKO cookie was one of Josh’s choices.  It is Bouchon’s version of the Oreo cookie and was very good.

I chose the Coffee Cake.  It was delightful and buttery.

The chocolate tart was my second choice.  It wasn’t as good as the chocolate tart from Perilla the night before, but I brought it home with me and ate it cold, from the fridge the night after we got home and it was very good then.  It was made with a darker chocolate than Perilla’s tart.

Josh’s second choice at Bouchon was the Maple-Bacon Brioche.  I know, I know. . . you’re thinking, "bacon on a pastry. . . gross" but it was actually very good.  People who have talked about VooDoo doughnuts in Portland have compared their maple bacon doughnut to bacon and pancakes and I would definitely use that comparison here.  It was flaky and very good as we peeled the layers off to enjoy.

NYC Trip Review #9 – Ben & Jerry’s at Rockefeller Center

Josh and I went to Rockefeller Center on our last morning and visited Top of the Rock Observation Deck.  It is relatively close to the Empire State Building and people have said that the views are better at Top of the Rock, so we figured that we’d try it out.  People were right.  The views were amazing. 
 
After we came back down to reality, we were hungry, so we stopped at the Ben & Jerry’s at 30 Rockefeller Plaza (anyone who watches the show 30 Rock will understand).  Lucky for us, this Ben & Jerry’s was one that actually carries Elton John’s signature flavor that I have been dying to try out since it came out last year.  I was jealous that it was only being distributed in the Northeast because it sounded awesome.  We ordered a scoop of Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road (which was apparently only supposed to be available in the Vermont Scoop Shops from July 18th through July 25th, 2008, but had apparently made an appearance in NYC).  It’s chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookie dough, butter brickle and white chocolate chunks.  It was delicious.  I only wish it was more widely available.  We also got a scoop of Triple Caramel Chunk (but you can’t see it in the pictures).  Both flavors were great, but the Goodbye Yellow Brickle Road was superb.

NYC Trip Review #8 – Perilla

For those of you who are familiar with the Bravo Network’s reality show, Top Chef, you may recognize Perilla.  It is owned and run by Season One’s winner, Harold.  We actually saw Harold walking out of Perilla just after we were seated, so it was unfortunate that Harold wasn’t the one cooking our meal for us, but his employees did a fine job of taking over in his absence. 

Sadly, this was another of the restaurants that I was uncomfortable whipping out the camera for, but the food was amazing, none the less.  We splurged on this meal and ordered 3 appetizers between us.  I ordered the crispy calamari and watercress salad with mint, peanuts and chili-lime vinaigrette (which was probably the best salad I’ve had in my life).  Josh ordered the seared diver sea scallops with hearts of palm, xo sauce, daikon & spicy arugula puree (which he said was also amazing – best scallops ever) and we shared the spicy duck meatballs with mint cavatelli, water spinach and a quail egg (I thought they were good, but not amazing). 

For an entree, I ordered the special of the night, Colorado rack of lamb and Josh ordered the grilled prime hanger steak with creamed spinach, red shallot puree and natural jus.  Both were excellent, but Josh’s hanger steak was not as good as mine from JoJo.

We both ordered dessert and I was especially pleased with my choice.  I ordered the warm chocolate tart with dulce de leche sauce and vanilla ice cream and Josh ordered a trio of ice creams (banana, vanilla and coffee, I believe).  The chocolate tart was seriously the best chocolate tart I have ever tasted in my life.  It melted in your mouth and left you craving more.  I really wish I had the guts to pull out the camera, because it was definitely worth it.  It was a very simple presentation, but it really stood on its own and didn’t need a lot of fuss on the plate.  Perilla was wonderful!

NYC Trip Review #7 – Patricia’s Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx

Our last stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour was Patricia’s Pizza & Pasta in the Bronx.  It was quite a drive to get there, but we were greeted with pizza delivered right to the bus.  At Patricia’s they have both a brick oven and a gas oven and we were able to try half of a slice of each kind of pizza.  Both were good, but I still prefer Luzzo’s and Lombardi’s over the others.  It was awesome to be able to travel to a location outside of Manhattan for our last stop.  I know we wouldn’t have made it off of Manhattan if it hadn’t been for the Pizza Tour. 

Thanks so much Scott for an awesome tour and amazing pizza.  You’ve got a good thing going here and I hope you have continued success!!!

NYC Trip Review #6 – Patsy’s Pizzeria

Patsy’s Pizzeria was the next stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour.  Patsy’s is known for being one of Frank Sinatra’s favorite hangouts during his time in New York. 

While this stop wasn’t a favorite for Josh or I, the pizza was very good and we didn’t have any complaints.  We just felt that some of the other stops on the tour were better.  Patsy’s has a devout following though and there are many people who would argue that Patsy’s is the best in New York City, hands down.

NYC Trip Review #5 – Luzzo’s Pizzeria

The second stop on Scott’s Pizza Tour is one that will live in my heart (and stomach) forever.  Luzzo’s Ristorante Italiano is hands down, the best pizza I’ve ever had (and I’ve had a lot of pizza).  The owner, Michele is from Naples, as is a large number of his staff, so they know what pizza is supposed to taste like.  They use real buffalo mozzarella (for those of you who don’t know, this cheese actually comes from Asian water buffalo milk – believe it or not) which has a higher butter-fat content than cow’s milk mozzarella and it really makes the pizza light and buttery.  One of the words used to describe this pizza was "creamy" and it was definitely that.

Luzzo’s is in a building that used to be a bakery and has a brick oven fired by wood.  The whole pizzeria has a faint smell of campfire, but the pizza is other-worldly. 
 
Josh and I actually ended up heading back to Luzzo’s right after we finished the Pizza Tour to order a small pizza.  It was equally amazing the second time around.  Although Luzzo’s has only been around for 5 years, Michele and his pizzaiolos have perfected the art of pizza in a town known for it’s pizza.

NYC Trip Review #4 – Lombardi’s Pizza

Ah, Lombardi’s Pizza. . . the first stop on the most incredible tour in all of New York City – Scott’s Pizza Tour.  For those of you who are not familiar with Lombardi’s, let me fill you in on a little bit of American pizza history.  Lombardi’s was opened in 1905 by Gennaro Lombardi and was officially the first American pizzeria.  He first opened the original location as a grocery store in 1897 after landing in America in 1895.  Genarro began selling traditional Neapolitan pizzas from the grocery store and when the pizza sales out-sold the grocery sales, he decided to focus his business completely on the pizza.  Over 100 years later, Lombardi’s is still going strong in it’s new location, just a few blocks from the original (they had to move because the #6 subway line ran right under the original location and the subway vibrations were loosening the bricks in the coal-fired brick oven).  They moved the original brick oven to the new location, so the pizzas people are getting at Lombardi’s today are the same pizzas that Genarro Lombardi was serving in 1905.      
 
Lombardi’s pizza was spectacular.  You definitely can’t get this kind of pizza here in Kansas. . . at least not that I have been able to find.  If we could, I would be in big trouble.  The crust was perfectly done and it had just the right amount of cows-milk mozzarella and fresh basil on top.  To die for!
 
Now, for Scott’s Pizza Tour.  Scott is a self-proclaimed pizza expert and has spent the last 11 months guiding pizza lovers through America’s pizza birthplace.  Scott is very knowledgeable and keeps people entertained for the entire tour.  The tour that Josh and I took included a big yellow school bus dubbed "The Pizza Bus" that took us all over Manhattan and then to the Bronx for pizza tasting at 4 different pizzerias.  Posts on the other pizzerias that we visited will be appearing in the next few days.  Josh and I would absolutely recommend Scott’s Pizza Tour, whether you do the walking tour around Little Italy or you do the pizza bus tour all over the city.  It was the best 4.5 hours that we spent in New York and who doesn’t love pizza?