Toronto Beach Club (Toronto)

Thank you to Jjjiffy for this image

In high school, when I used to frequent Ashridge’s Bay, no one arrived dressed-to-impress to walk along the boardwalk. That’s all seemed to have changed now that Toronto Beach Club has opened. Walk past the bouncer and you’re transported into a well-healed tropical paradise; where the volleyball courts disappear behind foliage and it seems normal, even essential, to pop some bubbly on the beach.

You can’t go wrong with one of their hot mezze that comes with a grilled pita to start. The bread arrives hot and fresh, puffed to perfection so that it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, dusted with spices. They accompany the smoked eggplant ($16), a decent portion of warm soft legume that would have been amazing if the walnut and olive relish weren’t so sour that even the pomegranate molasses’ sweetness couldn’t balance it out. Maybe it’s me, but I prefer my eggplant savoury.

Their jamon iberico ($36) was sliced into respectable sized slices, the prized pig’s cured slightly sweet essence bursting on the tongue. Not quite a melt-in-your-mouth as what you’ll find in Spain, these were nonetheless tasty and worth a nibble if you appreciate a good charcuterie.

Of the three starters the sea bream crudo ($21) was my favourite. Thick meaty slices of white fish topped with citrus caviar (segments of finger lime) and chili sitting in what looks like a fiery olive oil but is rather delicate. The crudo was perfectly seasoned and wonderfully tasty, a lovely summery dish to enjoy while sitting outdoors.

Toronto Beach Club’s lamb chops ($45 for the half order shown) were cooked perfectly. So, it’s such a shame that they were too salty and requires some tableside knife skills. The seasoning needs to be toned down as the outer chops made me reach for water and since the marinated yogurt was also salted, together they were way too much. It’d be nice if the kitchen also considers the table size when finishing the dish: our four chops were only cut in half for a 3-top, which means you need to portion them yourself when they arrive. It likely helps the meat retain its heat and juices better, but it’s also a bit difficult to cut through the chops on a big platter with all the yoghurt and garnishes. The age-old joke of “how many people does it take to…?”, let me just say it is not one.

Thank you to Parv for this picture

Where they really excelled was the grilled seafood. Their fileted black sea bass ($36) had such a lovely, charbroiled exterior and was still delicately done inside. While it comes with a choice of sauce (we chose the harissa butter), it’s fantastic by itself.

Sides need to be ordered separately and are more than sufficient to share amongst three. The French fries ($12) are a safe choice – nice and crisp, dusted with oregano and salt and comes with truffle aioli for dipping. Yet, what really caught our attention was the grilled broccolini ($19): cooked until crisp and covered with pecorino-ramano, pangrattato, and calabrain chili creating such a lovely almost creamy sauce with a hit of heat to end. Do get yourself some greens.

Just make sure to save room for dessert as their baklava ($12-$15) is a must. I love that it wasn’t soaked in syrup, rather the perfect amount to add sweetness but still leave the puff pastry crispy and not oily feeling. The two pieces are sandwiched between a frozen cream layer. If this isn’t the ultimate ice cream sandwich, I don’t know what is. The strawberry crostata ($12-$15) paired nicely with it – the pastry a cross between a shortbread and cake and topped with ample sweet strawberries and a cold scoop of vanilla ice cream.

We all agreed that dinner at Toronto Beach Club is probably the most ideal time to visit. The temperature is not overly warm and it’s such a lovely experience to transition from evening into night. There was even a live Spanish band performing during our Wednesday visit, the women’s lovely vocals the perfect addition to the meal.

Thank you to Parv for this image

While the after-meal service can get a little backed up, the entertainment and atmosphere kept us happy while we waited for the verbal dessert menu to be presented. Wait aside, even with the pandemic you won’t feel rushed at the restaurant, the two-and-a-half hour seating times is sufficiently long enough to leisurely enjoy the meal. I certainly won’t be visiting Greece or the equator anytime soon. Until then, Toronto Beach Club will give me the tropical fix I need to transport myself out of Toronto. 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1681 Lake Shore Boulevard East


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Torch Pressed Sushi (Toronto)


Is it snobby of me to have a negative view about ghost kitchens? I’m not against their operating model – it’s smart to get rid of the expenses of managing a dining room and walk-in service to focus just on preparing meals.  Yet, I can’t help but feel that this separation from the customer also allows them to hire untrained chefs to churn out subpar food like an assembly line.

In retrospect, it’s an unfounded view. When I went to write this post and looked up the address of Torch Pressed Sushi, I found the image of a bubble tea shop as the front. That’s when I realized, Torch Pressed Sushi, a place our household already ordered from a few times was a ghost kitchen!

Their tasting box is our go-to order holding 8 pieces of aburi sushi, two maki rolls (lobster salad and tuna), a healthy handful of edamame, and seaweed salad. 

What arrives with the aburi can vary but you’ll always find a piece of their spicy salmon that incorporates not only a jalapeno slice but also spicy sauce and black pepper to really create a punch. It’s so loved by my husband that we generally get an extra order of two pieces ($4.45) to add to the meal.

A couple of my other favourite bites is the zesty shrimp that contains a hint of lemon, which nicely balances the rich mayo base of everything else. The marinated saba is a stronger tasting fish and is usually slightly thicker than the rest so it’s a piece where you can really taste the protein and not just the rice and sauces. Overall, Torch’s seafood is sliced thinner than some other places so if you like a meaty bite, it could be a disappointment. Yet, the thinner fish is also reflected in their lower price point and there’s enough of it to add to the taste.

Ingeniously, their hand rolls arrive with the nori separated from the rice by a plastic wrapper, a great way to save them for lunch the next day – something that always happens in our household as we tend to over order. The toro or tuna belly roll is bland and doesn’t include much of the green onion or tobiko that’s described on the menu. So, you’ll want to rely on the limited soy sauce (how do they give such a small package for so much food?) to use on this item. Or if you happen to order an appetizer that has the spicy mayo given, then save some to jazz up the toro. 

The lobster roll is much better as it’s tossed in a tangy mayo that provides some flavour. You can’t really decern the lobster from any other seafood, but of the two maki this is the clear favourite.

We’ve generally ordered from Torch through Uber where they offer a complimentary seafood basket ($5.99) deal. The crispy tempura battered seafood trio consists of squid tentacles (fairly tasty), shrimp (overly battered so you can’t really taste the shrimp), and aji or Japanese mackerel (very good and the best piece of the bunch). A great add-on, if only for the chipotle mayo that can be used on the toro roll.

Maybe minds can be changed. Ghost kitchens aren’t as unfriendly as I used to think. From now on, I’ll think of them as being Casper, the Casper that feeds me sushi.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: Various locations across the city


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


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Paese Ristorante (Toronto)


If you’re looking for a foolproof patio, Paese’s set-up is fully covered from the elements. It’s also surprisingly large housing over a dozen tables with ones able to accommodate six people, a hot commodity in the patio world.

And if you also like hearty Italian cooking, Paese has also got you covered – just fresh ingredients presented simply and without fuss. Their creamy buratta ($23) arrives on top of a bed of vibrant ripe tomatoes that make a great salad. The pool of olive oil is jazzed up a bit of pesto and is really all the flavouring the appetizer needs.

When having meatballs as a starter, I want them nice and large. The size of tennis balls, the menu describes polpette di manzo ($16) as being made from ground beef, but it’s surprisingly delicate for beef. Sitting in a lovely tomato sauce, it pairs so nicely with the complimentary salty oily focaccia.

I had doubts when I first laid eyes on the thick crust on the parmigiana ($22) pizza – did I make the wrong choice? The crust is deceiving as once I bit into it, it is surprisingly light and airy, and nicely toasted on the bottom. This main combines my love for eggplant parmigiana and pizza and Paese doesn’t skimp on eggplant or cheese. While they augment flavours with basil, chili, and oregano; I would have liked more salt to seep into the neutral eggplant and dough as the tomato sauce isn’t applied as liberally, rightfully so, on the pizza versus the traditional dish.

Overall, Paese makes some good sauce – not too acidic and fresh tasting. Interestingly, their bolognese di tacchino ($25) incorporates turkey instead of the traditional beef, pork, and/or pancetta mixture, which makes it taste lighter. So even though it arrives as a huge plate, the men at our table were able to get through the entire dish. This would have been even better if there was some chili sauce thrown into the mix.

What a good dinner. Pizza, patio, and prosecco… who needs anything other than these three Ps during the summer?  

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 3827 Bathurst Street


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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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2021 Comparison of Canada's Meal Kit Companies


It's been a few years since I officially reviewed Canada's meal kit delivery companies and I wanted to see how things have changed as we get into the pandemic. Firstly, three of the four companies I tried in 2016 have since stopped their services, Chefs Plate, the lone wolf from the bunch remains.

Simply put, meal kit delivery companies are made for people who still want to cook their own meals. Each week they deliver the ingredients (except staples) in pre-portioned quantities to make select recipes. You'll need to wash, chop, and cook everything, but if you follow the recipe, you should be left with a decent meal in under an hour. 

While the players in the market have changed, their operating models are still the same:
  • Deliveries occur weekly (with Good Food allowing more just-in-time deliveries) with things arriving in an insulated cardboard box with ice packs to keep ingredients chilled for hours. 
  • Ingredients, except for proteins (and even dairy products for Chefs Plate), arrive in individual labelled bag for quicker preparation; and
  • Recipe cards with pictures and step-by-step instructions are included.


After trying each company for two weeks, with Hello Fresh I did three weeks because of their elongated special deals offer, I've summarized some key points of the experience in the table below. To help, I've classified each company as a “best for”, but only you can decide if that's the case so I recommend you trying all of them before settling down long term. All companies have new customer offers that are fairly generous so why not take advantage of the deal?  



Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food
Delivery (varies depending on area, listed dates are for North York in Toronto) 5 days - Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun 6 days - every day except Saturday

I like their "edit delivery" feature allowing you to change the delivery date each week without having to adjust the overall schedule - so if you normally get deliveries on Friday, you can change it to Tuesday for just one week if you're going away for the long weekend.
7 days and if you pay $9.99 a month or $6.99 per delivery you can also skip the weekly schedule and get next day delivery
Dependability No delivery issues.

Some recipes like the pasta bake do use a lot of pots, pans, and equipment so choose carefully if you don't like dishes
No delivery or equipment issues.


One week (out of the two I used them for) arrived after the 8pm time frame at 9pm. Not the greatest option if you plan on using the day of.

Their "sheet pan" meals also use larger ones than the standard versions most households own so be prepared to figure out how to cook everything with two instead.
Packaging Card board box with ingredients that need to be kept cold placed in a thick tissue paper bag with the ice packs. This does mean most of the produce is not kept cool so this does cause ingredients like herbs to wilt and brown. Card board box with insulation built in and large ice packs underneath where the proteins are kept.  Card board box with insulation built in and large ice packs underneath where the proteins are kept. 
Number of recipes available each week 19 28 18
Environmental considerations Mostly uses paper but the individual ingredients could be improved to reduce waste - for example could provide "pasta sauce" instead of individually packed tomato paste, tomato sauce base, and crushed tomatoes. The best of the three as they try to use recyclable packaging for more ingredients (i.e. giving crushed tomatoes in a tetra pak instead of plastic packages). Heavy use of plastic as the individual recipe bags are made of plastic and the shrink wrapped bags holding ingredients are larger than necessary. The least environmentally friendly of the three.
How it tastes Recipes have improved since 2016 and while they don't sound overly exciting they turn out really delicious. Being more environmentally friendly also means their recipes are less likely to have as many spice packages and additional condiments so some recipes like the grilled barramundi were blander than others. You may want to pick up a couple jars of multi-purpose seasoning to help augment recipes. Great combination of spice blends and extra sauces that really jazzes up a recipe. Even their sides like a potato and green bean salad are amazing.
Price per serving for three meals for two or four people Two - $10
Four - $8.99
Two - $13.16
Four - $11.16
Two - $10.88 - $12.74
Four - $9.89 - $12

The higher price range is for their "easy prep" basket
My opinion of who the company is best for Budget-friendly households that will still receive tasty, albeit not the most gourmet sounding, recipes. Households that need a lot of recipes to choose from as either have picky eaters or vegetarians that want more choice.

or

Those who know they will want deliveries weekly but want flexibility on the delivery date or number of recipes each week - you can also easily switch from 3 meals to 2 meals for one week without affecting subsequent weeks.
People who need flexibility - those who travel for work or have busy social schedules - as you can pay the $9.99 a month and not risk getting a delivery you forgot to cancel and order when you want for next day delivery.
How to order Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food
Offers for Gastro World readers $40 off first orders using link above $60 off first orders using link above $40 off first orders using link above
Detailed post with pictures Chefs Plate Hello Fresh Good Food


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Tapagria Spanish Tapas Restaurant (Thornhill)


Dinner at Tapagria Spanish Tapas Restaurant happened on their patio, where they transformed the parking lot as much as possible by covering a section with AstroTurf, a tarp, and string lights. The simple tables weren’t fancy, but the ones found outside at restaurants in Barcelona aren’t either - try to block out the cars and imagine yourself surrounded by the historical architecture of Spain.

Perhaps think of it as being on La Rambla where it’s crowded, hectic, and there’s tons of kitschy things happening on the iconic street. And like a La Rambla restaurant, which is typically geared towards tourists, you’ll find an extensive menu of Spanish favourites at Tapagria: pintxos (small sandwich bites), tapas (different small dishes), larger sharing plates, and paella (a rice popular rice dish that is made to be shared).

While waiting the 45 minutes for a paella, it’s important to get a few small bites to tide the stomach over. The truffle paste and Manchego pintxos ($12) was a strongly flavoured bite with the truffle dominating against the delicate toast and the buttery cheese binding things together. It’s tasty but given its powerful flavour is best eaten last amongst the sandwiches.

Surprisingly, for something that’s cooked in fat the duck confit pintxos ($14) were a little dry. Tapagria puts a dollop of mango chutney on top - a nice pairing with the fowl – but there wasn’t much of the condiment, so it didn’t really hydrate or flavour much. Perhaps a drizzle along with a condensed red wine reduction would help to give this pintxo some pizazz.

I enjoyed the nice creamy texture of the jamon croquettas ($12) but found the varying pieces of ham mixed in them confusing – one bite included diced pieces, so it was almost like having a croquette with sweeter chorizo, while another had pulled pieces. Truthfully, I was expecting slivers of thinly sliced jamon to be ribboned amongst the silky potatoes. Nonetheless, the dish’s flavours were on point.

Still, the paella de Tapagria ($56) was the star of the show. It’s a creation that can’t be rushed as you want to let it sit until there’s a bit of a crust on the bottom. While it wasn’t covered with a lot of ingredients, there was enough shrimp, squid, clams, chorizo, and chicken to go with the shallow flavourful rice. Some reviews claim it’s too salty, but I found it be seasoned nicely and like the hint of chili that makes an appearance. 

The caramel flan ($12) was very thick, possibly from the Spanish recipe incorporating condensed milk compared to the whole milk that’s used in French crème caramel. It feels like you’re eating a cheesecake (without the cheese flavours) that’s covered in a thinned caramel sauce. While not necessarily terrible, I do prefer the delicate crème caramel consistency and will stick with the churros or Spanish toast next time.

The most important part of the meal is to just take your time with it … arguably this may be difficult with the one and a half hour seating limits, but during our dinner wasn’t actually enforced. It’s the conversation over sips of wine and bites of food that really creates the Spanish experience and that is well within your control.  


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Thornhill, Canada
 Address: 230 Commerce Valley Drive East


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!


Is That It? I Want More!

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Chefs Plate meal kit delivery 2021

Lately, I’ve been trying various meal kit companies to get my dinner cooking mojo back. I’ve used Chefs Plate many times in the past and then I stopped. A recent 40% off promotion they sent me to encourage me to “come back” was enticing and allowed me to try their service again.

Meal Choices and Pricing

While Chefs Plate seemed to be the industry leader when I first did my roundup in 2016, it’s current crop of competitors are more professionally run and have great menu offerings. Chefs Plate presents 19 options each week, but I found it was difficult to find three things I wanted most of the time. To be fair, it’s because I’m a flexitarian and during the week I don’t eat meat. While they offer about four vegetarian menus each week, which is a good percentage from the 19, they never sound overly exciting.

Still, I appreciate Chefs Plate’s simple and affordable pricing where most choices are the standard $10 per serving (assuming 3 meals per week for 2 people) or $60 a box. There are a few “15-minute meal” selections that are an extra $2.99 a serving, which offers pre-chopped ingredients but are still not a 15-minute affair. Out of all the delivery companies, Chefs Plate is one of the most affordable and they don’t skimp on portions as well.

Customer Service and Ordering

The website is very easy to navigate and skipping weeks is a breeze. With recipes posted for the next five weeks, organizing meals for the month is easy and they even make it painless to permanently deactivate a plan with a click of the button instead of having to call in.

For my area in Toronto, they provide delivery five days during the week (every day except Friday and Saturday), which is about one day less than competitors. I guess it makes sense as most people typically don’t order the kits for the weekend as much.

Ease of Cooking

Most recipes require at least two tools and many increase to three like the roasted veggie and ricotta pasta bake. Pasta bake… you would think this would be a quick and easy meal – boil pasta and use pot for sauce, then transfer into a baking dish – yet the recipe calls for four items: a large pot for boiling pasta, a smaller pot for making the sauce, a sheet pan for roasting the vegetables, and then the baking dish for ultimately combining all the items and finishing it in the oven. If you don’t like dishes, skip the pasta bake.

Not everything is so tool intensive. The Turkish beef kofta over herbed tabbouleh was quick and easy where you add a spice mixture to the beef, roll them into ovals, and bake on a sheet pan. Another pan is used for the peppers, which really wasn’t necessary as they could be lined around the kofta, so you can always look for opportunities to cut down on washing. While everything was in the oven, to finish off the recipe I made tabbouleh, a simple process of boiling bulgur wheat and combining with herbs, vegetables, and seasoning.

To keep things cool during the summer months, they’re the only company that removes the dairy products from the paper bags and keeps them with the meat by the ice packs. If the kits are sitting out on the doorstep this is a great option to keep things fresh longer, but does mean that the ingredients aren’t part of the main bundle so when you’re grabbing things out of the fridge to prepare the meal it takes more time to ensure you have everything.

The Taste Test

While the recipe names don’t sound the most exciting, Chefs Plate’s meals turned out delicious.

The Turkish beef kofta was packed with lovely Mediterranean flavours and the meat ball (already seasoned) was enhanced further with a garlic mayo. Even the tabbouleh gets a facelift above the traditional parsley mixture by also incorporating feta and roasted peppers, creating a salad that you could even eat on its own.

It’s surprisingly easy to make the curried turkey & biriyani-style rice, combining everything for such an amazing depth of flavour. Already there’s the spiced chicken and rice, but add stir fried aromatics, a curry sauce, and herbed raita and the rice bowl was fantastic.

Even their pasta dishes aren’t boring. The roasted veggie & ricotta pasta bake doesn’t sound overly stimulating but once the mushroom, sweet peppers, and plethora of cheese get mixed together it became a dish that had us going back for seconds. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Mexican street corn linguine, which combines pasta, fresh corn kernels and cheese in a poblano pepper sauce that is absolutely delicious. These were a couple of the vegetarian dishes that were a huge hit.

Environmental Factors

It was nice to see that the bag used for the main package was still made from paper, but individual ingredients still create a lot of waste. I’d like to see them start to move towards more fulsome pasta sauces – instead of sending tomato paste, tomato sauce base, and crushed tomatoes – so that things arrive in one package instead of three to cut down on waste.

What I liked most was their ice packs: it’s simply water and not that weird gel that is gross and difficult to dispose. Why companies use the weird gel is beyond me, the water ice packs work just fine.

Conclusion

There’s a reason Chefs Plate has been able to survive for so long when the other meal kit companies I reviewed in 2016 have since been shuttered. They’re not flashy with pictures and don’t have elaborate sounding dishes, but when you do settle on three items the recipes are surprisingly delicious.

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Chefs Plate is offering Gastro World readers $40 to go towards their first order for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 


How To Find Them


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Rudy (Toronto) for delivery

Note: Prices in post are based on regular menu prices and may be higher when using delivery services

Sometimes life gets in the way of cooking. Sometimes life even gets in the way of dining out… or in our restricted dining age, Mother Nature puts a stop to the affair. It’s times like these that I still turn to delivery. After doing it for over a year, quickly ordering something from an app has become second nature. Don’t feel like cooking? Break out the app.

In all fairness, these lazy days are also when I get to experience different “fast food” places. In the past, McDonald’s was an occasional treat and Maker’s Pizza would generally fill in the rest. But, with all the lazy days I’ve experienced, we broke tradition and started ordering from other places instead. That’s when my husband read out great smash burgers in Toronto and realized there’s a Rudy in North York.

The Rudy burger ($6.99), with it’s smashed beef patty, is what drew him in. Quite frankly, I’m not sure why people like these burgers; to me, it tastes like having a burger patty in jerky format as all the juices are squeezed out and you’re left with crispy edges. It’s topped with tomato, lettuce, cheese, and their special sauce, but I still found it lacking in moisture. My husband tells me it’s supposed to be like this and it’s that caramelized crust that breaks through the soft bun that people like. I’d much rather get that crunch from raw onions or dill pickles any day.  

I’ll just stick with their chicken burger, the Valentino ($8.49), where the chicken patty is thick and juicy, but still arrives with a crispy lightly battered crust. The protein is amazing. Where there’s room for improvement is the bun – it’s way too soft becoming sticky and mushy and barely holds together.

At least they provide the sauces on the side or else that bun would have no hope. The Valentino sauce is sort of like a watery ranch and while the consistency is great for drizzling, it could be saltier. Once you really soak the patty with their light hot sauce and everything mixes with the coleslaw it does get tastier. Overall, a decent chicken sandwich.

Their fries ($4.19) are a little pricy but a fair size and can be shared amongst two. It just needs to be double fried, so it doesn’t arrive so soggy. And unlike the golden arche’s fries, these barely have a lick of salt. You’ll want to save some of the chicken burger sauce to dip these into.

I’ve certainly had my fill of chicken sandwiches and fries during the pandemic. Rudy hardly leads the pack, yet it wasn’t a disappointing experience either. Maybe I need to go beyond the chicken and broaden my palette by trying more smashed burgers – is it me, or do they seem to be all the rage lately? It’s certainly a possibility, because with life right now, I’m just so tired of cooking. Anyone feeling the same?


Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: Various locations
 Delivery: Uber, Doordash, Skip the Dishes
Referral Discount Codes
 Support the blog by using my referral code
 UberEats: use eats-ju6ta to get $5 off a $15 order 
 SkipTheDishes: click link to get $5 off a $15 order
 DoorDash: click link to get $20 off

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____________________________
Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never order again
  • 6 - decent for delivery and takeout, but there's better
  • 7 - this is good, for delivery and takeout
  • 8 - great for delivery and takeout, it's almost like you're in a restaurant
  • 9 -  wow, it's like I'm eating at a restaurant
  • 10 - I'd happily order this for delivery or takeout instead of dining in any day!


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Hello Fresh meal kit delivery 2021

Meal Choices and Pricing

With 28 recipes available each week, Hello Fresh offers the most choice and was a breeze to find three meals to order. They also have extras - dessert and sides (veggie plate, garlic bread) – you can add on to really round out the meals and even extend a two-person kit to feed a family of three.

You’ll pay more for these options, $13.15 per portion (assuming three meals for two people) or $79 a week, which was the priciest out of all the companies I tried. This is also just the base price, as like their competitors, they also charge more for quicker 20-minute options (+ $2.99 a serving), special occasion recipes (think Father’s Day), or multi-protein meals (+$9.99 a serving).

Customer Service and Ordering

You can pick meals and skip deliveries up to five weeks in advance. Their skipping option was more difficult to find as you need to go into week and click the “edit delivery” button to navigate to the skip options. Then, there’s also a question asking customers why they’re skipping the week, which I find to be an annoying and unnecessary feature.

What is useful about the “edit delivery” area is that you can change the delivery date for each week individually (i.e., some weeks you can have it come on Sunday while others on Thursday) and even the plan option (i.e., three meals versus four meals) without having to change the entire subscription. From a customization standpoint, Hello Fresh is a leader with this feature and they deliver six days of the week in Toronto (everyday but Friday) so creates flexibility.

Ease of Cooking

As we entered spring, Hello Fresh started dedicating recipes for the BBQ, which is a great idea as I really would rather not turn on the oven during the warm weather. The cheesy brie and beef burger was delicious, a honking thick beef patty and more than enough brie to create a gooey decedent bite. I was just a little miffed about the recipe’s suggestion to add an egg to the beef mixture for a firmer patty – if anything it made it waterier and didn’t bind together as well, causing the patty to break apart easier.  

Even the potatoes get finished on the grill in a foil-pouch. Just put them on 10-minutes earlier than what the recipe calls for as we found them still undercooked after the burger was ready so ended up eating them separately.

Compared to other companies, Hello Fresh also didn’t require as many tools – most recipes only call for two pots and/or pans.  A recipe like the barramundi and brown butter lemon sauce with roasted potatoes and sugar snap peas could have easily become a multi-tool recipe with competitors. With Hello Fresh, there was just a sheet pan to roast the potatoes and everything else was prepared in a frying pan (with recipe actually saying to use the same one) making clean up easier.

The Taste Test

The recipes did have fewer flavouring components compared to others as most do not come up spice mixtures, instead relying on the ingredients themselves and salt and pepper. So, something like the barramundi I found a little bland.

Nonetheless, for dishes that use flavourful ingredients, I didn’t miss the spice kits. The gnocchi Bolognese had a lovely zest tomato sauce and when combined with the consommé, vegetables, and parmesan was a tasty dish.

While I would have like the cheesy chicken enchiladas to be saucier, they were still great and easy to prepare frying everything in a pan, wrapping the ingredients into a tortilla and baking with cheese and sauce on top. For a dish like this, Hello Fresh did include the necessary spices to make the meal taste like Tex Mex.

There were a lot of good vegetarian recipes as well. The Philly style portobello hoagies smartly calls for chefs to remove the gills from the portobello, so you’re left with a less watery mushroom that once mixed with peppers, onions, cheese, and spicy mayo makes you realize you don’t need the beef. And Hello Fresh uses Beyond Meat as an ingredient for some of their vegetarian recipes if you’d rather go for a fake protein.

Environmental Factors

I did like that Hello Fresh uses little packaging compared to others, even if it can sometimes create a slight detriment to taste. It’s a simple solution: pick up a couple of multi-purpose seasonings and use those to supplement the recipes that need a flavour boost. Creating less waste and helping the environment is worth it.

Conclusion

For those who do not mind paying a bit more, Hello Fresh was a great experience. Overall, I had a lot of success with their recipes and the amount of choice and flexibility with deliveries is helpful for those who like to plan. And if you’re going to use delivery services regularly, finding one that uses less packaging is also a great touch.

If the above has intrigued you, sign up and try a week for yourself. Hello Fresh is offering Gastro World readers $60 to go towards their first orders for new customers. Just click on this special referral link to go to their website.

Also check out the larger post for my comparison of other meal kit delivery companies. 



How To Find Them
 Website: Hellofresh.ca


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