It’s press-related week – dedicated to a couple of press events or products that I’ve received for review, etc… I know how you all love reading about these 🙂
Months ago now, I was invited to a special dinner for food bloggers that would include a tour of the Fresh Direct facilities – something I’m not sure they’ve done ever in the past. I have to say, I was really excited to tour the facilities, but we were not allowed to take photographs – understandably so, since they are, to my knowledge, the only supermarket in our area that is online-only (there are a number of supermarkets that now offer online ordering, but they also have physical stores, which changes things drastically). Extremely long-time readers may remember when I lived in Manhattan, how I ordered from Fresh Direct constantly and raved about them constantly… well, unfortunately, when I moved back into Queens, delivery times were awful and the trucks take up the whole street, causing traffic jams… and the prices weren’t that awesome compared to what I could get locally. I was sad to have to let go of them, but I did what I had to. I still miss them sometimes – produce ordered through Fresh Direct often seemed like it’d been hand picked for a photo shoot, something I adored, even though I like grocery shopping (where most women shop for clothes or shoes as retail therapy, I calm down in supermarkets).
In any case, I was interested in seeing what they had to say for themselves. Sitting down with the CEO to discuss these things was really amazing – it reminded me that though some people may deride that I’m “just” a food blogger, the fact is, collectively, we food bloggers have a voice and are shaping the future of everything. This was driven home when I told a friend about this event, and he excitedly asked me to ask someone why Fresh Direct refuses to stock Hillshire Farms kielbasa, despite his repeated requests. I was also enlisted to ask about delivery times in Queens. Both questions were answered very satisfactorily (though the former was disappointing to my friend).
Like me, my name is the exception to the rules, so a lot of people spell it wrong. I assure you, though the rule clearly states “i before e, except after c, or when sounding like a, as in neighbor or weigh” feisty is spelled e-i. 😉 No hating, though, I always find it amusing and cute!
Before we could go on the tour of the facilities, they decided to feed us. By the way – the emails leading up the event stressed many, many times that we were to dress warmly because the facilities are very cold, and to wear non-slip shoes because sometimes the floors are wet, which means they are very, very slippery. I won’t name names, but I’m sure the ones who were there all know who the silly person is who wore not only heels, but peep toes… and I think a sleeveless top, requiring a second coat be procured for her somewhere… silly woman!
Our first course was grilled local asparagus, brioche torrija (hiding up top), black grapes, prosciutto and spiced yogurt dressing. Lovely- the asparagus very flavorful, and going well with the spiced yogurt. Who doesn’t like prosciutto? And the piece of bread was a nice textural contrast.
Our next course was really interesting as it was presented to us. Heritage chicken, ramp and parsley risotto, mushroom fricassee (in the cup, top right of the photo), and pecorino ginepro, a type of pecorino that is washed with balsamic and juniper berry [juice].
The risotto was very creamy but each grain of rice retained its texture. Breaking the soft egg yolk into the risotto brought a new level of creaminess to it… mmm. But even better…?
mixing in the what-I-think was ramp pesto, extra creamy… salty… really worked with the risotto. I was trying to scrape out every last bit here, it was so good.
The mushrooms were good too, but I was blown away by the ramp pesto. Which is probably why I wound up making ramp pesto a short while later. So good. So easy.
Dessert time, before we toured the facility. That cup of coffee came in handy (though we were not allowed to bring anything in – and we had to wear lab coats, hairnets, and Fresh Direct hats; they take food safety seriously and they should! no complaints about that).
My plate with a little bit of everything; that key lime tart was the first time I’d had key lime tart and omg it was so good, I immediately tried to get it elsewhere to see if I still liked it. I like Fresh Direct’s more. Next time I order from Fresh Direct, I’m going to order a whole one and eat it all myself. 🙂
During the tour, we were led through the cheese and cured meats section, and being food bloggers, we naturally were all drooling. The loveliest cheese lady whose name I want to say was Lisa offered to bring us up some to “try” when we returned from the tour, and my whisper of “jamon serrano” was not unheeded. She brought up prosciutto di parma, smoked salmon and jamon serrano, a bunch of cheeses and lots of knives… but even better, because there was a timing issue, we got to take home a lot of this. Mmm!
Some of us opted to stuff our faces while we were there, of course… awesome shot of Jessica from Food Mayhem. 😉
One really nice touch was a raffle they held for a trip out to the farms from which they source their local ingredients; this is my favorite type of story. We all dropped our name tags into the bowl, and it was shaken, tossed, then held above everyone’s heads as one of the guys stuck his hand in and picked from it – no one could see what he was picking. I was standing a bit away, and right before he took one out, I blurted out “Oh, it’s ME! I win!” and everyone laughed. But then he opened up his choice and looked at me really funny, and said, “Um, it is you…” 🙂 I haven’t had time to actually go on the trip yet (school has been kicking my butt – exams and quizzes every week!) – but I am really looking forward to it!!!
(This is the second time such a thing has occurred, where a name is about to be picked out of a pile, and I suddenly say “I win!” and… I win. I don’t always say it, because I don’t always think it, but when I have,… I’ve won. Awesome, right?)
Fresh Direct didn’t let any of us go home empty-handed, of course. We received giant reusable grocery bags – love the shape and size, slightly different from the other 100 bags I have amassed, and very durable (I’ve been using it to pick up my CSA) – filled to the brim with lots of goodies. Among them: this banana bread, which was pretty tasty but different from most banana bread I’ve had; kind of cake-like instead of, well, bread like. Tasty topped with St. Andres Triple Creme Brie (from my own collection) and some of the smoked salmon we’d taken home. Mmm, sounds weird, but it was good!
(This is actually part of why it’s taken me so long to post – I was working my way through the goodies for a little while.)
Also a couple of prepared meals from their 4-minute meal line.
Tabla’s chicken tikka masala with pea pilaf.
I’ll be completely honest, I don’t recall eating much tikka masala in my life – I think I ordered it once and for some reason, didn’t like it. So I am no expert on what it’s supposed to taste like and whether this is good tikka masala or not.
I can tell you that I was skeptical on how the rice would turn out, and that I worried for naught, because it was properly cooked and very flavorful.
I can also tell you that the chicken was plentiful, tender, and actually pretty tasty.
And that I decided I should try tikka masala in a restaurant too, because I quite liked the creamy sauce over rice. I’m big on creamy curries/sauces when it comes to Indian food, so it surprises me that I haven’t had this more often in the past.
More banana bread and one of the super ripe and super sweet strawberries that had been included in the goodie bag. I ate that banana bread for breakfast for two weeks straight I think 🙂
Also included in there was beef bourguignon with egg noodles, a 4 minute meal by Terrance Brennan.
A quick spin in the nuker…
Doesn’t look too awesome does it? You’d think the meat was a bit tough and overcooked?
It’s so dark! Well, to be honest, some of the beef was super tender, some wasn’t. But the noodles absorbed all of the ‘gravy’ and were absolutely delicious… especially the little pearl onions, sweet little delights. So good. I wanted to make some myself immediately… but I didn’t 😛
I forget what the real name for this was, but the guy leading our tour handed out a bunch and said it was ugly fruit. Okay.
I decided to try to be ‘fancy’ pants ;P
Dude, wrapping prosciutto around each segment of ugly fruit was amazing.
Sweet, salty, delicious.
And then… corn chowder.
Those aren’t burnt bits, this is roasted corn chowder.
Sweet spoonfuls of roasted corn, creamy goodness, lots of potatoes and veggies. This was pretty damn good – I liked it, anyway!
So my final thoughts: the goodies they gave us were outstanding, and not because they were free, but because they all tasted pretty good. Would I pay on average $9.99 for the prepared meals? Probably not, but I’m not the target market for those items. If I were in the target market, then yes, I would, because those are way tastier than any sort of frozen meal I could buy, and because takeout requires looking for the menu or a bit of advance planning to get to eat exactly when I want. Considering that, were I to stock my fridge with these – let’s say once a week, because I work late hours and come home at odd hours – I could eat within 5 minutes of walking in the door (I’ll give myself an extra minute to decide which one I want to eat, and to take off my shoes)… well, in that demographic, it’s well worth it. Definitely high quality ingredients and a lot of prep/work goes into making each one. I’m just not the right market for it.
However, they have tons of other stuff that is for my demographic, and I gladly order from them when possible or necessary!
Also, returning to my posts about Fresh Direct years ago, here’s one more Fresh Direct coupon code:
Use this code for 20% off the local department.
Terms and conditions:
* Limited time offer. Expires August 31, 2010. May not be combined with any other offer. All standard terms and conditions apply. Limit one use per customer/account. Residential orders only. Void where prohibited. Offer is non-transferable.
Enjoy and HAPPY EATING!!!