By Emily Paster
First came grocery delivery services like Peapod and in Chicago Artizone.com. Now the latest thing seems to be meal delivery services. No, I am not talking about a diet plan with frozen meals delivered to your door. Rather, I am talking about services that deliver the ingredients — fully prepped of course — and recipes necessary for busy professionals and parents to cook dinner at home without ever having to plan a menu or set food inside a grocery store. The latest such company to hit Chicago, and sponsor of today's post, is Relished.
Earlier this year, I wrote about Meez Meals, an Evanston-based company that delivers recipes and ingredients for up to five vegetarian meals per week. In that post, I discussed how I liked the concept of companies that deliver ingredients and recipes — not prepared meals — because I think it can help people gain confidence in the kitchen and gives people the satisfaction of having prepared a meal themselves. Since that time, I have been approached by other companies that provide a similar service, including Plated, a New York company that has recently expanded into Chicago. I had resisted writing about any other meal delivery services, however, until I heard from Pat at Relished.
When Pat contacted me about Relished, he said all the things I like to hear. In fact, he said one word in particular that I especially like to hear: local. Pat started Relished with a Chicago chef, Michael Wallach, and they source their ingredients locally. Chef Wally, as he is known, is as passionate about the Chicago food scene as I am. He loves using local suppliers and finding the freshest, most seasonal ingredients in the city. Chef Wally also is excited about spreading the knowledge he has built up over years in the food business. He loves seeing people that thought they could not cook amaze themselves by putting together a restaurant-quality meal. The learning experience is a huge part of Relished's service – following Chef Wally's recipes is like taking a class with a professional chef. Even if you are already comfortable in the kitchen, you'll start to learn how to cook dishes and foods that you may not have tried before.
Even though I pride myself on being an experienced cook, I definitely learned a thing or two when I tried Relished's meal delivery service for a week. One of the three meals that I received was Rainbow Trout with Heirloom Carrot and Couscous. I have very little experience cooking fish because my husband does not like it. I had certainly never made rainbow trout. So I was grateful for the detailed recipe card with color photos that came with the ingredients. I did put my own spin on the presentation: the recipe calls for fanning the whole carrots over the couscous and I opted to slice them, which I thought looked beautiful. But that's the freedom you have when you prepare the meal yourself! (If you are wondering who ate the trout dish considering that my husband does not like fish, the answer is that it was me and Zuzu and we both loved it.)
All in all, we sampled three Relished meals: the trout, a main-course steak salad with blue cheese dressing and a roasted lemon garlic chicken with asparagus and sun-dried tomato orzo. All of the meals were healthy, flavorful and easy to prepare. I appreciated the variety of the ingredients and the clarity of the instructions. As someone who writes a lot of recipes, I know good recipe writing when I see it. I think that both novice and experienced home cooks would benefit a lot from following Chef Wally's instructions on food preparation and on plating the finished dish.
Right now, Relished is just getting off the ground. At the moment, they offer a three-meal-a-week subscription and you can order two, four or six servings per meal. They may alter that structure as the business grows. Your delivery includes all the ingredients necessary for your meals and detailed instructions. The cost for the meals works out to around $10 per serving which is extremely reasonable especially compared to take-out or eating in a restaurant. Plus, it is so much better for you to cook meals at home. If you have dietary restrictions, you can still avail yourself of Relished's service. For example, they can substitute gluten-free pasta for regular pasta in any of the meals. Just let Pat know your issue and he will work with you.
I think that Relished is a great addition to the Chicago home-delivery scene and I hope that many of the people who now rely on take-out or convenience foods will consider using Relished as a way to start preparing their own meals in a way that is easy and convenient.
Full disclosure time: I received three two-serving meals from Relished for purposes of this review and am being compensated for helping to spread the word about Relished's service. As always, all opinions expressed herein are entirely my own.