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Blue Apron

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"Oh... I thought we were going to eat your chicken?" - was it surprise or disappointment in my wife's voice? Anyway, the bridges were burning brightly in the background as the fish was about to go into the pan. My first Blue Apron dinned was on.

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From the start, I had my doubts about Blue Apron. For me, cooking is really more of an art than a craft. Yes, one is not going to create a new Mona Lisa every weeknight, but so what? It's the process that counts. But, when a good friend and fellow foodie offered me a free week of Blue Apron supplies to try the service, I agreed.

The Blue Apron concept is more like a coloring book - as long as you stay within the lines, the end result is pretty much guaranteed to be OK. Every week (unless you decide to skip a week) a box will come to your door, with pre-measured fresh (not frozen) ingredients and detailed step-by-step instructions for every dish that you will cook. The recipe pages are very nice, full color and printed on paper heavy enough to be handled with wet hands.

The packaging, with thermal foam and cold packs, does a decent job of holding the contents fresh. Blue Apron uses 1-day Fedex delivery, so there are no food safety issues here. Still, even though the ice packs are stored below the proteins (fish, meat and ground chicken in my case) the greens on top did not arrive in pristine condition. The spinach, for one, looked a bit ... er... mature.

My package contained ingredients and recipes for three dishes: blackened drum with grits, hanger steak with creamed spinach and kung pao chicken tacos (fusion'R'us?)

I decided to start with the blackened drum. Following the instructions step by step, it took me just over 30 minutes to have the fish, the grits and the salad ready, probably about 15 minutes less than it would have taken me to prepare a similar dish from scratch. The portions looked deceptively small - but at the end we definitely were not hungry. But neither were we happy - the meal was missing something... not sure how to describe it - a soul? Perhaps it was my fault, I intentionally and literally operated as a kitchen robot.

The Blue Apron service is probably near ideal for that legendary "young urban professional" demographics - foolproof OK dinners with (almost) no shopping required. One still needs to supply your own oil, salt and pepper, and having additional greens for a salad would not hurt. But this is a convenient and happy alternative to takeout dinners - and a much better way to impress one's date. I wonder how long will it be before a sitcom episode where a promiscuous main character gets served the same drum with grits at three different romantic evenings.

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