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The offerings from Artisan Bistro have been somewhat hit or miss: their Cheddar Beef Bake and Turkey Cheddar Bake were terrible, while their Sesame Ginger Wild Salmon and Alaskan Salmon Cake are two of the best frozen fish meals we've ever had out of the freezer case. Their ingredients are organic wherever possible and their meats often free range (chicken) or grass-fed (beef). Recently they entered the "serves two" market, so we snapped up a couple to taste.
We started our tasting with their Roasted Poblano Chicken. Artisan Bistro has approached the problem of cooking two servings of a complete meal in a thoughtful way: the protein and starch portion of the meal is packaged in one tray, while the vegetables are packaged in a second tray. There are stovetop instructions, but as is usual for us we chose to use the microwave instructions, which call for cooking each tray separately: the protein for 4 minutes, and the vegetables for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes. Then each tray must be divided between two dishes to serve.
This wouldn't seem so time-consuming if the food weren't so bad. On the positive side, the chicken chunks are flavorful and juicy. The brown rice and black beans, however, are overcooked and gummy, the poblano sauce is as green in color as it should be but has no actual flavor of poblanos, and the vegetables as a whole were so vinegary that one taster said it was "like eating a pile of pickles." Worse yet, the green beans in the vegetables had the gray-green color and flavor of canned green beans. The verdict: not as good as a mediocre Mexican restaurant. The vegetables alone are bad enough for us to tell you to leave this on the shelf: we won't even bother with the numbers.
After that disappointment, we turned to the Kale Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Chicken. This comes "over a bed of golden quinoa blended with brown rice and lentils," so we had somewhat higher expectations: quinoa has much more body and flavor than brown rice, so we expected it to stand up to microwaving much better than the brown rice and black beans in the Poblano Chicken.
Alas, Artisan Bistro manages to turn what should be a hearty side dish full of flavor and texture into something that was initially mistaken by at least one taster as "massively overcooked" brown rice alone. Sun-dried tomato pesto might have been the saving of this dish, but there's hardly enough of it to get the flavor. Finally, although the vegetables are far better than those served with the Poblano Chicken, the asparagus and yellow squash here are undersalted and over-herbed; they taste like the person in charge of adding the thyme to the vegetables had an incident with the lid falling off of the herb jar as they added the dried herbs to the dish. They're nearly inedible.
A very disappointing offering from Artisan Bistro. Leave both of these on the shelf and reach for two of their fish meals instead.
Reviewed: May 2, 2014