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When we first encountered Beetnik Foods back in December of last year, we said, "Leave these in the freezer case for our descendants to find and wonder why we would ever make meals like this."
At the time we had no intention of tasting anything they made ever again. Yet as we've said before, sometimes, by sheer luck of the draw, we start out tasting the absolute worst thing a company has to offer, only to find that their other meals are much better.
How we wish we had stuck to our guns.
At this tasting we started with their Chicken Creole. This is labeled "medium hot," so we'd hoped for something with some real kick - after all, this company is based in Austin, Texas, and if anybody knows spicy and flavorful that isn't New Orleans, it would be somewhere in Texas. Right?
Our first indication that things weren't going to go well was when we removed the meal from the microwave after its initial 2 1/2 minutes to stir it. There was an awful lot of water, making it look more like it would end up a thick soup rather than a rice dish with sauce. Another minute in the microwave didn't improve the texture appreciably, either. The white rice is overcooked to a degree we had a hard time remembering if we'd ever witnessed before. The scent of the dish is a 70:30 mix of green bell pepper and oregano - but that's OK if you don't like green bell pepper, because this dish tastes of nothing but oregano. Let me repeat that to make it clear: OREGANO. This tastes like somebody knocked the jar of oregano over into the meal. Add to this the dry, stringy texture of the tiny bits of chicken and the overly-overcooked rice and what you really have is oregano-flavored mush.
At this point the tasting panel was certain that we had exhausted Beetnik's bad meals. They couldn't all be this bad. Surely not.
The next meal, a Chicken Cacciatore, came over gluten-free pasta. The trouble with many gluten-free pastas is that they are often made with rice flours, which are tricky to cook at the best of times: any overcooking or abuse of any kind causes them to shatter into pieces. Beetnik's pasta was no exception. (Indeed, as we have now learned to expect from this company, their meal hit new lows.) After the initial 2 1/2 minutes in the microwave, we pulled back the plastic to see that the rigatoni were already starting to fracture. Gently stirring the dish, as instructed prior to cooking the meal for another minute, did nothing to help the situation.
Stirring the dish again after cooking was completed left us with this:
As my wife said: "This, my friends, is not pasta."
There are larger chunks of chicken in this dish that are so dry and stringy that they actually strip moisture from your mouth. The flavor and texture is that of poor-quality polenta with a tablespoon of tomato paste in it, dotted with the occasional black olive piece.
The Sesame Ginger Chicken was the final straw. Once again, the rice starts out overcooked, and an excess of liquid makes the whole dish almost a soup. "It looks and smells like something I barfed up once back in high school," said one panelist. Yes, the whole dish smells faintly of ginger and that awful, rancid sweetness that Chinese food gets when mixed with fraternity-party jungle juice. The broccoli is rubbery, the diced carrots are mushy (and that takes talent), and the tiny bits of chicken are, as we have learned to expect, dry, dry, dry. This is the sort of food served by strip mall health food stores - the sort of thing that gives eating healthy a bad name. Stay far, far away from Beetnik Foods. I had to promise our panelists never to bring in Beetnik Foods again or they would refuse to show up.
Reviewed: March 25, 2016