Sometimes you just can't make it into the kitchen to cook. Dr. Gourmet has reviewed over 800 common convenience foods, ingredients, and restaurant selections so that you know what's worth eating - and what's not. View the Index of all Dr. Gourmet's Food Reviews
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After more than ten years of doing weekly food reviews, you can bet that we're interested when we discover a new company in the realm of frozen meals. One of our tasters ran across today's dishes in their local Rouse's and brought them in for our review.
"So Right" is the name of the company, and their packaging proclaims, "Delicious recipes that are so right, made with ingredients that are so right, all for a value that is so right. Like you'd make at home... if you had the time."
That's setting the bar high, to be sure. On the plus side, the numbers look pretty good: according to our panelist, the first two products they picked up off the shelf were within our usual parameters. With no further ado....
The Caribbean Inspired Chicken (270 calories, 380 mg sodium, 3g fiber) has an alluring lime and cilantro scent just out of the microwave, with fluffy, impressively not overcooked white rice dotted with black beans and corn. There are only half a dozen or so chunks of chicken about a half inch square, but so little meat is not unexpected given the under $2 price, and there's not a bit of gristle in the lot.
The black beans are firm and the corn adds crunch, and there's plenty of cayenne-based zing on the tongue. The only problem here is the sauce. We're always a bit concerned when orange juice appears in the ingredients list, as its sweetness seems to become the dominant note of almost any dish it's included in: "it just takes over," summarized one panelist. The good news is that the orange juice doesn't make the dish too sticky sweet, but the bad news is that it's still the dominant note of the dish: not even the sweetness of the corn or the earthiness of the black beans can compete with what is basically "a toned-down but spicy orange juice sauce." The panel had a hard time deciding whether to vote this one up or down: the ingredients are of good quality and are fairly well executed, but in terms of flavor "it's pretty one note," they said.
The Chorizo with Pasta & Fire Roasted Tomatoes (280 calories, 570 mg sodium, 8g fiber) fared about the same: on the one hand, the pasta isn't overcooked (although it's not al dente either) and there are plenty of 1/2-to-3/4-inch chunks of chorizo. There are fairly big chunks of roasted tomato and slices of onion to give the dish texture. Yet the sauce is thin - "more like the juice of the roasted tomatoes" than a pasta sauce (according to the panel) - and like the Caribbean Inspired Chicken, the dish tends to be one note: "all you can really taste is the spice in the chorizo. And the salt."
The panel struggled with how to rate this one as well. If these cost the same as other products, we likely wouldn't hesitate to give them a thumbs down because you could spend the same amount and get something far more interesting in terms of flavor. (And as the panel pointed out, some people might like these perfectly well.) That said, we do these reviews so that if people are going to eat frozen meals, they can choose the best ones in terms of flavor. From that standpoint we have to give these a thumbs down. We will, however, look for more varieties from this company.