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"We eat bad food so you don't have to."
That's been our motto now in reviewing convenience foods for the last 10 years or so and during that time we have tested almost 1,000 products. In discussing this lately we have found that there is no single brand that you can consistently rely on as being good. evol, one of our favorites when the line was introduced, is now offering some really terrible meals. The same is true of Amy's. They offer some solid and often quite delicious products, but others are simply inedible.
We had hopes for the fresh home delivery segment, but the same issue applies. Even the companies with good products don't offer consistently good products. We have certainly found that ordering fresh ingredients is not the solution. This week we continue that review having ordered from a company called Hungryroot. The main difference with this company is that you can get the weekly shipment (they call them bundles) or you can order each product individually. We took advantage of a special offer from gilt.com and ordered the Hungryroot Variety Pack (we want to save money too, especially when a lot of the food we purchase gets tossed out because it is so bad).
First up was the Root Risotto with Thyme Apple Butter. On their website it says, "The indulgence of your favorite creamy Italian rice dish, but with a feel good finish." I generally feel good after I eat risotto, so I am not sure what this means. It appears that to the folks at Hungry Root it means that rice is bad, because there is no rice, only vegetables, including carrots, celery, rutabaga and sweet potato. That goes in a pan with a teaspoon of olive oil, a minute of sautéing with a half cup of water and then the "butter." The result is anything but risotto but it is cooked vegetables with a sauce.
One of the basics of learning to cook is that when you are cutting up vegetables for cooking they are cut in uniform sizes so they cook evenly. This dish has everything from tiny root vegetables to 1/4 inch cuts (not a dice as they should be).
It's pretty clear that they cut this up in a machine and the result is the tiny bits are grainy. This combines with not a bad sauce, but not a really good sauce either, that is over seasoned with dried thyme and you have a grainy bitter mess. This vegetable side dish comes in at 275 calories and 326 milligrams of sodium (unless you believe their Web site that reports 407 milligrams of sodium).
Grainy risotto is bad risotto.
The "risotto" should have been a clue that the Cauliflower Couscous would not be couscous. There's a similar problem with the "finely chopped cauliflower" not being well prepared.
The preparation is similar, with a teaspoon of olive oil and then sautéing the vegetables, but for the "couscous" you don't add water - just the seasonings that includes raisins, curry, and almonds. This dish feels like a prototype, not a finished dish. It doesn't come with any added salt and you are expected to add your own. We added about 1/16 teaspoon and everything lacked about this.
There was no balance to the flavor: not salty enough, not sweet enough, not curried enough, a harsh turmeric flavor... just nothing. This is the kind of dish that if I were developing, my wife would say "no way" and I would go back to the drawing board. A good concept, but very poor execution.
This gets worse...
The instructions for the Carrot Noodles with Tangy Sriracha Peanut are almost the same as the Root Risotto – sauté the carrots in olive oil, add water and sauce, serve. The only exception is that at the end you also add some pickled daikon.
What you get after about 5 minutes of work is appallingly bad. This tastes of nothing except old carrots. Not much peanut flavor and definitely no sriracha. We even tried tasting the sauce by itself and the only flavor that comes through is the pickled daikon. In the end this tastes something like a college student might make with carrots, some peanut butter, and hot sauce because that is all that is left in the refrigerator. The worst part is that they claim that it contains only 290 calories, yet this can't possibly include the 120 calories of olive oil that you are asked to add for the single serving.
It gets even worse...
The Sweet Potato Noodles with Creamy Cashew Alfredo is prepared pretty much the same way with using "Alfredo sauce" (that tastes more like vanilla pudding) in place of the peanut sauce and a bizarre curried carrot mixture instead of pickled daikon. This can only be described as a crime. These folks at Hungryroot are, quite simply, guilty of murdering innocent ingredients. The finished product is just awful. It doesn't taste of anything except stringy sweet potato pie with a harsh flavor of too much curry powder. How anyone can pair an Alfredo sauce with curried carrots is beyond me. These just don't go together.
There are other bad things here. One is that they sent some chicken with no real reason or instruction. Not bad at only 110 calories in the package of pre-cooked meat, but a whopping 520 milligrams of sodium.
More bad stuff...
One of the items sent was a small container labelled Coconut Carrot Cake Bites. The Tupperware style dish contains eight nuggets the size of a large cherry tomato. They are dense, with a chewy texture and a good flavor of coconut with a sweet cinnamon taste. The texture ends up being nothing like a carrot cake, which I suppose you might expect given the chilled product. The chewy texture comes from a lot of shredded coconut. The dessert also comes with a vanilla coconut frosting that is dense and creamy with a bit too strong flavor of vanilla extract. All of this is not offensive, it's just not very special.
The numbers aren't all that great. For two cake bites with frosting it will cost you 69 calories. But you aren't going to eat just two. In truth, the whole dish of eight is what folks will consume bringing it in just shy of 280 calories. The redeeming factor is that would also be 16 grams of fiber (each "serving" has 4 grams).
I will say that we were dubious about the Almond Chickpea Cookie Dough right from the outset. The directions call for baking 2 tablespoons for each cookie in a 350° oven for 15 to 20 minutes. Each cookie is 60 calories with, oddly, zero fiber.
This is just plain awful. There is just nothing good about this. The flavor is not offensive but not really very cookie-like. The tiny little cookies are crisp outside and no matter how long they were cooked never got cooked on the inside. The texture, like most Hungryroot products, was nothing but grainy.
Lastly, the amount of packaging is some of the worst that we have seen. Inside an 18 inch styrofoam cube there is an amazing amount of paper and plastic to contain all of the "fresh" food.
We usually can find something good to say about a company, but there really isn't anything good to say here. The unfortunate story here is that a company has taken what were once honestly good ingredients and made them bad by offering amateurish, appallingly bad dishes sent to you in a tremendous amount of wasteful packaging for an outrageous amount of money.
Reviewed: July 29, 2016