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Today's products have been in the produce section at my local Whole Foods for months, it seems. Until the other day I had assumed that they were just another brand of pre-cut vegetables, like those pre-spiralized veggies that seem to have taken over the shelves. Then I noticed that they were labeled "Nourish Bowls," and looked more closely.
Mann's started in 1939 as a vegetable packing company and was purchased by Del Monte in 2018. Since the company's inception it's focused on ready-to-use produce - and their Nourish Bowls are a logical extension of that, I suppose. Their line of ten "Bowls" are essentially single-serving combinations of fresh vegetables, sometimes including rice or legumes and others requiring the addition of eggs or other proteins, that are packaged with a sauce packet and designed for the contents of the "bowl" to be mixed together, then microwaved for a quick meal.
At our local store they retail for $5.99, which if you ask me (and you sort of did if you're reading this review) is a whole lot of money for the convenience of someone cutting up vegetables for you and throwing on a sauce.
The first variety we reviewed, the Cauli-Rice Curry (260 calories, 590mg sodium, 8g fiber), is almost exactly that: chopped cauliflower packaged with perhaps a quarter-cup of green chickpeas and a sauce:
Combine the contents of all three packets and microwave for 3 1/2 minutes and you get:
If what you're expecting with this dish is lightly crunchy cauliflower with some green chickpeas that have the texture of cooked beans, then you're in luck: that's exactly what you get. The down side of this dish is the sauce: it comes out of the microwave smelling "vinegary," as one panelist described it.
That's an accurate description of the scent, but I felt that the vinegar itself isn't the real issue - the problem is that the curry seasoning used in the sauce is simply too harsh - it's overwhelming. $5.99 for some microwaved cauliflower and a too-harsh curry sauce? We don't think so.
The Monterey Risotto (340 calories, 530mg sodium, 5g fiber) reminded us of the Shrimp Risotto Bowl from Scott and Jon's. Not because it's creamy or cheesy or delicious, but because it's another case of people calling something "risotto" when it doesn't use arborio rice.
Worse yet, the Italian rice dish made with arborio rice is, as a panelist described it, "a creamy rice dish with stuff in it." Not this:
This is chopped kale, butternut squash, and kohlrabi (the white julienned items) with perhaps a Tablespoon and a half of cooked brown rice and a packet of sauce.
Again, mix and microwave to yield
...what is essentially a fair vegetable side dish dotted with overcooked brown rice. The kale and kohlrabi are nice and crunchy (once you remove the bigger pieces of stem, one of which you can see at the top of the picture), and their bitterness is offset by the sweet butternut squash. There's only the faintest garlic and parmesan flavor to the sauce, however, and there's "not enough rice to even notice." "Very bland, really," said the panel - "Why would you even go to the trouble of buying and cooking this?"
For $5.99 you could buy a bunch of kale and a single serving packet of some Caesar dressing and have yourself a really big kale Caesar salad that would taste better and wouldn't use so much plastic.
Review posted: September 20, 2019