Friday, December 6, 2013

ChefButler Review

I have to admit that when I receive emails asking me to do reviews I normally tend to pass on them because the product just doesn't appeal to me, but when I received an email telling my about a new venture called ChefButler I was genuinely excited.

ChefButler is a new company based in Toronto that provides a monthly subscription box featuring, you guessed it, food! But it's not just any old food, it is a specially designed 3 course meal for 4 people centered around a specific theme that changes from month to month. Included in the box are all of the pantry ingredients required to make the dishes, along with recipe cards, a shopping list for your fresh produce, a game plan to make sure everything runs smoothly and a few fun facts about the meal and cuisine. As mentioned the themes vary but what I really liked about the sound of this product was that the goal of the company is to provide you with hard-to-find ingredients that you generally can't source from your local supermarket and therefore enable you to make meals in the comfort of your own home that you perhaps wouldn't generally get the opportunity to try. Any spices that are included are freshly ground right before they are sealed and sent to you to ensure you get maximum flavour.

To be honest I have seen similar concepts before (where you get the measured out spices for 1 meal), however they have generally always focused on Indian Curries so I love the idea here that it is for a wide variety of cuisines. Thankfully though Indian is on the list because I do love a good curry!

My lovely Silver Box of Delights!
I was absolutely delighted to receive my box which came courtesy of a courier company directly to my door! After opening the initial packaging I was delighted to discover a beautiful silver box inside containing all of the ingredients I needed for a Jamaican meal. Aesthetics wise it is certainly beautifully packaged and presented and for that reason alone it would make a wonderful gift idea. Upon opening my box which felt like unlocking a treasure chest full of wonderful delights, I was instantly met with a fantastic aroma of allspice – an essential Jamaican ingredient! At the top was an envelope inscribed with November on it and inside was my promised recipe cards and instructions, shopping list and a welcome note with all the essential information and a game plan.

A Foodie Treasure Trove!
The recipes are clearly printed on little cards that are colour coded to match the ingredients that go with that particular recipe (since there are some duplicates of ingredients for the different courses) - they really have thought of everything! So looks and presentation gets top marks but what about the actual recipes? After-all there is no point in having a monthly subscription if the recipes don't deliver.....

Well as mentioned this trial month was for a Jamaican meal which started with a Jamaican Coleslaw. The main course was a true Jamaican favourite - Jerk Chicken served with Rice and Peas and the meal finished with Chocolate Rum Balls.

The Recipe Card & Ingredients for the Jerk Chicken

For this meal you did need to start it the night before to allow things to marinade so I set to work the night before I planned to have it. Everything was straightforward – the instructions were clear, and it was really a case of throwing all of the marinade ingredients into my food processor which involved chopping up 3 ingredients and opening a whole bunch of other ingredients all conveniently measured out and ready to go! There was a small discrepancy in that I think the 2 oils were mixed up but it wasn't a big deal, however the sticker identification system while a great idea might need some improvements as a lot of mine had come off and stuck to other packets. Still it doesn't take a rocket scientist to just go through the ingredients of each recipe and match everything up!

So with the chicken marinading and the beans soaking I headed to bed, excited that dinner was on it's way for tomorrow! The Game Plan does suggest making the Coleslaw the day before as well but I opted to make it the next day. On the day of cooking things continued to be simple and straightforward. You do need time for this meal as the beans take 2 hours to cook so don't make this when you are wanting a quick and easy midweek meal! That being said this really is a special box so keep it for the weekend when you have time on your side to relax and enjoy cooking the meal as well as the rewards of eating it. My beans took a little less time to make than suggested which was a bonus as hubby was hungry but everything else followed the instructions perfectly and every dish was very straightforward.

The end result was great. I decided to serve the Coleslaw as a side dish to the main course as for me it's not a dish I would consider a starter but it was lovely with the chicken. The Jerk Chicken was so good and although a touch too salty for my liking, Scott loved it! As for the rice and beans they were also good although the haberno I used definitely packed a punch as it was spicy! Thankfully we like spicy food so it was fine! The only thing I would note about the rice was that it made a lot more than I would consider as 4 servings as we had so much left over, but it was delicious. Finally we finished with the Chocolate Rum Balls which again were so easy to make (and a great dessert/treat to make with kids) and were very tasty.

So there you have it! Not only was the box beautifully presented but the recipes worked and were delicious! The only criticism I had (other than the stickers coming off and sticking to the wrong packages) was that for me personally I would have preferred to try a different cuisine because I have all of the ingredients that were required in my pantry. Now I'm the first to admit I have a ridiculous pantry which I'm sure could rival ChefButler's(!) so I would expect to have a lot of the ingredients but it would be nice to have had something that was a little more out of my comfort zone to put to the test. I did happen to notice that the actual November ChefButler box was Korean which I would have loved as I have never made Korean food, however I love the idea and think it will appeal to a wide variety of people since as I said, most people wouldn't have a pantry/ spice collection like mine and I did still really enjoy the recipes.

The pro's to the box hugely out number my small criticisms and so for that reason I would highly recommend giving this a go! It would make a fabulous and slightly different present for someone that loves food and cooking, but it would also be great for taking on holiday if you were staying in a holiday home or cabin as you wouldn't need to worry about packing lots of ingredients but would still be able to enjoy a really special meal. As of now the box costs $35 which I admit I was a little dubious about initially, however it is worth that, especially as it is couriered right to your front door. I love how it gives you the opportunity to try a cuisine that maybe you haven't had before, or is something that you love but have been unsure about cooking at home without the need to go and buy all of the spices. If you really love the recipes then of course you will need to go and get them after but at least you know you will use them again! I was surprised to see liquids and other pantry ingredients in the box - I really was imagining it to be only the spices, so other than the fresh produce you have to buy everything is there, all perfectly measured out for you, and what I had to buy for this month cost around $12 so you can't complain about that!

I know I will definitely be trying ChefButler out again – in fact I think it will be the theme to our next Cook Club so if you live in Canada and are looking for an exciting new cuisine to try on a monthly basis or a fantastic gift that is a little different I can't suggest this enough! (Unfortunately at this point ChefButler is only available to those of you living in Canada.) 

For more information or to subscribe visit the ChefButler website here. As a special bonus when you subscribe just now you can get 50% off your first box by using the code “LEMONDROPS” when ordering (50% off is available until December 25th 2013 only).

*The Jamaican ChefButler box that I reviewed was provided to me at no charge by ChefButler. The review and all opinions expressed are my own and are a true representation of the product reviewed.

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