After 10 months of quarantining and making dinner (and breakfast and lunch!) at home almost every single day, my family and I are just about cooked-out. Yes, even a food editor gets tired of food: the monotonous grocery lists, the never-ending meal planning, the constant chopping and cooking, and the endless pile of dirty dishes in the sink (how can one family use this many mugs in a day?!). Even take-out Friday has lost a bit of its luster, as we've cycled through our rotation of favorite restaurants a dozen times over.
I needed a break from the kitchen—at least for once a day—and I found it in CookUnity, a unique meal delivery subscription service that offers fully-cooked, neatly-packaged, well-prepared foods from a collection of celebrity- and up-and-coming chefs.
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(Before I write another word, I need to acknowledge how truly fortunate I am to be in a position where I can be bored with cooking. That is a luxury many people can't imagine, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, as millions of families are struggling to put food on their tables. This is also a good time to mention how much great, life-changing work organizations like Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, Meals on Wheels and World Central Kitchen are doing to help feed those in need, and every donation helps. Please visit these sites to find easy ways you can to get involved in your communities.)
But the truth is, I am kinda bored of cooking, and this service helped to make the daily food routine a little easier and make me look forward to lunchtime. Here's how the experience worked for me:
After logging on to the CookUnity site for the first time, you decide how many meals you want delivered for the week—10, 6 or 4. Since I'm most rushed for time during weekday afternoons, I chose the six-meal plan to take care of my lunches—and perhaps one working-late weeknight—and chose a Sunday delivery date so I would be stocked up for the workweek.
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Next, you tailor the plan to your tastes and goals. For instance, are you interested in weight loss and overall wellness or just simply eating really good food? Are you a vegetarian, have a shellfish allergy or love steak above all else? They've got you covered. For me, it was all of the above and a little of everything, so I picked a few dishes that seemed particularly interesting (or that I'm too lazy to make from scratch myself). After clicking on personal preferences, you're given a curated but vast list of gourmet meals to choose from.
Depending on the week, there's everything from chef-prepared red wine shortribs with maple whipped sweet potatoes from Larry and Marc Forgione, lobster macaroni and cheese by Chris Ratel, spicy shrimp fajitas with black beans by Kristy Flores, and bacon-wrapped chicken breasts with cauliflower puree and spinach by Tony Perez—and so much more. Really, with so many delicious-sounding options, it was hard to pick just six.
On the following Sunday, I received a text message letting me know that my first delivery was on the way. And within the hour, a lovely woman was knocking on my door—fully masked and keeping socially distanced—and handing me a large, insulated tote packed with my selected meals. She told me the meals were wrapped in cool packs, but they should be refrigerated immediately, and warmed and eaten within the next 4 to 6 days.
Each fully-cooked meal comes packed in its own wrapped, recyclable container, with instructions for warming—in the microwave for us need-it-asap folks or in the oven as the chef recommends—and serving. On the first day, I followed the chef's instructions and heated my roasted salmon with summer beans for 20 minutes in the oven, and topped it with a scallion-ginger sauce and microgreens just before eating. The dish was delicious! The salmon was light and flaky, the beans were bright and snappy, and the herb sauce and greens added a lovely fresh texture that I didn't expect from a pre-made meal.
The next day, I had about 10 minutes between Zoom meetings to make lunch happen so I grabbed the lobster macaroni and cheese, and tossed it into the microwave for a few minutes—fully expecting to end up eating a hot, mushy mess. But to my surprise, the noodles were delightfully firm and nicely (dare I say) al dente, the cheese sauce was creamy but not overly rich, and the lobster was plump, juicy and plentiful.
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Each day, the meals continued to impress—from Korean bulgogi with forbidden rice and fresh vegetables to lamb meatballs with all the fixings. The meals exceeded my expectations—in terms of convenience and taste. Frankly, I was expecting to be eating their elevated version of a frozen TV dinner, but what I got was an assortment of freshly-made meals that were bursting with flavor, texture and creativity.
What: CookUnity meal delivery subscription service
Where: The service delivers to cities throughout the Northeast, and are opening new kitchens in Los Angeles and Texas—with plans to "expand across North America," according to a press release
When: The weekly subscription can be modified to your schedule, and can be changed, skipped or paused whenever you want.
How much: Through a weekly subscription, members can choose from over 300 chef-made meals, starting at about $10.50 a meal.
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