Chef Terrance Brennan, of New York's Picholine and Artisanal, is known for emphasizing cheese in his celebrated dishes. So I consider myself lucky to have a nearly cheese-less dish as my first taste of Brennan's culinary expertise. As it happens, my latest foray into gourmet cooking is also more affordable than a reservation would be, and not entirely fresh. Thanks to my temp position at BarnesandNoble.com, this week, I found myself faced with not only free hot chocolate, but also a vending machine full of pre-packaged gourmet "4-minute meals" courtesy of Fresh Direct, the online grocery store that delivers to your home (or trailer or wherever you want). On this day, my workday lunch consisted of opening the microwave and popping in Brennan's Parmesan Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Asparagus and Peas.
I am not a fan of fast food and have my doubts about how well pre-prepared meals stand up to reconstitution in the microwave or with a little water (from both a taste and nutrition perspective). So I had low expectations, but even accounting for that, the taste, texture and freshness of the ingredients were of pretty good quality. After the designated four minutes in the microwave, a minute to sit, and a quick spoon stir, the risotto came out firm and creamy (it didn't even need water), the mushrooms neither chewy nor raw (that's a good thing in my book and I'm a mushroom fan), the asparagus and peas crispy and well-steamed, and the parmesan an afterthought. For a vending machine meal, this wasn't bad. The portion size was quite decent, too, although I needed the fruit I brought with me from home. If you find yourself stuck in the office facing a deadline or a wintry, blustery day outside, then it's a viable and convenient option I'd certainly recommend.
Total cost: $6.89
Total prep time spent: five minutes
Total taste-worth measurement on a scale of 7 hungry hungry hippos: 5 hungry hungry hippos