Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pop-Up Pantry Special Master Chef Meals

Pop-Up Pantry is a monthly subscription club for food lovers.  I love to cook but I also love trying new food, restaurants etc.  I stumbled across this company either through an email or my ventures through the interwebs.  Pop-Up Pantry works like this; you sign up on their website and take a profile quiz.  My profile was "Rustic-Old World" - Whether it's a chic brasserie by the Seine or a charming osteria in Tuscany, you appreciate quality ingredients, classic technique and rich, developed flavors. Your tastes are sophisticated and refined, and you appreciate the good life. But you're just as comfortable eating off a while tablecloth for a special occasion as you are a weathered farm table with family and friends. You appreciate both extravagant delicacies, like truffles, and simple ones, like a perfectly roasted chicken.  Chefs: Julia Child, Mario Batali, Daniel Boulud, Giada DeLaurentis - Destinations: Paris, Buenos Aires, Sicily, New York, Barcelona. Istanbul - Design: a vineyard farmhouse, Alfa Romeo, Bauhaus, Cartier - Drinks: Red Burgandy, San Pellegrino, Chianti, Espresso, Riesling. I would say this is about 95% accurate.  I re-took the test and changed a couple of answers I was torn between and the second time it said I was "Modern Asian" - Bold yet refined. Textured yet delicate. Street food yet fine dining. This is the ying and yang of your eating style. A quick stir fry and a classic dumpling give you as much pleasure as an innovative reinterpretation of the cuisines of Asia. From the sublime, nuanced flavors of seasonal vegetables to the excitement of chiles and curry, you always keep it interesting, while striking balance.  Chefs: Masaharu Morimoto, David Chang, Martin Yan, Ming Tsai Destinations: Tokyo, New York, Saigon, San Francisco, Shanghai, Los Angeles Design: spare modernist loft, Infiniti, Cai Guo-Quiang art, Yohji Yamamoto Drinks: ginjo sake, Yunnan puer tea, Hitachino Nest beer, Gewurztraminer.  This is also very accurate.  I love Asian food!

The plan goes like this; each month you will get an email with meals recommended for you based on your profile.  You are not limited to the items recommended for you.  You can choose from their whole list of menus.  The pricing is as follows; Gourmand $90 a month, includes 2 dinners that serve 2 people (makes it $22.50 per person per dinner), Epicure $160 a month, includes 4 dinners that serve 2 people (makes it $20 per person per dinner) or Gastronome $280 a month, includes 8 dinners that serve 2 people (makes it $17.50 per person per dinner). Each meal is created by the chef listed and is shipped frozen.  It will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3 days or transfer to your freezer.  Each meal has a package to table time of 30 minutes or less, perfect for those long work days.  

The good: 

Gourmet meals: You get a gourmet meal at a non-gourmet price

Shipping: My items were still frozen upon arrival so I just transferred them to the freezer

Information: The information card the provide is great.  It tells you what the menu consists of, what you'll need, directions on cooking and plating.  There is even tips from the chef about drink pairings.  

Complete meal: Each meal consists of an appetizer, main course and dessert.  

Customer Service: Their customer service is terrific.  I emailed them on a Sunday once to ask a question totally not expecting a reply until Monday or Tuesday and I got one back 10 minutes later.  

The not so good:

Risk: You get to pick the food you want sent but there's still a risk of not liking it.  If you're a foodie like me though then risk isn't a factor.  I'll try almost anything once.  I mean how else will I know if I like it or not?

 This is a special Master Chef Box.  It consists of the food made by the two Master Chef Finalists Josh and Christine.

The items are mailed in an insulated box with dry ice.   

This is Josh Marks menu.  On the finale Josh's appetizer was butter poached lobster with grits and sweet potato puree and his entree was rack of rack of lamb with green curry sauce, spring peas and carrots.  As you can see this menu varied quite a bit.  The appetizer is cheese souffle (made in another episode against Frank) and the entree is Indian Curry Hen (mystery box challenge). 

Here are all the makings for Josh's menu.  This meal serves 2.  The boyfriend wanted to make both meals (Josh's and Christine's) because he didn't think this would come close to feeding both of us.  I talked him out of making both and we made Josh's menu - although we used the rice from Christine's menu because the boyfriend could eat one pouch on his own.    

This is the cheese souffle.  The boyfriend was trying to be helpful and thawed everything before I came home from work.  This did not go well for the souffle.  The didn't rise like they should have and I overcooked them.  The flavor was still good in the inside.

This is the Indian Curry Hen.  The only thing I didn't like about this was the skin was soft because you don't cook it in the oven.  The rice is jasmine rice and the curry sauce was nice and fragrant.  I thought it had a very strong lemongrass flavor.  The hen was very moist and delicious.

The bacon pecan pie got a little burnt on the top.  The boyfriend doesn't like pecans but he tried these and since they are caramelized he thought they weren't too bad.  I would like to have seen two of these in the box because it was pretty small.  I could taste the bacon but it wasn't a prominent as I would've liked. 

This is Christine Ha's menu.  The appetizer and entree are the same meal she made in the finale but the dessert is different.  In the finale she made coconut lime sorbet - this obviously couldn't be shipped.  In another episode she made apple pie so they included that instead. 

Here are all the makings for Christine's menu.  This meal serves 2.

This is the Thai crab salad.  I thought it was just ok. I've never had papaya salad before so I don't have anything to compare it to.  It came with pieces of real crab and good size pieces too. 

I made the because I used the rice from this menu to add to Joshua's menu.  I also added some wasabi seaweed seasoning on top.  This is the main entree, caramelized pork belly with kale and mushrooms.  The suggestion on the form said the add a fried egg which I thought sounded delicious so I did it.  Also notice one has pickled shallots (came with the meal) and one does not.  The boyfriend doesn't like onions - great for me because they were yum-e! I thought this was very good but if you don't like fatty meat this wouldn't be for you. 

Last but not least this is Christine's famed apple pie. I just have to say for being a little pie this packed a ton of flavor!  I loved that it wasn't too sweet.  The apples were the perfect texture, the spices were perfect.  This is probably one of the best apple pies I've had in a very long time!

Verdict: I've been very happy with my menu's.  I purchased a subscription that sends 4 meals a month (I always have the option of skipping or downgrading). My thought process is there is at least one day a week where I don't have the time or energy to cook a full meal from scratch, these are done in 30 minutes with minimal work and cheaper than going out to eat.  I think it's a great idea for those who love to cook and those who don't.  Makes a great gift too!

** I am not any type of sponsor paid or unpaid for Pop-Up Pantry.  I purchase these subscriptions myself.  


  1. i ended up throwing out the food i gotten. the color and tasted off.

    1. You should email the company - maybe something was wrong with your meals. I've had great experiences with their customer service.