“If you blog it, they will come.”
-Shoeless Joe Jackson
When you post as many food pictures as I do, your friends and family start to question your life choices. Once I didn’t post food pictures for a day and I received a few concerned texts. “Are you OK?! I’m sending a pizza to you.” It also leads friends to assume you are a foodie. Let me go on record as definitively not being a foodie. To me, the term connotes a quest for the most obscure, and often expensive, ingredients prepared in a minimalist fashion. I’m all for art, but I prefer it on a wall instead of my plate. I don’t think this study looked into the gastronomic appeal of 4 croquetas on a plate or any of those foam infusion efforts. Then again, I’m not willing to pay $31 to find out their conclusion, just like I’m not willing to pay more than $20 for dinner.
Chipotle is my gold standard for eating out. Can a restaurant satisfy me more than a $7 burrito or salad at the quick serve establishment? Oftentimes, the answer is no. If I leave someplace wishing I’d gone to Chipotle instead, it isn’t a good sign for that restaurant’s upcoming Yelp review.
As a quick defense of my food pictorials, there was a researcher who received a Fulbright to document his every meal. Additionally, someone in Australia started a website of everything he ate. My interest in documenting my kitchen creations recently led to a fortuitous email from a company based in New York.
Whenever I get an email that someone liked a post, I’m pleasantly surprised. Then came the email from Plated.com saying they found my blog and wanted to discuss their service.
Their main pitch is quality food for busy professionals. Each week, they come up with new recipes for you to try. The twist is they put together all the ingredients, including fresh herbs and necessary spices, and ship it to your house or office. Then you have food ready to go and don’t need to book it to Whole Foods after a long day at the office/gym. So they asked if I’d like to try it out.
If asked what my favorite drink or food is, my response is free booze and free food. Nothing tastes finer.
I assembled my coworkers, Yelp wife and her friend for a dinner party. Most nights I just cook for myself, so this would be a new challenge. Plus, it’s one thing to post pictures of edible-looking food versus food that won’t send your (former) friends to the ER. I polled everyone on dates and meal preferences. The crowd picks were shrimp & grits and chicken burgers with zucchini fries. I got my box, which I liken to Christmas morning, on Tuesday and put the items in the fridge. Everything is individually packed and there are ice packs in the insulated boxes.
After a few group emails go time was upon us. My gracious Yelp wife offered her kitchen and dining room for the traveling dinner party. I had won a wine tasting last year from PRP Wines and reached out to pair the free grub with free grapes. I didn’t get to delight in the 8 wines they brought because I was in chef mode (semi anti-social and focused). Everyone was assembled in the kitchen sampling wine and watching me cook. Cooking with spectators is a lot more stressful than my home kitchen.
First up were the chicken burgers. They were quick to prepare and I used my cast iron skillet to fry them up. Then after a few requests to help out, I admitted I could use some help so dinner would be served some time before Friday. My coworker Jule helped make the zucchini fries (cut zucchini into strips, dip in beaten egg, then dip in panko bread crumbs and bake for 10 mins). Once we knocked out the first dish, the anxiety started to subside.
Time for the second course: Shrimp and grits. This dish involved bacon. What more do you need to know? This dish was a bit easier and faster to put together than the chicken burgers.
Bachelor tip: The protein is different in shrimp than in a steak or chicken where you want to sear the exterior. If you do this to shrimp, it’ll make them chewy/tough. Instead, cook them in a sauce or start them in a cold pan.
All the items were done! Time to eat. My goal was 7:30 for serving food. I missed that mark by at least 30 minutes. Cooking for 10 people helps you realize the difficulty of running a restaurant. Everyone took their seats and I turned on WFMT, Chicago’s classical station, leading the host to remark:
“This is the classiest dinner party
I’ve ever had in my house.”
We started with a monstrous salad from Jon, then everyone sampled the chicken burgers and shrimp before moving onto sweets, and Rumchata provided by my buddy Brian. The shrimp dish needed more salt. This is what I get for not sampling before sending them out of the kitchen. It’s like I’ve learned nothing from Gordon Ramsey. After toweling off and flagellating myself, I took a moment to take it in: first major dinner party was a success!
If you’d like me to cook for you and your friends, leave a comment or shoot me an email.
If you’d like to try out Plated for yourself go here.