Saturday, April 07, 2007

Dinner By Design

Net Update-Still not up at home. Our land line works only intermittently due to a damaged phone jack. Our apartment complex will take a look at it on Monday to see if they can replace it. I hope we don't have to call the phone company to have it fixed; who wants to pay for something that was already damaged when we moved in?

Anyway, on to the main topic for the day....

I found out about Dinner By Design through one of my online forums. It's a franchise where you can prepare meals to take home and cook. (You can freeze them until you need them.) All of the food is already chopped up or (in the case of the meat) premeasured for you; you just have to assemble it. I've heard other people rave about this place, so I wanted to try it for myself, partly to get out of my own "recipe rut" and partly to have some meals stocked up for when the baby comes.

My first session was last night. (You have to sign up in advance so they know what ingredients to have on hand.) One other customer was supposed to be there, but since he never showed, I had the place all to myself. In some ways, that felt strange (and I felt bad for the people running the place), but it was also nice not having to share space with someone else. There were five stations set up to prepare food (each with a recipe and all the ingredients), and some of them were set up for two entrees, so I can see that there could be a wait if the place was too crowded.

The employees were very helpful. One of them explained how the setup worked to me. He would have walked me through a couple of meals if I needed him to, but I've done enough cooking to feel comfortable enough doing it on my own. They assisted me in other ways, however; they brought me melted butter for some dishes that needed it, they gave me apple juice to substitute for wine in the shrimp scampi, and they cut up a panni sandwich so it was more manageable.

The process was pretty simple. I had selected six dishes in advance. They had a list ready for me, so I went up to each station, read the recipe, and collected any utensils I needed from a rack in the back. All of the ingredients were at the station. The meat was already prebagged in the amount that I needed, but the other ingredients, such as veggies and spices, were set out with measuring cups and spoons. Most of the dishes went straight into foil pans for freezing and baking, though there was one dish (a beef brisket) for the crockpot. The meals were easy to assemble; I think the hardest part was trying to roll up a stuffed flank steak. I just tied it in several places instead. When I was done with each dish, there were preprinted labels with cooking directions to put on each pan.

The whole process took about an hour and a half. I made shrimp scampi, a veggie lasgna, a beef brisket, Greek stuffed flank steak, a panni, and pork chops with peaches and stuffing. They had some premade side dishes in the freezer, so I picked up some vegetables and a brunch dish as well. I'm not sure how the cost worked out for the sides, but the main dishes came to about $3/serving.

It was a interesting experience. I wish Eugene could have been there, but they have to limit the number of people there to control space. (Guess that wouldn't have been a problem last night with the no-show.) Assuming we're pleased with the meals, we'll do this again. Eugene is already picking out possible entrees for next month. Maybe next time he'll play chef too.


Maria Zannini said...

I'm coming to your house for dinner. LOL!

This is a great idea! Sometimes, when I know I'm going to be extra busy (and the husband is going to be with me), I'll spend weekends making dinners for the entire week.

Lots of work, but it sure made it easy when I came home dead tired from my job.


Sheila said...

This sounds so familiar - I think I saw something about that on TV once. It looks interesting!

Russ said...

Frustrating not being on-line at home, isn't it? I'm hoping to finally correct that little problem this weekend.

Anonymous said...

i had never heard of this before, and i see there's a location right by me (big sister of e in madison) & husband ('member us from fake thanksgiving?)

please please please post a review after you've actually partaken! i am veeeery curious about this whole concept.

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