Thursday, May 04, 2006

Restaurant Alternative Review: Let's Eat! at The Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, Orlando, FL

I recently went to my second session at Let's Eat! in Dr. Phillips, where you get to be your own personal chef. For a fee between $150 and $220, you get to put together 8 or 12 entrees for your family, following the provided recipes. Yes, you do the work putting the ingredients together but Let's Eat! has done all the prep work - cut the veggies, portioned the meat, assembled the condiments - and everything has the right size measuring cup for the recipe. Places like Let's Eat! and Super Suppers are popping up all over Florida so I decided to give it a try. Hey, it's better than the old, "I dunno, what do YOU want for dinner?" that Hubby and I banter about almost every night. To start, I headed to their website ( and checked out the process and the menus. Typically, each location will offer 14 entrees (including a few soups and desserts tossed in) that you can choose from. Yes, it's just the entree so you still have to come up with a side dish. What I liked is that you can also split entrees. Each one is supposed to serve six and with my kids, they really can only eat one portion between the two of them. So, by choosing 8 split entrees, I really had 16 dinners, and at $160 it worked out to only $10 per entree. That's a lot better than any Personal Chef service and probably better than I could do myself with some of the recipes they offer. I booked my session online and paid upfront with a credit card. When you arrive for your session, you are given an apron to put on and are given a tour of the place. There are seven food prep stations, each with the ingredients and recipes for two of that month's entrees. Usually, a session will hold 10 people, and you just rotate from station to station making the entrees that you have chosen. For most of the entrees, you simply scoop the ingredients into a ziploc bag, shake it up, put a heating instruction sticker on it, and you're done. Then just place it onto your shelf in their cooler (I liked that they had my name on my shelf - nice touch) and go to the next one. Some get a little bit more complicated, such as the Chicken Roulades with Asparagus I made. Following the simply written recipe, I pounded 6 chicken breasts flat with the provide mallet, then placed swiss cheese and asparagus spears on top, rolled close with toothpicks, and topped with breadcrumbs. The hard part was getting the chicken to stay closed with the toothpicks. But, darn it, when it was done, it looked like a gourmet dish! I was very proud of myself! Another great thing is that you can leave out ingredients that you don't like. Our family is not a big fan of onions so I left that out of most of the recipes. When you are all done, you put your self-created entrees into a cooler that you brought and pop them into your freezer at home. Then, the night before, you take out an entree and thaw it in the refrigerator and it's ready to cook when you get home. Most of the time, it just requires heating it up in the oven or in a skillet. And the kids have really loved the food! I was surprised but they actually ate every bit of the Rosemary Pork Loin Chops I made. Okay, I didn't score well with the Curry Chicken - nobody ate it but me but I should have known better (I personally thought it was very good). So far, I've done two sessions in three months and I'll probably go back again in another two months. It just makes dinnertime a lot easier, especially on weeknights.

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