Sunday, January 27, 2008

Review - The Dinner A'Fare, 2735 Old Winter Garden Rd, Ocoee, FL

The Dinner A'Fare OcoeeIt's been a while since I have reviewed a meal preparation place so I thought I'd review the place I have been going lately - The Dinner A'Fare. There has been an explosion of meal preparation places in the area in the past couple of years - Let's Eat, Magical Mealtimes, Super Suppers, Dream Dinners, etc. I checked out all of the ones near me and have been going to The Dinner A'Fare based on pricing, portion sizes, ease of getting an appointment, ease of making the dishes, and, most important, how well my family likes the food. It's really a personal family decision for all of these aspects so a place that works well for someone else may not work well for you.

For those of you not familiar with the meal preparation process, you are basically going to prepare 6 - 12 meals for your family, freezer ready, so that you just need to thaw and cook the meals when you need them. We prefer to use the meals during the week when things are really hectic with work, school, and after-school activities. Plus, it eliminates the "what are we having for dinner" discussion between Hubby and me. I also like that you can leave out ingredients that your family doesn't like. We are not big onion fans so I don't put those in and I also leave out any ingredients that might be spicy such as chili sauce or red pepper flakes.

Step one for most places is to reserve a date and time slot on the kitchen's website. For The Dinner A'Fare you can click here. I always chose Package #2 which is 12 meals that feed 2-3 people for $150. BB and LB generally split a meal so with a side dish or two, we have enough food to feed everyone. You can also chose a "Stand-in Chef" for an extra fee - that means that they will make everything for you and Snacks to try while you are creating mealsyou just show up and cart away your meals already bagged and ready to go in the freezer. If you are doing the meals yourself, The Dinner A'Fare has some great times for working moms like me - I typically pick one of the 7 pm weekday times or one of the Saturday times. Then, you chose the meals you would like to make. I always make sure to check the cooking times when I am choosing the meals as I don't want to come home on a weekday and then realize it is going to take 60 minutes to make dinner. So, I will generally pick only the meals that take 30 minutes or less to make. But again, that is personal preference. Also, the menus change every month so you always have a bunch of new selections to choose from.

Make sure to bring a laundry basket or cooler to your session so you have a way to transport home all of your meals. I have a rolling cooler that I use that I find very handy. You can also bring one helper with you, although if you want to bring your child, they have to be at least 12 years old for health and safety regulations.

As soon as you enter the store, you will be given an apron and hat to wear, and then Ingredients are labeled in stainless steel binswill get a demonstration on how to put together the meals. You'll usually get offered a drink of soda, water, or wine, and sometimes they will have samples of some of their side dishes (that you can purchase and take home to go with your meals). The stLeave out the ingredients you don't wantainless steel stations all around are set up to facilitate 2 -3 different meals with recipes and dry ingredients at the top, cold items in the bins, and then usually the meats in the fridge underneath. You will get a list with the meals you chose so you can check off the meals as you go to each station. Most of the meals are pretty easy, generally you grab a ziploc bag with the meat from the fridge and then add ingredients as indicated on the recipe. Sometimes you'll make a couple of other bags full of ingredients as well. There's usually at least one meal at every session that is the "hard" one to do. For me, last time I went, it was the Italian Style Stuffed Turkey Burgers - I didn't do a very good job keeping the stuffing inside each burger. But, I'm sure it's still going to taste good.

A few tips that I've learned along the way: Make sure to really mix up the contents of the bags while you are making them while everything is still thawed. The instructions will just say add the list of ingredients to the ziploc bag but if you don't mix it up right there and then, you may have Mongolian Beef Noodle Bowlsclumps of ingredients when you try to make it. ThisOrange Chicken with Pecan Crust is especially true if you don't allow the meals enough time to defrost the night before (trust me, it happens).

In the end, we end up with meals that last about a month since we trade off Dinner A'Fare meals with pizza, pasta, or just eat out. And the best part is that my kids are trying new foods that are more creative than anything I can come up with, especially after working all day.


Silverbrow said...

Sorry, I don't quite understand. Do I take it you don't have a kitchen - and this stands in as one?

Otherwise, what is the point? I'm sure I'm missing something somewhere.

Restaurant Mom said...

Silverbrow, here in the States we are either totally overworked and don't have time when we come home to prepare a proper meal for our families, or are too lazy or not creative enough to come up with the recipes as well as prepare the raw ingredients for the evening meal. Or a little bit of both. : )

So, these meal preparation kitchens fill that need. They come up with the recipes, chop and prep all the raw ingredients, and you just come in and bag the ingredients and then freeze them. When you want dinner, you defrost a bag, reheat the contents in your own kitchen and there you go... dinner! Kind of like buying frozen dinners from the grocery store but you packed it yourself so you know what ingredients are in there.

I find it saves a lot of time during the week so that we are able eat dinner at an earlier time which keeps the kids on a good bedtime schedule.

Let me know if you have any other questions about this concept. Again, it has just exploded here in the States the past couple of years.

The Dinner A'Fare said...

Thanks for taking the time to post about The Dinner A'Fare. We've just launched our official web log where we hope to share extra insights and information with our customers to help them get even more value out of our products and services. Thanks again, and keep up the great work!

SaveeMommie said...

Just tried the Dinner A'Fare for the first time. If you value your time, you would value this service. The food is tasty, you get a variety monthly.

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