Welcome to Short Order, Tasting Table's column for the next generation of adventurous food lovers.
"So, what, are you just literally eating a lot of purple carrots for dinner?"
"It wouldn't be the first time, but, no," I told my friend, explaining that Purple Carrot is Mark Bittman's recently launched meal kit delivery service. It's next in the line of Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and the like, but unlike its cousins, Purple Carrot is entirely vegan. It sends you all the ingredients and step-by-step pictures you need, like a piece of edible IKEA furniture, and I was excited to try it.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Bittman last fall about his new cookbook, right before the service launched. We swapped marathon stories, and he told me how much he loves chickpea flour. And though he didn't disclose too much information in advance, I could tell how excited and passionate he was about this new project, which started after he ended his New York Times column.
Though I cook plenty, I was looking forward to having a giant bag of fresh groceries that I didn't have to venture out for—arguably the worst part of living in New York City. And I was pleased to find the brands I already buy (Eden's Organic chickpeas, Muir Glen tomatoes) incorporated with the fresh produce.
One qualm I, along with many others, have with meal delivery services in general is the over-the-top amount of packaging waste that results. But though there's still plenty of plastic here, they cut down where able, something that's appropriate to the vegan/better world ethos of the company. Garlic was featured in all three recipes, so rather than use three tiny bags for each, you get a full head of garlic to use over the week.
As for the price, at $68 for three two-person meals, or $74 for two four-person meals, it's affordable when compared to similar services—saying a lot for vegan food, which is often touted as an expensive lifestyle. And to those who want to argue vegan food's reputation for not being filling, I'll say this: I didn't even have room for my nightly bowl of ice cream.
Here's my "professional" review of three of the meals:
Day 1: Creamy Polenta with Awesome Bolognese
For the uninitiated, seitan is weird. It's slightly slimy when cold, and something feels odd about putting it in a food processor to chop up into tiny bits. It made me skeptical, but a bit of crispy browning goes a long way, and everything came together delightfully. I didn't put the "awesome" there; they did—but I wouldn't fight it.
Day 2: Crisp Rutabaga Rôsti with Garlicky Balsamic Spinach
No one gets excited about rutabaga—save for the people who contend in the International Rutabaga Curling Championship. But it's so inoffensive and willing to render its chameleon ways to your mercy that it deserves to be loved more. It mixes here with intentionally overcooked quinoa to bind for a latke-like veggie burger alternative.
Day 3: Falafel Hash with Grapefruit-Arugula Tabbouleh
I had lunch at 10:30 a.m. the next day because of how excited I was to eat this one again. If you told me I'd find the best grapefruit of the season so far in a meal kit, I would've chuckled, but here we are. I also appreciated that I could have "fries" and falafel without going elbow deep in hot oil.
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