Battle of the food subscription boxes – Round 1

Curated subscription boxes are hot right now, and for good reason.  The carefully-chosen products within these monthly boxes offer a way to try new things without breaking the bank.  This month, I tried three subscription boxes:

  1.     HelloFresh – This weekly meal delivery service offers a Classic or Veggie food box for 2 or 4 people.  Inside the box, you’ll receive instructions for three dinner meals and step-by-step instructions to help you prep and cook each meal.  I cooked the Pan Seared Steak with Cipollini Onions, Roasted New Potatoes and Tomato Pan Sauce.  All ingredients were included, with the exception of salt and pepper, and the instructions were clear and detailed. The end result was a restaurant-quality meal that I made at home, in my own kitchen.  Use referral code

    FTUR2U and you can get $40 off your first meal!

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  2. Graze Box – A weekly snack box offering single-serving packs of sweet and savory snacks based on preferences you select when you create your account.  My initial box included pizza margherita snack mix, mocha walnut cake snack mix, Vitamin C Crush snack mix (pineapple, mango and coconut) and cocoa and vanilla protein flapjacks (snack bars).  The snacks are the perfect size to throw in a purse or bag and munch on throughout the day, and the constantly-changing variety of snacks means there’s plenty to choose from to tide me over until mealtime.  Blog followers who use the code 5PGJ65WTP can receive their first and fifth box free.  IMG_1183 IMG_1184 (1)
  3. Cuisine Cube – A curated assortment of artisan food products from small producers.  My first box contained Italian specialties:  whole wheat pasta, vodka pasta sauce, a bag of Italian breadsticks, hard cured salami and Italian lemon cookies for dessert.  I received a free box to review for my blog, and the products inside were good, but didn’t really blow me away.  The salami and lemon cookies were standouts, but the pasta and sauce weren’t anything to write home about.  The company offers Artisan, Vegan and Gluten-Free cube options.  I tried the Artisan box.  If you try that or one of the other boxes, let me know what you thought!  IMG_1297 IMG_1298 IMG_1299 IMG_1363

The winner:  HelloFresh!  The farm-fresh ingredients, step-by-step directions and delicious meals make HelloFresh the tastiest option and the best value.  Use the referral code above to get $40 off your first box!

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Whirlwind Foodie Weekend in DC

For my birthday this year, my husband and I took a quick weekend trip to DC to attend the MetroCooking show. While we were there, we decided to try out a local brewery in Silver Spring and to go out to dinner at my favorite Japanese restaurant ever – Daikaya in downtown DC!

Denizens Brewing Co. is located in South Silver Spring, MD, next door to an auto repair shop. It’s a quick walk from the Metro stop, and features an outdoor beer garden, indoor bar area, and a downstairs bar with additional seating. Guided tours are offered on Saturdays for a small fee. Opened in July 2014, Denizens features a rotating lineup of craft beers. On our visit, I had a tasting flight that included the Third Party Tripel, Ponch’s Patch Pumpkin Porter, Sex Panther India Black Lager and Mildly Soba, an English-style brown mild beer. My favorite was the Ponch’s Patch Pumpkin Porter, but I’m a sucker for pumpkin beers.  My husband preferred the Third Party Tripel!

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(The wall art in the downstairs bar was fun and funky.)

On Saturday, we visited the MetroCooking DC show at the Convention Center. The show had a lot going on:  a tasting pavilion, a beer, wine and spirits pavilion, a barbecue competition, cooking demonstrations, VIP visits and cooking classes.  We attended the beer, wine and spirits pavilion, where we checked out A. Smith Bowman Distillery’s table and sampled their whiskey and rum.

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We also checked out some Flying Dog beers, Cupcake Vineyards wines and some amaro’s and artisan Italian liqueurs from Don Ciccio & Figli.

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The DC Brewers Guild, which represents DC-made beers like DC Brau, Right Proper Brewing Co. and Three Stars Brewing Co., offered samples of their brews and some locally-made cheeses.

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We caught a cooking demonstration featuring DC-area chef Victor Albisu of Del Campo and Taco Bamba.  He walked us through cooking his roasted pumpkin risotto with grilled arugula, goat cheese, sage and pepitas.  The cooking demonstration was a highlight of the show – Victor’s witty personality enlivened the presentation and kept the audience engaged, and the end result was delicious!  My husband even promised to try his hand at cooking the pumpkin risotto for me!

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The icing on the cake of our perfect Washington weekend was dinner at my favorite Japanese restaurant on the planet, Daikaya.  The restaurant encompasses a ground-level ramen shop and a second-floor izakaya (traditional Japanese drinking spot serving comfort food).  What I love about Daikaya is how the chef, Katsuya Fukushima, effortlessly blends classic French methods and preparations with Japanese dishes and ingredients, such as the grilled octopus with “Robu-chan” potatoes, an homage to Joel Robuchon’s classic mashed potato puree.  The dish combines a Japanese preparation of grilled octopus with the European potato preparation, topped with pimenton and olive oil.

We started with drinks:

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For dinner, my husband and I enjoyed grilled oysters with butter, parmesan cheese and teriyaki sauce, chilled cucumber with rayu vinaigrette, crispy garlic, ground sesame seed and chili thread, crab croquettes with Old Bay, corn, tonkatsu sauce and nori salt, a skewer of grilled beef tenderloin with broccoli and yakitori sauce and a chicken thigh skewer.  We each ordered our own mini domburi rice bowl – warm, sweet, sticky white rice topped with fish roe, green onion, nori and soy-Kewpie.

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I have to say:  Daikaya’s mini domburi rice bowl is tied with Bonchon’s salmon avocado ball as the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten.

All in all, we had an amazingly fun weekend.  We got to visit a new brewery and revisit our favorite Japanese restaurant.  We got to check out lots of new food and beverage products, and we even squeezed in a run on the Capital Crescent Trail in preparation for the Richmond Marathon 8K.  We had a great time!