When I was a kid, we almost always ate at home.
My Mom was a decent cook, but we dined out once a year on Mother’s Day and always at the same restaurant. When TV dinners in aluminum trays with little compartments arrived in grocery stores in the early ’50s, my mother occasionally purchased them for my sister and me. The entrée was meatloaf, turkey, chicken or some other main dish, and was accompanied by peas, carrots, potatoes or another vegetable.
The meal was heated in the oven for a half-hour and served to happy kids.
TV dinners have evolved into a more extravagant assortment of meals that can be microwaved in minutes and are tailor-made for people counting calories or desiring ethnic cuisine, or for folks who want an adequate meal but do not want to go through the fuss of cooking.
Within the past few months, we have added another variable to the evolution of heat-and-serve dinners: limited accessibility to restaurants due to the coronavirus pandemic. Stay-at-home orders, social distancing and limited access to groceries have made acquiring healthy meals more difficult.
Restaurants, now closed to dine-in patrons, have found creative solutions to alleviate the problem of indoor dining, keeping their businesses afloat and still maintaining guidelines for dealing with the restrictions imposed on us by the pandemic.
Enter Buhrmaster’s Farm Fresh Meal Boxes, which I first learned about on Maria Papa’s FaceBook site “518 Restaurants.”
The Buhrmaster website promised, “Each Farm Fresh Meal Box is ready to eat from the box, made fresh with locally sourced ingredients — every ingredient in each Farm Fresh Meal Box is provided by Local Farms & Vendors in the Upstate New York region. A Registered Dietitian works alongside the Farm Fresh Team and approves each recipe to ensure the nutrients within are balanced between health and enjoyment!”
I visited Buhrmaster’s website initially to determine whether or not I needed to preorder. While the site did not specify I had to order a day in advance, I figured it out when I was unable to bring up today’s date.
The two young people at the Buhrmaster Route 50 farm stand could not find my online order. After phone calls and book-checking, it was decided I could return the next day and pick up my two meals. I was unwilling to return in 90-degree temperatures, so after another phone call, I was told I could purchase a meatball dinner and a chicken dinner on the spot.
I was anticipating the kale with tagliatelle meal, but at this point, I was hungry and frustrated, and wanted to go home with dinners. Any dinners.
The person on the phone apparently allowed a $2 discount on each meal, which were originally $13, but I was charged double for the half pound of peanut butter chocolate fudge ($10.99/pound) I ordered for dessert, so the cost evened out.
Directions for heating on Buhrmaster’s website suggested adding a tablespoon of water to each box compartment and microwaving in 30-second intervals, stirring periodically until the internal temperature of the meats reached 165 degrees.
I chose not to add water, nor did I check the temperature. I felt my familiarity with microwaving was sufficient to heat the compartmentalized dishes throroughly.
Each meal contained six small stalks of mushy asparagus. My sense of mouth feel acts like a barrier, and I was unable to eat the asparagus.
Fortunately, my dinner guest likes mushy asparagus and was happy to acquire mine.
My purple fingerling potatoes had been sliced lengthwise and looked almost black. They were devoid of flavor.
The 2-by-3-inch rectangle of tender, dark thigh meat from a chicken was covered with flavorful gravy and small sliced mushrooms.
It was fine, but not the chicken saltimbocca described on the Farm Fresh Meal Box site, and I detected no “incredible zesty flavor” as promised.
My guest’s meal fared better. His five 1 1/2-inch ricotta beef meatballs were mild in flavor and sat atop a mound of garlic-seasoned polenta, which was topped with a flavorful marinara made from heirloom tomatoes.
The dish however, was neither sprinkled with grated cheese nor parsley as shown in the online photo.
Except for the fact that we were overcharged for the chocolate-peanut butter fudge, its sweet, melt-in-your-mouth creaminess made up for some of the disappointments of the meals.
In general, portions were small, and both guest and I felt the Fresh Farm Meal Boxes did not live up to their website descriptions.
Perhaps a little more experience will help. The idea seems like one worthy of continued exploration.
Buhrmaster Farm Fresh Meal Box
WHERE: 189 Saratoga Road (Route 50), Scotia, 12302; (518) 399-5931; farmfreshmealbox.com; also on Facebook WHEN: Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $27.50 for two meal boxes and fudge, without tax and tip
MORE INFO: Ample parking, accessible, credit cards, takeout ordered the day before pickup.