Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Gobble Dinner Service

In the past, there's  been plenty of food startups, from kitchit to gastronauts. None of them have addressed what I consider the best possible market: busy parents. We ran into Gobble and decided to give them a try, since they were promising fast meals that were done right.

The idea behind Gobble is this: you get pre-packaged, pre-prepared gourmet food delivered to your door in refrigerated packages. Each box comes with 3 meals, and you're in a subscription service, so you can cancel any time. Each meal comes with a preparation card, and it takes about 10 minutes to prepare each meal, and you'll be done. It's a nice concept, though as with all sorts of food, everything depends on the execution.

The central premise behind any kind of delivered food service like this is Sous Vide. Since the food has been already vacuum-packed while cooking, it's an easy step to simply go the next step to freeze it and then deliver it to your door. The biggest problem is that most people don't have a sous vide setup, so I was curious as to how they did the reheating.

It turned out that about only 2 out of 3 meals are done via sous vide. The fish and seafood dishes have ingredients that are so easily cooked that stir fry does it. The other sous vide meals are finished via either stir fry, or a searing step followed by an oven. This last method means that Gobble cheated on their marketing: it takes way longer than 10 minutes to pre-heat the oven and then for you to stir fry and present the meal.

The other problem I had with them was the delivery. The service uses On-Trac, which has a history of extremely late deliveries to my home. Indeed, the first delivery was so late that our Gobble meal turned into Pizza take out by the time the van driver showed up at my home. I called customer service and they apologized and gave me a $10 credit, but if I'd had hungry kids and a hungry wife, $10 wouldn't have come close to making up for it. There's also the problem of picking up the old container. I have no idea when they intend to collect them or if I'm supposed to throw them away.

As for value for money, the cost of the meal is about $12/person. This is approximately about the cost of eating out, except you don't have to tip. The variety of meals are decent, though the portion size ranges from barely adequate to substantial. It's very clear that each meal is sized not by calorie needs but by how much each ingredient costs: the chicken dishes are substantial, the beef dishes are usually supplemented by beans, and the seafood dishes would not keep a teenage boy well-fed.

The meals are decent, though everything is Americanized, so the curry tastes kinda bland and the chili is very mild. But it's all been very good, though not as good as if you went all modernist cuisine on it.

In any case, since we do have a sous vide machine, I'm not sure we'll continue after a month's trial, but I can recommend them to people without sous vide machine. It's also a nice way to get recipe ideas. In any case, if you do want a referral code for a trial e-mail me and I'll arrange for you to get one. Or you can just click through above if you're impatient and do without.

This is one of the few services that I think deserves success, and serves the South Bay quite well. Recommended.
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