We interrupt this regularly scheduled restaurant column to bring you a review of your own kitchen: Located on the main floor of the residence, this unpretentious all-you-can-eat establishment offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, served in a homey ambiance by, let’s face it, an overworked and underappreciated chef. If we could offer one suggestion to improve this endearing ’round-the-clock eatery, it would be this: Either staff up or order out.
That’s where online grocer Plumgood Food comes in, delivering ready-to-eat meals made with the organic, natural and local products that are the cornerstone of the 4-year-old company.
Home delivery of healthy, organic and local foods is a divinely simple idea that sprang from the overworked, if not underappreciated, minds of Kate and Eric Satz. Upon returning from San Francisco to Kate’s native Nashville, the couple missed the convenience of healthy groceries delivered to their door. Rather than complain about it for too long, they made it happen.
The early iterations of the company were a little tofu-ey, with a limited roster of primarily organic foods. But since its 2004 launch, Plumgood has expanded its product offerings to include mainstream national products and brands, including Huggie’s diapers, Maggie Moo’s ice cream and Fritos. Chefs Rich Van Etten—an alumnus of Provence—and Joe Townsend manage Plumgood Prepared, a menu of ready-to-heat items that arrive in oven-and-microwave-friendly containers and can be stored in the refrigerator for a week or more.
If you tasted the prepared food in the early days of Plumgood, rinse your palate of that quinoa- and tempeh-tainted experience. These days, the purple Plumgood trucks drop off a comforting and creative repertoire of dishes that appeal to healthy-but-not-so-earthy palates.
Of course, traveling from the Donelson-area headquarters and sitting on your doorstep and in your refrigerator take their toll on Van Etten and Townsend’s creations. For example, in our experience, some of the reheated chicken developed a texture akin to a supermarket rotisserie chicken that overstayed its welcome under the heat lamp. Then again, many of Plumgood’s convenient and flavorful offerings were far better than the next best alternative, which, in my kitchen, would be a supermarket rotisserie chicken that overstayed its welcome under the heat lamp.
So rather than grade Plumgood Prepared in terms of à la minute restaurant food, it might be more appropriate to score it against the average work-product of your own kitchen.
For my time, money and culinary talent, I cannot beat ready-to-heat meals such as Plumgood’s Asian-style chicken braised in soy sauce, brown sugar and rice wine vinegar. Served on a bed of mild curried rice, green peas and carrots tossed with fresh scallions and cilantro, the chicken is more complex and flavorful than I could ever whip up at dinner time, and the $11.99 meal easily served two people.
Similarly, turkey pot pie with chunks of tender white meat, carrots, peas and crust beat anything I could generate for $7.99. Flecked with rosemary, parsley, chives and pepper, the dish had more flavor than similar frozen-food options. Again, this meal arrived conveniently on my doorstep.
Chicken Cordon Bleu, a roulade of chicken around ham and Swiss cheese with a Parmesan cream sauce, was a big hit at my house, though the breadcrumb crust was doomed to sogginess in the reheating.
Soups weathered the journey to my doorstep better than entrées. I would have no shame in trying to pass off chipotle corn chowder or Thai chicken noodle as my own concoctions. Packed with shredded chicken, egg noodles, shiitake mushrooms and other vegetables, the soothing and brothy chicken soup, redolent with red pepper, soy and fresh cilantro, is now part of my standing order at Plumgood.
The creamy chowder studded with tiny white corn kernels, potatoes, scallions and chicken blended a kick of paprika and red pepper with fresh traces of thyme and cilantro. (I can list the ingredients in detail, because every package bears a straightforward label with the contents and heating instructions.)
Not every Plumgood item was a success at my kitchen table. Shepherd’s pie fell flat as a poor man’s version of the turkey pot pie, with no meat and a mashed potato topping in lieu of the pastry crust. Mexican lasagna stubbornly resurfaced for several nights as leftovers, whose heavy layers of corn and flour tortillas got dryer with each reheating. The breakfast parfait of yogurt, berries and granola was inevitably soggy, and the breakfast sandwich of bacon, egg and cheese on an English muffin was inedibly pale and flaccid. Cobb salad also left me scratching my head: A tiny bulb of romaine, with thimble-sized plastic containers of all the fixings, arrived like an edible—and expensive—science kit.
With good experiences far outweighing bad, I will look forward to trying more of the extensive prepared offerings, including the Indian spiced chicken with lentils and potatoes, chicken chili with white beans and creamy chicken casserole with wild rice.
Plumgood Prepared could get pricey for a family with hungry teenagers—with a $7.99 pulled pork burrito here and a $5.49 salad there, the meals can add up for big eaters. But if you are cooking for one or two moderate appetites who can share an entrée and soup or salad, the equation is more affordable; meanwhile, the convenience is undeniable. Our family of two adults and three picky toddlers can find a little something for everyone by mixing and matching a few entrées and sides, and there’s less waste than when I shop for all the ingredients.
We have also begun to mix and match our prepared items with Plumgood groceries, reducing our trips to the store. We recently realized we could order Plumgood Prepared salsa—a zingy medley of fresh tomatoes, jalapenos, red onion and lime juice—along with a bag of blue corn chips. Plumgood’s acquisition of Purity Dairies’ home delivery service this month means you can now order a pan of Ghirardelli chocolate chip brownies and a carton of Purity milk or ice cream, a combination that Plumgood should market like crazy. With a recently reduced $4 delivery fee for orders of $100 or more, and next-day delivery available, it’s becoming more and more tempting to log on and order up.
Now, if the purple truck would just cart away the dirty dishes.
Condolences. The bums lost. My advice is to do what your parents did; get a…
To Chris's point, $1 on a $15 tab is 7%. That is not insignificant.
1. Lockeland Table
4. Kien Giang
5. Jim & Nick's
Come down and see us Nashville. We have a real cool summer treat for you.