Olivia and Rich chow on Veggie Bros and some broccoli and mashed potatoes we made. Yum!
With so few options (read: Amy’s, Boca) available for prepared vegan fare, Jason, Laura, Olivia, Olivia’s beau Rich, and I were psyched to gather last week to cook a box full o’ mock meats and soups from online vegan frozen food service Veggie Brothers. And what a pleasure it was.
Veggie Brothers Mark Rasmussen, acclaimed (and Jason-approved) vegan chef at Veggie Works, and Michael Balducci, a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, brought the goods to our birthday party, so we were spared the wait for UPS to deliver the food. (If you’ve placed an order on their site, let us know what you thought of the service; we have no idea what it’s like!) Packaged with dry ice as it would have been for delivery, each item in our big brown box was individually wrapped in a minimal airtight plastic bag with a simple sticker to identify it. No cardboard or elaborate labeling, thanks. Also included were easy-to-follow cooking instructions and nutrition facts—mostly fatty and protein-heavy, if you’re wondering.
The instructions suggest oven, stove-top, and microwave methods, so we went with the classic oven method for the mock meats and stove-top for the soups. Skeptical of the short (10- to 20-minute) oven cook times from frozen to finished, we prepared ourselves for a long wait with some snap peas. But after just ten minutes, the barley soup was warm in the pot and the mock meats were tender.
Beneath the cut, our impressions of each delectable dish: Low-Sodium Vegetable Barley Soup, Soy Chicken Noodle Soup, Hot & Spicy Soy Chicken Buffalo Wings, Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Steak, Flame-Grilled Soy Chicken Cutlet with Garlic Lemon Herb Sauce, Soy Chicken Cacciatore, and a Wellington Supreme.
Low-Sodium Vegetable Barley Soup–$4.49
Barley lovers with a sensitive palate, this one’s for you. Those of us who have a thing for barley enjoyed the rounded, blended flavor of this rosemary-seasoned soup. Rich, our non-vegan taste-tester, wanted a little more seasoning, and Olivia thought more salt would do it for her.
Soy Chicken Noodle Soup–$4.49
“Like Campbell’s, but superior,” Olivia said. “Good soup,” Jason agreed. We’re all behind them there.
Hot & Spicy Soy Chicken Buffalo Wings–$6.99
Do we smell May Wah? Or taste it? Gosh, this is an awfully good look-alike if it didn’t come from the Chinatown mock meat vendor. Though these salty, “on-the-bone” wings might benefit from fresh frying—we like something a little crispier—they’re completely satisfying all the same, and perhaps the best you could get from the freezer. “It’s nicely spicy,” Rich said.
Grilled Mahi Mahi Fish Steak–$8.99
Lovingly presented with a sprig of rosemary, the mahi mahi wasn’t quite fishy enough for most of us. If the seaweed around the edge of the soy cutlet were also in the meat of the fish, this dish might have a more integrated, fishy flavor. We’d also like a flakier, softer texture rather than the consistently spongy one here. And a little less salt, please.
Flame-Grilled Soy Chicken Cutlet with Garlic Lemon Herb Sauce–$7.49
“As someone who does eat meat, it’s the right everything: texture, mouth-feel, taste,” Rich said. No surprise, then, that Olivia thought it looked too meaty in the package. Still, this one was our favorite. Perfectly seasoned with just the right amounts of lemon and garlic (unlike so many lemon chicken concoctions that go way too far with the lemon), the chicken cutlet was firm and juicy.
Soy Chicken Cacciatore–$7.99
I don’t think I’ve ever eaten real chicken cacciatore, so I have no clue what the texture should be like here, but I thought it was a bit mushy. Jason compared it to “what you get at the steam table at a West Indian place,” and Olivia didn’t think this was a gourmet dish. That said, it was completely edible.
We might have undercooked this and it might have been my fault. Even so, it was a delicious end to our meal. The portobello mushrooms, spinach, onions, and grilled seitan neatly wrapped in a flaky puff pastry provided a nice break from the mock meats we’d been chowing on all evening.
Veggie Brothers’ mock meats should be in every grocery’s freezer aisle. Sure, they’re on the expensive side, but they justify their prices with portions that outdo those at most competitively priced restaurants for us slothful folk who like to stay in and eat well. And with $5 shipping in the northeastern US, it certainly seems more affordable than an order from Fresh Direct. If you give Veggie Brothers a try, leave us a comment and let us know what you think!