Wednesday, 10 December 2014

My DinnerTime experience

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to try the service offered by DinnerTime ME, the local branch of an international company founded in Sweden few years ago and recently arrived in the Middle East, whose purpose is to provide families with fresh ingredients and instructions to prepare four creative meals during the week. How does it work? Every week DinnerTime's team creates a four meals set menu, buys all the fresh ingredients required (and some cupboard staples more unlikely to be always available in your pantry) and delivers right to your door in a time slot chosen by you, together with all the instructions to prepare the recipes. All you have to do is to check DinnerTime's website to view in advance the menu planned for the following week and, if you like it, place your order - online, by phone or email - by Thursday; on the following Sunday, at the chosen time, you'll receive your box.
To be honest, I wouldn't have ordered from DinnerTime on purpose, as I like to plan meals for my family by myself, selecting new recipes to try or, even more often, deciding what to cook on the basis of the fresh food - mainly vegetables and fish - I bought (and I buy only what inspires me, usually because is fresh, local, organic if possible, and somehow tempting me). But I received a DinnerTime voucher as a gift from the beautiful online magazine 
Food e Mag dxb, a food and travel e-magazine authored by local bloggers, (you can register on the website to have a chance to receive a gourmet gift) and was happy to try. 

The box I ordered included these four meal options: Lemon Garlic Lamb Kebabs with Feta Dipping Sauce, Sweet Potato Fries & Salad; Quick Pan Fried Fish with Sauteed Spinach; Chicken Laksa and 
Gorgonzola & Pumpkin Pizzas. 
My order was delivered before the requested time, but the courier called me in advance to ask if I was at home. What I received was one large cardboard box with all the fresh vegetables, herbs and some additional ingredients, including Arabic bread, coconut milk and cubed chicken stock. The other fresh ingredients (fish, meat and cheese) was in a thermal food box to keep them cold. A booklet with the recipes cards and instructions on how to store delivered foods - the fresh things in particular - in order to keep them as fresh as possible was also included in the box. To prepare your meals you need to have at home some basic ingredients like salt, oil, rice, butter, etc. but they are clearly listed in advance on DinnerTime website. 
DinnerTime - the box

Fish and lamb were from Choithram's, while chicken and cheese didn't have any indication on the supplier; in particular lamb and Nile perch were fresh (actually I would have preferred a local and possibly sustainable fish instead; also the related recipe called for sole fillets that probably were not available that day), while chicken was defrosted (and in fact storage instruction specified not to freeze it again), According to the information reported on the website, vegetables and herbs are organic provided by the local Greenheart Organic Farm: on the bags there is no label certifying the origin of delivered products and, to be honest, I doubt that the pears, lemons and lime I received were organic ... and anyway citrus were for sure waxed, which I don't like much especially when I have to use the skin. Also I am not a fan of cubed stock, as I prefer to make stock from scratch or use only water instead (less flavorful, but with an origin that I know). Globally I would say  that, apart from my considerations above, the quality of products delivered was quite high.  
Instructions on the booklet were very clear and complete, preparation times correct but pictures of the dishes could have been nicer. I also liked the food storage instructions included in the booklet. And also all dishes were ready in less then 45 minutes plus the time for preparing all ingredients (washing and cutting vegetables is usually the most time consuming step). 
One of the four dishes was Chicken Laksa, a recipe typical of Singapore that I had never tried before and was happy to try. It vaguely reminded me a Thai chicken curry: chicken is cooked in a spicy sauce with mixed vegetable and coconut milk, and served with boiled rice.
DinnerTime - Chicken Laksa

Then there was a Lemon garlic lamb kebab with feta sauce, sweet potato fries and salad: lamb cubes, arranged on skewers with lemon wedges, are briefly marinated in a mix of lemon juice, olive oil and garlic, then baked in the oven (alternatively they could be grilled) and served with roasted sweet potato fries, a mixed salad, with a feta and lemon juice sauce on the side. Simple, fast and tasty, this was my favorite dish of the four.
DinnerTime - Lamb Kebab

The vegetarian dish was Gorgonzola and pumpkin pizzas: Arabic bread garnished with roasted pumpkin, slices of pear, Gorgonzola and rosemary and warmed in the oven. I liked the combination of flavors as well as the idea of using Arabic bread as an almost-pizza base, but I would not serve the dish as a main course; to me it would be better served as a starter or as a buffet dish. 
DinnerTime - Gorgonzola Pumpkin Pizza

I didn't take any picture of the Quick pan fried fish with sauteed spinach. As I mentioned before I was not very happy with the type of fish provided, Nile perch, but the recipe, even if very simple, is a good alternative to have fish without spending much time. And it would have turned good with fillets of any type of firm white fish. 

I was happy with the service as a whole; considering my habits, I don't think I could become a regular customer but I would recommend DinnerTime service especially to people with a busy schedule who still want to prepare easy, healthy and tasty meals for the family using fresh ingredients and also to those who wish to try new or different recipes without much effort (for searching and choosing recipes, and shopping). And also I think the price is absolutely adequate.

What  I liked
  • The set menu is well balanced, as the four meals alternate meat, fish, chicken and a vegetarian option, with a good portion of vegetables in every meal. 
  • Portions are generous and ingredients provided well measured, so that there is no wastage
  • For four days I didn't have to worry about our dinners! Even if I prefer to choose fresh food personally and like to plan meals for my family, I enjoyed being "free" for few days. I think it is a good choice for busy people, with little time to go shopping and cooking, willing to feed the family with wholesome and tasty meals. 

What could be improved
  • Local, sustainable varieties of fish should be preferred to overfished species as well as to imported ones. This would be a much wiser choice, good both for safeguarding fisheries resources and sustaining local fishing activities; on the other side, the use of sustainable fish in the recipes proposed would contribute to "educate" people and let them know that there are many varieties of fish which are good for the environment and also taste good like (or even more) the species they are used to buy and eat. 
  • I would have liked to find a label on all the fresh ingredients with information on the content (e.g. chicken breast from France - defrosted) as well as the supplier (only few items I received had a label with partial information)
Something about Dinner Time 
Every week a different menu is proposed; there is also a Gluten-free dinner package option for people with dietary restrictions.
Both for the standard and the gluten-free dinner package, it is possible to choose between ordering a single pack for 2 or 4 persons, or subscribe for weekly deliveries. Order must be issued latest by Thursday for a delivery to your doorstep the following Sunday.
Prices are as follows:
Standard package of 4 meals for 4 people: AED 420 for single order - AED 380 for a weekly subscription
Standard package of 4 meals for 2 people: AED 300 for single order - AED 280 for a weekly subscription
Gluten-free package of 4 meals for 4 people: AED 520 for single order - AED 480 for a weekly subscription
Gluten-free package of 4 meals for 2 people: AED 400 for single order - AED 380 for a weekly subscription
More information on DinnerTime website

Disclaimer: I was gifted a voucher for a DinnerTime package by Food e Mag dxb but I was not requested to write a review neither by the magazine nor the company. Writing this post was an idea of mine as well as all I wrote above is my real opinion on the service received. 


4 comments:

  1. Thank you Francesca for sharing your experience! And I am so glad that you enjoyed your gift box from DinnerTime. I personally haven't yet tried DinnerTime, for the same reason as yours - I like to plan my own meals. Maybe, I should also give it a try:)

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    1. Thank you Ishita and the magazine for the gift. I like to plan my meals and shop ingredients personally, but it was fun to leave part of the job to others for few days.

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  2. Thank you Francesca for the review! We are really happy that you liked the meals. The Lamb Kebabs was my favourite as well, loved the taste of the grilled lemons together with the lamb and feta cheese sauce.
    Thank you chef Kanika Hughes!
    Next week we have Beef-n-Bean Sliders with Crunchy Coleslaw on the menu, and 3 more delicious recipes.
    Simply serve with love!
    Anette
    DinnerTime
    www.dinnertime.me

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    1. Annette, I was happy to share my experience with DinnerTime! I hope it can help people looking for a service like this; and also I hope you find useful my comments on the service.

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