Updated 11/12/2010- We just received news that Dinner A'Fare will be closing at the end of 2010. So sad!
As I cooked our lovely summer meal tonight, I started thinking of how cooking in the winters isn't quite as much fun. I was glad to have found out about and tried Dinner A'Fare with my mommy friends this past winter. As a busy parent with too much to do but mostly a child to raise, sometimes dinner ends up being frozen pizza for mom and dad here (ok, a lot of times). Sarah C. and I thought you blog readers might appreciate hearing about our experience with Dinner A'Fare.
If you are unfamiliar, Dinner A'Fare is a nationwide chain with a location in Apex. You sign up in advance and pick what meals you are going to make. They have everything prepped and the recipes out. You put everything together, bring it home, and freeze it. Then one winter night when cooking sounds really unappealing you open up one of your Dinner A'Fare meals and voila! food. Their slogan is "12 Meals. 2 Hours."
This isn't your average tv dinner though. The menu options we had ranged from Orange Sesame Chicken to Chicken Enchilada with Salsa Verde. The menus and options change monthly, which means you can go back time and again and the family isn't bored. Right now, their website lists some mouth watering delights such as White Lasagna with Chicken & Artichokes and Steak Soft Tacos with Horseradish Bleu Cheese Sauce. Yum.
Even though their slogan says "12 meals," there are various options and corresponding prices to choose from. I chose a 6 meal / 2 person option when I went. That means I made 6 different meals with 2 portion sizes each. But you can go up to 12 meals, and you can have portion sizes for up to 6 people. Prices are $85 - $235 depending on which package you choose and how much food you bring home.
We were very surprised that Ziploc is not a major investor in Dinner A'Fare. It was our expectation that we would end up with a bunch of casserole-y items that we would just unwrap and stick in the oven when we wanted to eat it. But with Dinner A'Fare you actually put everything into Ziploc bags. Marinated meat in one bag, sauces in other bags. You wrap it all together with directions (provided) on how to cook and prepare each meal. The directions are not complicated, but it does take a little more effort than popping it in the oven. Although most entrees we prepared were still 1-dish preparation (less dishes to clean!). And it also means you end up with a LOT of Ziploc baggies going into your trash. We found that each entree had about 3 Ziploc bags.
Also, while we found that while the directions for preparing the meals to take home to freeze were simple enough, we kept having to ask for more of certain ingredients and measuring cups. This meant that our ingredients were fresh (or we made sure they were fresh if they weren't, such as when we found spoiled cream out), but it also meant having to spend a little more time waiting for items to be diced and cut. And the employees were really fantastic about getting replacement cream, apologizing, getting fresh things out, and making sure we were enjoying ourselves. Because, yes, you don't do any slicing or dicing. Just measuring and Ziploc-ing.
The quality of food was delicious. Once DH and I prepared them here at home over the course of the following weeks, they were great. Way better than Stouffer's Pizza. We didn't have one meal we didn't enjoy. We felt the portion sizes were a little small, but my husband is an active man over 6 feet tall with a major metabolism. So we might not be the typical market.
You can bring in your own wine and snacks to enjoy while making your food (nothing is provided). So this made for a nice mommies night out. Although we did joke about how even mommies night out was still about providing good eats for the family... So dads, you could make this a fun date night or surprise your mate with 6 prepared meals for the month. Also, if you have older children who enjoy mixing and measuring and being in the kitchen, this would be fun for them. Although older children is the key: there are raw meats in here.
You want to show up with a cooler to take your food home.
You can split a package with a friend, but you can not split portion sizes. That means that you each make half of the entrees (for ex., you get the 6 meal option, you each make 3 meals) and you can double-order entrees.
We happened to be the only group when we went, but they can get over a dozen people in there for one evening. Just depends on your luck, but you can book it for private engagements.
We had a lot of fun doing this, and it was a mommies night out that kept paying off. So enjoy and bon apetite!
2001 Creekside Landing Drive
Beaver Creek Crossing
Apex, NC 27502