Hello Fresh Review
Working and parenting full time is not something I would recommend. Our days are non-stop from when Alivia wakes Stephen and I up with shouts from her room to when we shut down our work laptops and head to bed. Meal planning, grocery shopping and cooking 3 meals a day, every day takes a lot of time. It’s also not something we’re completely used to because we ate out a lot and had help from my inlaws once a week. We are starting to ease up with getting take out and trying to cook in batches on the weekend, but it’s still stressful when you have a hungry toddler asking if lunch or dinner is ready immediately after finishing a conference call.

We had the opportunity to try out HelloFresh for a week and I was hopeful a meal kit service could be the solution to reduce some of my weekday meal time anxiety.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Hello Fresh. All ideas and opinions expressed are wholly mine.

The Basics

HelloFresh is a meal kit delivery service based in Germany that entered the Canadian market in 2016. Customers can choose between receiving 3 or 4 recipes per week for 2 or 4 people starting at $11.49 per serving. There are 22 recipes to choose from each week. When picking your recipes, the preparation time, calories, difficulty level, allergens, included ingredients, not included ingredients (ie. oil, salt, pepper) are all clearly listed on a pop out window. There was a good mix of proteins within the recipe choices and a handful of vegetarian options.

What I liked

All three recipes I chose from HelloFresh were simple with a handful of quality ingredients and steps to prepare. This was great and exactly what I was looking for. I really liked the sauces in both recipes and how recreatable they were. Why wasn’t I making a dill sauce with every meal? The produce was fresh and kept in our fridge for over 5 days. Packaging was minimal and only when really necessary like with creams, sauces and spice packets. Portion sizes were generous. We ordered the 4 people plan and my mom was staying with us that week so it was great timing. There was easily enough leftovers to pack for my lunch the next day but one of our 4 people was a toddler.

Another plus was the wide variety of recipes to choose from. There were options for all the traditional proteins, plus seafood and vegetarian recipes. For me, being able to quickly identify low-carb options would’ve been a plus.

Other things to consider

The week I placed my order, most of the recipes that caught my eye had an additional charge per plate. This makes sense with the high quality cuts of protein (often steak or multiple proteins/plate), but it was a bit disappointing. Each week only 3 out of the 22 recipes had an additional charge per serving, which isn’t unreasonable, and the pricing was clearly indicated.

With generous portion sizes, the calories per serving on the majority of recipes was >700cals. For my size and current health goals, this is a lot. However, the recipes were easy to adjust with reducing sides/sauces to accommodate my preferences or even saving leftovers for lunch the next day. This was really not a bad problem to have.

In Conclusion

Overall as a meal kit, I found Hello Fresh hit the mark on all the key points. The recipes were easy, quick and appetizing. All the ingredients were fresh, good quality and lasted over 5 days in our fridge. A+ for convenience during a busy week and Alivia approved.

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Florence in 24 Hours
Stephen and I arrived in Florence from Monterosso earlier than planned after skipping a pit stop at Pisa because I was still in no shape to explore. It took every effort to walk from the train station to our Airbnb where I promptly fell into bed and slept until it was time to find dinner. I felt well enough to wander the city, but not enough to actually eat anything. We ventured to a restaurant on my map, which specialized in wild boar pasta and ordered one plate for Stephen. It was only 5pm, the restaurant had just opened and I don’t think they were expecting diners yet. Our plate arrived quickly and looked delicious. Unfortunately the gamey aroma of the wild boar did not mix well with my unsettled stomach. Luckily, Stephen’s a fast eater and we were soon on our way back to bed. I made it a whole block before emptying my stomach over a sewer grate. It was time to call it a day.

After 12 hours of sleep I felt more human like and up for sightseeing. We took the day slowly with lots of stops and water. I was determined to recover in time to enjoy our Bistecca alla Florentina.

Places to See

Our first stop was the Florence Cathedral with its stunning exterior. We walked the entire perimeter, making sure not to miss the building from any angle. Inside, the interiors were simple and unadorned, save for the painted dome ceiling. Free tours were available in English that were quite informative. In between munching on sandwiches, I loved checking out the street vendors selling leather goods near Central Market. There was a black leather backpack that I fell in love with. While Stephen and I tried to figure out if I had the luggage room to bring the bag home, the seller took my indecisiveness for haggling and kept lowering his price. Alas, I ended up walking away, but I still think about that bag with a touch of regret!

We ended our afternoon walking along the Arno river and taking in the scenery. We walked across the covered Ponte Vecchio and then back across the neighbouring Ponte Santa Trinita to view it.

Sandwiches to Eat

I Due Fratellini – A literal hole-in-the wall spot, famous for their Tuscan bread, fresh ingredients and wine. With 30 sandwiches to choose from making a decision was hard. There was a small counter to place orders and the wall behind was filed with shelves of wine. The shop was easy to spot with a line outside and a crowd of people munching on sandwiches and sipping red wine. We stuck to a basic prosciutto filling, which was exquisite, salty and savoury, exactly what I needed.

L’Antico Trippaio – Lampredotto, cow tripe, is a famous Florentine dish and a must eat. For us, tripe isn’t exactly a unique or odd ingredient (actually one of my favourite foods to hotpot or at dim sum) but for many it could be considered exotic. Slow-cooked and seasoned, the Florentine version of tripe was tender and flavourful. The sandwich we tried at this sandwich stand was also super spicy.

Mercato Centrale Firenze – By the time we made our way to Florence Central Market, a full meal was out of the question (especially since we still had dinner in a few hours). Open from 10am to midnight, the two storey, covered market was a delight to window shop and a great rest spot. I was blown away by the selection of vendors, from fresh seafood and sushi to hamburgers and of course all the tuscany specialties. We snacked on a plate of prosciutto with a glass of wine before heading home for our afternoon nap. If we had more time in Florence, I would’ve loved to spend more time wandering the market.

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Best New Restaurant 2018 – Air Canada

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the unveiling of Canada’s Best New Restaurant presented by Air Canada. Every year, I love reading the list in EnRoute magazine and adding them to my travel wishlists. At this year’s event, the top 10 of 30 contenders were present serving up their signature dishes, which ranged from snails to wedge salad. Two Toronto restaurants represented. One of my favourite spots in the city Aloette, and Giulietta, the new restaurant from Chef Rob Rossi of Bestellen. Tasting bites from the other 8 restaurants seriously made me want to visit cities I’d never thought of before, like Edmonton and Picton.

Disclaimer: Thank you Air Canada for inviting me to attend this event. All opinions expressed below are wholly mine.

My favourite bites of the evening were from Avenue (Regina, SK), Aloette, Sand and Pearl (Picton, ON) and Bündok (Edmonton, AB). Avenue’s dish was a delicious combination of tuna and pork belly while Aloette’s classic wedge salad was a perfect balance of textures, creamy dressing and crunchy pumpkin seeds. Sand and Pearl’s booth was constantly swarmed for their braised back ribs topped with crab and freshly shucked oysters. I admit, I took a few return trips for both the oysters and crab. Bündok’s offer was two slices of lightly cured sea bream topped with a citrus chili oil that packed a lot of heat and acidity. I loved the balance of the fish and oil, this was another booth where I went back for seconds.

The restaurant that took top honours was The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette (Jordan Station, ON), who served up BBQ sea snails, skewered with a branch on real shells. Their presentation was creative and the dish itself unique. I enjoyed the chewy texture of the snails, which were excellently seasoned. Located in the Niagara region in a modern farmhouse, The Restaurant at Pearl Morissette is quickly becoming a destination in of themselves. There is only a set menu offered (5+ courses) that changes daily centered around locally sourced ingredients. I expect their reservations to quickly fill up despite the non central location.

This year’s event also highlighted Canada’s Best New Bars. Unfortunately I had to duck out early (to get home for Alivia’s bedtime) and missed out on that part of the evening. Even more places to add to my ever growing list of places to visit.

To learn more about all the restaurants and how they were ranked, visit https://canadasbestnewrestaurants.com/en/.

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Cinque Terre – The Villages
Stephen and I set out from Monterosso with our Cinque Terre Passes mid morning to begin our hike to Vernazza. Our Airbnb host told us the hike, which was considered an average difficulty trail, would take about an hour. That didn’t sound bad. I figured if we were tired after one hike we could hop on the train for the rest of the day. The trek took us over 2 hours with stops for photos and rest. We did not hike on.

The Hike: Monterosso to Vernazza

A few parts of the trail were narrow and others overlooked a steep mountain side (those with a fear of heights might have trouble) but overall the terrain was easy to manage, even in my Converse sneakers. The path weaved up, down and around the mountain through lemon orchards, dense greenery and open air with stunning views of the ocean.

Tip: Wear layers! Since we prepared to be out for the full day, we had to dress for it. While the morning and evening were cool, after a few hours of hiking in the sun, I was sweating. A few of the villages also had beautiful beaches and water access so a bathing suit layer may come in handy.

For me the hardest part of the trail was the start, leaving Monterosso to climb up and up the mountain was a lot of stairs. Our first stop was at a lemonade stand run by a family who owned one of the lemon orchards. The fresh lemons were wonderfully fragrant and the drink so refreshing in the heat. Another great restspot was a nook for stray cats set up with little houses and food.

The trail was busy in both directions with a wide variety of hikers. Some were decked out in full gear while others were dressed for a park stroll. I would recommend at the minimum wearing closed toe sneakers and bringing some water. There were two great photo spots once Vernazza came into sight. Catching a glimpse of the colourful city, I felt a sense of accomplishment (and a bit of relief).

The Train

After grabbing lunch in Vernazza we decided to take the train to the next 3 cities. Hiker, I am not. Train passes were available that allow unlimited travel with options of 1 day, multi day and family pricing. We had to be a bit more mindful of our time in each city but it was still a leisurely afternoon.

Tip: The train station at Corniglia was at sea level while the village itself was on the cliffs, 382 stairs up. There is a frequent shuttle bus between the village and train station if stairs are not your thing. The ride takes about 5 minutes and costs €1.50.

After climbing the stairs to Corniglia, I rewarded myself with a gelato before we moved on. Both Manarola and Riomaggiore had direct water access. At Manarola, tourists clambered on the rocks for the perfect shot. We were no exception but I wasn’t as daring to climb too high on the wet, slippery cliffs. Since many tourists were also running on a train schedule, the best time for photos was just as a train arrived to carry a group away before the next wave arrived.

In Riomaggiore, we ended our day with a fried seafood cone. The main street was lined with shops all hawking the local specialty with similar prices. We followed the crowd to the longest line and wasn’t disappointed.

Overall, the day was busy and I loved getting to explore each of the charming cities. If we had one more day, I would’ve loved to hike a few more of the trails.
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