Friday, March 14, 2008

Day Fourteen: The Busy Modern Mom

This morning I spent two hours at The Dinner Studio, which is one of those preparation kitchens where you put together meals that you've chosen on-line. I first read about it in the newspaper, in a feature on the various kitchens that have opened in San Diego in the past few years. It was just me and the giant spanking-clean exhibition kitchen, with my apron and a jazz soundtrack. Don't call me domestic, but I couldn't stop smiling.


1. I walked in the door with a banker's box, and I walked out with two weeks worth of dinners.

2. Everything was metal and shiny: big metal bowls, shiny metal spoons, crinkly metal cartons and a motion-sensored stainless steel sink so you don't have to touch it with dirty hands.

3. The recipes were laminated and clipped upright on the stations, so I didn't have to hurt my neck or multi-task my elbows in order to read them.

4. Whenever I reached for an ingredient, the correct measuring implement was already in it.

5. Every time I used a bowl or spoon, I got to toss it in the sink for someone else to wash.

6. Don't like hard-boiled eggs or black beans in your casserole? Leave 'em out. Want several more heaping scoops of garlic or cheese? The world is your oyster.

7. The recipe listed the exact size baking container for each recipe, all of which were neatly filed on a shelf. When the food was inside, I pinched the little corners around the lid and slapped on a neatly-typed label, which really thrilled the part of my soul that is fulfilled by completing manual tasks.

8. Adorable freckled manager Lavinia plied me with soda, coffee and great big ol' slabs of gooey fruit pie (Steph and Mary: I didn't even try ONE bite!)

9. Any time I so much as looked a teeny bit perplexed, a staffer rushed to my side with help and extra spoons. After a while, I tried to keep my expression neutral so I wouldn't inconvenience them.

10. When all my meals were done, Lavinia gathered up a huge pile of specialized condiments, toppings and sides that were part of the bounty.

11. The whole she-bang fit onto two shelves of our freezer.

12. We ate the Beer-Simmered Flank Steak tonight with rosemary potatoes, and it was scrummy.


Cheri said...

But I want them to cook it for me and clean up too!

I've thought about trying one of these places. Glad to have a report from a pro reviewer!

Sam said...

I hear you, Cheri. :) But at least there are no pans--you cook right in the containers they give you.

And the food really is good. The one ingredient that's ever raised my eyebrows was the canned mushrooms. I love mushrooms, but I don't do canned. Everything else seems to be fresh.

Type (little) a said...

I want to try that, too. Around here we have a chain called super suppers.

I am also a freak of nature who likes canned mushrooms

Jenn said...

This is our FAVORITE place and a wonderful date night. We've been doing Dinner Studio since just after they opened, about 2 1/2 years. For all the reasons in your list and more, it's amazing. We always do the full 12 entrees, 6 servings and make them into smaller portions which doubles our meals without leftovers. We've rarely had something we don't like. The meatloaf with chex mix is fabulous. We just had the most amazing chicken tortilla soup in the crockpot. I wish I'd made more!! You have found the gold at the end of the rainbow Sam!

Jen said...

Wow, things move considerably slower for me since I moved from California to Maine. I've never even HEARD of a dinner studio! I feel like I've been living in a cave! It sounds really cool, Sam.

By the way, I'm still savoring your 80s post. It brought back all sorts of great and scary memories for me. My spouse doesn't fully get it, since he's 7 years older than I. (Can you believe he only knows about Sesame Street because his youngest brother watched it? He doesn't get half of my jokes!)

Miss J

Sam said...

@Type: We have Super Suppers, too! We have five different chains here. I've heard they're all good.

@Jenn: Oooo, you are a seasoned pro! Get it--SEASONED? ;) Chex Mix sounds genius! And yes, I love buying the six serving and just putting it in two containers: that's more than two full meals for the likes of us!

@Miss J: I bet you have something like it in Portland! And I had no idea that your David was older! How does one perform childhood without Sesame Street? ;)

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Maybe I could convince the kids to head over and do it for me, that would really be perfect!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Maybe I could convince the kids to head over and do it for me, that would really be perfect!

Caroline said...

Oh, I've always wanted to do one of those! I'm envious. :) I'll have to try it one day. I love the idea. I wonder how peanut safe they are, though. :(

Sam said...

@Caroline: I just checked--your town has both Dream Dinners and Dinner Studio. Dream Dinners addresses food allergies in the FAQs of their website. Dinner Studio doesn't, but I'll bet it works in much the same way (you just call them to make arrangements.)

Jennifer said...

OK....I guess I'm behind the times too. I've never heard of this either. What an amazing idea!! I love to cook, but hate the mess it makes and the clean up. This is right up my alley! I'll have to check and see if we have one near me.