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NiChef – Personal Culinary Experiences in your home

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As most of you know I have a full time job outside of blogging. I try to cook meals for my husband and I at least 4 nights a week but sometimes I just want someone else to cook for me. Is that took much to ask? Not if you ask NiChef!

NiChef is an online global marketplace where you can easily book a personal chef to cook in your kitchen. Niche is bringing communities together through authenticity and experiences while creating new job opportunities in the culinary world. Think of it like airbnb but for chefs.

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Having someone cook in your home, whether it’s a romantic meal for two, dinner party for 4 or 10, it’s such a fun experience and you don’t have to worry about being in the kitchen and not with your significant other/friends/guests. And it won’t break the bank. Contrary to what you are probably thinking, having someone else cook your food doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. In fact, it’s usually cheaper than eating at restaurants, and if you find the right chef like I did, the food tastes better. AND you get to choose exactly what you want to eat and when!

I recently had the chance to experience Nichef. I invited my sister over to share the experience with me. Out chef was Lisseth Conza-Berman. Listen grew up in Peru and all Nichef experiences are Peruvian; centered around the foods she grew up with. Peruvian food is a fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history. Lisseth cooked us a delicious meal of Lomo saltado; sautéed beef loin with veggies. Como salted is one of the most emblematic dishes that Peru has to offer. A mix between Chinese cuisine with Peruvian ingredients, makes this dish satisfying and full of flavor. It consists on marinated beef tenderloin stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and served with french fries and white rice.

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The price of the meal is $60 for two people. $30 each for a home cooked meal is a great price and a similar dish in a restaurant would cost you at least $30, if not more when you factor in tip, tax, and beverages/appetizers. 

So how does it work? 

Signing up to use the nichef marketplace is fast and easy. You can sign up with your facebook credentials or your email. After your have confirmed your email, you are ready to go!

To reserve a Chef you will need to sign up and create a Foodie profile. Once you have created and activated your profile, you can then start searching for a memorable experience by type of cuisine, location, and date. It’s recommended that you submit a request at least 1 week before your event date. Once you request a chef, the chef will accept or decline your booking within 24 hours. If you have any dietary restrictions, you can message the chef directly through Nichef’s messaging system.

There are about 40 chefs on the site that you can choose from. Chefs run their own business; choose their own schedules, menus and prices. Every chef has their own ‘niche’ in the culinary market and Nichef allows them to offer you a personal, and delicious, at home dining experience. 

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Instacart – Grocery Delivery comes to Boston & NYC! // $10 off your first order

You can order groceries online and have them delivered to your doorstep in an hour or two, for a delivery charge of as little as $3.99. Sounds too good to be true, right?

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Well thanks to Instacart, a grocery delivery service that delivers in as little as an hour, this is actually possible. Instacart, a website and an app where you order your groceries from your favorite stores, recently launched in Boston and connects you with Personal Shoppers in your area who pick up and deliver your groceries from your favorite local stores. In Boston, this includes Whole Foods, Shaw’s, Market Basket and Costco. Instacart is not affiliated with these stores, but it makes shopping there so much easier.

I have a busy life and getting to the grocery store is not always easy, nor is it on the top of my “favorite things to do” list. I mean who likes going to the grocery store at 5pm? The lines are long, the people are moody, and I’m usually hungry. And lets face it, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to go to the grocery store.

Eating a gluten free diet makes this even more of a chore. I shop at multiple food stores because each one offers different gluten free items or significantly different prices for the same product. Instacart lets you mix and match from various stores. So rather than having to run all over the city to different grocery stores, someone else can do the schlepping for me!

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With delivery prices as low as $3.99, and free for orders $35 or more this is a no brainer. I can definitely spend $35 in one shopping trip, thanks to the high prices of gluten free items. The minimum order is $10. Deliveries can be made in less than two hours but can also be scheduled for specific times or days when you’ll be home. The company says its fastest delivery was made in 12 minutes. Instacart also offers a service similar to Amazon Prime: for $99 a year, all under two hour deliveries over $35 are free.

I placed my first order at 5pm today. I ordered items from both Shaw’s and Whole Foods. It was easy to browse items by aisle, as you would in a grocery store, and I could filter by brand and/or dietary preferences including gluten free, organic, kosher, and vegan. This was a huge time saver. I was impressed with the number of gluten free products on the site. It’s not like food delivery/take out sites that don’t always list the gluten free options- you know what I mean, we’ve all been there.

Can’t find what you are looking for? It’s impossible to list every single item a grocery store carries. Luckily there is an option to Add a Special Request/Custom Item. All you have to do is include a description of what you are looking for the, the more specific the better, and you can even add a photo, which I did to make it easier for the shopper.

What happens if something is out of stock? When something is out of stock at the store Instacart will do their best to replace it with something similar. During checkout, you can choose specific replacements for any item, or ask for no replacement of an item. If you allow it, your shopper will call from the store to confirm replacement items.

You can view the status of your order and make changes and if the Shopper has not started working on your order, you can add to, modify or cancel your order very easily.

My first order:

Placing my order was super easy. I ordered food from both Shaw’s and Whole Foods.

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Photo Courtesy of Instacart, this was not my actual order.

My shopper called me because an item I wanted wasn’t in stock, but they had another flavor, so I told her that was ok. She also told me she was having a hard time finding the special request item I had added to my order. That didn’t surprise me because I know that not all Whole Foods carry that very new item. A few minutes later I received a text message with an estimated delivery time. My shopper actually arrived 15 minutes before the estimated time, I can’t complain about that!

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I was impressed with the quality or service and communication. I also really liked the convenience and ease of the entire processes.

Prices are set by Instacart and may vary from what you may see in your store or your sales flyer. However, you will see the price for each item when selecting your grocery list. I found that the prices were very similar, if not the same, as what I typically pay for my groceries. For example a carton of Almond Breeze Almond Milk at Whole Foods cost $1.99 in the store and on Instacart. There were some items that seemed a bit high to me, Barbara’s Bakery Puffins at Whole Foods sell for $3.99 and a bit more at Shaw’s, about $5.99-$6.99. On Instacart the price at Whole Foods was also $3.99 but at Shaw’s the Puffins cost $7.99.

After your order(s) is delivered you receive both a text and e-mail. If any replacements had been made the e-mail will show this as well as the adjusted price. You are also asked to rate and tip your shopper. Tipping is not required but shoppers appreciate recognition of their hard work. You can tip in cash or using your credit card during checkout or after delivery.

Instacart is available in and around Boston and NYC (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Woodland Park) 7 days/week from 9am-midnight, depending on local store hours.

 

 

Want to give Instacart a try? Use this link or enter promo code GlutenFreeBostonGirl to get $10 off and free delivery on your first order!

 

Disclaimer: I was not paid for this review. I did receive $35 of free groceries from Instacart, but all of my thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Kitchensurfing: Bringing Personal Chefs into Your Kitchen & Fine Dining In to your Home {and $100 promo code}

My girlfriends and I are always looking for any reason or excuse to get together to eat, drink, and have a good time. Rather than go out I decided to invite a few friends over for Girls Night, and hired a chef through Kitchsensurfing, to make us appetizers and dessert. Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.09.05 PM

I love Kitchensurfing, I’ve been using the service for a few months now for private dinners (Valentine’s Day is coming up!) and a cooking lesson (click on the links to read about my other KS experiences). My friends, on the other hand, were newbies, and they were just as excited to try something different, as I was to introduce them to Kitchensurfing.

So what is Kitchensurfing?

Kitchensurfing is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. It’s a service that allows you to bring chefs into your home to cook you a personal and customized meal. From hobby chefs to Michelin star chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or fifty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

How it works:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà, you’ve got yourself a private chef.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

The booking process is incredibly east and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. So be specific about your likes and dislikes along with any dietary restrictions.  All the chefs I’ve worked with were great with communicating with me prior to the booking, and customizing the menu to my likes and needs. And remember, the chefs want you to enjoy every last bite, so be upfront and honest!

Keep reading for your $100 code….

Our Girls Night was such a blast! The menu looked amazing, and the food turned out even better than we could have imagined. My friends loved every moment of it and could not stop talking about trying KS on their own.

Chef Stephen Coe created a menu of tapas and dessert. Each course was delicious and beautifully crafted. The freshness and flavors of each dish were impressive; we cannot say one bad thing about any of this food.

Red and yellow beet salad with shaved sheep cheese, candied pistachios, and a blood orange aged balsamic over local greens.IMG_6251

Sashimi Tuna served over seaweed salad with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and siracha sour cream and rice crackers.IMG_6255 IMG_6252

Grilled Oysters with pancetta, fennel, bee pollen, chives, and grated sheep cheese. IMG_6262

Scallops with artichoke hearts, romaine, olives, basil, tomatoes, and capers.IMG_6263

Warm chocolate soufflé with strawberry tarragon and white balsamic purée.IMG_6261 IMG_6260

The awesome folks over at Kitchensurfing have provided me with a $100 discount code for YOU, my readers! Click here to claim your $100 voucher and discover what Kitchensurfing is all about. The code is valid Monday, February 3, 2014 through Sunday, February 16, 2014. Your meal needs to be booked prior to the 16th, but the date of the actual meal could be after this date.

And you don’t have to live in Boston; some chefs are willing to travel all over the state, even to Maine!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pictures from my previous Kitchensurfing Experiences

Romantic Meal for Two by Chris Hallahan

– Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, and corn
– Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette
– Blue Fish pan seared with crispy skin, over maple glazed carrots and fall vegetables
– Pumpkin & carrot cake (dairy, gluten free)IMG_4988

Cooking Lesson with Michelle Lahey:

-Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
-Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
-Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
-Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

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Drop of Plated Meal prepared by Mark Hardin

– Arugula, Carrot & fennel salad with a creamsicle vinaigrette, sunflower seeds & orange slices
– Braised Lamb Shank slowly cooked in tomatoes and garlic. Served with a gravy made from its own juices. Accompanied by Roasted root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
– Mini Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake Garnished with powdered sugar and a fresh raspberriesIMG_5950 IMG_5947

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Our Gluten Free Cooking Lesson with Kitchensurfing & 25% off code

Kitchensurfing brings a chef into your kitchen for parties, lessons, and so much more.Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.34.17 AM

Kitchensurfing (KS) is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. From hobby chefs to Michelin chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or thirty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

Last month Jeremy and I had a wonderful, restaurant-quality, 4-course meal with Chef Chris Hallahan. We were blown away not only by his culinary talents, but also by his passion for food and locally sourced ingredients. He was friendly and engaging, and answered all our questions. You can read all about our first KS experience here.

The whole experience was so wonderful that I decided to use KS again, but this time I wanted a cooking lesson.

After browsing a few profiles and menus to see who would be a good fit for a gluten free, dairy free cooking lesson we chose Michelle Lahey. Michelle is a Boston based personal chef and I love her blog, The Economical Eater, so I was thrilled when she replied to my request for a cooking lesson for my sister and I!

The Menu for our cooking demonstration:

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BarsIMG_5677

Services Included

  • Ingredients
  • Cleaning
  • Transport

Michelle’s food was fantastic. She was engaging, super friendly, and really easy to talk to. She was really knowledgeable about vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free food, such a relief!

Michelle’s menu incorporated fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.IMG_5652

I really like Brussels sprouts but have never cooked them myself, so I was eager to learn to do this once and for all. And it’s much easier than I thought!

Our previous attempts at making veggie burgers have all failed. Michelle’s recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers was easy to follow and can easily be swapped with different types of beans and spices. We loved the Middle Eastern spices and flavor combinations in this burger.IMG_5649The vegan tzatziki was also easy to make and paired perfectly with the burgers. This is something I plan on making again. Since going dairy free I hadn’t eaten tzatziki. I was surprised with the simplicity of the recipe. Michelle used So Delicious almond based yogurt and also recommended coconut yogurt was well. I haven’t been able to find plain coconut yogurt so I just bought the almond yogurt when I made it.IMG_5679The pumpkin chocolate chip dessert bars were to die for.  My sister and I felt like we had died and gone to heave. The secret ingredient— garam masala—gave the bars an unbelievable flavor. They were absolutely incredible. And lucky for us she left us her recipe so we can make them again and again! The recipe is also available on her blog.IMG_5680

Not only did Michelle show us how to prepare the food, each step of the way she explained what we were doing with all the ingredients and how each one contributed to and played a role in the dish.IMG_5659

We enjoyed learning new recipes that we can now add to our repertoire. I like that Michelle focused on healthy, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. We liked everything about this meal and we felt good eating it.IMG_5677

Click here for a 25% off coupon for your next Kitchensurfing booking! This code is valid through Dec. 31 (you don’t have to have your meal prior to the 31, it just has to be booked by that date). This code can be used on any KS service.

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Gluten Free Italian at Ristorante Olivio in Arlington

Open in Arlington for eleven years now, Ristorante Olivio is a hidden gem offering authentic Italian cuisine. Chef Angelo came to America from Italy, bringing with him home-style cooking and traditional recipes from his native country. (click here to save 50% off)

Sitting at a dark wooden table in a simple dining room with white walls and Italian décor, I felt like I was back in Europe again. One of the walla displays vases filled with wine corks, another displays traditional serving dishes and pieces from Italy.IMG_4408

The open kitchen can be seen from the main dining room and invites guests to get a sneak peak at their dishes being prepared.

You wouldn’t know from their website, but Olivio’s offers a gluten free menu complete with two types of gluten free pasta: capellini and linguine.IMG_4407

Not only does Olivio’s offer a gluten free menu but they also have gluten free bread. This was one of the best, if not the best, breads I have tried.  Our waitress told me the brand is called Heartland, and it was purchased at Whole Foods. I am still trying to figure this out, because I cannot find that company online. If you see it at Whole Foods, but it— it’s that good.IMG_4409

We started with two appetizers: prosciutto and melon with olives and fresh cracked pepper, and the asparagus salad with mozzarella and sundried tomato vinaigrette. The menu description also included string beans, which were missing from our salad. I really liked the puréed sundried tomato dressing; it was thick and flavorful.IMG_4416

The prosciutto and melon was also tasty but there was too much melon. I must say the portion sizes were generous.IMG_4413

For my entrée I ordered the shrimp and calamari fra diavolo with capellini pasta. The sauce was slightly spicy, but not too spicy, and I really enjoyed that. There were four big shrimp, plenty of calamari rings, and yet only one full squid with tentacles. The tentacles are my favorite part so I wish there were more, however the four shrimp and rings were plenty filling. The basil sprinkled on top was incredibly fresh— it tasted like it was just picked out of the garden— and added a nice herbaceous flavor to the dish.IMG_4417

Katie ordered the balsamic glazed roasted salmon with spinach risotto. The salmon was cooked perfectly, slightly pink and soft on the inside, just the way we like it. The risotto was rich and creamy; too much cheese for my liking, but Katie really enjoyed it. Both entrées were big and we couldn’t finish either dish.IMG_4419

For dessert we ordered the Chocolate panna cotta. Neither of us really knew what panna cotta was. We learned that it is an Italian dessert made by simmering together cream, milk and sugar, mixing it with gelatin (in this case chocolate), and letting it cool until it sets. It was then topped with fresh whipped cream and shaved dark chocolate. We absolutely loved the creamy, silky texture and chocolate flavor. It was the prefect way to end out meal.IMG_4423 IMG_4424

The service was incredibly friendly and we really enjoyed our evening at Ristorante Olivio. If you are looking for authentic an authentic Italian restaurant, with great food, and a warm and welcoming environment, without the high prices and congestion of North End restaurants, then I would recommend Ristorante Olivio’s in a heartbeat.

Save 50% off with the livingsocial deal. (Purchase until February 21, 2014. Valid until June 2014)


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Updated 2/4/14