Honestly Good: Taste-Testing and Eating at The Publican in Chicago at BlogHer

It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for taste-testing. Beer, wine, cheese. Let’s taste all the things!

Okay, that sounded oddly inappropriate. But really, taste-testing is fun! So when I was recently in Chicago for BlogHer (a little bit about why exactly I was there here), and they asked me attend Lean Cuisine Honestly Good Luncheon where we’d get to — and here’s the word that perked my ears up — “taste-test” Lean Cuisine’s newest varieties that are just hitting the freezer aisle this summer, I was so ready.  Plus, honestly, who doesn’t like a free lunch?

The educational session I was in before the lunch went a touch long, so I was running a bit late. But, that turned out to my advantage as I ended up bumping into my new BFF Maris Callahan — and then we both had Lucien Vendôme of Lean Cuisine pull us over to take a photo. And this was not just any photo. I looked up and saw that I was surrounded by (from left) Lior Lev Sercarz, Anita Lo, Brad Farmerie, me!, Michelle Bernstein, Paul Kahan and Lucien Vendôme. It seriously took me a moment to process it all! (And, thank God, I didn’t or I would have totally had a full-blown Wayne’s World moment.)

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After the quick celeb chef meet-and-greet, I settled in for an almost two-hour culinary journey.

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From how Lean Cuisine decides what ingredients to use and what went into the new dishes, along with a little about each chef and what inspires them, it was pretty interesting. I particularly liked the insight on food trends — and how certain ingredients just seem to get “hot” all of a sudden. (Usually it comes from the chef level and then filters its way down!)

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But, really, the best part was the taste-testing! (I was hungry.) They brought out multiple little trays (actually, they’re the newly designed Lean Cuisine trays) filled with foodie goodies to sample. Loved their focus on real and fresh ingredients.

I was obsessed with the coconut and carrot sauce, and, um, confession: I may have eaten the mini yellow bell peppers and nuts that were a garnish. ( … — if you get that movie reference, we can TOTALLY be friends.)

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From there, we got into trying the new Honestly Good line, which was inspired by the chefs at the event. There was chicken with a pomegranate sauce and veggies (I skipped the grains!)

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And the lemongrass salmon, also with veggies. While the meat was a little dry, I loved both sauces on these and the veggies were surprisingly good for a pre-cooked meal. Not sure that I’d buy them, but I certainly appreciate Lean Cuisine’s effort at making a more natural and foodie frozen meal!

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And it wouldn’t be a taste-testing meal without a little dessert. This little flourless ball of chocolate had black beans in it! And how cute is the fork shape on the plate? I will so try that with cocoa at home later …

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Since most of the offerings weren’t gluten-free, I had to be pretty picky about what I tried. So by dinner, I was pretty darn hungry. And since we had seen Paul Kahan and were in Chicago, Maris and I thought it only appropriate to dine at his restaurant The Publican. I had a glass of dry rose, and we ordered a bunch of dishes to share. With such a cool know-thy-neighbor vibe, I just have one thing to say: Order the Daily Pickles and the Suckling Pig. Ah-mazing.

Ever got to meet any of your favorite chefs? Are you digging how more big companies are going more natural with their ingredients? —Jenn

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