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.)


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


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!)


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.)


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!)


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!


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 …


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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