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USA Today

June 2003

"For Gourmet At Home Dinning, The Internet Delivers"

Top chefs whip up precooked meals you can buy on the Web, but how do they taste?

Sometimes you just don't feel like cooking, yet it's somebody's birthday or a special occasion and you want a nice dinner at home.

With overnight delivery and space-age packaging technology, you can have a gourmet feast sent to a friend as a special gift or delivered - almost ready to serve - to your home or office.

It could be an entrée conceived by one of the most well-known chefs in the world or a multi-course meal, including a candle and handsome napkins to enhance the table setting.

Two of the newer options available with a few clicks of your computer's mouse are Five Leaf, accompany that combines the expertise of world-class chefs with Cuisine Solutions, a supplier of upscale food prepared in the kitchens in Europe, South America, and Alexandria, VA. and GourmetStation, an Atlanta-based company that offers four-course meals for two.

Five Leaf's chefs include Daniel Boulud, Thomas Keller, Mark Miller, Reine Sammut, Charlie Trotter and Antione Westermann. Each has designed appetizers and entrees like those served in their restaurants. Individual servings vary in cost from $9.99 to $29.99 plus shipping.

GourmetStation offer four different four-course meals for two. The cost is $94.99 plus $9.99 shipping. All GourmetStation feasts include bread, two soups, two entrees and accompaniments, dessert for two, special coffee, after-dinner candy, candle, matches, paper napkins and disposable temperature probes to insure complete cooking.

Placing an order

From Five Leaf we ordered two entrees, Keller's lobster with orzo and Miller's roasted chicken picadillo with quinoa and a medley of vegetables. Keller owns The French Laundry restaurant in California's Napa Valley, while Miller's signature restaurants are in Coyote Café in Santa Fe, N.M. and Red Sage in Washington, D.C.

From GourmetStation we ordered from the Fusion Menu.

Some tasters found Keller's lobster dish bland and the portion small. It was a rich dish, though, and the flavors of the sauce exuded high-quality stocks that aren't packed with artificial ingredients. For $29.99 plus shipping, most wouldn't order again.

Miller's chicken, with its robust Moroccan flavors accompanied by the interesting textures of the quinoa and roasted vegetables, turned out to be more to our taste. The chicken was moist and flavorful. It was a more substantial plate of food for $24.99.

Everyone loved the velvet corn curry soup and the spicy lentil soups that came with the GourmetStation meal for two.

The first GourmetStation entrée, the "seasoned Peking duck breast with Asian garden rice" came with an apricot sauce and was well received by those who like duck. The rice was bland. Of the "Hong Kong salmon with ginger yams and apples" one taster noted, "it wasn't the best salmon I've ever had but was all right" and another commented that the first bite "was fishy tasting." The Thai sweet red chili pepper sauce dressed it up and helped cover any unpleasant flavors. Of the sweet potatoes and apples, several of us thought they were too sweet.

And the verdict is...

For a special occasion or if we couldn't get out of the house, we would consider the GourmetStation meal. The portions were generous, the meal was complete and there were no added shipping charges.

Five Leaf's entrees were expensive and the portions were not generous. To make the meal complete you still need to add at least a salad or soup and dessert.

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