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The Weekly Eater

BY NADINE KAM

Sunday, December 8, 2002


Gourmet Express eases stress
with take-home meals


Am I imagining things or is it calmer out there than Decembers past? With more people having to pull double, triple or quadruple duty at work due to layoffs and attrition, no one needs to increase the general pain by adding that last straw of Christmas headaches. For many, 2002 has been a year of reassessment, and that has included adopting a more realistic view of the holidays. Could it be that people are actually following through with plans to shun the annual gift exchange? Only retailers know for sure.

On the other hand, Hawaii people being Hawaii (and therefore giving) people, I imagine this calm is just a lull before those waves of guilt-ridden anxiety wash over, driving shoppers to rush out the weekend of the 20th just so they can pull off that last-minute "I couldn't help it, I got you something" attack.

I predict last-minute panic as people make that last dash, continue to make post-office drops and entangle themselves in yards of ribbon in trying to churn out pretty bows, all the while neglecting their own well-being by eating poorly and finally becoming too ill to enjoy the holidays. (Sound familiar?)

Gourmet Express has one solution for that over-extended, "I need help!" feeling. Patrons of the Kahala Mall eatery have long been able to walk away with nutritious, low-fat meals of Indonesian chicken wraps ($5.95), grilled ahi plates ($6.95) and an international assortment of salads ($3.50 to $6.95 depending on number and weight of choices), but the company has recently introduced a weekly meal plan, a time saver for working couples.

art
STAR-BULLETIN
On Friday, Gourmet Express owner Lisa Bos stacked entrees from the company's weekly home meal plan for pick up by clients, while her daughter Jennifer Bos weighs the one-pound portions.




Call by Wednesday to reserve your meal for pickup Friday or Saturday. You'll take home five one-pound entrees to store in your fridge to consume the following week when you're too tired to cook.

THEY PROMISE that the portions are enough for two, saying they've never seen anyone finish an entree by themselves. Apparently, we don't hang out with the same people because just about everyone I know could easily polish off that pound of food. I typically eat mite-sized (right-sized by portion measurers) lunches at about 4 ounces plus a side portion of fruit -- not much more than can fit on the palm of my hand -- but because of the Gourmet Express food's low fat content, half portions eaten at noon left me ravenous by 3. Trust me, no one here likes to see that happen. It's quite the Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon.

It will take a little more planning on your part, but if shared, those entrees need to be accompanied by a salad, bowl of soup or portion of fruit. If you are trying to save time and hassles to begin with, the last option is the easiest.

The meal plans run $45 to $55 for five meals. Conceivably you could have lunch and dinner at about $5 each per day; or two people could order two different plans and mix-and-match throughout the week. It would be a bit cheaper to order off the regular menu where entrees are accompanied by salads, but then the salads are not likely to last a week in the fridge.

I've tried living on $20 a week for two making many of the same entrees offered here, but a person can OD on five days of turkey chili or tofu lasagna. The advantage offered by Gourmet Express is its variety.

The Gourmet Express Specialties plan, at $45, features a vegetarian tamale pie with a sweet cornbread crust, the tofu lasagna, dense turkey meatloaf, vegetarian chili, and a tasty spinach quiche made with low-fat mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses. Flavors are lively so you won't miss meat, although textures may feel off for those who don't typically dine on vegetable protein. Nutritional analyses are available for any of the dishes by request.

The most popular of the menus is the lean protein lovers plan, at $55, which features more lavish offerings of sweet and sour fish, Szechuan ahi stir-fry, turkey meat loaf, coq au vin and coconut chicken curry.

The vegetarian option, at $50, repeats the tamale pie, tofu lasagna, quiche, ahi stir-fry and adds coconut tofu curry.

If you tire of these selections or have special health requirements, you can replace any entree with a pound of Gourmet Express' international array of salads, ranging from fluffy Moroccan couscous to spicy Thai pasta, tossed with broccoli and strips of red bell pepper. Owner Lisa Bos and nutritionist daughter Jennifer Bos will work to accommodate individuals with dietary restrictions.

Most of the dishes were intended to serve patrons' desires for low-fat, non-starch, no-sugar added foods. The meals are not sexy, but you can save the excitement for the occasional fat binges that come with the season. The meal plan does what it sets out to do, which is provide sound sustenance while also providing temporary relief from cooking, just one of the 101 things on your "to do" list.

Stick to the plan and the bonus is a head start on your New Year's diet.


THE GOURMET EXPRESS
WEEKLY HOME MEAL PLAN

Kahala Mall, 4211 Waialae Ave. / 738-0600 for meal plan; 732-7700 for Gourmet Express

Food StarStarStar1/2

Service StarStarStar1/2

Ambience N/A

Value StarStarStar1/2

Hours: Call in your order by Wednesday for pick up after 5 p.m. Friday or during counter hours Saturday. If you miss the deadline, you can pick up a la carte meals during regular takeout hours 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

Cost: Meal plans $45 to $55; a la carte entrees about $5.95 to $6.95



See some past restaurant reviews in the
Columnists section.




Nadine Kam's restaurant reviews run on Thursdays. Reviews are conducted anonymously and paid for by the Star-Bulletin. Star ratings are based on comparisons of similar restaurants:

excellent;
very good, exceeds expectations;
average;
below average.

To recommend a restaurant, write: The Weekly Eater, P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, Hawaii 96802. Or send e-mail to nkam@starbulletin.com



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