Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pssst! General Mills needs feedback

Just started a General Mills program called Pssst! It lets participants try out products that have been recently introduced. We will document our experiences and reviews of the various products which we receive and try.


First up, is Romano's Macaroni Grill Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta.

What will appear in these posts are:

  • general reviews and comments on both the preparation and consumption of the products
  • specific information for Weight Watchers participants (since my wife and I are using their method)
  • details on where to get the products, along with any special offers

Hopefully, this will provide information and perhaps a little entertainment for those who visit.

Pre-testing details
-
www.fatsecret.com's info on Romano's Macaroni Grill Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta. This is the actual restaurant item and is not be representative of the boxed dinner kit. Nutrition facts are located on this page.


The box dinner kit's nutrition and ingredients side panel is shown to the right(click to enlarge). The information is current as of this writing, October 4th, 2008.

Weight Watchers calculated points are 7 per 1 cup serving.


Included in the reviewed dinner kit
:

  • actual retail dinner kit
  • 8 hardcopy coupons to share with family and friends (there may be e-coupons later)
  • welcome letter which details the program
  • web reference to get blogging media (pictures like the one above)


Review of Romano's Macaroni Grill Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta Dinner Kit

This kit was prepared for a Saturday night dinner for two, so we could have leftovers. Review of the leftovers will be added later.

The kit components were clearly labeled and the instructions simple, easy to follow, accurate and overall "spot on". The only substitution was leaving out the butter for cooking the chicken and replacing it with canola oil. Overall not difficult to prepare.

We questioned how thick the sauce looked in the pan, but the instructions covered that, indicating that it would thicken as it rested. To their credit, this to was accurate. The aroma during preparation filled the kitchen and was delightful. Another question was the amount of noodles, it did not appear to be enough for 5 servings, but again this proved accurate and when combined produced the stated 5 - 1 cup servings. It was served with a tomato salad topped with Newman's Own Light Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing.

Served this way, the 1 cup portions were adequate. For you Weight Watchers, the points for the dinner are 7 points per serving and the tomato salad added an additional 1 point (actually 1/2 point but we always round up).

The other thing we always like to check is their truth in advertising. Bottom line, does the home prepared dinner look like the picture on the box. Since we didn't add any fresh basil leaves, it wasn't exact, but other than that it was accurate to the pictured dinner.

We have never tried the local Romano's Macaroni Grill restaurant, therefore don't know how this kit compares with their in-restaurant preparation.

So, how did our testers rate this dinner kit? The maximum is 5 stars.

Appearance:

she = 4 stars
he = 4 stars
Why the drop? needed larger sun dried tomatoes and basil bits

Taste:
she = 4 stars
he = 4 stars
Why the drop? not enough basil

Preparation:
she = 5 stars
he = 4 stars
Why the drop? guys like more pictures


Prior to finding the local price for the dinner kit, the testers were asked:

How much would you pay for this product? The response was $5
What price would make you stock up on this product? The response was $3

After the testing, the local price was determined to be approximately $4.99 (UPDATED ON 10/6/2008 local Fred Meyer charging $5.29 regular price. Was on sale for $3.50), so that would appear to be right on target. The $1.25 off coupons included with sample brings the price to near stock up level. The testers indicated they would definitely try the other selections based on the use of the coupons.

A list of various locations to purchase this kit will be included later.

Additional comments from the testers:

I am interested in trying the other 3 dinners now.

Really enjoyed this free sample and will definitely purchased next time grocery shopping.


What was the total cost for this dinner (not counting the pennies for the milk and oil)?

Retail price for Romano's Macaroni Grill Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken and Pasta dinner kit: $4.99

1 pound of frozen Chicken Breast Tenders from Costco averages $2.50

Total cost was about $7.50


Cost at the restaurant would be great to know, but unfortunately our local restaurant does not offer this on their online menu. The only Romano's Macaroni Grill located near us is
Northgate-Waterloo Romano's Macaroni Grill
401 NE Northgate Way #1103
Seattle, WA 98125
206-838-6009


Given the cost of other items on their menu, we would estimate this dish would range between $12.50 and $13.50

Leftover review update

For the following Sunday dinner, we tested the leftovers. The leftovers were refrigerated for only 24 hours in air tight containers. Several noticeable changes occurred.

  • First, the dinner dried out just a little, making the sauce less smooth.
  • Second, the sun dried tomatoes plumped up quite a bit. Which was not the case with the "first run". This may indicate that the sun dried tomatoes could have been placed in hot tap water for 1 or 2 minutes before adding to the mixture. This would add a little complexity to the instructions, which they may have wished to avoid.
  • Third, the seasonings lightened up in flavor a little, although the basil increased in aroma.


How did our testers rate this dinner as leftovers? The maximum is 5 stars.

Appearance:

she = 4 stars
he = 4 stars
Why the drop? The drier appearance

Taste:
she = 4 stars
he = 4 stars
Why the drop? lightened seasoning taste


Preparation:

she = 5 stars
he = 5 stars
Why no drop? microwaves are great, 2 minutes on high and serve


Hopefully, this review was helpful. Enjoy!

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