– Ben Martens


Delivery and Curbside Pickup

I know exactly how many times we had food delivered to our house when I was growing up: zero. We lived so far out of town that it wasn’t even an option. That has carried on into adulthood and I’ll rarely pay the extra money to have something delivered.

With the lockdown this year, we’ve gotten a lot more used to doing delivery and curbside pickup. The gig economy-style services (Grubhub, DoorDash, and UberEats) seem fairly indistinguishable, but here are my reviews of various delivery and curbside pickups that I’ve attempted:


  • Home Depot – I’ve attempted curbside pickup twice. The first time, I called twice and let the phone ring probably 40 times total but never got an answer. So I went into the store and waited for quite a while before finally someone went to get my order. The second time, the curbside pickup spots were clearly being used by random customers going into the store and it was so crowded that it took forever to find a spot near the designated area. It was so busy that I felt dirty participating in shopping there at all. Since there are some projects at home that really need to get done, my only recourse is to try and order as much as I can online or at least let my order pile up so I can make as few trips as possible.
  • Qdoba – Qdoba is a staple at work. It’s within walking distance and is a favorite of our team on Fridays. We ordered burritos delivered for lunch one day and honestly, I didn’t feel like they held up. I ordered the same thing I always get but it didn’t pack the same punch. I’d definitely skip the lettuce next time because it just gets soggy and maybe I’d zap it in the microwave for a few seconds?


  • Tres Hermanos – AMAZING. They win the takeout championship. I did have to go inside to pick it up, but every single person working there had a mask on and they had two cups of pens (used and unused). And even after the drive back home, the food was still fantastic. The only slight ding I’ll give them is that it’s hard to find their menu online but honestly, it’s Mexican. What combination of rice, meat and tortillas do you want to order? And if you do need the menu, you can find it in Yelp photos.
  • Good Brewing Co – I know I’m biased, but Kevin’s beer is amazing. He started up a delivery service and I’ve used it many times. He even sells his pizzas as kits that you can make yourself at home for a fun family activity. If there’s one local business that I want to support, this is the one.
  • Pizza Coop – There is no better pizza and I’m happy to say their curbside pickup worked wonderfully. When I pulled up there was a number to call but an employee stepped out of the building quickly to ask my name and then brought my pizza over. The pizza wasn’t quite as good as it is fresh in the restaurant, but they’re so far ahead of the game that it was still a big hit.
  • Red Robin – We don’t eat here much anymore, but they had a good deal on pickup orders so we went for it and honestly, I think I liked their food better at home than in the restaurant! When I went there, it was easy to pick up the food without interacting with any other customers. Everything was outside.
  • Total Wine – Buying booze at Total Wine is a lot cheaper than getting it from Safeway and they have a bigger selection of beer too. I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t pick beer singles from their website, but otherwise this was a great experience. when you get there, you text them what spot number you’re parked in. They come out, check your id through the window and then load directly into the trunk!

Honorable mention:

  • Chipotle – In contrast to Qdoba, Chipotle hit a home run. The burrito I had delivered was delicious.
  • Mod Pizza – After a mixup on my first order attempt (somehow they thought I asked to have it delivered to the Mod Pizza where it was made?!), our second attempt went well. I don’t have a lot to say. Mod Pizza is good and it tasted about the same as it does in the store.
  • Hollywood Tavern – If you want a Woodinville dining experience, you need to eat here. We don’t go there a ton but we decided to try their takeout. Their menu is smaller than normal and beware that there aren’t any sides with the entrees, but the food was good and the pickup experience was great (text when you arrive and they bring it out.) They do get a ding for getting Tyla’s meal wrong but they were very nice about the mixup and cleared it up for us.

Prior to all this lockdown mess, we enjoyed eating out a few times a month and it’s nice to keep that going even if we’re eating the food at home. It still means that I have a day where I’m not cooking dinner!

Hello Fresh Review

When I bought my computer, one of the components came with a coupon for Hello Fresh. It was a weird pairing, but it worked. I figured I would just keep the service for the heavily discounted first ~4 weeks and then drop it, but I have yet to cancel. We used to eat out about once a week, but with the lockdown, we’re not doing that. Hello Fresh has helped keep dinner time a bit different on a couple nights a week.

We’ve had the service for six weeks now and here are some of my thoughts:

  • It’s expensive. We pay $51.95 for two meals a week. Each “two person meal” is enough to feed all three of us because Elijah isn’t a huge eater yet. I guess if you are someone who eats out all the time, this will seem like a bargain, but I generally make our meals for a way less than $26/night. In fairness, if you were to buy more meals or get bigger servings, the cost per meal does go down.
  • The food is good! There are a plenty of options to pick from every week and I don’t think we’ve had any real duds. The food is generally a little bit fancier than my normal recipes so it’s a nice change of pace.
  • Those fancier recipes mean quite a bit more work too. It’s always takes a bit of extra concentration when I do a new recipe for the first time, but there are a lot of moving parts in these recipes. They generally have a main dish and two side dishes so it’s a lot to coordinate and time out. The instructions are thorough and do a good job, but they would all be easier the second time around. As it is, it feels a bit like I’m on a cooking show being given a test to see if I can get everything on the table around the normal dinner time.
  • The time estimates are bogus. I feel like after cooking dinner for the last ~20 years, I’m fairly good at it, but I don’t understand how anyone can make most of those recipes in the time specified on the recipe. At the very least I need to preheat my oven much sooner. I learned early on to read the recipe early in the day to build my own time estimate of when I should start making it. I generally expect 30-45 minutes to make dinner. The shorter ones MIGHT fit in on a normal weeknight if I got home from work a little early, but generally those are too long to fit into our schedule. But since I’m working from home right now, it’s fine.

So yes, we’re happy with it. It’s fun to explore and I am saving all the recipes. I expect we’ll put some of them into our regular rotation but once this lockdown dwindles off, I can’t imagine we’ll keep paying for the service. It’s neat for what it is, but it doesn’t fit into our budget.

Barbacoa Beef

I enjoy a Chipotle burrito every now and then, and I always get their barbacoa beef. For the Super Bowl party, I finally got around to attempting to make something like it myself. I picked up 6.5 pounds of chuck roast from the butcher and plopped it in the slow cooker for about 8 hours. It was so good! This one is going into our regular rotation. Below you’ll find the recipe that I used from Genius Kitchen, modified just a little bit:


  • 1⁄3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
  • 4 teaspoons cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3 dried chipotle chiles
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3⁄4 cup chicken broth
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 -5 lbs chuck roast


  1. To make the adobo sauce combine vinegar, lime juice, chipotles, garlic, cumin, oregano, black pepper and salt in a blender or processor on high speed until smooth.
  2. Remove most of the fat from the roast and then cut into large chunks.
  3. Pour oil into a frying pan and sear all sides of roast on medium-high heat until browned.
  4. Place meat into slow cooker and pour adobo sauce over meat.
  5. Pour in the chicken broth and add bay leaves.
  6. Cook on high heat 6 hours or on low all day.
  7. While still in the Crockpot, shred the meat with two forks and turn the heat to warm. Serve with hard or soft tortilla shells when ready.



500 Unique Beers

I’m two months behind Luke, but I just had my 500th different kind of beer. Oddly enough, it was a bottled beer from Red Hook. Living just a couple miles from the brewery, I regularly have bottles of their beers and I’ve been through most of the stuff they have on tap too. But I was at Tim’s house and had their American Pale Ale for the first time. It was launched last summer.

I still enjoy trying new beers, but I think the next 500 will take longer, not because of a shortage of new beers, but because I want to enjoy some of the best ones that I’ve found along the way to 500.

And if you like trying new beers too, feel free to send me a friend request on untappd.

Easy Shepherd’s Pie

I love shepherd’s pie, but mostly I love the idea of it because I rarely make it. The other weekend, I finally decided to look up an easy version of the recipe and I found this one from I cheated and used packaged mashed potatoes and it worked fine. Real would be better but that’s a lot of work.


  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 cups mashed potatoes, hot (packaged will work if time is tight)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, cubed
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups frozen mixed vegetables, thawed
  • 1 cup beef gravy


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F Brown meat in skillet and drain.
  2. Mix potatoes, cream cheese, 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese and the garlic until well blended.
  3. Stir vegetables and gravy into meat.
  4. Spoon into 9-inch square baking dish.
  5. Cover with potato mixture. Don’t worry about it being perfectly even, the more rustic it looks, the better.
  6. Sprinkle with remain 1/2 cup shredded cheese. Bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Bacon Cheese Topped Chicken

You had me at “bacon”. (Via Taste Of Home)


  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 4-1/2 teaspoons canola oil, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • Dash paprika
  • 2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 strips of cooked bacon
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley


  • In a small bowl, combine the mustard, honey, 1-1/2 teaspoons oil and lemon juice. Pour 1/2 cup into a large resealable plastic bag; add the chicken. Seal the bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 2 hours. Cover and refrigerate the remaining marinade
  • Drain and discard marinade from chicken. In a large skillet over medium heat, brown chicken in remaining oil on all sides. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and paprika. Transfer to a greased 11-in. x 7-in. baking dish.
  • In the same skillet, saute mushrooms in butter until tender. Spoon reserved marinade over chicken. Top with cheeses and mushrooms. Place bacon strips in a crisscross pattern over chicken.
  • Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 20-25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reads 170°. Sprinkle with parsley.

Cheesy Gnocci with Ham and Peas

We have been making some new recipes lately so for the next three days, I’ll share some of the best ones with you.

The first is a great, quick weeknight recipe and it would be a good way to use up some of those ham leftovers after Easter. (via Food Network)


  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • One 8-ounce piece deli ham, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • One 17.5-ounce package potato gnocchi
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss or Gruyere cheese


  • Preheat the broiler to high heat.
  • Melt the butter in a large ovenproof skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the ham and thyme and continue to cook until the ham is lightly browned.
  • Add the chicken broth and 3/4 cup water and bring to a simmer. Add the gnocchi, stir well, cover and cook until the gnocchi is slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat. Uncover and stir in the peas, cream, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle the cheese over the top and broil until golden and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Serve.

500 Unique Beers

Congrats to Luke who has won the race to be the first one in our group with 500 unique beers logged in the Untappd app! His 500th beer was a Castor from 3rd Sign Brewery and he only a 3 out of 5 stars.

I’ve already done a post with some stats about our beer drinking, but here’s another one. It’s the average score that we give to beers. You can see that I’m a little more stodgy than the others, or maybe I’m just more willing to try beers I know I won’t like just so I can log them in the app. (I’ve included Logan this time since he has started using the app too.)

User Average Rating
Ben 2.87
Dad 3.53
Logan 3.15
Luke 3.16
Total 3.22

How about which breweries we like the most? For this I only considered breweries that 2 out of the 4 of us have tried. Here the top 10:

Knee Deep Brewing Company
Laughing Dog Brewing
The Alchemist
7 Seas Brewing
Epic Brewing Co. (Utah, Colorado)
21st Amendment Brewery
Arrogant Bastard Brewing
Founders Brewing Co.
ABC Brewpub
Everybody’s Brewing
Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

I was going to have a chart showing the type of beers we drink the most, but we all had pale ales at the top of our lists.

Ok, I need to go find a beer. I’m thirsty. Slainte!

Eastside Burgers

More and more great burger places are popping up in the Bellevue/Redmond area. It’s a delicious trend to behold.

The first one (of the ones in this post) was Lunchbox Laboratory. They have a comical menu of awesome burger concoctions. Check out their menu to see what I mean. And don’t gloss over the side dishes. You can get creative and have them apply melted cheese, bacon bits and more to your tater tots or fries.

Next up is Feed Co Burgers in Redmond. This place is great for a quick meal with a young kid in tow. You get a delicious burger and lots of choices of beers on tap, but you order at the counter so the total meal time is much shorter. Side dishes are great here too. Tyla always chooses the fried cheese curds.

The newest entry is Tipsy Cow in Redmond. This restaurant combines the slightly hipster vibe of Feed Co with the bigger menu of Lunchbox Lab. Most recently, I had a burger with fried egg, fried bacon, caramelized onions and more (pictured).

It’s awesome to see what all these places come up with in the realm of gourmet burger. Five Guys is a staple in my restaurant list, but if I’m looking for something a little fancier, all three of these places are excellent choices!

Smothered Chicken Queso Casserole

I recently made this recipe for the first time and it instantly went onto our favorites list. Yum! It comes straight from the Betty Crocker website. I just modified the instructions a little because I need the dummy reminder to make the rice. Apparently having “cooked rice” in the ingredients list isn’t enough for me.

• 1 tablespoon oil
• 3 large boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut in half lengthwise
• 1 package (1 oz) Old El Paso™ taco seasoning mix
• 1 jar (15 oz) Tostito’s™ salsa con queso
• 3/4 cups half-and-half
• 1 can (4.5 oz) Old El Paso™ chopped green chiles
• 1 medium red or orange bell pepper, seeded, chopped
• 2 1/2 cups cooked white rice
• 1 cup shredded Mexican cheese blend (4 oz)
• Chopped tomatoes (optional)

• Cilantro (optional)


1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 13 x 9-inch baking dish or 2 1/2-quart casserole with cooking spray.
2. Make rice
3. In 12-inch skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Sprinkle chicken with taco seasoning mix. Cook chicken in oil 6 to 8 minutes, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Depending on thickness of chicken, it may not be cooked all the way through at this point but will finish baking in the oven.
4. In large bowl, stir together salsa con queso, half-and-half and chopped green chiles; stir in bell pepper. Reserve one-fourth of the sauce mixture.
5. Stir rice into remaining sauce mixture.
6. Place rice mixture in casserole; top with chicken. Top with reserved sauce mixture, then shredded cheese. Cover with foil.
7. Bake 20 minutes; uncover and bake 10 to 15 minutes longer or until sauce bubbles and juice of chicken is clear when center of thickest part is cut (at least 165°F).
Cool 10 minutes. Garnish with tomatoes and cilantro.