Gold Belly, that is. Gold Belly, as you are probably aware, is a site that connects you with sellers all over the country and lets you buy meals and food products to be delivered to the comfort of your home. I guess you could use it for local makers, but that would be dumb given the premium prices you pay on Gold Belly. But if you want a pizza from Rochester, NY delivered to San Diego? Gold Belly is probably your site. And I’m sure they have grown exponentially thanks to covid. I’ve tried it a few times and offer my experiences.
I first tried out Gold Belly via a Black Friday sale last year. Results have been pretty mixed on a number of orders since then. The #1 thing about Gold Belly is that it is expensive, like really expensive. Like $15+ pints of ice cream expensive. Well, read on. My best advice is to shop the sales. During the slew of sales the site is always pushing out (sign up for their emails), you can get stuff for non-extortionary pricing. I get it, convenience, cold packs/dry ice, fast shipping. Even taking that into account, some of the pricing is insane. During sales they’re palatable.
Romano’s Original Stromboli – “Romano’s was founded by ‘Grandpop’ Nazzereno Romano in 1944, as a quaint shop specializing in tomato pie, a Philadelphia specialty.” I’ve ordered from Romano’s twice. Probably won’t be a third time. Sale pricing is not terrible. Quality is pretty good. These arrive in plastic bags, labeled with the type. 20 minutes in the oven. The good is the fillings taste fresh and are reasonable for the size. Each stromboli is 2-3 servings, so the pricing is even more reasonable when you remember that. Both times I got a ‘choose your own 4’ pack. One thing that bugs me is that there is the set price for the 4-pack, but if you pick anything but the plainest of the plain types, you pay several dollars more for each. It can add up on an already pricy order. The flavors I’ve tried:
- Original Sweet – Ham, cotechino, Capitola, and American cheese with roasted, sweet bell peppers. I like this one, basically a warm Italian sub in stromboli form.
- Original Pepperoni – Ham, Cotechino, Capicola and American Cheese with Zesty Pepperoni. It’s fine.
- Philly Cheese Steak – Chopped Steak with American Cheese, a Philadelphia Icon. Also, fine. I want to say a bit light on the cheese.
- Meatball Provolone – Meatballs combined with Marinara and Parmesan Cheese. Another good one. However the chopped meatballs have very little marinara (probably to keep the dough from getting soggy) so you’d best heat up some marina for dipping to make the most of it.
- Pizza Steak – Chopped Steak with House Marinara, Mozzarella Cheese, and a side of marinara for dipping. So here’s the thing, I ordered this, got a stromboli with the right sticker on it, but inside was another Philly Cheese Steak stromboli. womp womp. And there was no side of marinara sent. There is the slightest chance that this was correct and I was mistaken, but if that’s the case and I couldn’t tell them apart…well that’s bad.
Gino’s East Chicago deep dish pizza – “Chicago’s Iconic Deep Dish Pizza – Gino’s legendary deep dish pies hit the scene in 1966 thanks to two hungry taxi drivers. Tired of getting stuck in the city during rush hour with nowhere to stop for a bite, Sam Levine and Fred Bartoli opened Gino’s East just off Michigan Ave. They hired Alice, a chef who helped create the city’s first deep dish pizza only a few years prior. Sticking to Alice’s recipe ever since, Gino’s pizzas are notable for their thick, deep golden crusts which are baked in well-seasoned cast iron pans and topped with mozzarella.“
I know that deep dish pizza isn’t really up my alley, but this was a decent deal, buy 3 get 2 free. I figured what the heck, I’ll try it. Place is famous for their pizza, try some of the best of the best, right? Well, here’s my first experience with the thing I absolutely loathe about Gold Belly. They describe the seller, their restaurant or shop, get you all hyped up…but what they refuse to tell you is that some of these businesses have their products made wholesale for retail sale. So all you get is a box of frozen pizzas in retail packaging that you could probably buy locally for a song. Instead you pay an arm and a leg, not for a fresh made pizza from their shop that is carefully made and frozen and shipped to you to cook, but for stuff from the supermarket freezer section. And you just never know when you’re going to get ‘fresh’ vs. retail because Gold Belly doesn’t ever mention it. That feels deeply dishonest. I got:
- Crumbled Sausage
- Sausage and Pepperoni
- Meaty Legend
I was right, deep dish pizza doesn’t do much for me. The flavors are OK, they’re not hard to cook. But the crust is miserably bad, which may be authentic. I think I’ve still got one hanging around after nearly a year in the deep freezer. I’ll drag it out eventually and eat some of it. At this point I eat the filling and throw out the crust.
Maui Banana Bread Co. – “Maui Banana Bread Co. was born in 2013, when Kiendra Fleck decided to turn her late mother’s famous banana bread recipe into a business. She started by sourcing the best local ingredients, such as Maui apple bananas, roasted macadamia nuts, coconut, and Hawaiian pink salt. She decided to bake personal sized mini-loaves, which she thought would stay moist better than individual slices…These loaves are a perfect encapsulation of Hawaiian flavors, and make a great gift.“
This was a buy 6 get 6 deal. Price wasn’t terrible, especially given the quality ingredients, hands-on quality, and shipping. Mini loaves are nice, I make them at the holidays. You can take one out of the freezer and have about 4 snack sized servings. Nice to take a piece to work. These were moist and tasty. They come individually wrapped in a little plastic bag. There are a bunch of flavors, but none of them jump out as a strong flavor, just solid banana bread. I also don’t notice much difference with the use of Maui apple bananas compared to my own great banana bread made with the humble Cavendish.
Walter’s Hot Dogs – “Opened in 1919, Walter’s Hot Dogs is not only a Westchester institution…Their irresistible hot dogs are made with an exclusive blend of beef, pork, and veal. This blend is so special it is protected under trade secret with their provider – talk about Top Secret! These dogs are split down the middle and grilled, then served on a toasted bun slathered with Walter’s signature mustard: a blend of choice mustard seeds, relish, and spices. One bite of these amazing hot dogs will turn any skeptic into a full-on fanatic!“
Wow! Sounds amazing, right? What I decided to try, perhaps missing the pigs in a blanket from Trader Joes that don’t seem to be around anymore, were “Walter’s cocktail franks are hand wrapped in an all-butter, flaky puff pastry…” So what do you get? Retail freezer packs in multiples of 12. They’re tasty but nothing special. The regular price is $60 for 24 (2 boxes). That’s just ridiculous and they don’t even vaguely approach being worth that, even given the shipping. They’re already frozen and not heavy, pop the boxes in another box with a freezer pack and UPS it. Each one is about 2 bites.
The Pie Hole pie holes – “Founded in 2011, The Pie Hole reintroduced Los Angeles to the all-American pie and coffee shop. Angelinos were enamored with made from scratch classic pies that have been passed down for more than five generations but don’t think their pies stop there. While Pie Hole’s traditional “Mom’s Apple Crumble” is a crowd favorite, they also offer one-of-a-kind eccentric pies like the famous Cereal Killer Pie and assorted flavors of ‘Pie Holes’, which are two-bite mini pie treats.“
Probably the best thing from Gold Belly we’ve tried. An order is 24 pie holes. “These assorted Pie Holes are two-to-three bite-sized pies that contain pie filling inside and baked in a delicious butter crust before being topped with a specialty glaze. This assortment contains four flavors: Nutella, Strawberry, Blueberry, and Apple!” You don’t get to pick, you get 6 of each, which is fine. These freeze well (best to freeze on a sheet first, then can put in a freezer bag). I usually pull out 4 at a time (1 of each) and thaw in the fridge, then we share them, each getting half of each one, over a couple of days. Half of one or two is a decent after-dinner treat. Two bites per half. I rank them blueberry, apple, strawberry, nutella. Ordered these twice and will probably order them again. Non-sale price is $80 for 24. On sale they’re a reasonable indulgence. I would never consider trying one of their full-size pies, though. $70 or more for one pie? Sorry, there’s zero chance they are worth anything like that.
Pat LaFrieda Meats gold label burgers – “In New York City, Pat LaFrieda is synonymous with top-notch beef. It was founded as a Brooklyn butcher shop by Anthony LaFrieda in 1922, and since then the company has been passed down through the generations and is today run by LaFrieda’s great-grandson, Pat. LaFrieda and his team work with restaurants to ensure that they’re getting the best possible product from a network of small, family-owned farms, and they’re veritable superstars in the meat world.“
I think this was a burger sale and these sounded like they’d be worth a splurge, especially on a buy 8 get 8 sale. “Behold our first collaboration with Pat LaFrieda to create the ultimate food explorer blend — the Gold Label burger. Inspired by high end burgers like Minetta Tavern’s Black Label, this elevated burger features a blend of American Black Angus short rib, flat iron, and dry-aged rib steak.“
Each patty is about 6 oz. and you get packages of two patties. This is probably a great idea for many families, not so much for me where I’m the only beef burger eater. So I have to thaw two at a time when we only have burgers like every other week or so. It’s not that bad, I cook them both and heat up the second at work, hardly a big sacrifice. These are good, but I doubt I’d get them again. I just had the last frozen hamburger patty I’d made up myself from Fresh Market ground beef and it was at least as good for about half the price. If on sale and you love a great burger, they’re worth a splurge. Regular price right now is $75/8. On BOGO it’s quite reasonable. They need a little salt and pepper or something to sing. I prefer to make up my own burgers from ground beef so I can mix spices throughout.
OddFellows Ice Cream pints – “OddFellows Ice Cream was founded in 2013 by Mohan Kumar and his friend Sam Mason, who was the opening pastry chef at NYC’s Michelin-starred trailblazer WD-50 and a James Beard Award nominee. After Kumar’s pregnant wife had a craving for savory ice cream that couldn’t be found in grocery stores, Mason whipped up a batch of pretzel ice cream that hit the spot, and a legend was born.
Since first opening its doors in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 2013, the folks at Oddfellows Ice Cream have concocted more than 500 different ice cream flavors, many of which are wacky, a little bit weird, and a whole lot of delicious. From classic cookies & cream to a play on NYC’s ubiquitous bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich (egg ice cream swirled with cheese and candied bacon bits), this ice cream is guaranteed to blow your mind!“
When they have sales I eagerly peruse the ice cream listings, but never pulled the trigger before. Usually I can’t find enough interesting flavors to justify the price. I mean, I make ice cream and can probably duplicate most of these. But I finally gave OddFellows a shot, 6 pints on sale. We tried:
- Sprinkles – sweet cream ice cream loaded with sprinkles (they’re called jimmies, people). I liked it, but it’s very simple.
- Peanut Butter S’mores – peanut butter, dark chocolate chunks, marshmallows and graham cracker dust. This was fine, but didn’t rise to any amazing heights.
- PB&J – peanut butter ice cream with grape jelly swirls. I only got a bit of this one and didn’t get much of the jelly, so it was fairly nondescript. Again, just not very special. My peanut butter ice cream is MUCH better from David Lebovitz’s “The Perfect Scoop”.
- Passionberry Love Potion – passionfruit-based ice cream swirls with a rich red raspberry swirl and crumbles of decadent cake. Have I tried this? Weird that I don’t even know if it’s still in the freezer or in me. Not a great sign, right? – UPDATE – so I hadn’t tried it and finally pulled it out and it was the BEST of the bunch. Very nice passionfruit flavor, but the texture is a little weird from the cake crumbles. 10/10 without those, 8/10 with them.
- Buckeye – Peanut Butter Ice Cream with Swirls of Chocolate Fudge and mini Buckeyes. This one’s in the bullpen in the kitchen freezer, not opened yet. Sounds amazing, right? Given previous pints, I expect it to be fine, but overpriced and unexciting. UPDATE – it’s another *shrug* whatever.
- Cookies & Cream – just as expected in terms of flavors. Simple. Fine.
Keens Steakhouse legendary mutton chops – “No other restaurant is quite like Keens. The legendary New York steakhouse was founded by Albert Keen way back in 1885, and it quickly became a hangout for actors in the surrounding Herald Square Theater District as well as politicians, producers, newspaper men and sports stars…On top of being one of New York’s most historic restaurants, it’s also one of its very best steakhouses. The steaks are dry-aged and USDA Prime, the burgers are a blend of chuck and dry-aged beef and ground fresh daily, and the mutton chop — a whole saddle of mature lamb, with the loin, tenderloin and belly — has been the signature dish for more than 100 years.“
This was a flat-out splurge. I really enjoy all the spots in the area that offer delicious lamb recipes and buy it myself sometimes, but not so often since whatever I make I have to eat all myself. But I’ve got these memories of having mutton when I was a kid and have been keeping an eye out for a way to get some (hard to find) and see if it lived up to my memories. So, yeah, a splurge. I saved I think 20% with a sale, but a 2-pack regularly sets you back right now $175. Hooboy. I’m afraid I haven’t made one yet, so no review. Obviously I want to make one when I have time to do it right. Not something to waste.
Seoul Sausage Kalbi pork sausages – “Back in 2010, brothers Yong and Ted Kim started crafting Korean-inspired sausages in their kitchen. Their signature sausages quickly began to pick up a buzz at the farmer’s markets, wineries, and parties where they popped up, so the Kims decided to quit their advertising jobs, officially launch Seoul Sausage Company, and audition for Food Network’s Great Food Truck Race season 3, which they won!“
Got 12 of these, sent as 3 packs of 4. Have eaten one package so far and they are deeelicious. Seriously so good. The flavor is reminiscent of something that I can never quite put my tongue on…I think it’s like the flavor of a really good dumpling filling. Savory, a touch sweet. Highly recommended.