Good Stuff Cookin’ at Amtrak.
Members of the NARP board were invited to Wilmington, Delaware, today for a tour of their test kitchen. I must say, it was impressive. The date is uncertain, but Amtrak will be introducing quite a wide variety of frozen meals that will first be served on overnight trains without a full-on dining car–specifically the Cardinal and the City of New Orleans.
What’s new and different is that these meals are shrink-wrapped before being frozen. Once loaded onto the train, they are thawed and then microwaved as ordered by passengers. Apparently, the shrink-wrapping is the secret because I must say that several of the dishes were very good: cooked through, still attractively arranged on the plate when served, and very tasty.
What makes this even more interesting is that this technique makes possible a whole new variety of meals. We were given samples of a half dozen different offerings, ranging from a layered pasta dish to enchiladas to barbecued ribs and it was all very good. In fact, several of the meals were actually excellent.
There was also some very welcome news: I was told by the head chef himself that French Toast will be back on Amtrak’s breakfast menu effective April 20th! That’s just in time for my trip from Seattle to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight. Seeing is believing, but that’s encouraging!
And so to bed. I’m not even going to proof this.
It is great to hear that variety is coming to the menus….However, I have a huge bone to pick with this method! This means that much like the diner-less Silver Star “experiment”, this will be declared a success and copied system wide. Case in point with these frozen dinners are the two selections on the current menu (Pad Thai bowl and vegetarian enchiladas both produced by Amy’s Kitchen), are priced at $15.75 but the exact offering can be purchased at my local Stater Bros market for $3.89. That’s where my problem lies. I would be extremely disappointed paying top dollar (I have an upcoming trip in August aboard The California Zephyr in a bedroom) and being served a damn re-clothed swanson TV plate, all in the name of having variety. Please excuse my outrage.
The Amtrak people were adamant in stressing that there are no plans for eliminating the traditional dining cars on the long-distance trains, meaning (at a minimum) the Sunset, the Chief, the Zephyr, the Empire Builder and the Coast Starlight. I am reasonably sure the Meteor is included and probably the Crescent. These new meals are intended for trains using a cafe car. The really good news is that the plan would be to include them on longer-haul (but not overnight) trains such as the Adirondack or the Maple Leaf.
Okay…phew… Why not include these meals on the menu for the “cafe” car instead of or addition to the current items offered. But still keep the prices reasonable. (I still would not pay $15.75 for something i could get for $3.89 at the local store. Considering costs, I would pay up to $8.00, that’s double and then some by the way) It doesn’t cost that much to plop a tv dinner in the microwave.
I would, but then again, I don’t need to add the cost of tipping… in Belgium. Don’t know yet in the US.
The decision to take the toilets out of the roomettes with hopefully two communities restrooms is a welcome upgrade;
Whoever though of that original idea should have been tied up in an old fashioned out house and the door locked from the out side for week;
I hope they still have kept a shower facilities in the new viewers though.
Yes … it’s convenient, but a maintenance nightmare. And yes to the shower.