Thursday, November 23, 2017
Cooking

Eat Fresco Foods’ healthy, convenient prepared meals are crafted in Tampa

RECOMMENDED READING


Chickens cook in the kitchen at Fresco Food’s Tampa warehouse. On one stainless steel table, naked macaroni is steaming, ready to be coated with cheese. A walk-in refrigerator is stocked with fresh vegetables.

I’m touring the local company’s facility, an office/industrial kitchen hybrid that has been home base since January. Eat Fresco specializes in prepared meals you can buy from the grocery store. But unlike most prepared meals, they are not frozen. And they are prepared and packaged right here.

This local factor is key to Fresco Foods, a young business that operates the Eat Fresco brand of meals that are sold at stores like Winn-Dixie, Earth Fare, Rollin’ Oats in St. Petersburg and more. Husband and wife Robert and Tracy Povolny launched the company in February 2015 and spent the next two years raising capital to open the industrial kitchen/office space in March 2017. As I sit down to talk with them about the company after a tour of the space, they keep repeating words like "clean," "local," "real food" — buzz words of our current food moment.

They consulted with a chef to develop meals like Roasted Chicken in BBQ Sriracha Sauce, Balsamic Glazed Grilled Salmon and Tuscan Vegetable Pasta; there are currently eight meals available, five of which are gluten free and all under 500 calories. They worked to create unique packaging that helps the meals stay fresh and flavorful: The entrees come in a BPA-free, recyclable white tray with a piece of vacuum-sealed plastic on top that expands as it cooks in a microwave to allow steam to circulate.

The Povolnys first came to the idea of creating a line of packaged meals when their son was a baby, and they realized it was hard to find quick and convenient meals that lived up to any sort of healthy standard.

"We were struggling with what we could eat," Tracy says. "If you want to eat something quick, you’re usually sacrificing something. This is all stuff I feel good about feeding to my son."

Robert has a background working for big food companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle, which included selling to large retailers. So they decided to go that route, creating meals that could be stocked in grocery store refrigerator sections. Their products are currently available at certain grocery and convenience stores in the Jacksonville and Tampa Bay areas, and they’re adding new locations all the time; see eatfrescofoods.com for more information. (Want to see the meals in your favorite store? There are printable product requests on the website that customers can bring to retailers.)

"The inspiration behind all of our dishes is to create flavorful, nutritious meals that are ready to heat and eat," Tracy says.

I’ve tried a couple of different varieties; the meals are ideal for quick lunches and lazy nights when you don’t feel like cooking. On the horizon are their takes on chicken marsala, ropa vieja and tikka masala dishes. (They also encourage feedback and input on what dishes to create next; reach out at info@eatfrescofoods.com or on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with your suggestions.)

One of their recent creations, the Turkey Breast and Quinoa Medley, is a real winner: a twist on a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with sliced turkey breast, quinoa and soft sweet potatoes.

"We wanted to include quinoa for a gluten-free, high-protein entree instead of a conventional breading or stuffing," Tracy says.

The meal is surprisingly filling and full of flavor, with a homemade vibe that won’t make you feel guilty for not cooking it.

Comments
Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving can put a heavy burden on the host. We’ve assembled five appetizers that are quick and easy to prep. Some, like our risotto balls and goat-cheese figs, cater to vegetarian diets, so you can be sure to please all your guests. Even i...
Published: 11/21/17
Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Cranberry sauce has long been a fixture on the holiday table. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ocean Spray, the popular producer of cranberry sauce, cans about 70 million tins of the stuff a year, 85 percent of which gets sold between Thanksgiving a...
Published: 11/21/17
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who donít have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the yearís biggest cooking day.Itís the first thin...
Published: 11/20/17
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving. † From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Here are a few ideas, and be sure to check out our Thanksgiving special report for more tips on preparing for the big day. ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

There are probably a handful of essentials, things you must have on the Thanksgiving table lest some family members begin to riot. But I find there are often a couple of slots open for new things, chances to get weird or creative or, gasp, healthy. ...
Published: 11/17/17
How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

As far as we’re concerned, anything you can make in advance of actual Thanksgiving Day is a good thing, and this make-ahead gravy fits the bill. Plus, Tucker Shaw of America’s Test Kitchen says it tastes just as good as if you made it wi...
Published: 11/17/17
How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

Planning a really good menu is the stealth approach to being a really good cook. Here are some tips from the experts. New York Times Put some thought into the menu What leaves an impression is not only the dishes you can make, but also how they t...
Published: 11/17/17
Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

The turkey is the unquestioned star of the Thanksgiving meal. It can be the most daunting part as well. But with a little planning and care, it doesn’t have to be. † Before you start • A decent roasting pan, one heavy enough that it wo...
Published: 11/16/17
Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

If you want to spend more time with your family and friends this holiday season and less time in the kitchen, our judges suggest serving Hormelís mashed sweet potatoes. No need to wash, peel and heat potatoes. Just pop the container in the microwave ...
Published: 11/16/17