Tom Mackey, the senior VP of Operations was on hand to explain the "fast casual" concept upon which UFood builds their business practice:
1) It has to taste good
2) It has to be nutritional
3) It has to be ready in 3 1/2 minutes
4) It has to make money
(UFood is a publicly traded company)Tom explained that they actually focus 15% on being healthy and lean and 85% on being better for you than down the street. So in an effort to be as healthy as possible, sometimes that simply means less calories than the competition. In a nutshell; the dressings are lite, the meats are lean, the cheese is low fat, the rice is brown and the bread is whole wheat. The food is always baked, grilled or steamed, never fried and no trans fats are ever used. Tom also mentioned they source locally and use organic ingredients when possible.Okay, now that you have the facts, lets get to the food (and drink! and atmosphere!) Signature colors of bright green and orange set the scene at the 201 Brookline Street location (closed to the public this evening on our behalf.) I appreciated the Under 500 Calories Menu hanging on display. While I'm not in the business of counting calories, this is a welcome point of attention for those who are. In addition, every item on the menu lists next to it the number of calories it contains. I sipped on a Corona Lite while mingling with other bloggers and chatting with the super friendly UFood team members. Around 6:30 we were instructed to take a seat and shortly after we began our meal with a Bistro Salad. This salad contains organic field greens, tomatoes, feta cheese, walnuts and dried cranberries, topped with a blueberry pomegranate dressing. The dressing was light and zesty with hints of sweetness that didn't overpower the fresh ingredients. A plate of french fries - appropriately named Unfries accompanied the salad course. Unfries because they are baked, not fried! The oven baked crispiness as well the lower calorie count gives them a unique appeal. They have definitely succeeded in creating a healthy, non greasy fry without compromising on taste. Up next was an entree of Fire-Grilled Sirloin Tips. (Pictured above is a full size order displayed on the tabletop spread.)These 100% USDA choice sirlion tips are locally sourced from Burlington, Vermont. They are cooked to order in a light balsamic dressing giving them a nice burst of flavor. For a steak tip fire-grilled in 3 1/2 minutes, these are actually very tasty. (I'm not comparing them to the steak tips you'd cook up on your backyard grill, but for what they are, I was impressed.)
The simply prepared sides included Fresh Steamed Broccoli and Sweet Potato Mash. They don't cook with salt so the vegetables lacked seasoning, the point being that the decision to add is up to you. I could have used some salt on my broccoli, but the creamy sweet potato mash stood up well on its own.They offer Personal Pizzas made with organic whole wheat crust and skim mozzarella. We sampled a slice of the Turkey Sausage and later the Pesto. Overall, I wasn't a huge fan. The paper thin crust lacked crispiness and probably would not satisfy a typical pizza craving. And while the pesto itself was good, the spices in the turkey sausage were rather abrasive for my taste. The Fired-Up Burger menu offers choices from ground lean beef, turkey, veggie and all natural free range bison on a multi-grain or sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, pickles and ketchup.
Pictured is the Chipoltle Turkey Burger made with lite jalapeno jack cheese and spicy chipoltle mayo. The turkey was surprisingly juicy which was a positive aspect, however the multi-grain bun, cut a little too thin on the bottom was left rather soggy by default. The veggies, especially the pickles were welcome additions and the burger did present a spicy kick that I enjoyed. Rather full at this point, but the food kept coming! The signature UBowl served was the Chicken Tinga boasting slow cooked chicken in adobo sauce and tinga salsa. The chicken was tender with a balanced spice complimented by cool tomatoes. I definitely liked this dish, of the few bites I could manage, especially when accompanied by a glass of red wine!The Grilled Paninis are a job well done. Actually, this might be my favorite menu item of the evening. Chicken Pesto lives up to expectations with tomato and skim mozarella on ciabatta bread. They also offer a selection of Wraps, the Fresh Falafel is made with baked falafel, pickled beets, lettuce, tomatoes, roasted red pepper hummus and spicy tahini sauce. The falafel squares didn't really compare to my standard ideals of falafel, and not unlike the pizza, I'm unsure if this would satisfy a true falafel craving. That being said, it was a well made wrap with an ideal amount of hummus spread and tahini sauce coating crisp lettuce and tasty pickled beets.
The below are even more menu items that were on the tabletop display but not sampled.Chipoltle Chicken Sandwich chicken breast, lite jalapeno jack, chipoltle mayo, lettuce, tomato and pickles on ciabatta.Seems I captured the description of this one in the photo - one less thing to type!Tofusion organic tofu and veggies over brown rice with a ginger soy glaze.
Mighty Chicken Sandwich chicken breast, romaine mix, lite mayo, almonds and caesar dressing on a sesame roll. Okay, so maybe I just had a grand old time photographing the food on display. Wrapping it up, no menu sampling would be complete without sweets! We were also treated to dessert in the form of UBerry Soft Serve Yogurt. Flavors of Original & Wildberry Tart Swirl and Fat-Free Vanilla & Chocolate Swirl hit the spot after many filling dishes. UFood by way of healthy sweet options also offers smoothies, sundaes and parfaits. I was excited to learn more about UFoods concept behind healthy fast food, especially from a well rounded group of genuinely nice individuals. When the fast food nation craves a healthy alternative, UFood Grill is committed to making it easy for people to eat smart while enjoying good food. I want to thank each and everyone of the employees who put on this event for welcoming us into their Landmark Center Franchise and treating us to a generous, well executed sampling of their menu.