I Paid: $3.50 for a 10-ounce meal (prices may vary by region)
Yet here is one of the noblest attempts to date. Whether Stouffer’s new Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup combos actually rise to the level of a good homemade sandwich and thermos of soup is, of course, subjective, but the fact that the frozen alternative is even worth mentioning in the same sentence says a lot.
The sandwich—sorry, “stuffed melt”—is a little Hot Pocket–y for my taste, more like a low-grade pastry than a true bread-plus-filling luncheon experience. But the fillings range in quality from acceptable to quite good. The Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed Melt suffered from muddy flavors and underpowered bacon, but it was soothing and not overly salty. The Three Cheese & Ham Melt had a pleasantly crisp texture and was nicely balanced between relatively natural-tasting ham and plausible cheese. The Steak & Swiss Cheese Melt was downright tasty, tender without being soft and actually steak-y in flavor in a way that’s unusual for a frozen mass-market entrée.
The accompanying soups were a genuine added value. The Broccoli Cheddar that came with the Steak & Swiss could have easily been an overly salted, Cheez Whiz–style mess—it was actually relatively light in consistency, and the broccoli had some crispness and vegetal flavor. The Tomato Bisque that accompanied the Three Cheese & Ham was similarly light on its feet, with good seasoning and a fresh tomato flavor that was unexpected and pleasant. And the Chicken Bacon Ranch’s Baked Potato Soup—while a bit American cheese–y—included pieces of potato that still had some flavor from the skin and some textural fight left in them.
All in all, in the war between the forces of progress and mass-produced crud, these things represent a real step forward for microwave-dependent lunchers.