I feel like I’ve been stuck in a rut lately. I’ve dubbed it the “4 out of 10″ rut. It seems like everything I review is either spectacularly underwhelming or just plain blech. Which is why I was so glad to see Stouffer’s new Stuffed Melt and Soup. It’s an ingenious idea with three available combinations that all sound like they could be really tasty. I chose the Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup over the Three Cheese & Ham Stuffed Melt with Creamy Tomato Bisque because I can’t seem to find a tomato soup I like, so I wanted to give Stouffer’s the best chance possible to succeed in making my taste buds give them a round of applause.
Apparently there’s also a Chicken Bacon Ranch Stuffed Melt with Baked Potato Soup available, but they didn’t have it at my store. If it had been there, I would have had some tough decisions to make. Actually, I probably would have just bought them both, after standing in front of the frozen food section for 15 minutes, paralyzed by my inability to make a quick trip to the grocery store last less than half an hour. I really shouldn’t be left unsupervised.
As a brief side note, food manufacturers really need to start cutting down on their product names. Seriously, “Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup?” Is the Stouffer’s marketing team working on the Dickensian pay scale? Can’t we trim it down a little? Also, who uses the term “stuffed melt?” It’s a fucking sandwich. Treat it as such. Or at least be less fucking redundant.
The entire description of the SCBSMSSSSMBCS on the front of the box is as follows: “Herb-topped focaccia bread filled with beef steak, onions and mushrooms in a swiss cheese sauce paired with creamy broccoli and cheddar cheese soup.”
Whew! Thank God they specified beef steaks. I thought I was in for some crazy fish steak and swiss cheese adventure.
There are no conventional oven cooking instructions, only microwave. That’s how fucking serious Stouffer’s is about giving you a bakery fresh taste in minutes. You are strictly not allowed to take your time. The top of the box tears away, leaving you with a handy little tray to hold your soup and sandwi…stuffed melt. You pop the soup in by itself for a minute thirty, then you add the melt with its convenient crisping sleeve for another three and a quarter minutes. Voila!
And yes, I spilled some of the soup into the tray by accident. Don’t worry, I scraped most of it off the cardboard with my spoon and ate it. No stone left unturned for you TIB readers! And also, no dignity for me.
I’m really sad to say that the finished product fell well short of my expectations. Let’s start with the soup. The broccoli bits were small but actually had a nice, crunchy texture, whereas you might expect them to be soggy, so that was nice. There wasn’t a whole lot of them, but then again, the soup was pretty small to begin with, so I guess ratio-wise they were on target. The cheese part of the soup was really disappointing.
The flavor was pretty much on par with Campbell’s broccoli and cheese soup, which I actually enjoy, but it was just so watery. It was like cheese water, which is a phrase that actually makes me a little nauseous. The little orange things as pictured on the box were also present. I guess they were supposed to be carrots? They were minuscule and tasted like nothing, but their shape did make me wish I was eating some sort of awesome Tetris soup, except all the pieces were the long, straight pieces that never dropped when I had that giant, gaping, straight chasm that was just begging for that piece. Now I’m mad at Stouffer’s AND Tetris. And I’m still thinking about cheese water, which is just…ugh.
I knew going into this that the “stuffed melt” portion of the meal was probably going to be nothing more than a glorified Hot Pocket, especially after I saw the crisping sleeve. And I was generally right, except Hot Pockets have about 50 percent more filling than this stuffed melt had. It was woefully under-stuffed.
The molten lava cheese, when you could actually find some, was pretty tasty, but the “steak” consisted of largely flavorless tiny pieces, and while I could taste a hint of onion, good luck finding any mushrooms. Who knows, I could have been eating mushrooms that I thought were steak the whole time. I wouldn’t be surprised. Also, they can call the shell herb-topped foccacia bread until they’re blue in the face, but seriously, once again…Hot Pockets. The bread was nicely chewy and texturally acceptable, but it was no artisanal masterpiece.
It’s pretty sad when what seems to be a really great concept fails so badly at execution. It’s also pretty sad when I can tell Stouffer’s that Campbell’s makes a concentrated broccoli and cheese soup that costs 99 cents per can and tastes better than their soup, and that a Hot Pocket has more plentiful and flavorful filling than their stuffed melt. Furthermore, I have a pretty dainty appetite, and after finishing off the Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soup, I was actually still a little hungry. This could have been a great five-minute, stomach-warming lunch to take to work on a rainy day, but instead it just makes you wish you’d rushed to the bakery down the street and ordered their half-sandwich and soup lunch special.
Looking back on this review, I’m making it sound like Stouffer’s killed my whole family, when what they really did was just offer up a mediocre frozen meal. I guess I just really wanted them to win with such a great concept, which made my disappointment all the more tangible. In all fairness, it’s edible, it’s convenient and probably tastes better than whatever horror show sits in your break area’s vending machine. It just wasn’t the comfort-food-in-a-box that I was hoping it would be.
(Nutrition Facts â€“ 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams) — 400 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of total fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 45 milligrams of cholesterol, 880 milligrams of sodium, , 41 grams of total carbohydrates, 2 grams of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugars, 17 grams of protein, 15% vitamin A, 40% calcium, 15% vitamin C and 10% iron.)
Item: Stouffer’s Corner Bistro Stuffed Melt and Soup Steak & Swiss Stuffed Melt with Broccoli Cheddar Soupâ€¨
Price: $2.99 (on sale; original $3.89)
â€¨Size: 1 stuffed melt and soup (283 grams)â€¨
Purchased at: Safewayâ€¨
Rating: 5 out of 10â€¨
Pros: Broccoli bits were crisp and tasty. No fish steaks involved. Easy to prepare. Fun carrying tray. Swiss cheese was tasty. Stouffer’s did not kill my whole family.
â€¨Cons: Under-stuffed stuffed melt. Cheese water. Good concept, bad execution. Incredibly long food product names. Steak bits too small. Made me want Tetris soup, which does not exist.