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Airline travel can be notorious for the quality of their meals (or lack of).
Recently Delta Airlines has emerged as an option that tends to have much better food than competitor airlines. With other airlines constantly looking to cut costs, the culinary departments are often the first to go. But Delta seems to be moving in the opposite direction, and their meal service has emerged as a key differentiator that has a big opportunity to make flying with them way more appealing. And Delta 767 business class service is a case study in food done right.
Take a quick look at their hub at New York’s JFK airport and you will spot high quality restaurants crafted by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality group. Known for their trendy spots like Gramercy Tavern, Union Square Cafe, and a burger behemoth known as Shake Shack, their terminal gives a strong first impression of just how seriously Delta is taking their food service.
I had a flight out of Los Angeles flying delta to my native New York City. I arrived at the terminal early for this particular flight, a 11:45am departure with a ticket aboard the Delta One premium cabin. I was lucky to snag the last available seat due a well-timed gate upgrade, so I had no time to pre-order my meal in advance, which is a pretty nifty feature option for these flights.
Once boarded, we were offered a drink option of either fresh orange juice or sparkling wine. Being a transcontinental flight, I sprung for the wine to help me get settled in. Upon takeoff, the airline hostess’ served up a small dish of mixed nuts, a welcomed appetizer to the meal ahead.
Food service rolled out around 45 minutes into the flight. At this point I was pretty hungry, having skipped breakfast in anticipation try out the well-regarded food on Delta One. Out of the 3 presentable options, I decided on the Marinara Braised Meatballs with bianco DiNapoli tomato and garlic bread, which was catered by Jon and Vinny’s, a popular Los Angeles eatery.
The meal came out with a side of prosciutto and fresh mozzarella, a salad, and some sort of brown onion soup. I quickly dove in, starting on the appetizers. The prosciutto and mozzarella tasted as expected for an airline serving of cheese and meat; nothing too special, but enjoyable nonetheless, especially on an empty stomach.
The salad was surprisingly fresh. With a nice sprinkle of bread crumbs that I enjoyed a lot, it was one of the more enjoyable elements of my meal.
The soup on the other hand… Let’s just say I had one spoonful was too many. Not something I would recommend or want to see on my tray table again.
Lastly, I moved onto the main event, the meatballs. I’ve read reviews of this dish in the past, and I had heard that it could be hit or miss on the quality. A lot of times meat and sauce dishes that need to be re-heated don’t travel well. The sauce can congeal and the meat may be not be consistently heated.
But this dish exceeded all of my expectations. Just one bite in and I found the meatballs were delicious. They were soft and easy to cut through, and had a burst of well seasoned flavor. One bite combined with some of the provided garlic bread dipped in marinara sauce really hit the spot. I easily inhaled both of the meatballs and bread in record time. The only negative that I found about the dish was that there wasn’t more of it. Two meatballs for lunch was probably fine for my waste line, but would have felt meager for dinner. While I didn’t leave hungry, I certainly wasn’t full.
As a Delta Platinum Medallion member I have had my fare share of flights and airplane meals. I’ve always been pleased with the decent selection and quality over most trips that I’ve flown. The Delta 767 food was certainly decent enough.
Meals are truly an under appreciated and poorly executed feature for most flights, but with Delta continuing to invest in this area, it’s a plus for the future of airline travel. Let’s just say that I can’t wait to book my next flight, and not just for the trip itself, but for the meal that I’ll get to enjoy in the air.
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