Friday, September 30, 2011

Once More With Trader Joe's

There are very few sandwiches better than the Cuban sandwich. So when I saw this wrap for the first time at Trader Joe's the other day, I grabbed it without hesitation. Pork, ham, cheese and pickles in a tortilla. Sounds great. But it wasn't. There has to be some secret to eating Trader Joe's wraps because, as much as I love the store, I just don't like their wraps very much. Their taste always falls short of my expectations. Maybe I should be heating them up before I eat them or something.

I will say, however, that the "Cuban inspired mustard dressing" was delicious, by far the best part of the meal. I'm going to look up recipes to see if I can duplicate it.

I used to eat these lemongrass chicken "stix" all the time. And then I stopped, for no good reason. Maybe I just got tired of them. But the other day I tried them again for the first time in years. The spring roll wrappers are full of chicken with a very strong lemongrass flavor. (If you don't like lemongrass, you will hate these.) You can bake them in the oven or fry them quickly in a little oil, which is what I did this time. I'm not sure I could eat these as an entree, but as a snack or appetizer, they are quite good.

I've written before how much Elizabeth loves the tarte d'alsace, but the other night when we were at Trader Joe's they were sold out of it. So we tried this other tarte for the first time: mushrooms with Emmental and Parmesan cheese. It cooked in the oven in less than ten minutes. It was fine, but the flavors were very strong, and the whole thing was a runny mess. (You can't pick up a piece without all the toppings sliding off.) I would get this again, but it's definitely a second choice to the tarte d'alsace.

I enjoy most of the products that fall under the "Trader Ming's" name. (The orange chicken, the tempura chicken, cha siu bao, etc.) So when I saw the spicy beef and broccoli, I decided it was at least worth a try. This one is more complicated than most: you microwave the broccoli, saute the beef, and simmer the sauce separately. Then you add the broccoli to the sauce for a couple of minutes, then the beef for thirty seconds.

I loved the sauce: it was indeed spicy. And some of the pieces of beef were very good. But a few of them were stringy and tough. I mean, I know there is only so much you can do with frozen beef, so I'm not going to judge this too harshly. But too much of the beef had to be thrown out. I will try this again one day and see if the beef is better, but if not, I will write it off.

The chicken gyoza are one of the few items I can think of at Trader Joe's that have been around for as long as I can remember. You can steam them, pan fry them, or cook them in the classic potsticker-style. On this occasion I pan fried them, threw some diced chives on top, and drizzled Tabasco Sweet & Spicy sauce over the whole thing. These are great as an appetizer or, in this case, a meal.

Everyone who loves chips and salsa has, at some point, tried a salsa that promises a certain flavor and fails to deliver. This is almost always the case with garlic. I can count on one hand the number of garlic salsas that I felt contained enough garlic. Fortunately, this is one of them. The garlic flavor is abundant.

The white corn tortilla chips aren't anything special, but the bag is huge, they are inexpensive, and a great vehicle for scooping up this tasty salsa.

Pho is not something I am an expert on: noodles and soup are not my favorite foods. But I have certainly had pho that I love. So, in the interest of trying something new, I picked up Trader Joe's take on it. There is a "fill to this line" marking inside the container for you to add water. Three minutes in the microwave, three minutes of resting, and you're ready to go. 

I really liked the flavor of the broth. And, although there weren't very many noodles compared to most bowls of pho I have had before, the noodles that were present tasted nice. Unfortunately, the frozen beef, upon being cooked, was almost inedible. This isn't really a surprise but it bears mentioning. I tried this because I wanted something new to write about and I thought there was an outside chance it would be good, but this isn't something I will ever try again.


Jessica said...

I just tried the chicken gyoza for the first time. I really like the pork one much better. These have an "off" smell. Have you tried the pork ones? Btw, I really enjoy all of your posts. The TJ's & fast food ones are the most helpful & interesting to me since I don't live in Pas, CA.

JustinM said...

Yes, I've tried the pork, and I kind of get what you're saying. The chicken have a bit of wet-cardboard smell to them. I've never thought about which I like more. Maybe for my next TJ's post I will try the pork.

Online pharmacy reviews said...

You share a good combination because we have in the same dish some pork and some vegetables , but I prefer the pork because it is delicious !

JustinM said...

Go fuck yourself.