Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Year-End Mini Trader Joe's Post

I saw this package in the freezer. There was no label and no price tag. What the hell, I figured. I noticed on the receipt after I'd paid that it was eight bucks - not exactly expensive, especially in this neighborhood, but the most expensive item I bought on this trip. I hoped they wouldn't be mostly filler.

I let the package sit in the fridge overnight to defrost.

About four minutes on each side in a frying pan with a half-inch of oil.

While there was definitely a lot of filler, there was more shrimp and lobster than I was expecting. I was pleased with the taste. I would not call these a great value, like some of the items from TJ's, but I would get them again.

Although to be honest, the lemon & chive sauce alone was worth a couple bucks. It came in a little plastic pouch, which I heated under running hot water while the cakes fried. At first I just added a drop to each bite, but by the end I was dredging the pieces through the sauce. Delicious.

The gummy bears were yummy, if you like gummy bears. I wish I could be more effusive, but I just don't know what to say. They did not taste stale. That's about it.

Now these guys I really liked. I haven't had Good & Plenty in a long time, but these were more colorful and more flavorful than I ever remember them being. I would not get the gummy bears again, but I would certainly get these again. Especially with the 99-cent price tag.

I saw this back in November - I'm not sure if it's still there - and I was in a Thanksgiving mood. Plus I love roast turkey.

As is usually the case with TJ's wraps, it's a lot higher in calories than you might expect. Even without the sauce, it's more than 500 calories. (A single-patty hamburger from Five Guys checks in at the same number of calories as this turkey wrap. It just doesn't seem right.)

Still, I really liked it, and I don't usually like TJ's wraps. The "festive" dressing didn't really add anything, and it certainly wasn't festive, but I liked the flavors of the turkey, stuffing, and cranberry cream cheese.

I am usually reluctant to try things that market themselves as "hot & sweet" or "sweet & sour," because the dominant flavor is almost always sweet. But Trader Joe's has actually added some heat to this mustard. It will never be confused with a Chinese hot mustard, but it definitely has some bite.

I ate Elizabeth's one-and-a-half pieces of potato pancake from Teresa's the other day, and the mustard was a better complement than either apple sauce or sour cream.

I also cooked a little frozen chicken patty and put it on an English muffin with the mustard, which was another great combination.

For all of my adult life, I stayed away from chow mein. Noodles just don't do it for me. Then, three years ago at lunch in Alhambra with my friend Zach, his sister Jenny ordered chow mein. It was outstanding. I still don't eat it much, but I am not afraid of it. So I decided to try Trader Joe's take.

You add all the contents to a pan, cook it for a while, then add the defrosted sauce.

It was just fine, and I ate it all over the course of two meals. But it wasn't anything I would recommend, nor would I eat it again. The noodles and sauce were both boring. I am not opposed to eating good chow mein at a restaurant (though lo mein is much more popular where I live now), but I won't be making frozen chow mein ever again.

I did not have high expectations for this one. The bag was sitting on the shelf open, so I figured the end might be stale. And it was only 99 cents. Trader Joe's doesn't bake their bread on sight, so who knew how far this had traveled or how long ago it had been baked?

I may have caught lightning in a bottle here, but this mini-roll was just awesome. Slightly crunchy on the outside like a pretzel, perfectly soft and doughy inside. I almost never eat bread by itself, but I ate most of this just like you see above, it was that good.

But I also made a snack with a piece of cheese and some spicy mustard. It was great, too.

I cooked Trader Joe's tempura chicken, one of my favorite items in the whole store, and tossed it with Hoboken Eddie's "Merlie's Magic" spicy orange-pineapple sauce (which is not sold at TJ's). Of all the different versions of this tempura chicken I have made - probably 25 - this was the best. The sweet, very spicy sauce was a wonderful complement to the chicken.

Hopefully Trader Joe's will come out with some new products in the new year and I can start trying them to give you a big TJ's post within the next few weeks. We'll see...


Anonymous said...

i used to go to albertson's and when they had french bread just out of the oven id buy a loaf and eat the entire thing for lunch. yum.

Bekah said...

Turkey/stuffing/cranberry sandwich combo is a fav around here. And that bread looks fabulous.

Unknown said...

This is a riff off of several of your other TJ's posts. I sauteed TJ's Red Shrimp, tossed with my own freshly ground taco spice mix. Served on Yellow corn tortilla's modestly coated with TJ's Cheddar/Gruyere cheese blend & a dollop of TJ's Corn Salsa + some Sricha Sauce and fresh Cilantro. Best 5AM meal EVER!

JustinM said...

Damn, that is some Big Time effort at 5 AM. (That would be a pretty cool blog: "Trader Joe's Late Night." I wish I'd thought of that 10 years ago.)

How did the taco spices complement the shrimp? I don't believe I have ever done that before.

Unknown said...

The spices worked great. Just a light dusting before the sautee for some great color and slight char, and the effort was pretty small; everything came together in less then 10 mins.
If you haven't tried the Cheddar/Gruyere cheese yet it is awesome, the Special Reserve Cheddar that tastes like parmesan is also great

JustinM said...

Yes, I wrote about it in June - I didn't like it at all... but if you say it's awesome, I'm willing to give it another try. (There is so much variation from one batch of cheese to another with TJ's, that's is completely possible to hate a cheese one day and like it another.)

Unknown said...

I forgot about your earlier post, there is such a good variety that you needn't go back to something if it didn't wow you. I also agree with the variance in cheeses but find that not limited to TJ's. And alas I also have been stung by the sudden and inexplicable extinction of some truly great products(can't figure that marketing ploy out)