|No Joke. These people are waiting
to get in to my Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s, the California-based food market, just cleaned the clocks of virtually all its competitors according to Consumer Reports Magazine. It scored an 87 out of 100. While some local supermarkets beat it by a point (Wegmans in the East, Publix in the South and Sprouts in the West) the only national competitor, Costco, came in second with 84 points. 27,000 consumers gave Trader Joe’s high marks for service, perishables and very clean stores. They also hit it out of the ballpark for their extraordinary (low) prices. Since I live very close to a Trader Joe’s, which regularly has to “crowd control” on weekends, I would have to concur. Trader Joe’s is a phenomenon.
I use the store on an almost daily basis.
The store regularly publishes “Fearless Flyers” alerting their customers to new items in the store and spotlights some familiar favorites. Because of the way we eat, which is to say as little processed food as possible, I cannot comment on the vast array of frozen and fresh prepared foods which run an international gamut from Pizza to Pad Thai. But here is my take on the latest offerings plus some other items I would like to bring to your attention. Candidly, some editions of “Fearless Flyer” leave me cold. In Fall, for instance, it is hard to imagine there is a single pumpkin left in any farmer’s field as TJ’s has jammed pumpkin into everything from pie crust to croissants. But lo and behold, despite dropping close to Easter and Passover, there was none of that here, just an assortment of items for us to sift through. All were passable. Some were very good. And some left us wondering what the fuss was about. Along with some staples that you should know about, here’s our take on XX items in TJ’s repertoire.
Organic Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. As a huge fan of TJ’s Tomato soup, this variety builds on that creamy goodness and adds a gentle wallop of spice—notably garlic and cayenne pepper. There are of course, sweet roasted red bell peppers. If you are a tomato soup fan, by all means add this to your list. It’s vegetarian and Kosher if you’re so inclined
Collier’s Welsh Cheddar. Cheese is a must-buy TJs item. The selection is extraordinary and the prices are almost at Costco levels. This particular cheddar comes from Wales. Since so do the Mathews, I was drawn to it. It is both savory and sweet on it sown. But this cow’s milk cheese from Denbighshire inspired me to make Welsh Rarebit. I could go into the lengthy history of the dish but for today, I’ll share this wonderful cheese-y topping for bread that rivals the Fondue of France
Recipe for Welsh Rarebit
Serves 4. Prep 15 mins. Cooking time: 10 mins.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup porter beer
3/4 cup heavy cream
6 ounces (approximately 1 1/2 cups) shredded Cheddar
2 drops hot sauce
Sliced, toasted baguette
In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and whisk in the flour. Cook, whisking constantly for 2 to 3 minutes, being careful not to brown the flour. Whisk in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper until smooth. Add beer and whisk to combine. Pour in cream and whisk until well combined and smooth. Gradually add cheese, stirring constantly, until cheese melts and sauce is smooth; this will take 4 to 5 minutes. Add hot sauce. Pour over toast and serve immediately.
100 % Whole Wheat Tandoori Naan
Naan which means bread truly is one of the world’s great breads.
It is practically an essential part of serving a curry or any other Indian dish for that matter. And whole wheat certainly has its nutritional benefits. But I am sorry to say, save me from this incarnation and give me the lovely puffed-up, slightly charred crust of the real thing that comes with every curry house dinner. I will get my whole wheat elsewhere and avoid this largely tasteless version.
Uncured Sliced Pastrami
TJ’s is practically a larder for un-cured meats. And like Monte’s Ham that means no nitrites or nitrates, the salts used to cure Bacon, Ham and Corned Beef. New Yorkers practically have pastrami in the blood, so I gravitated immediately to TJ’s. 8 oz. of the stuff makes two reasonable sized sandwiches and I have to admit I didn’t miss the nitrates at all. And at 4.99 a package, that’s the least expensive Pastrami sandwich in the city, if not the world.
Chevre with Honey and Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets
Goat cheese tends to find itself on the love it or hate it list. But the addition of clover honey makes this cheese a whole different experience. The honey represents about 10 percent of the resulting cheese and it could easily make the difference between love and hate. Though not in the Flyer, TJ’s Steamed and Peeled Baby Beets were practically made to go with the Chevre. Slice the beets, peel and section a navel orange then crumble the cheese over, give it a splash of Balsamic and you’ll have a salad I recently paid $16. for at a not-so-fancy restaurant.
Tuscan Pane. Trader Joe’s makes a mean Ciabatta Loaf, an airy Baguette and wonderful Croissants. But the Tuscan Pane is a puzzle. The Flyer goes into great detail about how the bread is crafted, hand shaped and fired in a hearth oven. But then why in the world is the bread then sliced to look for all the world like any ordinary loaf of supermarket bread. Sorry, but this one leaves me cold.
Dorot’s Crushed Garlic is a godsend. These little cubes of garlic hail from Israel. They are absolutely perfect for recipes calling for garlic whether crushed or chopped. They sit in the freezer and pop out of their plastic casing and straight into you cooking. They also make Crushed Basil but nothing to compares to the number of times I’ve used these recently to great effect.
Almond Croissants. Take it from someone who eats a genuine Croissant aux Amandes the minute he gets off the plane anywhere French, the Trader Joe’s version is sans pareil. The pastry is flaky, buttery and altogether irresistible. Then there’s the almond paste filling with its sweet nuttiness. These croissants, which also come in a Pain au Chocolat version, are so addictive, we make them
religiously every weekend. They proof overnight so the only drawback is forgetting to take them out of the freezer the night before.
Spices. I am not quite sure why anyone would buy spices anywhere else. Overwhelming they’re priced at 1.99 which is about half of what some very well-known brands get in ordinary supermarkets. With their low prices, their turnover is likely much quicker at TJs pretty well guaranteeing that they are going to be fresher than anywhere else too. Even Saffron which is priced at 5.99 for .2 oz. is a bargain. Also not to be missed…
TJ’s Grinders. Who doesn’t love those disposable salt and pepper grinders that guarantee the freshest results every time you use them while cooking? Well at TJs there are Pink Himalayan Salt Grinder, Multi-Color Pepper Grinders as well as Garlic Salt and Lemon Pepper Grinders. And the price is right too.
That concludes this Frequent Flyer and likely just in the nick of time…before the next one. Enjoy!