Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Trader Joe's Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon

Really, can it get any better than bacon?

I don't think so.

Not to get too Lady Gaga on you, but baby, I was born this way (nature). I also grew up in Hatfield, Pennsylvania, the unofficial "home of the smiling porker" and have so many fond memories of Saturday mornings with cheese omelets and bacon for breakfast (nurture). I just love the greasy salty goodness of a few choice crinkley slices of pure heaven, and I know I'm far from the only one. Sandy doesn't like most pork products but she salivates at just the thought. Among my Facebook buddies, I have friends who do such things as making bacon-wrapped scrapple (freakin' delicious) and regularly track down and share pictures such as this. Studies have even shown that bacon is the number one temptress meat for vegetarians, simply because we as humans come wired to seek and crave this stuff. I have yet to meet anyone who can say anything bad about bacon.

So how does TJ's Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon stack up?

I busted out our package yesterday morning (it was Saturday, after all, and Sandy had some tasty omelets on her mind). Once I opened it, the aroma of slightly sweet smokiness hit me, that drew me in for a closer smell. Sandy gave me a weird look and was probably wondering why it looked like I was huffing bacon fumes, until I let her have a good whiff, too. Really, this stuff smells pretty impressive. I prefer to bake bacon in the oven (just easier, with a pretty reliable result) and even hours later, when we got home from a concert at about 1:30 a.m. last night/this morning, the aroma still permeated the air like the best Scentsy product ever. This stuff is of the thick cut variety, and we prefer our bacon good and crispy (Sandy goes as far to just say "burnt"), so it definitely took a while. The bacon strips seemed to have a pretty healthy meat-to-fat ratio, with the fat more concentrated on one side, the meaty parts on the other. Anyways, the fatty sides definitely crisped up pretty well, I saw, as I pulled our breakfast treat out of the oven. The smell was literally intoxicating at this point, so delectable and pheromonesque that it would make even the most militant vegan spiral out of control.

Tastewise, it's pretty darn good. The fatty sides were definitely savory, delicious, comforting, melt in your mouth good. The meatier sides, because of the thickness, were a little chewy and more leathery, but pretty tasty. You can definitely taste the smoke flavor and slight apple-y sweetness which works pretty well with the salt and gristle. Really good and satisfying, and a little tough to stick to my spouse-allotted ration of 3-1/2 pieces. Yes, I would steal bacon from my wife, and not feel too bad. Still, I was left with the feeling that this stuff smelled a lot better than it tasted, but overall I was fairly pleased.

Sandy wasn't as much of a fan of it as I was. She prefers more thinly cut so it burns up a little better and gets crisped up a little more evenly. A valid point for sure. She liked that taste though, and gave it a three. I'll go with a four. I think, for me, it comes down to gustatory preference. Apple smoked bacon makes a great accessory meat, like on top of a cheeseburger, but for stand-alone meat munching, I like either regular or pepper-crusted better. So even though our cumulative score is a seven, if you and your kin are aficionados of good, thick-cut apple smoked bacon, get this stuff and I'm sure you'll be well-pleased.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

8 comments:

  1. Oh my. We went nutters over this bacon. Two bacon "aficionados" give it 10/10.


    P.S. I love this blog.

    P.P.S. May I recommend: Potato Pancakes (and organic unsweetened applesauce), Beef Tamales, Chocolate Whoopie Pies, Salt & Vinegar Hawaiian Potato Chips, Haricots Verts (aka french beans, frozen), Asparagus Risotto, Feta & Caramelized Onion Puff Pastry Bites, Parmesan Pastry Pups, Mushroom Turnovers, Gala Apples

    P.P.P.S. May I *not* recommend the frozen Blueberry Waffles (I never thought a waffle could actually be disgusting)

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  2. I'm curious...do you know anything about the source of traders joes bacon? I can't seem to find any information on how these animals are raised. Beeler's Bacon out of Iowa has a great website that showcases their sustainable practices. I'd like to know more about trader joes pork sources.

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  3. MommyD - you're not alone. TJ's as a business is not terribly forthcoming about their food sources. I believe that's because a lot of their stuff is relabeled from other companies and TJ's wishes to keep their prices on the lower end. So I don't know about their pork sources, but honestly, I don't feel overly concerned or convicted about them, so it's not enough to dissuade me personally, though I understand and respect those who are more concerned than me.

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  4. I don't think it is as good as Niman Ranch's applewood smoked bacon, which was replaced by this bacon. The texture seems dry, like turkey bacon. Also, the flavor isn't as good. Since Niman's was sold, their bacon isn't as good either. I understand there are some mail order bacons that are out of this world, but at $19/lb, I will have to make do with TJ's or Niman's.

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  5. We were actually told by someone at our TJs store that this was the Niman Ranch bacon under their own label now.

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  6. This bacon is great! I wasn't sure when I bought it if "uncured" bacon would taste right to me or not since I'm used to the regular supermarket stuff, but this stuff was just fine and tasty, better than what I'm used to, actually.

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  7. I like the no chemical nitrates!

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  8. TJ's Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon is pretty darn good. Thick sliced, good degree of smokiness, good meat to fat ratio, not too salty, very nice all around flavor.

    Here's a link for excellent mail order bacon from Burgers' Smokehouse of California, Missouri. They offer a wide array: Dry Cured, Moist Cured, Applewood, Maple, Peppered.. all outstanding. If you order 8 pounds of a particular variety, it runs about $10 a pound. Not cheap, but superb.

    http://www.smokehouse.com/burgers.nsf/product/Dry-Cured-Country-Bacon

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