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?"

Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Trader Joe's Veggie Sausage Patties

So a few posts ago I shared a little about giving up meat for Lent, and Trader Joe's has already really pleasantly surprised me with their soy meat products, so when they had their Veggie Sausage Patties at the sample station a week or so ago, it made for a natural pick up. It also led Sandy to think a little, like "Okay, we like Trader Joe's goods overall, but how do they compare against rival brands?" So this post, I'm going to do something a little different than the usual.

< insert Michael Buffer >

Ladies and gentlemen, today you are about to witness history, the first head-to-head heavyweight championship of frozen vegetable sausage patties. The Soysage Showdown. One brand, known throughout the land, the undisputed champion. The challenger, an underdog, with a devoted following, its quality known to its devotees. Only one can prevail. Are ... you ... ready?

I said .... are .... you .... ready ....

LLLLLLLLLLLLet's get ready to crrrrrrrrrrrrrrumble!!

< /end Michael Buffer >

Ringside Introductions: In the left corner, the defending world champion, in the green box, from Battle Creek, Michigan, weighing in at 228 grams, costing $3.39, it's MorningStar Farms' Original Sausage Patties! (applause)

On the right, the plucky underdog challenger, in the white and light blue box, from Monrovia, California, weighing in at 227 grams, costing $3.29, it's Trader Joe's Veggie Sausage Patties! (mild smattering of hand claps)

Round One: First Impressions: The picture on the Morningstar box shows a serving suggestion of just tossing them on a plate. Also, one singular serving is clearly and consistently referred to as a "pattie." Hrmm. Trader Joe's shows them on top of some awesome looking openfaced sandwich with tomatoes and spinach and some sort of cheese/dressing. I get hungry just looking at it. And they call it a patty. I like the fonts they use better, too. Judges' decision: Trader Joe's

Round Two: Nutrition: M'star has less fat and more protein. That's good. TJ's has less calories and sodium. Also good. But in wondering what all has to be done to a scoopful of beans to make them meat-like, I began to look at the ingredients. TJ's has something called carboxymethycellulose in it, and carrageenan in it. Don't know what those do, and don't want to. I can pronounce everything else in it though. M'star though has tasty stuff like tripolyphosphate, hexametaphosphate, disodium inosinate, and loads of other stuff the spell check underlines in a red squiggly. So, this could be wrong but, my thoughts ... Judges' decision: Trader Joe's

Round Three: Appearance and Preparation: The patties of both brands are roughly the same size (M'star maybe a little thicker, TJ's maybe a little larger circumference). Both are strangely fairly not-that-cold when taken out of the freezer. The M'star patties look browned and ready to eat, except frozen, whereas TJ's has more of an icy sheen that quickly cooks off. M'star looks a little "meatier" where as TJ's looks a little ... I don't know ... indistinct? I'll go with that. Preparation of both is pretty identical, and sizzle up within a couple minutes, smelling sausage-y enough in the process. Judges' decision: MorningStar Farms

Round Four: Texture: Okay, for both, not bad, but not nearly as good as the real thing. I think I may have slightly overcooked them (not necessarily a bad thing) so the outsides of both got a little browned and crisped up. The insides ... eh. M'star is definitely meatier in texture, but it strikes me as akin to a well-done burger made of slighty chunky firm mush. Which is more or less what it was. TJ's didn't have as much of a meaty bite (definitely more towards the mush end of the spectrum, this makes it sound worse than it was, but don't know how else to describe it) and was more greasy, though not over-abundantly so. Both were decent enough in their own way. Judges' decision: MorningStar Farms

Final Round: Taste: This is always what it comes down to, isn't it? For me, at least, it is. M'star definitely decided to go the well-done burger route and make a meaty, kinda smokey, solid, but kinda plain tasting patty, er, "pattie." TJ's starts off tasting roughly the same, but mid-bite there's like this savory inflection that introduces itself to the flavor that makes it taste more authentically sausage-like. Mind you, it doesn't taste just like it, but a reasonable facsimile for a bunch of beans. I think it's the extra 1.5 gram of fat that the TJ's has to give it just a little more greasy breakfast meat essence. First time we chomped down, Sandy and I made "Soysage Egg McMuffins" and thought the TJ's was the winner, hands-down. I resampled both tonight with my dinner, and realized the taste was closer than originally thought. They're both good, but in their own distinct way. Depends what you like more. For Sandy and I, the choice was still simple. Judges' decision: Trader Joe's

Winner, and new world champion, by judges' decision .... Trader Joe's!!!

Post-Fight Wrap Up: Again, I was pretty surprised with the quality of a soy-meat Trader Joe product. Maybe it was the lack of real meat playing with my mind, but while enjoying the sausage patties, it wasn't as easy to recall I wasn't chomping my way through the real deal. MorningStar, while decent, was too unsausage-like despite its meatier appearance and texture to have the same effect. I think even if I sampled both in a blindfolded taste test, I'd choose the Trader Joe's. Sandy usually isn't too big of a sausage fan, but she legitimately liked the TJ's more than the MorningStar as well. "It just tastes better," she said. "If you told me we'd make some muffin sandwiches with the MorningStar patties, I wouldn't be like 'Bllllllllaaaaaahhhhhherrrrrrggggggahhhhhhhhhh' but I'd be happier with the TJ's." I wish I took a picture of the face she made while making that noise I cannot hope to ever replicate. She said if she were grading both brands, she'd give MorningStar a three ("solid, okay, but not great") but give the Trader Joe's a whopping five out of five. "Savory. Mmmm." Well, I wouldn't quite give it a five, but I recognize its goodness and understand it cannot ever be as good as the real thing. I can appreciate it for it is, though. It's the closest I've tasted, and definitely closer than MorningStar. I'm only grading the TJ's ...

Bottom line: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

14 comments:

  1. You should try the chicknless nuggets! (TJs brand, of course). I just picked up a box, tempted by the buffalo chickn MorningStar ones, but went with the breaded TJs ones. I have yet to try them but I am excited.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ashley, yeah, we actually have slowly been eating our way thru a box of them. They're not bad. Might write a review on them if I feel so inspired. Definitely, in my box, the king of TJ's soy meats is the chorizo. Have you tried that? i think I linked my review of it up above there somewhere ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. ummm ... box = book ... yeah ....

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sorry, I have to disagree. I eat the Morningstar ones on the regular, and TJ's was out one week, so I bought the TJ's brand, and ... it just didn't cut it for me. Maybe because I AM a vegetarian, and the more "sausagey" vibe you got actually turned me off. I really wanted to like 'em, I did, but ... well, at least I tried. :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Hey Pj - certainly nice they have the option at least, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Be careful about purchasing meats there...I've had several occasions on which I had to throw out chicken, turkey and steak that smelled off upon opening the packages..I just purchased a stuffed turkey breast that was marked sell by 11/13 (purchased 11/04) and stuck in the back of my fridge where it's coldest immediately and upon opening it on Monday it smelled like feet. I spent $18.00 on this just to wind up in the garbage. This has happened time and time again. It's a problem. I've also had problems finding bugs in many of the cereals purchased there...normally I love trader joes and they have alot of great stuff there but I will NEVER purchase any raw meats or cereals from any of their stores again..ever!

    ReplyDelete
  7. After reading reviews about these sausage patties, I went to Trader Joe's yesterday and bought a box. I was skeptical because I have not found too many veggie type foods that I really like. So after work off to trader Joe's with my daughter for a box of these sausages. Of course it is almost impossible to go into TJ and buy one item, so I bought TJ crescent rolls, honey, non-nitrate bacon, frozen brown rice and a host of other items I needed to fill my pantry. My daughter prepared our breakfast dinner (breakfast food at dinner time). eggs veggie sausage, and crescent rolls. The sausage was delicious and I was very impressed with the taste. I wanted to buy 2 boxes, but they only had one left, so I am waiting for another shipment. In the mean time, I will try the bacon with eggs, rolls, and some orange marmalade.

    ReplyDelete
  8. try the "Gimmee Lean" sausage meat. I make my own little patties and can make them thicker or thinner as I like. I fry them up in a little grapeseed oil and they are quite tasty. I even like it cooked and crumbled on a veggie pizza. The MF's have improved a lot lately. When I first tried them, they struck me as rather dry and only tried them again recently. I thought they were quite good. I haven't tried the links again. I actually like their "bacon." I've tried the "Light Life" version, which is tasty, as well. I'd be perfectly happy with either. My choices are not so much about being "veggie" which I am not, but, liking these foods, but not the grease involved. I also try to go "light" on eating meat, so that it is only the occasional meal.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I can't wait to try the Trader Joe's, but wanted to point out that you may even want to try them again only cooked a little better.

    In my experience, if you overcook the meatless sausages (patties or links) or burgers, etc., what happens is that the outside dries out while the inside turns mushy. Since you said yours were slightly overdone on the outside and you experienced mushiness in both, this may be the reason.

    It's best to just get them nicely and evenly cooked for the best overall texture, which will be more "meaty" and less mushy.

    I usually do the oven method (the MF recommended method), and then, if I really want to get the whole sausage experience, will just sautee them briefly in a pan that's been preheated and has a small amount of oil to just brown/crisp them a bit (quickly) before they can dry out.

    ReplyDelete
  10. those veggie sausage patties are awful. I ate one and threw the rest of the box away. I should have eaten the box instead. The only way these would have been good is to have deep fried them and then what is the point. Yuck!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I second Jimmy James' comment. I think the box for the TJ patty might actually taste better than the actual patty. I choked down the 1st one and took a bite of the second and returned it back to the plate, grabbed the box from the freezer and circular filed the rest of them.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I love sausage but I'm trying not to eat it anymore but need a good substitute and those "sausageless" sausages did not win me over so I will give these a try in the breakfast category.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Carboxymethycellulose is a lubricant for dry eyes. Guess if you didn't wanna eat the 'sausage', you could try rubbing it in your eyes! (no..don't do it)

    ReplyDelete
  14. Russ - your review is hilarious - you may have missed your calling if you aren't already comedy. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete