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

Monday, June 20, 2011

Trader Joe's Multigrain Pilaf

\pi-ˈläf, -ˈlȯf; ˈpē-ˌ\\pi-ˈlō, -ˈlȯ, ˈpē-(ˌ); Southern often ˈpər-(ˌ)lü, -(ˌ)lō\
Definition of PILAF
: a dish made of seasoned rice and often meat
- http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pilaf

: usually the most disappointing and forgettable part of a meal.
- Me

Yeah, I really don't get it either. I'm a guy who should like pilaf. I'm on record as a guy who enjoys rice and random seasonings and mixing it all up, so, really, what gives? I think I've never really had a good one, I guess. Granted, my experiences are pretty much limited to high school cafeteria, college dining commons, and the wedding banquet variety of anything that marketed itself as being pilaf, so I don't consider myself a subject matter expert on it. That, and any good rice/seasonings/other stuff memories are mostly filed under "fried rice" or "stir fry" so I guess I've assumed pilaf to be some lonely, bland, neglected outpost of the food spectrum, welcome to come and play only when a fancy-sounding cheap starch is needed and potatoes au gratin's busy.

Anyways, Sandy and I are continuing to try and move more away from prepackaged foods, but sometimes we know we just won't have the time to make a proper home cooked meal. I guess that's why we picked up TJ's Multigrain Pilaf. Sounds healthy (it has that buzzword "Multigrain" after all) and quick 'n easy (two minutes in the microwave!) so, well, why not?

Sandy nuked it up as I quickly grilled up some sausages the other night. Let's just say when it was done, it didn't make the best impression. You see, you open a small corner of the packet, nuke it, then open it the rest of the way and kinda dump it on your plate. First, the smell. It's a dead ringer for Spaghetti-O's. I kid you not. I had my back turned when Sandy was getting it on our plates, and I could have sworn she warmed up a bag of Chef Boyardee instead. Then, when it's on your plate, visually, it looks like...well, this is a family friendly webpage, so I won't say what I first thought. But use a little imagination. No further details. Sandy took some time to try and fluff it up with a fork to make it look, well, let's just say more appetizing.

Tastewise, at first, it's kinda bland, but then the heat sneaks up after a couple bites. Nah, it's not hot, but it's actually semi-discernibly spicy. There's a couple of the usual suspects around like turmeric, pepper and garlic, and overall tastes alright enough. Still, it wasn't the flavor but more the texture I noticed. Instead of rice, it's made of cracked wheat, soy beans and millet. The soy beans are decent sized and fleshy, which kinda weirdly jives with the smallish ball-like quinoa-esque bite from the other components. It's actually kinda fun to eat when focusing on the texture. Sandy, who can be texturally squeamish at times, agreed. Still, overall, it wasn't a terribly intriguing product, and left to my own devices, I probably could have made something I would've enjoyed more.

I guess I could say this is the best premade pilaf I've had yet, but then again, for me, that's kind of like remembering my favorite Pittsburgh Pirates losing season* or figuring out my favorite Rush song (I'm sorry, I know they have rabid fans, I just can't stand any of their songs. So sue me). It's not bad, but again, between the tasty grilled sausages and my wife's homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, it again was relegated to the realm of the meal's weakest link. Poor pilaf, maybe sometime you'll have your day in the sun. Not today. Sandy gave it a three based mostly on presentational concerns. I think a three is more than fair for it as well.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

* There's so many to choose from, but any that prominently feature Tike Redman warrant serious, serious consideration. That play is the best he ever made. And notice he's in an Orioles uniform. One game I was at, he was brought in as a defensive replacement, only to drop two fly balls in a row. Ouch.


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Maybe you already figured this out by now, but the only appealing grain in that mix is the millet, which is just as easy and quick to make as white rice in the microwave. And I can barely make toast. Just follow directions on a package (usually one part millet to two parts water or whatever liquid you like), heat on high to get it boiling and then turn down the power to 50%. My low power 500W microwave needs about 14 to 20 minutes at that power, check after 10 minutes or less if you have a high power one. Good millet will be nice and fluffy, not crunchy or mushy, if cooked right. Bob's Red Mill is ok, stay away from Arrowhead Mills. TJ probably has packages of millet somewhere to try. Yum yum. I like it with Lima beans, garlic, and whatever oil or fat is handy. But you can add anything you want. You can make up a big batch and freeze in pyrex bowls with lids, then heat them up (take off rubber lid replace with other cover) in the microwave as needed. Millet is really tasty, I've been eating it for decades, long before it became trendy. Not just for birdies.