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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Monday, July 11, 2011

Trader Joe's All Natural Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs

I know this is about a week or so late, but Happy Fourth of July, everyone. Since it was actually a fairly rainy night and we were beat from a long drive home from out of town, Sandy and I celebrated with a pretty low-key night at some of our friends' house eating ice cream and watching one of the most patriotic and thematically appropriate movies of all time, namely, "Independence Day." You know, one of Will Smith's finest movies ever when he and Randy Quaid save the world from aliens, and President Bill Pullman gives one of the most rousing cinematic speeches this side of "Braveheart." Or something like that. Great performances all around *cough* but the one actor who really surprised me was Brent Spiner. Who's Brent Spiner? Oh, c'mon, you know exactly who Brent Spiner is, even if you don't remember him from all his bit TV roles from shows like "Night Court" and "Law & Order." He's instantly recognizable as the powder white, perfectly coiffed Lt. Commander Data on "Star Trek: The Next Generation" where he plays an all-knowing, emotionless, and impeccably polite robotic android. His role on the show is as wooden as it comes. In "Independence Day," though? Spiner plays the role of head scientist at Area 51, where he's this long-haired, wild-eyed probable burn-out dude that practically bounces over the screen as he shows off his secret desert laboratory. In other words, Spiner plays pretty much completely opposite the role he's most famous for, until the alien he's dissecting wraps a tentacle around his throat and uses him as a puppet. Poor dude. All in all, the role didn't change my perception all that much of his acting abilities (i.e., meh), but there was a certain level of happiness in seeing Spiner in a different light.

Before heading over to our friends' place for the evening, Sandy and I managed to do one traditional American thing: grill up some hot dogs for dinner. Hot dogs, of course, are as American as baseball, fireworks, and Mom's apple pie, and if there's one thing to eat on the 4th, they would be it. That's not to say that I'm especially crazy about hot dogs, though. Most people seem to use them as a condiment delivery device, and I think it's because they're kinda plain tasting by themselves. Add in the fact that they're pretty unhealthy in almost every regard, and made from mystery meat, and while I won't always pass on them, I won't reach for them first.

Anyways, the hot dogs Sandy and I grilled up for the 4th were Trader Joe's All Natural Uncured Chicken Hot Dogs. On a shopping trip not too long before then, we got suckered in with a free hit at the sample counter and decided they were worth more of a try. They're definitely kinda interesting. The chicken dogs come fully cooked, and between that and being of a leaner meat, were slower to grill up than other hot dogs, especially because Sandy and I prefer ours to be grilled to the wrinkly, crinkly, E.T.'s been in the bath too long-esque point. I wasn't particularly happy about this discovery when it began pouring rain literally 30 seconds after I put them on the grill and finished up grilling with Sandy's pink rain coat hood hooked over my head to cover my shoulders and back. That was a sight for the neighbors, I'm sure. When they were finally done and we sank our teeth in, my thought was, "worth the effort." They're not out-of-this-world fantastic by any means, but the TJ's chicken dogs taste unlike any other hot dog I've ever had. Part of it is, they aren't pork or beef, of course, but they also have a meatier texture than expected, and while they emulate hot dog flavor, it's a different take as they're less salty and lighter-tasting. Pretty decent, I'd say.

Also, yeah, they're healthier. Nitrates have been linked to all sorts of bad stuff like cancer, and while regular hot dogs are supposedly chock-full of them, according to the packaging they're as nitrate-free as possible. I mean, if pretty much the only ones in them come from celery, and celery is good for you, it can't be that bad, right? And while not being perfect in the realm of sodium (what is?), they're healthier than most every hot dog out there in terms of fat and calories, so all in all, Trader Joe's Chicken Hot Dogs make a decent grill-time choice.

What does that whole nonsensical Brent Spiner intro have to do with this? Well, just like his part in "Independence Day" was an outlier in terms of his regular acting gigs but ultimately didn't change my opinion that much about him, these hot dogs are different from the norm but don't completely redeem my opinion of the genre overall. Sandy said that, although she liked these guys enough, she actually prefers other hot dogs over these. I guess it just took too darn long for me to sizzle these almost beyond recognition for her (just the way she likes them) that I gave up on doing so. She hemmed and hawed for a bit before settling on a 3. Me? I like them more than pretty much any hot dog other than Hebrew Nationals, but they're not a game-changer by any stretch of the imagination. That being said, I'll be getting these again when the mood strikes. I'll go with a 3.5.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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Photo courtesy of http://dukanblogging.blogspot.com. We neglected to take a pic of these guys before cracking the seal on them, and while looking for a pic we stumbled across this interesting blog. Take a gander sometime.

2 comments:

  1. Just now (October) saw this post. I have to say these were the only hot dogs I could eat while I was pregnant because they are nitrate-free. When you really, really, want a hot dog these are perfect. Elizabeth

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  2. These suck, no flavor, no taste, I am going back to nitrates for flavor. These were a rip-off and I am disappointed in them. Trader Joe's has great stuff but these chicken dogs are not one of them.

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