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, July 24, 2011

Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes

I love lazy weekend mornings at home, and when given the opportunity, I'll definitely take advantage. Take this past Sunday for example. I slept 'til I was done, got out of bed a little bit after that, meandered downstairs to get caught up on the news, and waited for my lovely wife to come home from her early morning 8-mile run through zillion percent humidity (she's training for her next half-marathon in a month and halfish, crazy chick) before she tackled finishing up end-of-program-year summary reports for a swath of her preschool kids. Okay, it was a lazy weekend morning for one of us*, at least, and I'm relieved she wasn't too mad that I missed her text message to have coffee ready for her when she came home. Needless to say, it was up to me to make us some breakfast, which is one of the things I love to do the most, especially with a little Jack Johnson or The Head and the Heart for a soundtrack for a pretty laid back morning.

Sandy specifically requested some Trader Joe's Potato Pancakes to go alongside her scrambled eggs and coffee. Truth be told, we bought these I'm not sure how long ago and had them buried somewhere in the freezer. I'm pretty glad I didn't have to chisel them out. I'm not sure if I remembered we had them, but I'm thankful she did.

Potato pancakes, or latkes, are a very simple, straightforward dish. Some potato (some mashed, some smaller bits), a little matzah meal, a wee bit of onion, salt and pepper, fry them up in a little oil (technically you can bake them too, but that seems a little silly). And that's exactly what these TJ's latkes are. The term "frozen prepared foods" brings to mind the thought of being preservative and sodium laden bad-for-you junk that doesn't taste all that good. In this incarnation, that could not be further from the truth. As far as I can tell, the only thing on the ingredient list that your grandma maybe wouldn't put in her famous homemade ones is dehydrated potatoes. No tetrahyglycerides or pantoglompooperamides or other made up words. As far as sodium...yeah, okay, they have a fair amount, but no more than any other potato pancake.

And in short, delicious. The onions add a lot of flavor without being overbearing, as does the salt and pepper. Outside, they crisped up well when fried but inside the pancakes were of the right semi-mashed texture. These latkes are pretty well sized, too, I'd say a good three bites or so each, so there's plenty to enjoy, and made the two-and-a-half we had each (somehow we had five of them left from a box of eight) more than enough to go along with our eggs. If we had some good applesauce I would have been pretty tempted to make that pairing a go, but alas we did not. I'm not huge on heaping some sour cream on them, but I know that's pretty popular, and that would make a delicious treat for those who are into that. Even though we enjoyed them with breakfast, TJ's potato pancakes seem versatile enough to serve with any meal, and quick 'n easy enough to scarf down as a snack as well.

I think I'd put them right on par with ones I've had out at places like Eat 'n Park (if you're not familiar with them, think Denny's except much better), so they're good in my book. I'll bestow upon them a four and a half. As for Sandy, she definitely enjoyed them as well, but said she's had some better ones that were homemade from some of the Eastern European and Jewish families at her school. Yeah, no doubt those would be better. Also, as I tend to do when juggling a few different dishes at once, I accidentally semi-blackened one side of them, which didn't do them too much injustice except Sandy mentioned that she would have them enjoyed them a little bit more if I didn't. "That's not Trader Joe's fault, though; that's Russ Shelly's fault," she said. Well, at least I made your eggs perfectly and exactly to order, Princess. Sandy settled on meting out a good solid four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10
*Lazy weekend mornings for one is alright enough, but for two is even better.


  1. All TJ prepared foods have far too much salt.


  2. I LOVED these! We forgot about these too, but recently decided to have them (along with the Vegetable Bird's Nest) for Meatless Monday.