A few weeks, maybe a month ago, Sandy and I picked up a pair of these Trader Jose's Pizzas Al Pollo Asado with the intention of each of us taking one to work for lunch so we could each give it a try and then write a review. I ate mine a day or two later. Sandy's pizza? It sat...and sat...and sat...and sat in the freezer. For weeks. I've written before about her tendencies to do such things, and like other times before, finally today I snatched it for lunch at work again. Considering the past couple days we've been too busy to shop and I've had a bag of vending machine pretzels for lunch, I think that's okay. I really don't think she can mind it that much...hmm, indeed, right as I was typing this, she walked in from a night out with the girls, saw the empty box on clear display next to me on the couch, and she neglected to say anything about it. I think I'm in the clear.
And, well, I should be, because honestly, while the pizza was okay, I was reminded today that it looks a lot better than it tastes. I mean, look at it, with its big, thick crust loaded with chicken, beans, cheese, and salsa verde. How can it be bad? Those are some of my favorite things.
Problem is, even for a pasty white Pennsylvania Dutch boy like me, I know how good and tasty and vibrant authentic Mexican food can taste from my two trips to the country. This...isn't quite there. First, the corn masa crust. Think of a cross between a corn tortilla and a semi-soggy chunk of cornbread, and that's more or less what it tastes like. In its defense, though, at work we have only microwaves, and I know that's a terrible way to "cook" pretty much anything, but that's what we (and pretty much everyone except home ec teachers) have at work to prepare food. I guess it'd be better from an oven. Still, not that great. The chicken, cheese, and beans? Indistinct, I'd say. I mean, it tastes okay, but it all melds together. At least it's real chicken bits, and a good number of them, too. The tomatillo salsa, however, is pretty good - really good, even, especially because there's a pretty legit kick to it here and there - but there's not nearly enough of it for my taste. I tend to like salsa overkill, though, so it may be sufficient for some folks.
Overall, I think it's on the verge of being better. Some more spices and flavors could really help set it apart. For one thing, I'd think some more lime flavor could go a long way. Trader Jose sneaks some in with some ever-so-delicioso sounding lime juice powder, but I didn't taste it, and found myself wishing I had some fresh-cut wedges to squeeze out over the pie. A little of that, and a little more of whatever Mexican spices make authentic dishes so intoxicatingly good, and definitely some more salsa verde (and chiles in the salsa), and this is much closer to being a pretty respectable quick-bite-for-a-gringo dish. It's shame in a way, too, because it looks so good that it's disappointing to me at least when the flavor just doesn't quite deliver. The pollo pizza also dampened my spirits when I was reading the box at work, and it mentioned how great it'd go with some cold cervezas...I don't think I could get away with that at work, Jose. Don't tempt me.
In trying to be fair, I've found myself wondering about my rating all afternoon. It's frozen from a box, so of course it can't be as good as the real thing, and when you can actually taste the salsa, it's really good. For a $1.99 work lunch, though there's much better options, they're not absolutely horrible. However, in addition to flavor issues, like pretty much any prepared microwavable things, well, assume what you will about the nutritional facts, and you'll be right. I settled on between a 2.5 and 3 for them, so one of each, por favor.
Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons