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, September 12, 2011

Trader Joe's Meat & Potatoes

On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, in addition to a corporate prayer at church and a little personal time reflecting on the events of that day, Sonia and I decided to watch the season opener NY Giants vs. Washington Redskins, have a drink of our favorite beer from America's oldest brewery and eat some steak and potatoes. It doesn't get much more American than that. That was our way of being patriotic.

We were pleasantly surprised with the flavor of everything. Neither one of us is really a red meat type, except for the occasional craving. The potatoes were seasoned pretty well, and the meat had a good taste, although it could have used a fixin or two. In the absence of steak sauce, we dipped it in a leftover packet of Chick fil A barbeque sauce, which worked out quite nicely.

Our number one complaint was, predictably, a lack of beef. The bag was just barely enough for both of us, and the majority of that was potatoes. I know the average American doesn't need any more red meat in his diet than he already has, but if you're buying a bag of food that says "Meat & Potatoes" real big on the label, there's a good chance you have a hankering for some meat. That's been a recurring issue with many of TJ's frozen foods. Maybe that's one of the ways they keep their costs down, but at $4.99 per bag, I would think they could sneak a few more pieces of beef in there. The bag isn't unreasonable at that price, but I wouldn't call this one a bargain, either.

As tasty and tender as most bites were, I did discover one large piece of beef that was riddled with gristle and fat. There's just something about fatty beef that I find revolting. I chewed and chewed the rubbery meat, but I just couldn't get around to swallowing it. My gag reflex kicked in and I had to spit it into my napkin. But just to reiterate, that was only a single piece. The majority of the sirloin was soft and tender and not at all rubbery.

It's kind of hard to screw up meat and potatoes. Trader Joe certainly didn't do anything terribly wrong, but he didn't really do anything transcendent or innovative either. If Sonia and I had red meat dinners more often, this might have made our regular rotation, but as it stands, we probably won't revisit this one for a while. But if you're a red meat kind of guy (or girl) by all means, give it a shot and leave us a comment with your dissenting opinion below.

Sonia was most disappointed by the lack of sirloin beef. She gives it three and a half stars. I agree with her assessment, but I'll have to take off another half a star for that one big bite of freaky rubber meat. Three stars from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

18 comments:

  1. I thought it had just the right balance of meat to potatoes and a good flavor. It was super easy for "Ms. Microwave Everything" to brown up in the cast iron skillet. My husband, "Mr. Meat & Potatoes" gave it a thumbs up. He liked it because of the crusty potatoes and the presence of beef. In this household, any beef at all is a cause of celebration for Mr. M&P.

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  2. So glad I just found your blog. I love shopping at Trader Joe's and many of their products are 'staples' in my pantry! I look forward to more reviews, and am especially interested in vegan dishes. thanks!

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  4. Keep up with this great and tasty food you have been showing us.

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  5. I think this is a common theme in most frozen foods (including other brands). They put too much for one person, but not quite enough for two.

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  6. @Nathan, Fresh food is what i love over frozen meat

    Kumar
    http://call-kumar.blogspot.com/

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  7. What a wonderful idea for a blog!
    Kathy Robbins
    http://robbinswrites.blogspot.com

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  8. I used to love shopping at Trader Joe's when I lived up North we don't have them around here. Instead we have The Fresh Market which actually fills the void quite nicely.

    The Vintage Recipe Blog

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  9. Thanks for all the comments, peeps. Your feedback is enlightening!

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  10. It's OK for TV dinner steak. I made one of these on a skillet the other day. I had the whole thing and was still hungry (I'm 6'1", and actually eat about 2/3 as much as I should), so I don't know how the author found this barely enough for two. The potatoes and steak were cut very small, and I think one would be better off with TV dinner beef then steak. Beef products like burritos and meatloaf usually come out pretty well in frozen foods, but the steak is far from the greatest.

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  11. Izzy, my wife and I are both short, and we eat about 2/3 more than we should most of the time, so the small portions aren't totally unwelcome to us. We both have that body type that gains weight by just looking at food. I'm guessing you're the opposite...but yes, they are very small portions.

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  12. I find that my last bit of beef always tends to be the one riddled with gristle and fat. My daughter has suggested that I just not eat whatever piece of beef is left behind, but I can't help myself. It sounds like outside that one bad piece, it was pretty good beef? We're headed down to the closest TJs to us this weekend, and I am debating on trying this.

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  13. I had great hopes for this TJ's dish, but I was really disappointed. I thought it was, overall, dry and flavorless. I would not buy it again. Sorry, TJ, this one's a big miss!

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  15. This is probably the second worst dish I've had from Trader Joe's. The flavor just wasn't right. Even the smell was odd. The meat was tender enough and I was satisfied with the portion size, but it took a mound of spicy BBQ sauce to get it down. Not good.

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  16. I cook it up and add some scrambled eggs, which can stretch a bag to feed a few more people. Add toast/butter/jam and ketchup and you've got a hearty breakfast or, better yet, breakfast for dinner. This one is always in my freezer.

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  17. I like this one. I do what Kathryn does, scramble an egg or three and toss it in and it's more than enough for two. I keep a bag or two on hand.

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  18. Yeah, right there with you. I hate gristle, fat and skin on meat, too. It's what keeps me from buying more prepared beef/chicken dishes. TJ's is better than most, but, inevitably, there's always one or more pieces that gross me out.

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