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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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Trader Joe's Chocolate Crème Brulée

I've only had real crème brulée a couple times in my life. The first time was in Las Vegas at one of those all-you-can-eat buffets in one of the casinos. Probably Caesar's. I don't even remember. I just remember being thoroughly enchanted by the solid sugary shell on top of the dish. It was fun cracking it open with my spoon.

The second time I had it was at a friend's wedding. Again, there was this extraordinary novelty about the dessert. The juxtaposition of the textures in the dish was the best part. On one hand, there was the hard, brittle candy shell, and on the other, there was a creamy pudding-like substance. Quite unique. Also, mispronouncing it as "cream brooly" on purpose is fun.

So, to the best of my recollection (which is often severely flawed) this Trader Joe's Crème Brulée is only the third version of the dish I've ever had. I was a bit curious about the inclusion of chocolate in TJ's brand, as there had been no chocolate involved in my first two crème brulée encounters. And of course, Trader Joe's is frozen. Very often, TJ's does the impossible with frozen dishes and makes a product competitive with its freshly-made counterparts.

With this dessert, I'll just cut to the chase: it's delicious, but in my opinion, it shouldn't be called crème brulée. The deep, rich chocolate shell and creamy insides, once blended together, reminded me more of tiramisu than crème brulée. There is no crackable candy shell on top. Just a chocolate shell on the sides, which is not nearly as enjoyable to break with a spoon.
It's a silly complaint, but I feel like I should just warn you all that if you really have a hankering for some real crème brulée, you should just go out to a pricey restaurant and shell out whatever they're asking, because I really don't think anyone could do frozen crème brulée well.

That being said, if you're looking for a creamy, sweet, and chocolatey dessert that's not necessarily crème brulée, this stuff is excellent. The richness of the custard is reminiscent of the other crème brulée dishes I've tried, and it's pretty darn satisfying. I recommend following the thawing instructions exactly: take out of the freezer, leave it at room temperature for one hour, and then eat it immediately. We ate one each that way, and it was really amazing. The following day for dessert, we ate ones we had left in the fridge. Definitely not as good.

Sonia gives them a 3.5, also citing the non-crunchable top as her primary criticism of the confection. Because they're really tasty nonetheless, I'll give 'em a 4.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

6 comments:

  1. Trader Joe's used to have a raspberry cream brulee that was good and had the crunchy top that you created by sprinkling the sugar packets on top and broiling in the oven. I still have a box in my freezer. I'm saving it for a special occasion.

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  2. That sounds delicious. We'll keep our eye on the frozen aisle for them.

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  3. This sounds delicious! I've never had one, but I'm a big fan of frappucino's and all those kind of drinks from Starbucks!

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  4. Sounds solid for a non-creme brulee :) If you don't want to spend $9 at a fancy restaurant, you can also make your own. Or cover TJ's stuff in sugar and torch away!

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  5. "I should just warn you all that if you really have a hankering for some real crème brûlée, you should just go out to a pricey restaurant and shell out whatever they're asking, because I really don't think anyone could do frozen crème brûlée well."

    Your post: November 30, 2011
    Time marches on.

    "French restaurants acknowledge serving factory-frozen food"

    By Edward Cody, Tuesday, July 9, 4:25PM

    PARIS — It is the warmest memory of many a vacation in France: the little Paris restaurant where a white-aproned waiter served a dish glorified on the menu as something homey like blanquette de veau grand-mere, topped off with a still-tepid creme brulee that was just the right mix of crackly and creamy.

    The trouble with this picture, it turns out, is that in 21st-century France, chances are high that both the stew and the dessert were assembled and cooked on a production line in a distant suburban factory, that they were quick-frozen and trucked to the restaurant, that they were then microwaved for unsuspecting diners.

    Top-line chefs take home $2,600 a month after deductions, and assistants make $1,950. Hiring illegal immigrants to man the microwave could reduce expenses exponentially.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/french-restaurants-acknowledge-serving-factory-frozen-food/2013/07/09/9857b69a-dda2-11e2-b797-cbd4cb13f9c6_story.html

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  6. The thing one forgets is that creme brulee is much better eaten warm, not frozen. Yes, the package looks enticing. However, my boyfriend and I were quite disappointed. Basically, it's the equivalent of eating a stick of frozen butter with a little sugar coating...which explains the EXTREMELY high fat and calorie content. Definitely not worth the money or calories.

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