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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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Trader Joe's Mojito Salmon

I've only ever heard of a "mojito" as a drink: a Caribbean-originated rum-based citrusy thing with mint. I wikied it. Same thing. No mention of a salmon dish. Trader Joe is getting creative in the kitchen again, apparently. Maybe he dumped the remains of his cocktail on a piece of fish once and like the taste, so he whipped up a recipe and mass produced it for the frozen sections of his stores.

This is another one of those $7 a pop deals...or something pretty close to that. Like the Chicken Serenada, this stuff comes as a single serving, and heating in the microwave is allowed. Sonia decided she couldn't bear to eat salmon from the microwave, so she fired up the oven. Sonia pronounces the "l" in "salmon," as many Angelena's do. Not sure why. They just don't get the whole silent "l" thing. I guess I can't really blame them.

At any rate, we heated it in the oven. It came out firm and slightly dry, but that was just as well for me. I'm not a fan of even slightly-mushy fish.

Any time we do these reviews, it's just natural to compare what we're eating with similar products we've had recently from other places. The TJ's product has to slug it out with its competitor in a virtual arena in my head. Apparently, Russ has similar delusions when he eats Trader Joe's food, as he once wrote an entire review in the manner of a boxing match between veggie sausage patties. A few weeks back, while visiting friends in the D.C. area, Sonia and I had the privilege of trying some salmon burgers from some healthy-type store. I forget where they came from. It wasn't Trader Joe's and it wasn't Whole Foods. It might have been Wegman's. But that's all beside the point, really. The point is that there was some competition for this Mojito Salmon fresh in my memory. Those salmon burgers were tasty.

As I mentioned, this salmon was dry. It was almost too dry for me, and I kinda like my fish on the dry side. I'm sure heating it in the microwave would have yielded something a little more moist. The salmon burgers we had were just right in the moisture department. And they were softer than this Mojito Salmon. Even the parts of the salmon that were buried under that...mojito-esque topping were a little parched. The mojito-esque topping wasn't really very mojito-esque. It was kind of just like a mélange of vegetables and a touch of sauce that happened to be green.

Flavor-wise, the salmon tasted like salmon. It's not like we grilled it, so it didn't taste grilled. It didn't taste fishy (I think if salmon tastes fishy that they probably just took some trout and dyed it pink or something). It was perhaps a tad more salmony than those salmon burgers that we tried (we put a touch of mustard on those). So that was good, but at the same time, they could have done something really special in the flavor department with that mojito-looking stuff on the top, but I found it a bit disappointing and underwhelming. It added little.

Considering the price and size of the dish, it's not a whole lot of bang for your buck in my opinion. It was salmon, and as I might have mentioned before, we quite enjoy salmon. So I can't give it too low a score. How about a 3? Sonia will give it a 3.5 (my score may be lower because I'm projecting my unresolved frustration about that peculiar silent "l" onto the poor fish).

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10 stars.

10 comments:

  1. u are too generous w/your stars.. i tried this salmon and did not like it... bland, boring, portion was minuscule...

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  2. I wish they would bring back their mojito sauce - sooooo good on grilled chicken and the like.

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  3. Yeah it sure could have had a bit more flavor--I think a seperate jar of mojito sauce sounds like a good idea...so you could slather it with as much as you want...

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  4. I don't remember if it was this I tried, or the similarly packaged tilapia, but I can't even tell you how terrible it was because when following TJ's cooking instructions to the tee (oven prep), it came out half-cooked. I tossed it and never bothered again. And at 700 calories per box, I'm fine with that.

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  5. Never tried this one, but OMG the Arctic Char in TJ's ROCKS MY SOCKS OFF! So flavorful, it's crazy! By far my favorite product at the store... the grilled onions, eggplant & zucchini, CLOSE second!

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  6. Baked mine in my toaster oven and was pleasantly surprised with the moistness and the tangy, yummy sauce! I'd have rated it higher.

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  7. Problem is--this isn't meant to be done in the oven. As someone who works the sample station at TJ's regularly and has done this one at least 3 or 4 times, it comes out much better if you do it in the microwave. Honestly, this blog would be much better if you try various preparations of an item before providing a rating, as many people do not have either a microwave or an oven. My boyfriend, who actually dislikes Trader Joe's, like's this after a long day of work.

    Trader Joe's is about easy cooking. So yes, we do put salmon in the microwave. As I say at the sample station very often "If it's difficult, you're doin' it wrong!"

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  8. Had this in the freezer for... um... let's say "a while". Finally tried it last night, baked because that seemed like it'd produce a better result than microwaved. Mine came out a lot less dry than yours (in fact, I drained some fluid partway through that may have been a result of freezer burn), but I wasn't a fan at all. It was too chewy, almost flavorless save for the "mojito sauce", and just not even close to my standards for salmon. I was not expecting fresh-caught four star restaurant quality, but I have had the (non-frozen) Southwest Salmon (exact name may be different) on several occasions, and vastly preferred it. Then again, I probably grilled (or pan seared) those ones, and as Terrence pointed out, preparation matters.

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  9. As with others, I was not impressed with this salmon the first time I tried it--the sauce was watery and the fish surprisingly flavorless and overcooked according to the package directions. However, I am all about improving upon an existing recipe so I tried again but ditched the package instructions. I defrosted the fish first so the sauce acted as a quick marinade (you can use the microwave as long as you flip the fish halfway through). Then I scraped the sauce off (saving it) and pan-seared the salmon to medium. Fried some broccolini and wilted some mixed greens along the side. I removed the cooked food and tossed the reserved sauce into the pan to heat and reduce it, then spooned it on top of my salmon and veggies. It was VERY good...probably could have used more sauce.

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  10. I microwaved it and it was great. The serving size is for 2 and it enough for my daughter and me. It's not as great as grilled, but it's a close second at a very reasonable price.

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