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, March 8, 2012

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Penne Pasta...and More

Sundays usually are my favorite day of the week. I really don't care that the day after Sunday is Monday, meaning a whole new work week. My take on Mondays is, they make up 1/7th of your life, so you may as well enjoy them. Thursday, though? If I had to say I didn't like one day of the week, I think I'd pick Thursdays. By then, I'm usually ready for it to be Friday, but it isn't yet. That's really not Thursday's fault, as I'm guessing it just drew the short stick in the days of the week rotation, but tough noogies. Anyways, Sundays. Love them. Like this past Sunday, it meant a little sleeping in, church, lunch with my folks who were visiting from out of town, a run out to get a crib on sale and to make a stop by the used bookstore before visiting a friend who just had a baby, and some Rita's before finally heading home to relax with some Netflix and our puppy. All in all, it was a good day, and despite some of the busy-ness, it was pretty relaxing, too. In fact, it was so relaxing that it took a couple episodes of "Bizarre foods" to realize how hungry we were. It was time for dinner, and both Sandy and I needed something good and easy.

I quickly thought to myself, "Okay, we have Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Penne Pasta.... a bag of his Party Size Mini Meatballs...and some of that Giotto fella's Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce....voila!" Pasta and meatballs are such a good comfort food, yet so simple, so let's run thru these one at a time here.

First off, we have the whole wheat penne, which in the gluten world is the complete opposite of these a-maize-ing noodles. Both Sandy and I really like the corn pasta (pretty happy there's a widened selection at our usual shop!) and to be honest, we should have stuck to it. The corn pasta tastes pretty close to regular noodles, whereas these, not so much. Simply stated, these are too wheaty, in all the wrong ways. Appearancewise, these boil down to this very drab, unappetizing watery colorless grain tube. The penne itself is thicker and chewier (think of the difference between homemade bread made with and without wheat flour, and you got an idea), while tasting kinda grainy. I guess we should've expected that. I liked them a little bit, which is more than poor Sandy did. "Blah," she said. Yet, we plowed on thru them, because it's not only bad to waste food, but also we had...

...a good helping of Party Size Mini Meatballs to go on them! Whoo-hoo! Party on, Wayne! Well, okay, they're not so spectacular. But that doesn't mean they're not good. Each meatball is made of both beef and pork (two animals = bonus) with whatever the usual kinda meatbally spices are. They're pretty well seasoned, for sure. I also like them because, as opposed to regular-size frozen meatballs, these mini guys defrost all the way thru while cooking them. Unless I cut them in half, the bigger ones tend to scorch on the outside while remaining tundrified in the middle. I figure these are a good option if you're the type who likes to fancy-glop up some meatballs on a toothpick for a party hors d'oeuvres, too, but for the two of us, they work for a regular ol' dinner. Both of us, despite the shortcomings of the pasta, enjoyed pretty much every bite that had at least a little meatball action on t, particularly if also smothered by....

...some of Trader Giotto's Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce! To be honest, I'm not a fan of most of TJ's pasta sauces as they come in a jar. I find I have to doctor them a little bit to make them palatable to me. Not this. There's not a thing I would either add to or subtract from this sauce. It's light and mild, certainly not acidic, and has plenty of cheesy goodness to it between the romano, Parmesan and asiago cheese. I'd venture to say that unless you're a shaker cheese addict, it's fairly unnecessary for this sauce. There's also little bits of diced onion and garlic in there. It's just good. The only thing is, there's occasionally a medium-ish chunk of onion or cheese or some other ingredient that get's mixed in. I've noticed that in a few different jars we've bought, and poor Sandy (who's chunky-cooked-veggie adverse enough as is) pulled one out of her bowl much to her displeasure, and looked at me quite incredulously as I first inspected then ingested it. "Weirdo," she said. She certainly got that part right.

Anyways, so that's that, except for ratings. I don't recall the exact prices on these, but think the pasta was around $2 for the package, whereas the meatballs and sauce were more in the general $2.50-$3 range. Put us down for low marks each for the wheat pasta (say, a 1 for the Mrs. and a 2.5 for me? Not gonna argue.). For the meatballs, let's say a 4 each, and for the sauce, a 5 for me and 3.5 for my beautiful wife. I'm guesstimating her marks based on reaction and a couple things she said. Clearly, her favorite part of our dinner was the meatballs. I should have been more of a gentleman and offered her some more of mine, and even pull out the whole "Lady and the Tramp" routine, but I liked them too much myself, especially with my favorite TJ pasta sauce so far. I'll save the wheat pasta for a night when I can choke them down as she babysits...like she usually does on Thursday nights when I rarely see her much...hmm, coincidence?

Bottom lines:
Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Penne Pasta: 3.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Party Size Mini Meatballs: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Giotto's Three Cheese Pomodoro Pasta Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

6 comments:

  1. Those meatballs are great!... I use the pasta and meatballs- but make my own sauce.

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  2. The sauce may be good, but it doesn't look it.

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  3. i think whole wheat pasta is a love or hate deal. i LOVE the trader joes whole wheat pasta for exactly the reasons you didn't - the nuttiness, texture, etc.

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  4. Do you know my meals without meat for a long time!!i really want to eat it when i see you pic!!

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  5. i actually really like the whole wheat fusilli! i haven't had ''''real'''' pasta though for a very long time, so maybe i'm just used to it!

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  6. I am not a fan of chunky sauces, so when I open a jar I blenderize it and then pour back in jar. Great flavor with no weird chunks.

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