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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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Trader Giotto's 'Spearean Risotto

My dear Giotto,

Bongiorno. It was nice to see you on your most recent visit to the U.S. of A. And we were happy to taste another one of your Italian dishes. But as a foodie-hack of sorts, I have to be honest—I'd really prefer pizza or pannacotta again next time you visit.

First of all, when I look at the picture you show on your bag, all I see are asparagus tips. But all I saw in my actual dish were the bottom parts of the asparaguses...or is it asparagi? And let's face it, the asparagus "butts" simply don't have the taste or texture of the top part—the "spear" that you so prominently feature in the title of your entree. So give us more top parts. I may not be good at math, but one would think that for every bottom part, there would be one top part. Where did those go? Did you use them all in the photo shoot for the art on the packaging? Did you eat them all yourself? Giotto... were we not gracious hosts? Why would you hold out on us like that?

Furthermore, they seemed unusually rubbery and stringy—even for the bottom parts. Overall, your dish lacked flavor. There's a bit of butteriness, but it's not enough. Your risotto was soft and your sauce creamy, but it tasted like I was eating something off of the "lite" menu. I know that we Americans are fat, but when we eat Italian, we expect a treat, Giotto! Mama mia!

And I must say that your rice dish would greatly benefit from a few more ingredients. Add different veggies, add sausage, or heck, add bacon! Adding almost anything would have helped hype this dish up a bit! Sonia fully shares my sentiments on this matter. Sure, we could add more stuff in ourselves, but you're the chef, Giotto. And furthermore, we're lazy.

It's not that we're ungrateful for the dish you cooked up for us. It's just that we know you can do better. After all, if your American cousin can make a good Sicilian Pizza, shouldn't a real Italian be able to nail an Italian dish? If we were going to score your risotto on a scale of one to ten gondoliers, we'd have to give it only cinque.

Your American pen pal,

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.


  1. Also? Nowhere NEAR 3 cups in this bag.

  2. I like fresh aspara-butts better than tops, as long as they're peeled. But this does need more flavor. Like a bunch of porcini? And parmesan.

  3. My husband and I actually liked these. We cooked it and put it over a baked potato instead of using butter.

  4. Haven't tried this version, but I wasn't impressed with the mushroom risotto.