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, January 14, 2013

Trader Joe's Dolmas

Generally speaking, the month of January in Pittsburgh sucks. It's even worse this year, with the Steelers woofing the regular season and missing the playoffs, while the band of thugs formerly known as the Cleveland Browns are going to the AFC Championship Game. Ugh. I'm not talking any more about it. It's too depressing. And usually, that's what the weather's like in January out here - gray, cold, windy, days and days go by with no sight of the sun. Usually, it's pretty bad. Seasonal affective disorder? I totally buy into it.

Fortunately, though, Mother Nature cut us some slack this past weekend - sunny, clear skies. Temps in the 60s. Downright springlike, anyone reasonable would say. One of the best things about spring in Pittsburgh is the plethora of Greek food festivals around (lots of Greek Orthodox churches), so the warm weather started me thinking about them. Anything to give you hope, I guess.

So while there were none of those going on, I had to settle for one of my favorite Greek treats, TJ's style, with some Trader Joe's Dolmas. Normally, "settle" is a bit strong of a word, as they've done well with other Hellenic delicacies. But "settle" seems to be about right for these stuffed snackies. There's a lot that's good about them - the leaves are right; while a bit oilier than I'm used to, the texture's also about right - but, I don't know, they lack a little something. Particularly, it's a little lamb. Perhaps I'm a bit spoiled, but I'm used to having lamb meat in my stuffed grape leaves, and these have none. Interestingly, though, the package isn't marked "vegetarian", yet the ingredient rundown lists no meat product, except for potentially in the very vague "spices", which I presume means something like chicken broth in this case. It's an okay attempt - the rice tastes fine, with the right flavorings, albeit without pine nuts - but the word "okay" is about where I start and end.

I could offer Sandy a million drachmas, and she still wouldn't eat one of these, ever. The cold grape leaf wrapper just gets to her and she can't get past it. I hate doing the solo judge schtick, but she'd just give these a zero, and that's not even remotely fair. So, sorry, this is all on me. I'd buy them again for the $3 or so they cost for the teeny bucket of eight, as they taste alright enough and make a decent enough little snack that's relatively healthy enough. They certainly are filling for the two bites you get from each. But, in the end, they just make me a teensy-weensy bit more anxious for spring to arrive with all of its food festival glory. Something like a three sounds about right to me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dolmas: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Haven't tried these.. how about warming them up- then have her try them.

  2. I had these today and I thought they were excellent--definitely far from "settle." But I think it's a matter of taste, in this case. I don't like meat in my dolmades, and there was a tiny bit of oil in the bottom of the container, but it wasn't covering the rolls.

    1. I don't know why it's signing me in as an "Unknown" blogger account. My name is Elizabeth. Sorry for the creepiness.

  3. Interesting. I bought some yesterday from TJ's and they were in a can. I thought they were pretty good for what they are -- I think of the reason is they were not ice cold