The sticks came out of the oven with most of the cheese having leaked out of the side of the breading. So there would be this hollow tube of crust with a big wad of slightly-charred cheese right beside it on the baking sheet. And for some reason, they tasted freezer-burned to me. We ate them within a week of purchasing them, the bag was only opened within an hour or so of consuming them, and this was all well before the expiration date. So I'm not sure what happened there. Sonia didn't notice the freezer-burny taste at all, but then, she usually doesn't.
We dipped our mozzarella sticks in TJ's Tomato and Roasted Red Pepper Soup. They went well together. I think it worked at least as well as actual marinara sauce would have. Once in the soup, I didn't notice the peculiar taste as much. It was actually really yummy.
I was surprised when Sonia pointed out that the breading contained tapioca. It was still made with wheat flour (sorry, gluten-free peeps) and it was very similar to traditional mozzarella stick breading, although I wonder if the subtle freezer-burn flavor was somehow connected to the use of tapioca...? Not that tapioca tastes like freezer-burn, but maybe somehow my taste buds detected an anomaly of sorts and just defaulted to the "this is just slightly funky" message, which my brain interpreted as freezer-burn...? And perhaps that last sentence is a good example of why I'm a foodie-hack blogger and not a neuroscientist...?
At any rate, I still have yet to be blown away or majorly disappointed by any mozzarella stick. Fried cheese is what it is. The tapioca starch was a nice touch I guess, but next time Trader Joe, we're counting on you to blow us away. Try putting marinara sauce inside the tube of cheese, add shrimp or something, cram cocktail weenies into the center of the sticks...for goodness sakes, be creative, TJ's! Entertain us! You do weird stuff better than anyone else. In return for your culinary creativity, we'll love you forever and continue to write this blog.
For those of you who've been pestering us for photos of the actual out-of-the-bag food, please click here. You're welcome.
Sonia gives these 4 stars. I give them 3.
Bottom line: 7 out of 10.