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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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Trader Joe's Marinated White Fish Vera Cruz

You know that person. Every office or work place has one, and most people hate them. If you are that person at your particular place of employment, may God have mercy upon your soul. This person I speak of...well, whatever you do in the privacy and ideally foul-stank containing walls of your home, go for it, live and let live, but the person who brings leftover fish for lunch at work and has the sheer audacity to microwave it so the aroma infiltrates and rudely intrudes the entirety of the circulation/ventilation system of your workplace, so everyone has to smell the scant traces of its fishy foulness...I have no words. That is a party foul that just high-fived all of humanity in its very face. DON"T DO IT. Even if you have leftover fish and have to decide between that and a sketchy dollar burrito from the roach coach. Even if you have nothing else to eat, or God forbid, have to choose between one of these atrocities and micro-zapped pescetarian remnants from the night before.

Which is why, when Sandy and I were enjoying the a dinner of rice, steamed veggies, and some Trader Joe's Marinated White Fish Vera Cruz the other night, when she suggested I take the third filet for lunch the next day, I really had to explain the blank, open-mouthed stare I shot her direction. No, dear, I wasn't throwing a fit of serving-size righteousness and indignation, I just didn't want to be that person who got shot a stinkeye the rest of the week. Nobody would be my friend at work anymore. I would be the very shame of my particular version of Cubicleville.

Good thing, this particular fishy delight is just good enough and intriguing enough to warrant a few extra bites, so deciding to share the third wasn't too much of a struggle. By "white fish", Trader Joe's actually meant "swai fish." I thought maybe this was a Swedish/Thai crossbreed or perhaps another name for one of the Swedish Chef specialties, but no. Come to find out, it's an Asian breed of "shark catfish" that would rank behind Sharknado as the most popular shark crossover product if it were actually, indeed, shark. I don't know, Wikipedia it. It's a popular for its moist flakiness and mild flavor, which I'll agree this particular version is, and it also made a good base for the "Vera Cruz-iness" of the dish. There's fancier versions around, which I'll admit to not having yet. Think of fairly spicy, semi-sweet salsa with a heavy dose of green olives, and that's more or less the marinade and topping for the TJ's version. Ours actually veered to almost too olivey, so it was a little out of whack with the lotso-heat/little sweet flavor profile, but it worked just enough to keep us going. The fish filets themselves were marinated deep enough that a lot of the flavor worked itself right into the flesh, which Sandy liked because she scraped off anything resembling a veggie due to textural concerns.

 In all, for a couple folks who are trying to eat fish once a week and needed a change-up from our usual fish o' choice and chili lime rub, the white fish Vera Cruz (sounds like a boat name, almost) wasn't a bad choice, and it's one we'll probably make again. For $5.99 a pound and getting three good sized pieces (pictured above is one that broke in half), it seems like a decent enough value. We're not overly wowed nor terribly turned off. A little less green olive would go a long way.

Just, please, don't microwave it at work. Please.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's White Fish Vera Cruz: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons   

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