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, December 10, 2013

Trader Joe's Poutine

If you're not familiar with poutine, Canada's most popular contribution to gluttonous cuisine, it's simply fries and cheese curds topped with gravy, and occasionally some other stuff. Apparently, with its status as a cult favorite of sorts in Quebec, it's growing in popularity as McDonald's just recently announced they will start selling it Canada-wide. I'm certainly not doggy-paddling across Lake Erie or driving up to Niagara Falls (about four or five hours from the 'burgh) just to try a big ol' McMess, but I've had poutine a few other times, most notably at a pretty sweet little neighborhood restaurant. Although I'm not the biggest fan, I'd like to think that I have some sort of idea of what poutine ought to taste like, so when Sandy spotted a freezer bag full of Trader Joe's Poutine and put on her "OOOOOOOO PLEEEEEASE" face, well, I guess we just had to try.

Not gonna lie: We're both a little disappointed. The disappointment certainly isn't on the scale of something like, say those silly Chicken Parmypops or whatever they were called, but still. Each individual component kinda underwhelms. There's nothing too special about the fries, but to us they were the standout. They're the big, soft inside, slightly crispy outside type, though I wish they got crispier on the outside to withstand the gravy and cheese curds a little better. The gravy? Meh, which seems to be the norm for TJ's gravy. Those cheese curds though...listen, I may not know any better, so if I offend some cheese curd superfans out there, I apologize in advance. But these were not good. The bag kinda touts them as a "mild cheddar" but the curds are much closer in taste to a fresh mozzarella. That part's okay. The part that isn't is, these are big, rubbery, chewy chunks. The size doesn't bother me as much as the texture. If they were a little softer and creamier, the curds would stand a chance of being fantastic. Instead they just seem like cheese blubber, with emphasis on the blubber. Even my cheese-lovin' toddler tried to eat a little teeny piece, made a face, and spit it out. I wouldn't go that far, but I don't blame her either.

Plus, the part that gets me a little is the preparation. It's pretty standard oven-heating for the fries. But the cheese curds and gravy? You're supposed to keep them in the bag, heat a small pot of water, put them in the pot on the stove while continuing to heat. Most other TJ's dishes that come with a frozen packet of sauce or whatever don't have you actually "cook" the packet, and there's something about doing so that gives me the skeevy-jeevies a little bit. I'll trust that they're BPA-free, so that's not quite it. But there is something there.

Anyways, as I've stated, although we're not poutine experts, we're underwhelmed. I'd go as far to say that if this were my first experience with poutine ever, I'd be fairly unlikely to try again. That's the blessing and curse of TJ's - they make so many "exotic" dishes so well that when one misses the mark, it seems overly disappointing. If you really want to try poutine, scrounge up a couple extra bucks (TJ's version cost $4, we got "fancy poutine" for $8) and find some on a local menu somewhere, and probably skip the McD's too. Sandy kinda agrees and gave 'em a two, maybe more out of pity than much else. I'll go one and a half.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Poutine: 3.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

8 comments:

  1. Funny, I just saw this last week and also had to try it! My experience was like yours. Nothing stood out, and it wasn't quite a "poutine" experience. I baked the fries for an extra 10 minutes or so, but still, they're noting like fried fries. Best to find poutine at a restaurant imo....

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  2. I had this in my hands last week, but chose to put it back because I really didn't expect the gravy to be any good. Good to know my instincts were right!

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  3. Cheese curds in your poutine should be kinda rubbery! I haven't tried this, so I'm not sure if these cheese curds are any good, though.

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    1. "Kinda rubbery" is not how'd I describe these. More like "superball remnants". I dunno, if you give 'em a try, let us know what you think!

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  4. The gravy has good flavor, but is thin. Needs to be thicker, the cheese curds aren't bad. I had real poutine, kicked up with sausage, in Vancouver several times.

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  5. I agree with other commenters. Cheese curds are supposed to be squeaky! I actually loved these and have had real poutine when I was in Canada. The gravy was so beefy but not too salty. The only problem was the serving size... it's too small! But I live in Texas now and I'm getting used to huge portions.

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  6. Dropping a sealed plastic baggie into boiling water is kind of a frozen dinner staple. I figured everyone has prepared one of these at some point.

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