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 6, 2014

Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew

Well, it's a good thing I checked Wikipedia, or I would have really kinda embarrassed myself here.

You see, I thought cioppino was of Portugese (or at least Mediterranean) origin. A few years ago, through the generosity of my folks and the marvels of resort timeshare networks, Sandy and I honeymooned in Albufeira, Portugal, in the coastal Algarve region - an awesome week full of castle exploring, vinho verde drinking, and subtitled Simpsons watching - and we saw signs and menu listings for seafood stew everywhere, and it had some sort of fancy name. In my mind, it was cioppino. Anyways, we actually never tried it, because, well, when you're honeymooning on a preschool teacher and temp worker's salary, you gotta make small cuts somewhere (especially when factoring in dollars-to-Euro conversion), and man, chicken piri-piri is good anyways. Fastforward a few years later, and for an anniversary dinner we went to a fairly fancy Portugese/Mediterranean restaurant here in town, and here they had some sort of fish/seafood stew on the menu, which we both got, and it was awesome. In my mind, once again, it was cioppino.

Nope. Cioppino was actually invented by an old school Left Coaster here in the good ol' U.S. of A, and made from whatever leftover fish at the end of the day, and given a fancy enough name to fool me all these years later. So, while seeing Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew helped evoke some warm memories, I was a little disappointed to find they weren't entirely accurate.

Regardless, this is one tasty fishy stew. I'm not sure if it say more about the restaurant we were at, or our bag of soup from TJ's, but this stuff was as good as what I recall having there. I'll choose positivity here. There's little not to like, assuming you're a fan of assorted seafood. There's clams and shrimp and mussels and scallops and cod all up in this. And there's a lot of seafood too - it's far more generous than what's typically expected of a packaged product. I could have used another shrimp or two, but that's mostly just because I really like shrimp. No real complaints about seafood volume.

But, in an upside down turn of events, there's not enough of anything else. You see, the tomato-ey soup base is pretty darn good - somewhat spicy, very flavorful and rich but not overpowering, letting the freshness of the fish, etc really come out. It's pretty hearty and if it's tomato based and my wife likes it, you know it's darn good. Problem is, there's not enough of it. I mean, for me, half the fun of a good soup is enjoying all the broth at the end. Here, there's not enough of it to really enjoy - I'd say this is like 70% seafood and 30% broth. The picture I took above is somehow misleading. Maybe it's possible to add a little water to make more base without affecting overall taste quality all that much - it's not like all that sodium is going anywhere. Also, I got only one or two mushrooms and tomato chunks, which included all of Sandy's, so I'd be in favor of more of those, too.

I'd recommend getting a good, crusty hunk of bread (all the better to sop up whatever's left in the bowl) and a side salad along with a cup of this. Hmmm...even better idea - serve this inside a sourdough breadbowl. That'd be fantastic. Just know that a serving really doesn't stand alone as a meal. Honestly. both Sandy and I could have eaten an entire bagful each for lunch and not felt too bad until we saw the nutritionals on it. Still, for a $5-ish pickup, it's a good value because of the absolute abundance of nearly every consumable sea creature known to man present. If TJ's hadn't cheaped out on the cheap part, this cioppino would be even better, in our opinion. Sandy is going with a solid four, as am I.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cioppino Seafood Stew: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

11 comments:

  1. If you add a box of Trader Joe's tomato and roasted red pepper soup to the mix- you will get more brothy goodness with your soup- that's what I do at home.

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    1. That's exactly right! We have never eaten the stew straight because we couldn't imagine it better. . By the way, we use one third of a tetra pak of the tomato and red pepper soup for one pack of Cioppino.

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  2. Looks wonderful. Might be good over rice too!!

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    1. That crossed my mind as a possibility too!

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  3. Just want to say Thank You so Much for writing this Blog! It's Great and you have helped me so much as I adventure through Trader Joe's! I'm off to buy some Cioppino, tomato and roasted red pepper soup, and extra shrimp!

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  4. My husband adds rice and more (frozen) vegetables, tomato paste, onion and garlic salt and powder, and a good sprinkle of cayenne, and lets it simmer until the rice is cooked. When he dishes up he removes the oysters from my serving as i hate them, and we end up having enough for lunch the next day!

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  5. I will be trying this. Over rice or with tomato/pepper soup (which I like anyway) both sound good!

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  7. Wow! I made my first visit ever to our new Trader Joe's yesterday. I bought both the cioppino and the roasted red pepper soup. I must have ESPN!

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  8. They used to have a seafood simmer sauce in a jar that I would add to it. They also have in the frozen section a seafood blend of shrimp calamari and scallops that I add to it.it's juststretches it farther

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