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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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Masters the Art of...Coq au Vin

And Nathan masters the art of...using the stovetop instead of the microwave.

That might be old hat for most of you culinary types that we've tricked into reading our blog, and maybe even for Russ, but for a foodie-hack like me, the stovetop is a mysterious instrument that's reserved for things like heating ramen when there's nothing else in the pantry and the frigid arctic winds and snowdrifts make it inconvenient to walk to the grocery store 30 yards from our condo for more TV dinners. But in case one of our readers is even more useless than I am, I feel I must mention that the cooking instructions on this product do, in fact, give a microwave option.

But foodie-hacks tend to learn that lesson the hard way.

After the recommended 20 minutes of cooking time, the "coq" was still quite frozen solid. In fact, the 20 minutes turned into 40 minutes before I was convinced the dish would even be permeable to my poor, feeble, silver amalgam-filled incisors. One of the problems with the stovetop is that "very low heat" is an extraordinarily relative term. "High heat" in the microwave is somewhat less subjective. I just press the number "9," and voila! I'm a master chef! Wolfgang Puck, eat your heart out.

Unfortunately, after the product thawed and cooked, I noticed what appeared to be mushrooms in the dish. Both Sonia and I are pseudo-allergic to fungi and get weird breathing and heart-palpitation issues when we eat them. I guess it pays to read the ingredients before purchasing a product at TJ's. And yes, I know there are pictures of them on the packaging, but it's amazing how unobservant I can be when I do my grocery shopping while hungry. 

But eat them I did, nonetheless. I have similar allergies to mold, yet I dove into a pile of autumn leaves with my two silly puppies last fall, with reckless abandon. Don't even try'n stop me! I'ma live my life on the edge, gangstas! What what!?

But getting back to the product at hand, I must admit, it was one of the most savory dishes I've ever had from Trader Joe's. The sauce was thick, salty, and full of the aforementioned mushrooms and those little bulbous oniony things that I love. It was pretty delish. The chicken was a bit chewy, considering I went to all that trouble to use that contraption above the oven instead of my magical radiation box, but all in all, the main attraction was passable, too. I suppose $7 is a bit steep for a dish that isn't perfect, but I always try to put it into perspective and figure I might pay double if I were in a fancy French restaurant. And if I make it at home, it's only that much easier to serve it with imported wine and not worry about driving while intoxicated, and we're only that much closer to indulging in the romantic impulses that so instinctively ensue when there's French stuff involved.

Here's a scary pic of the product in its frozen form, and here's one after heating.

I give this product 4 out of 5 stars. Sonia gives it a 3.5.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. I commend you for the lack of "coq" jokes in this post.

  2. I like this dish but with one reservation: there is too much sauce for the amount of chicken. I definitely recommend serving this with mashed potatoes, pasta, or bread for sopping up the extra.

    1. That's a really good idea, Suzanne. We did have an excess of sauce, too. Thanks for mentioning that!