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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Friday, May 2, 2014

Trader Joe's Crème Fraîche

I was entirely unfamiliar with crème fraîche (krem fresh) until I was enlightened by Wikipedia and this recent Trader Joe's purchase. It's apparently somewhere between cream cheese and sour cream—not unlike unflavored Greek yogurt, but significantly more fattening. I'd also like to go out on a limb and say that it's slightly more in the direction of sour cream in terms of flavor, because it tastes better with the same types of foods that you'd eat with sour cream. Sonia tried it with biscuits and jelly and was thoroughly disappointed. It's apparently more suited for consumption with salty and savory foods, rather than sweets. So a good rule of thumb is that if you'd consider eating a food with sour cream, you could consider eating that same food with crème fraîche. But be warned: it's much thicker than sour cream.

We had it with Trader Joe's Veggie Chili, some cheese, and some corn chips. It was delicious that way, although it was difficult to distribute the crème throughout the mixture. It kept occurring to me that we might as well be dumping lumps of lard into our chili. It makes everything richer, thicker, and more indulgent, but I'm not sure that it enhances the flavor enough to make all the extra fat worth it. I think I'd just prefer sour cream in most cases. And as we've discussed before, plain yogurt makes a great substitute for sour cream, in case you want even less fat.

This is one of those rare cases in which I have no frame of reference to judge TJ's product against other brands' offerings. So if I'm harsh with my score, you can assume I'm just not a crème fraîche kinda guy. It's certainly not that I'm assuming that TJ's version is worse than others. In fact, kudos to Trader Joe's for making international-type products like this accessible for relatively low cost. However, Sonia has had crème fraîche before, and she thinks that the other times she's had it, it was fluffier and lighter than in this case. And while that may have to do with the way it was prepared, she was still a bit disappointed with the consistency of this product. But on the other hand, she's in love with all things European, particularly French, and she liked the taste enough to give it a 3.5. I like to think of myself as cultured, worldly, and open to new things, but when products like this come along, I realize I'm just a sour cream-loving 'Merican boy. If I'm dining out and I order a dish that happens to have crème fraîche in it, then so be it. But I can't feature myself purchasing this $3.49 product ever again...from TJ's or anyone else. 2.5 stars from me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

15 comments:

  1. Creme Fraiche is also used a lot in baking and in dishes in lieu of cream, to add more substance than liquid cream. You forgot to mention the price of said product. I enjoy your reviews.

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  2. oops, I see you did add price. My bad - thanks.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Lizounette. I'm sure this product would be great to bake with...

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    2. Nice thing about creme fraiche, different from yogurt and sour cream, you can cook with it and it doesn't separate.

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  3. Creme Fraiche is integral to recreating the Trader Joe's Tarte D'Alace, which I love so much that I had to reverse engineer. Can't make it without the creme fraiche.

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  4. If you don't like its thick consistency, try whipping it a bit before using it. This would work best when adding dollops as a topping on chili, for instance. :-)

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  5. i add a dollop of creme fraiche to my scrambled eggs just before they're about to set while i'm cooking them. it makes a world of difference! here's the gordon ramsay version:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUP7U5vTMM0

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  6. Interesting! I have not tried it, but it sounds like I may be sticking with sour cream for now. One thing I would say, is that I absolutely love your blog!! I am a huge Trader Joe's fan but there are things out there that I need to beware of (peanut satay for example).. thank you and keep on writing!

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    1. Thanks for the encouraging words, Diya!

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  7. oh just wanted to add that although it's similar to sour cream or mexican crema, i wouldn't use it as a sour cream substitute. it's much too rich for it! it would be like substituting heavy cream for low fat milk. it's good for making cream based sauces, or as a finishing touch to a bowl of soup. it's almost like cream cheese without the cheese factor. love you blog btw!

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    1. Thanks for the suggestions, Dirt. Yeah, we did use it in place of sour cream with the chili and also with some homemade burritos. It tastes very similar, but you're right, it's a little too rich.

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  8. "And as we've discussed before, plain yogurt makes a great substitute for sour cream, in case you want even less fat."

    Please don't fall for the old b.s. line that "you are what you eat." Eating fat doesn't make you fat. For the most part it's carbs that make you fat.

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  9. I prefer the crème fraîche in the pink cartons (I forget the brand) that you get at Stop N Shop and Whole Foods. The Trader Joe's one is too thick and gelatinous - seems fake. It doesn't melt into that unctuous smoothness when heated, the way the other one does.

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  10. Please do not review something you know nothing about (your own admission). It's a disservice and misleading. TJ's creme fraiche is fine with me. There are better and there are worse. You can even make your own. TJ's is a mile away - that makes their creme fraiche just fine for me.

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  11. Another thing: Creme fraiche is not a substitute for yogurt, sour cream or anything else. CF is CF. The tastes of the three products are not similar at all.

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