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, August 29, 2014

Trader Joe's Polenta Provencale

One thing I love about Trader Joe's is that they've exposed me to dozens of new dishes that I wouldn't have tried otherwise. Polenta is definitely one of those dishes. To the best of my recollection, I had never even heard of it before this. Sonia, who's even more widely traveled than I am, has not only tried polenta in her native Los Angeles, but also in Italy, where the dish apparently originates from. But despite her adventurous efforts, she's never been able to cultivate a deep appreciation for this corn-based dish.

The presence of corn (and absence of wheat) is great news for all you gluten-free folks. But for people like Sonia, it means an unusual texture that, in her own words, "feels like eating soap." I certainly see where she's coming from with that observation. The texture of the actual polenta balls is a little strange, especially if you're expecting it to feel just like traditional pasta. Now you've got me talking about balls and Russ chuckling about nut butter. I swear, people, this is a family-friendly blog.

Other than its lack of gluten and its vegetarian-ness, this product's other great strength lies in its vegetable medley, which includes peas, spinach, and tomato bits. The cream sauce is moderately spicy and lends a nice mixture of herbs to the dish, but its flavor certainly doesn't overpower that of the vegetables.

Flavor-wise, the polenta adds little. I found it to be very neutral in taste. There's a melodramatic spiel on the back of the bag describing Trader Joe's efforts to "liberate" polenta from its traditional Italian niche. So...if this isn't the way traditional polenta is served, then perhaps this entree would have been more successful as something entirely different? Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed it. But Sonia and I both agree the least appetizing part of this dish is the polenta itself.

Another surprise was the overwhelming soupiness of the product, as pictured above. The photo on the bag depicts a mostly-dry dish served on a plate. I'm not really complaining, but we wound up eating our "polenta stew" from a bowl.

Since it's something unique and new-to-me—and because it tastes good overall, I'm giving this polenta provencale a 3.5. Despite admitting that she really liked the veggies, Sonia can't get past the texture of the polenta balls. She gives it 2.5 stars.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

9 comments:

  1. Their other polenta dish is so much better!!!!

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    1. Are you referring to Creamy Polenta w/ Spinach and Carrots? Haven't tried that one yet, Carissa...

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  2. Yes! It's amazing, but I do love polenta. You might like a lasagna style polenta dish! Rachael Ray has a great recipe.

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  3. I think they still have regular polenta (in a package like sausage meat comes in) on the shelf by the pasta. Slice it and cook it with some shredded (Mexican) cheese on it, yum! The Provencale polenta was mushy when coked but I like the subtle corn taste. The Creamy stuff is smooth; think of it as a variant of grits. A tasty one!

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    1. Yes that's a pretty awesome way to cook polenta! Which i really had before I ever had grits.

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    2. Sarah & Steven,

      My mom likes to make hers with garbanzo beans, mushrooms, and tomato sauce.

      But try polenta lasagna!! Yum!

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  4. I actually really enjoyed this dish after adding in some extra veggies (pea/corn/green bean mix), parmesan cheese, and hot sauce.

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    1. Those ingredients would definitely help....good idea, Carlie!

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