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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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Portobello Mushroom Fries

There are occasions when I feel like I should role play on this blog—times when I can't fully appreciate a product, regardless of its popularity or nutritional value or uniqueness, yet I feel like scoring it based solely on my own personal hang-ups would be doing it a grand injustice. Sometimes I want to write a review from someone else's perspective. This is one of those times. 

I think I've mentioned it on the blog once or twice before, but I have very strange reactions when eating mushrooms (and not just the "magic" kind—in fact, I've never had those...to the best of my knowledge, anyway). After consuming a food-grade mushroom, my stomach instantly feels like it's on fire, and my heart beats harder and faster than usual. Coincidentally, Sonia has similar reactions to certain varieties of mushrooms, particularly button mushrooms. But apparently, portobello does not produce any reaction for Sonia—which is good for the sake of this review, and good for Sonia, because unlike me, she really enjoys the taste of most mushrooms, despite her unusual response to certain species. And both of us do, on occasion, simply bite the bullet and eat mushrooms—even the kinds that we're sensitive to, and we just suck it up and deal with the palpitations. Such was the case for me in this instance. All that to say, I feel like shafting this product just because I can't fully enjoy it would be doing a disservice to the vast majority of our readers.

I was already starting to notice a buzz about these portobello mushroom fries on Facebook and Twitter, when I received a fascinating email from a reader who pointed out that there are some things that truly make this product unique and progressive in the world of packaged, frozen foods. These mushrooms are harvested, battered, cooked, and frozen over the course of just a few hours—not the usual formula for pre-packaged, fried foods. In that reader's own words, these mushroom fries "could be the start of a trend to reverse our walk toward the edge of the industrial food cliff." He thinks success with these mushroom fries will bring "hope that more (foods) will be brought to us in this most life-sustaining manner." Thanks for your unique insight, James, and thanks for the heads up on this product. Click here to check out more of James's thoughts on this product and others.

When we removed the fries from the oven, some of them were quite crispy, and some not so much. The crispier fries were much better than the others, both in texture, and in my opinion, in taste as well. So I'd say err on the side of "burned" unless you like your mushroom fries juicy and moist, but like most anything you heat in the oven, there's a magic sweet spot in between "soggy" and "burned to a crisp." I think we had ours in for the full 15 minutes but maybe wouldn't have minded another minute or two in the heat.

I did appreciate their taste—at least more than most mushroom products I've tried. They have that subtle, earthy, almost nutty flavor that good quality mushrooms tend to flaunt. The batter was nice, too, though Sonia wishes there were more of it. It's a thin layer of wheat batter with a hint of garlic and pepper—so thin, in fact, that in many spots, it doesn't completely coat the mushroom. But I guess that's helpful if you're trying to keep your carb intake to a minimum. We served them with Trader Joe's Sriracha Ranch and also tried them with marinara sauce. We both agree the Sriracha Ranch worked best, although the hot sriracha flavor dominated the subtle taste of the mushroom fries.

Sonia gives this a four. Despite my aversion to mushrooms, if I were to score it, I'd probably give it a 3 or 3.5 or so for virtue of it being the best mushroom product I've ever tried. But instead, I'll score this product according to the chorus of fans it's already gathered on social media, Sonia's co-workers, and people like readers James and Janice, and I'll go with a 4.5 on their behalf.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

9 comments:

  1. Have u tried the Chicken and Shitake Mushroom frozen meal? I found the mushrooms to be chewy... maybe the soggy/chewiness is due to the fact that they're frozen.. they say mushrooms absorb moisture, so maybe that's why they maybe soggy...

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    1. Haven't tried that one, KBF. Yeah, soggy mushrooms are not particularly appetizing...

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  2. I have bought Portobello Mushroom Fries from Trader Joe's. I have been at a party one night. Very nicely arranged party, delicious food, salads, appetizers and so on. One of my friend told me to try something and to find out what it was. This was something crispy,
    with some butter and blue cheese on the top,it just has been taken from the oven. I said: What kind mushroom is this? Very delicious! Perfect appetizer! I ate almost the whole plate. On the folowing day I went to buy it and my family liked it. It is on the table almost every day. I agree that this is an unique product, great for parties, friends and family celebrations. Just keep it frozen and it is ready to go any minute.My score is 5.

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  3. I had these today in their sample section, and they paired it with the new sriracha ranch. So good! I'm definitely going to have to buy them for a party appetizer (too afraid I'll eat the whole bag by myself otherwise!)

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  4. I think the sauce matters greatly and is best served with a basil aioli (good recipe to use is here: http://ericlovelin.blogspot.com/2011/02/substitutions.html). One of my favorite restaurant items is portobello fries but cost $15 at one of my fav places, so I started making my own. TJ's is a great alternative; still gotta make the sauce but can be enjoyed any time.

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  5. Do you know why they no longer have these there? I bought them once a few months ago after reading your blog...they are amazing with the siriracha ranch and if you broil them for the last few minutes they get crispy! So sad I can't find them anymore!!!

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    1. They do still have them. I just picked some up today.

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