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, June 29, 2015

Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bars

Here's a question I found myself pondering the other night while chomping through a Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bar: What, exactly, is the divining criteria used to determine whether or not a frozen summer treat will be served on a stick? Is it potential mess factor? Structural integrity? Ease and comfort? I'm not really sure. I get why ice cream sandwiches (whether cookie or wafer ones) are stickless - there's a built-in easy way to hold them that unless you're a toddler (or me) it won't create a mess. Also, Klondike bars with no wooden pole make sense - although the potential mess is through the roof, I think a stick would only exacerbate since it's a big ol' quickly melting rhombus. But, other than that, and excluding ice cream cones (duh) and the cheapie colored sugar water freezy pops, pretty much any ice cream bar or popsicle or anything is a perfect candidate to be plunked on a stick, right?

Except....these TJ mango cream bars don't have a stick. They're prop-less and pole-less. Instead, it's just the bar itself, lonely, in a little wrapper just waiting to get all sticky and melty in your little grubs, unless you actually take the care to try to eat it from the wrapper, which seems silly to me. Really, these should be plopped on a little post.

Thankfully, though, I won't let that skewer my perception too much. In all, these do make a tidy little treat. Each bar is about 75-80% typical frozen mango-esque popsicle, with the a little side section of smooth chilly cream that complements the rest of the bar pretty well. I'd personally like if the cream and fruit part were a little more intermingled so each could be present in each bite. Regardless, the mango tastes all summer-y and sugary and all that enough by itself to work, but the cream really adds a nice touch to tie it all together.

A small side note: Not liking the ingredient list, which I neglected to doublecheck before purchase, mostly because so many TJ's products don't have it that I take it for granted: glucose syrup, with corn in the parentheses. There's a lot of noise online clamoring about glucose vs high fructose corn syrup (here's one link I found - can't vouch for its truthiness) but...I don't know. It sounds too much the same to me, in that tt's added sugar, and in some sort of form that's different from the sugar already mentioned in the list. Seems like a lot of extra sugar, when I think God made mangoes taste the best, personally - nothing extra needed.

Anyways, both Sandy and I, and our almost three year old (time flies!) enjoy them enough as is. They're smallish enough to perfectly sized for the kiddo and to not feel like too guilty an indulgence for us big kids. There are other varieties of these bars out there, like raspberry or coffee ones, that I'm sure we'll try before the summer's up. The box of six desserts cost no more than a couple bucks, making it a relatively painless pick up. It'd just be nice if there were a little something that made them a little more special or unique, but alas, these bars are a pretty solid choice as is. Not bad at all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Bars: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Coconut Water

When I was a kid, my dad would occasionally bring home whole coconuts from the grocery store. I used to love the water that came straight out of the coconut, and I'd chug it down just as quickly as it flowed from the fruit. Back then, we erroneously called that liquid coconut milk. It was actually coconut water, same as this product. But I swear, in my memories, the liquid was much milkier and much whiter than the beverage now known as "coconut water." I also remember it being much sweeter than this coconut water. 

I'm not sure what I can attribute those discrepancies to. Perhaps it just tasted much fresher since it was literally only seconds out of the coconut. Or maybe it's one of those dimensional shift conundrums I've been reading about. In my home universe, we read Berenstein Bears books, Nelson Mandela died in the 1980's, and coconut milk came out of tapped coconuts instead of coconut water—not to mention Joe Cocker's "With A Little Help From My Friends" intro to The Wonder Years was pretty good, unlike the one that plays during the opening credits now. Actually, I'm pretty sure that's a syndication/copyright issue rather than a dimensional shift, but it's still pretty terrifying nonetheless. Seriously, if you have Netflix streaming, go play the beginning of an episode of The Wonder Years now. I'll wait for you here.

Weird, huh?

Know what else is weird? Sonia LOVES this coconut water stuff. She says it tastes much better than the Maple Water and it does at least as good a job at hydrating her. She often uses the term "sock water" when describing a beverage she doesn't like—as in water that's been used to clean dirty socks. I might be tempted to describe this coconut juice as just a small step up from sock water.
It's not that Trader Joe's offering is any worse than other pre-packaged coconut water. I'm just not really a fan of any coconut water since I transitioned into this peculiar universe—and likewise, Sonia generally likes any coconut water. Somewhere in one of our podcast episodes, I said something along the lines of, "If I were forced at gunpoint to choose between the Maple Water and the Coconut Water, I'd take the Maple Water." It's true.

Anyway, Sonia gives this product 4.5 stars, and I'm gonna give it 2.5. That still yields a respectable score of 7 out of 10, but be advised, if you're not a huge fan of other pre-packaged coconut waters, you probably won't be a fan of this, and vice versa. 

Now bring on the onslaught of "You're an idiot but your wife isn't" style comments that I've become so accustomed to these past 5 1/2 years ;)

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken Pot Pie Ravioli

TJ's has done Chicken Pot Pie before, but never quite like this. In the past, we've seen them offer us Bites (please do not read that review) and quite recently, we sampled a delicious British/East Indian pot pie of sorts. As Russ reminded us, it wasn't all that good-for-you. But let's face it, when a dish has more than a whole day's worth of saturated fat in a single serving, it's never the nutrition facts that are going to redeem the dish—it's that rich, delicious flavor.

Thankfully, this product has good chicken pot pie flavor, and it won't send you to an early grave—at least not as early a grave. There are still a good bit of calories, fat, and sodium. But compared to the Balti Pies, this is diet food. And again, it's fairly filling like a real pot pie. It's all there: the carrots, the peas, the chicken, the white gravy sauce. It's like there's a whole balanced meal inside each little square. The only thing different here is the "crust." It's traditional old ravioli style pasta. And somehow, it works. It works quite well, in fact. Each element wound up cooked to perfection by following the simple stove top heating instructions. There was no user error this time. Er, I mean, not that I've ever heated anything incorrectly. (Again, I must remind you all to NOT read that Chicken Pot Pie Bites review.)

When Sonia and I found out they stuck chicken pot pie in raviolis, we started arguing about what sauce to use, if any, before we even saw the package at the store. Sonia was leaning toward a white Alfredo type sauce, while I was thinking a traditional marinara might work. Turns out we were both wrong. This pasta works best with nothing but a little olive oil. Reader Haley suggests butter, rosemary, thyme, and grated parmesan on top. We'll have to try that next time, Haley. Thanks for the tip! Any other serving suggestions are welcome in the comments section below.

Sonia found herself wishing for more chicken inside the pasta, but still really enjoyed the flavor overall. I agree. It's a hearty, all-American type taste wrapped up in little raviolis. Very unique. It's about $4 for a two-serving package. Four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip

Gotta admit, I was having a little fun last week. While Nathan's review subject of the curried chicken pot pie-type things was getting a little gruff (and rightfully so) for the abject dearth of redeemable nutritional value, mine for the super-chic and healthy riced cauliflower was flying high and wide. It's still kinda funny to me, how popular the riced cauliflower is, popular enough to not be available again until July (according to some rumors I have heard) so supply can attempt to keep up with demand. I still have a bag of it in my freezer and I'm wondering how much I could sell it on eBay for right now.

Well, while basking in any sort of perceived glow of eating healthy and all that, I kinda failed to mention to you all, until now, that Sandy and I were currently scooping our way through our second container of Trader Joe's Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip in as many weeks. Busted, both in my pride and in my gut.

Listen, there's some things that I'd *like* to be able to say in full conviction about this particular dip. As alluded to on our latest podcast (subscribe now!), I never have been, nor will never be, a ranch dressing kinda guy. Or pretty much any salad dressing, or most condiments aside from salsa and hot sauce for that matter. I'm just not. So, the fact that this dip is, not surprisingly, about 90% full-on ranch flavored is kinda a turnoff for me. The ranchiness seems even more ramped up by some factor - not sure if that's the sour cream's doing or not - but it's amongst the ranchiest of ranches I've ever had. It drowns out any flavor from the shredded cheddar, in fact. And as for the bacon - well, it just makes everything taste saltier, even though there's not that much bacon here to speak of. Look closely at the ingredients: it's listed under the "contains 2% or less of the following" part. I'm sorry, but when something says "bacon" as the first word in its name, I expect a lot of it. This is America, dangit.

I'd also *like* to say that Sandy would be responsible for the vast majority of its consumption.

Truth is, I ate pretty close to my fair share with some veggies or plain tortilla chips. Sandy probably ate more than me (I was busy on a few occasions with a pretty tasty guacamole), but to insinuate I ate none of it would be a boldfaced lie. This means I couldn't have held the dip in absolute contempt like I'd like to. I think part of it is, I was trying to like it more than I do. But I just don't. Too much ranch, not enough bacon and there's for all intents and purposes almost no cheese. I wouldn't buy it again, but if Sandy were to get it again, I'd help her out with it here and there.

There's no question in Sandy's mind: it's perfect. "Mmmm" is about all I could make out from her before she almost drooled off Homer Simpson-style. It's kinda funny, I don't think I've seen her be all that enamored with ranch dressing, so there must be something clicking about this particular combo for her. I'm just not picking it up, but, well, it's not as awful as thought, despite how horrible the stats are and how generic Burger King-y the packaging is. I'll give it a half(clogged)hearted 2.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trader Joe's Spring Premier Cheddar Cheese

It's about high time the Rodgers clan reviewed some cheddar cheese on this blog...despite the fact that we don't know anything about cheese. I mean sure, all of us here at What's Good at Trader Joe's? are "foodie-hacks," but I think our 'Burgh-dwelling counterparts have a much higher level of expertise than we do, if only because they've braved cheeses like Chocolate CheddarChile Cheddar, and Cheddar with Caramelized Onions. In light of those selections, I think you can say that Sonia and I played it safe with this one.

It was the "spotlight selection" at the free sample table on our last TJ's run. The friendly gentleman behind the counter explained that the cheese came from the very first milking of the spring season, and that the grass that the cows eat at this time of year is soft and fresh and the cows are happy because the long winter is over and yadda yadda yadda this is a very special cheese. As we inhaled our samples, there was indeed a happy tingling sensation that might have come from the cheese yielded by particularly happy cows.

It reminded me of an ad campaign in California that goes something like, "Good cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows come from California." My acquaintances from Wisconsin were all thoroughly offended by this ad campaign, because, they argued, their Wisconsonian cows are every bit as happy as these chauvinistic Californian cows. It has recently been brought to my attention that cows from Vermont are also extraordinarily happy—and it dawned on me just today that they must be joyous indeed, since their milk is the milk that brings us Ben and Jerry's delightful treats. Plus, cows in my native Pennsylvania are happy (I know this because I have met some of them), and I must point out that since this product is imported from England, that English cows, too, at least in the springtime, are quite chuffed as well, I say.

But back to the review. This cheddar is soft and creamy as the label suggests, and both Sonia and I felt it was on the sweet side, as far as most cheddars go anyway—but then again, we don't really know much about cheese. It reminded Sonia of the little Babybel cheddar cheeses that come wrapped in red wax. The bottom line is, we liked it. Happy cows = happy cheese = happy humans. Four stars each.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Trader Giotto's Organic Riced Cauliflower

When introduced, some products are no-brainers for automatic buzz. If Trader Joe's were to bring out a brand-spankin' new cookie butter innovation, you know the word would spread like, well, butter. And some things like bacon-y popcorn or maple-y water just sound too interesting or intriguing or unique or kinda weird to not want to try.

And then, over by itself, you have itty bitty cauliflower, all riced and diced up.

Make no mistake: for about the past week we've been bombarded by the introduction of Trader Giotto's Organic Riced Cauliflower for about the past week by fans, particularly those interested in super-healthy fare. Take, for instance, my friend Alison who's put in an assist on the blog here before - she and her husband are into the Whole30 scene so she when she first stumbled across it, she was first to let me know. Soon enough, through Facebook, Instagram, LiveJournal, etc, a lot of you have said "hey, try this out!"

So, I have. As revealed on our forthcoming podcast episode, Nathan too, but I beat him to the review. All this sack of apparently Italian inspired micro-diced cauliflower consists of is.....cauliflower and a smidge of salt. Or so the ingredients say, I can't taste any added sodium at all. It's in the frozen section, weighs 12 ounces, and costs $1.99. The recommended prep method is take out of bag, heat in saucepan until warmed and excess water (not a lot to begin with) dissipates, and voila, it's ready in minutes. Unsurprisingly, it tastes just like cauliflower, with a slightly grainy texture (more than anticipated) that I'd say veers more towards brown rice-like than white. I made some up the other night to go along with a shrimp and broccoli stirfry, then had some leftover the next day under some chicken and my favorite barbeque sauce, and both times, with some willingness and a little suspended belief, it tasted fairly remarkably like regular rice. It's not the exactly the same, of course, but it's reasonably close, and probably can be used pretty much any way that regular old rice can.

So....why the big deal?

Two words: Absofreakinglute convenience. I've shied away from a lot of Paleo recipes just because of the sheer amount of time and energy involved. Listen: I work more than fulltime, and when I get home I have about an hour (ideally) to make dinner, get through dinner with a finnicky toddler, and get two kids into bed. I don't have the time or energy to rice a cauliflower through other means I have heard of, like steaming and pushing through a colander (that also sounds like a lot of clean up), or using a high-quality food processor. I've heard that's possible, though Sandy is skeptical - I don't know, I'm just parroting what I've heard. It doesn't matter, we don't have one anyways. So, to have an option like this, just frozen, ready to go, and can easily fit into my diet on a night I should be strict about it, for just $1.99 which is likely cheaper than a head of organic cauliflower (haven't been in the market recently, don't know) - that's a pretty sweet deal. From the sounds of it, a lot of people think very similar thoughts.

I'll take this actually as a ringing endorsement in its own way: Sandy was pretty impartial about it. She's not a huge cauliflower fan, so she was skeptical when first trying it. "It's not rice, and I can tell it's not, but...it's not bad," she said. "I don't mind it that much." That translates to a three in her book. Me? I love it. It's an easy and inexpensive way to sneak more veggies into my family's diet - I can't wait to make some fried rice with it, in fact. Pretty great stuff for the cost and convenience, and for that alone, I'm throwing it some perfection.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Organic Riced Cauliflower: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons      

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Trader Joe's Chicken Balti Pies

So if you've ever seen the movie Gandhi—or if you know your history—you're aware that the British occupation of India wasn't really something to celebrate. But a few good things did come from the collision of these two unique cultures. Now East Indians can enjoy pastimes like cricket and soccer, and Brits have added yummy foods like curry to their menu. These "pies" struck me as being nearly identical to Trader Joe's Steak and Ale Pies, another British-inspired delight. But in this case, there's chicken, carrots, potatoes, and a mildly-spicy curry sauce.

The curry here was tasty, but both Sonia and I felt it to be a tad blasé. We both agree the flavor was good—we just wish there were more of it. And we both could have handled a significantly greater amount of spicy kick. But as Russ notes in a soon-to-be-released podcast episode, the Brits are known for serving bland-ish food. Maybe full blown Indian curry was too much for the English, so they toned it down a bit.

The pie-crust-like breading was excellent. Sonia compared it to a flaky croissant. The carrot and potato chunks were large and plentiful and served a similar function as they might in a traditional pot pie. The chicken was also adequate, moist, and tender.

One pie is extraordinarily filling. And it should be—because each serving has massive amounts of fat and calories, including a full 115% of your US RDA for saturated fat! Sonia was wise enough to eat only two thirds of hers and save the rest for another day. At around $5.99 per box, they're not super cheap, and if you want to cook them properly in the oven, you're looking at the better part of an hour for prep time. So these tasty little pies are a significant investment on your waistline, wallet, and schedule—at least as far as frozen convenience food goes. Am I glad we tried them? Heck yes. Despite craving a tad more heat, I really can't complain about the texture or taste. Four stars from me. 3.5 from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips and Trader Josè's Chunky Spicy Guacamole Autèntico

Peanut butter and jelly. Peaches and cream. Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. So many classic pairings out there, they just deserve to go together. Such as it is with Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips and Trader Josè's Chunky Spicy Guacamole Autèntico that we're gonna review them both right here and now. If you've listened to the first episode of Let's Talk TJ's, our brand-spankin' new podcast, you mighta known this review was comin', but there's some ground to cover, so let's get to it.

First: Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips. This isn't their first go around with a yam-inspired tortilla chip, but it's a little different from previous incarnations. TJ's has had a longstanding product in an orange bag that has somehow escaped the scrutiny of this blog despite repeated pick-ups from me, at least. Those, while good, were a lot like typical corn tortilla chips - heavy on the maize aspect, with just enough sweet potato to turn them that requisite rustic hue and offer a little hint of taste. Not bad, right, but kinda "meh" after a while. This is a whole other something else. These chips smell more sweet potato-ey. They taste more sweet potato-ey. And they, by design, are in fact more sweet potato-ey - 18%, to be exact, according to the blurb on the back. That doesn't sound like a lot, but apparently that's the most amount of sweet potato flour one can mix with corn and still get something resembling a tortilla chip and not some mess. There's still a fair amount of typical corn chippiness for the flavor, but I'd say the sweet potato flavor dominates. These chips are lighter and crispier as well, while not being overly greasy, and fairly lightly salted with a little touch of lime. The ingredients also list "honey granules" which I presume are meant to enhance the sweetness of each chip (well, duh), but there's nothing that seems forced about that, either. These are some darn good chips. Bonus points for being gluten-free.

Of course, nothing makes a good chip even better like something worthwhile to dip it in. So glad to have spotted Trader Josè's Chunky Spicy Guacamole Autèntico for the snacky sidekick. I haven't tried that avocado salsa yet, but I can tell you this is on the completely other end of the texture spectrum already. In the package I bought, there where probably at least half a dozen big, soft, creamy chunks of avocado that were multi-chip worthy. Love it. In between them were some small chunks of pepper and onion (nothing too noteworthy) with plenty of smushed avocado that was again very soft and creamy. I honestly didn't consider this to be too spicy, but others might - there is a little tingle from some jalapenos and black pepper, bt that's about it. Some bites tasted a little salty, though. Looking at the ingredients, there's nothing weird in there, nothing out of line - just good, honest guacamole that tries to replicate homemade as best as possible. I don't think I could make a better one myself. One quibble: the packaging. It's the curse of avocados. No one else in my house likes them, and I can't (and by that, I mean shouldn't) eat one of these in one setting, or even over the course of just two or three days. But it's a cheap, flimsy, peel the plastic back thing which I covered up as best I could with Saran Wrap and a Ziploc bag, and it still got brown around the edges. Listen: If literally right down the road from me people are working on driverless cars for Uber, we can find a way to keep guacamole fresh for more than a day.

Together....delicious, delicious snacking. I bought both the sweet potato tortilla chips and chunky guac two shopping trips in a row, and will continue to do so until I get sick of them, which I hope will not be for a long, long time. The slightly more fragile composition of the chips caused a fair amount of breakage while digging through the avocado chunk minefield, but with a little care, the damage was kept to a minimum. At present time, I can't think of a better chip-and-dip pairing. Sandy wholeheartedly enjoyed the chips just plain or with some ranch on them, so these will be around pretty often, I think. As for the guacamole, I couldn't pay her to touch it, which isn't a bad thing - there's more for me! Too much textural funky stuff for her. For only like $3 each, they're both steals. Let's 9 them both up.

Bottom lines:
Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Tortilla Chips: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Josè's Chunky Spicy Guacamole Autèntico: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Trader José's Avocado Salsa

When Sonia and I saw this stuff on the shelf at TJ's, we began inspecting it through its semi-transparent plastic tub, and we noted its signature pale-green color and thin consistency. We immediately thought of two different green sauces from our California days. Sonia began dreaming of Olvera Street, an historic Mexican marketplace in Los Angeles with old-timey architecture and tasty taquitos. One vendor in particular garnished their little tacos with a mildly-spicy green sauce that Sonia was hoping this Avocado Salsa would replicate. My mind went to Wahoo's, where I'd frequently order their delicious fish tacos that came with a creamy green sauce in a little salsa cup. I only JUST became aware that there is at least one Wahoo's in Center City Philly. I'll have to find an excuse to go there soon...

Because this green sauce was not exactly like the delicious green sauce from Wahoo's. It was exactly like the mildly-spicy green drizzle from Olvera Street—much to Sonia's delight. We happened to have some non-TJ's tacos on hand and we tried pouring the Avocado Salsa on them. It was amazing. We also enjoyed using this as a chip dip, but in the latter case, we missed the chunkiness of a normal guacamole or traditional salsa.

Make no mistake, this stuff is quite thin as salsas go—and even thinner as guacamole goes. It's almost like a lightly-spiced, pureed—or even...dare I say liquefied?—guacamole. No chunks of anything—just a smooth texture and a nice avocado flavor with a hint of a kick. As I mentioned, you could use it as a stand-alone salsa, but I think it truly shines when used as a drizzle for other Mexican foods or blended into other dishes. I could see this going great on chili or even as a dressing for a taco salad or southwest salad.

Sonia wishes it were a little bit thicker and a little bit spicier, but overall, she enjoyed it. Four stars from her. I absolutely agree.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Trader Joe's Pastrami Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon

It's kinda crazy, the busy lives we live. Most if not all of you know what I mean. Might look like different things to different people, but at the base, there's a common truth - we're just busybusybusy people. Sandy and I are no exception. Both of us have more than fulltime jobs, a couple young kiddos, a house hitting the century mark this year (so lots of upkeep, and that doesn't even include the laundry), family, friends, errands...the list goes on. That's why I really treasure our weekend mornings. We make it a point to have at least one leisurely weekend morning meal, where we can actually sit down, chat, drink a couple cups of coffee, and just hang out for an hour or more. It's the best, and it's a great re-centering point for the week. It also helps that breakfast is probably our favorite meal, foodwise, so we usually go with the classics - eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit, etc.

Well, this past weekend we had only shot at this, on Sunday morning. I got roped into some early morning weekend OT at the day job, which preceded another busy day of errands (Huzzah Costco!) and kid-wranglin'. As mentioned on our new podcast, Let's Talk TJ's, Sunday morning is the best time to go shopping at TJ's, so we headed out early, pre-breakfast, with bacon on our mind. Then we saw this, Trader Joe's Pastrami Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon, and were intrigued enough to give it  try.

Make no mistake: this was a gamble. This was our one true laidback family meal of the week, and if the food stunk, that'd be a real stinker. TJ's, in the history of our blog, doesn't have the shiniest track record with salmon products (like this or this). Plus...Sandy doesn't usually like salmon. Pink meat kinda creeps her out. It's only because this blatantly said "Pastrami Style" that she was willing to try it - she loves my dad's smoked pastrami (yes, I know, another pink meat) so semi-begrudgingly we got this, with a pack of bagels to make some sandwiches for a brunch with blueberries and coffee. 

Glad we rolled the dice. We both are very happy with the purchase. In the packages there's about eight or nine slabs of fresh fleshy fish a few inches long by maybe a millimeter or so thick, so just about the right amount for two decently-stacked sandwiches. The salmon is pretty clean and mild, for the most part. From my dad's aforementioned smoking prowess, I'm fairly certain I can tell the difference between different smoking wood chip varieties. For my part, I sensed more sweetness from the apple and cherry than depth from oak and maple, which isn't a bad thing for a meat like the steak that swims.

One thing not present throughout the salmon: all those pastrami spices. That's because all the black pepper and parika and whatnot were rubbed in post-smoking, not before. I'm thinking that's a good call, as we were able to enjoy both the sweet smokiness of "plain" salmon and the spicy peppery bite from around the edges in about equal measure.

I'm not sure if this a brand new product, but it's definitely the first time we saw it. The four ounce package cost $4.99, about which I'm indecisive about the value. That equates to $20 a pound, so yeah...that's a lot. Then again, we're not frequent salmon purchasers, so maybe that's the going rate, but the curse of TJ's is I sometimes just expect an exceptional value, which I'm not convinced this is. Regardless, I'm glad we overcame our reservations to give our relaxed morning a little changeup Matching fours from the wife and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pastrami Style Smoked Atlantic Salmon: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons