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, April 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Seafood Paella

Sonia has a few quirky allergies that come and go mysteriously. One is to mushrooms. Although, that particular sensitivity didn't apply when it came to the Portobello Mushroom Fries. Another one of her fun "come and go" allergies involves certain kinds of shellfish. Maybe. We've figured out she's okay with crab and lobster. But she usually plays it safe with things like clams, oysters, and scallops...except when my dad orders the fried oysters and she takes a couple bites. Maybe she's grown out of the allergy and maybe she's not as sensitive when the food is prepared a certain way. Who knows? But it took some convincing to get her to try this paella. She finally agreed, but only on the condition that I take all the mussels out of her portion.

That was just fine by me, because I really liked these mussels. They came out nice and soft, but not too chewy. The "calamares" were by far the chewiest ingredient in our bag. I've had squid before that was not this chewy, but really, it wasn't horrendous—just a tad more rubbery than I would have preferred. The rest of the textures were wonderful and blended together seamlessly.

South Jersey is full of fresh seafood, but I haven't seen many places around here that offer any kind of paella. In fact, the only other time in my life that I've had proper paella was in Spain. There was a quaint sidewalk cafe in Madrid where I tried this "national dish" of España. It was a while back, but honestly, I remember not being impressed. It was much soupier than Trader Joe's offering, the vegetables were stringy, and I felt it lacked flavor. They might have given me a bad batch on purpose, though. They didn't seem fond of non-Spanish speakers there. <Sigh.> Six and a half years into a marriage to someone whose first language is Spanish, and I'm still trying to learn it.

But back to the paella. It's good. It's complex, flavorful, and not-at-all-fishy. Seafoody? Yes. Fishy? No. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but I certainly prefer it to the only other paella I've ever had. Ironically, this selection is a "product of France," not Spain, according to the bag. Eh, close enough, I guess. Four stars from me. Three and a half from my better half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. Looking forward to trying this.

  2. Maybe they couldn't find a supplier that can make paella without GMO's or bidding process to get sold in store.

  3. Food allergies can appear to come and go because the exact species plus the processing method can make a difference. Cooked protein is different from raw. Organically grown is different from stuff grown with pesticides, if it turns out you're actually sensitive to the pesticide residues. Plus what else in the meal matters because it can slow down absorption. And if you stay away from the allergen long enough, many times you can eat it without symptoms at least once and maybe routinely if you don't do it often (not every meal, not every day, spaced apart by several days or a week or two months...)

    Be careful with seafood allergies, though. For some reason they tend to be nastier than others, although if she hasn't collapsed in shock yet- that's a good sign. :)

  4. Does the rice get caramelized/crunchy like with traditional paella?

  5. I used to have a come & go allergy to seafood-mainly shell fish, but no longer bothered by it. My solution, I took the advice of someone who had similar bouts of it and she suggested that I do not drink wine when having the fish. Lo and behold it worked!!!! Maybe too much sulfite at one time???

  6. I have to say I tried this and found it revolting. And I'm a big fan of paella.

  7. And most paella can be 'safe' for those with lactose allergies EXECEPT this one. It contains lactose and milk added to make the crab more 'tasty'.... Paella usually contains no added milk, except cheese, if added by the patron. I spent the day on the pot. In the future, just make my own, how frustrating.

    1. Why did you try this, then, when the bag has "CONTAINS MILK" printed on it?

  8. shrimp are like little rocks. not edible.