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Friday, August 26, 2011

Trader Joe's Italian Mini Ravioli

Perhaps you've seen one of our write-ups from The Daily Meal* that have circulated around the Interwebs to sites like Huffington Post and Shine by Yahoo! and the like. That might even be how you found our site. By far, my favorite part of those articles is perusing the reader comments. Needless to say, some folks don't share our taste buds (eh, to each their own) or think we're major dopes (we never said we weren't), which most of those types of comments give me a good laugh. The one type of comment that I didn't really understand was the ones that ripped Trader Joe's as being full of trendy hipsters and pretentious overpriced food. Listen, I'm not a TJ's apologist by any means, but that hasn't been my experience at all. If I wanted to pay a premium for my chow, I'd get it from the Sharper Image, or at least the big local chain that I paid double the bill at before I stumbled across TJ's. As far as being pretentious, etc...well, okay, it is a little but not overly so, at least not in Pittsburgh. I see more families with kids than doofy-haircutted-tight-Goodwill-pantsed kids prattering on and on about The Avett Brothers shopping there. That criticism, which I've seen repeatedly, doesn't ring true to me, and makes me wonder where those folks get their grub at (McDonalds? No wonder they're in a bad mood). TJ's isn't exactly above reproach, but in my mind, they do more right than wrong.

Okay, it's Italian Mini Ravioli time. This is pretty unpretentious, see? It's not even Trader Giotto-branded. And face it, it's mini ravioli. In a statement that I am completely unsure as to if it'll make people more or less likely to purchase it, one can choose to think of this as cook-at-home Chef Boyardee. The package contains a pound of the little good fellas and costs $2.something. That's not expensive at all.

As far as taste goes, they're alright. Sandy stated it fairly accurately when she said, "They're more than half good." I'll complement that thought by saying they're less than half bad. We boiled some up the other night to serve with some meatballs and sauce for a quick, easy dinner. Even though they were swimming and rolling over in the pot for a decently long while, when we sank our teeth in, they seemed kinda undercooked and therefore slightly hard/chewy. That's more our bad, I guess. The pasta tastes like the typical semolina offering, while the filling leaves a little to be desired. It's made of Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs that, while not being all that bad, strayed a tad towards salty and gritty. Still, they're decent, and we had no problems finishing up our bowlfuls, though we won't be stumbling all over ourselves to have them again, either. Next time we do, though, we'll probably go more of the chicken broth soup route because, to us, they seem like they might be a little tastier that way.

Sandy gives them a three, as she said she's had better ravioli, like the fresh packages you can buy at some stores. Maybe some of their downside lies in the fact that they're a dry good and made to last forever (maybe a good thing for us East Coasters this earthquake and a hurricane? Can we just go back to ungodly humidity? Stock the shelter!). As Sandy explained, a three is better than half good because half the maximum she can award something is 2.5. And to think, she usually asks for me to figure out anything math-related (that's roughly akin to asking me for directions in a foreign country). I see her three and match it.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Gonna be working on yet another collaboration with them soon! Keep tuned. One day, God-willing, this will lead to us being interviewed by Katie Couric.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trader Joe's Tofu

I think the first time I ever had tofu, it was in an Asian restaurant. They served a salty miso soup with mysterious little white cubes that I later came to find out were the notorious vegan food sensation. I didn't mind it at all, before or after I found out what it was, though I think my enjoyment of the soup was heavily reliant upon its massive amount of sodium rather than the tofu.

Tofu is very neutral. It has very little flavor. The texture is neutral as well. It's not chewy, tough or gritty at all. A lot of people are very pro-tofu. A lot of others are highly anti-tofu. But I myself am appropriately neutral toward the bland brick of soybean curd. And in regards to it, I apply this vaguest of notions: "It is what it is."

In my opinion, tofu depends entirely on what's going on around it. In this particular instance, we served it with Trader Joe's Mélange à Trois. As clever a play on words as it is, I'm not sure why the label on a bag of vegetables should be alluding to group sex at all. Call me conservative, but by the same token, I find it utterly revolting when I see T-shirts that boast something along the lines of "I got crabs at some random seafood place." Mmm. STD's. How appetizing.

At any rate, Trader Joe's veritable orgy of peppers did spruce up our tofu quite a bit. It is ultra-convenient to have all three basic colors of bell peppers already sliced inside one bag. But the excitement didn't stop there. We also added some onions, hot sauce and Trader Joe's Organic Whole Milk Yogurt as a sour cream substitute. Yummy.

The yogurt is plain and simple, just as it should be. TJ's didn't do anything crazy or original. They sell it in a nice big container for a reasonable price. Good stuff. Some people are quite skeptical about using plain yogurt in place of sour cream, but it's worth a try if you're looking to cut a bit of unnecessary fat out of your meal. Although, substituting sour cream with plain frozen yogurt would be a different story entirely.

We served the whole concoction inside Trader Joe's Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas. I could have sworn we reviewed these before, but I guess I was thinking of the Reduced Carb Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas. These are similar, but with more carbs, I suppose. More carbs = more deliciousness. They're nutty and they have a good whole grain flavor.

The resulting tofu fajitas were surprisingly flavorful, flaunting a plethora of different textures. I certainly wouldn't have minded a bit of chicken in the mixture, but the tofu did an adequate job of giving the meal a good hearty base and some protein.

In the past, when I've reviewed multiple TJ's products like this, I would give a breakdown with a different score for each product. However, Sonia and I agree that each of these products, as well as the finished conglomeration of them, are all deserving of the same score. Four out of five stars from Sonia and four out of five stars from me for each product.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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