Google Tag

Search This Blog

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Natural Buffalo Jerky

I was going to buy more turkey jerky, but I was afraid I might gobblegobble it all up.

Then I thought maybe I'd get more salmon jerky. I wonder what in the heck spawned that idea.

Then I recalled my coworker promised me some kangaroo jerky, and that made feel very hoppy. 

But I got me some Trader Joe's Natural Buffalo Jerky anyways because, umm, Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo? Right. I have no idea what that means, and I'm not even an intimidating American bison from Western New York State.

Nah, I bought the buffalo jerky because of the high recommendations of you, our faithful readers, and needing a shelf stable, tasty, protein-laced snack for work as part of a diet/exercise regimen I'm trying out (down about 4 pounds in a week!). As much as I'd love to have a Foreman grill at my cubicle, I don't think I could swing that. I'd rather fight for a yoga ball to sit (a la the mayor in "Portlandia") on instead of our 0 WAR* office chairs anyways.

You know, I swore I had this a few months back while on a massive jerky tilt, and thought I wasn't too terribly impressed. I remembered dry, tough stringiness without much flavor. Maybe that was just an exceptionally sad sack, or equally as possible, my brain checked out completely, because this is good, good, good jerky. Darn good. Each chunk I sampled was actually soft and tender, like 90% dehydrated slices of buffalo steak rather than jerky. No stringiness. No tough little bits to dig out from molar crevices. Just soft, sweet buffalo meat.

And I do mean sweet. Apple cider vinegar was a brilliant call as it shines through, yet it's balanced out by a little smokiness and slight bit of sugar. Very tasty. says "spicy" on the package. I don't expect a Tabasco-laden karate chop to the taste buds, but there's not quite enough, at least not upfront. Some sneaks back up the windpipe, but just even a scant shake of black or even crushed red pepper, just to give a little hint of heat, would've really taken it to the next level. Still, I'm very appreciative of the flavor which, even though there's a good bit of sodium each serving, is still much less than many competitors.

Alan, my loyal jerky companion (who actually did supply some kangaroo jerky, which was also tasty yet strangely reminiscent of a Hebrew National hot dog) agreed, giving a description that only he can. I quote: "More buffalo tender than jerky.  Consistent meat, no filler, smooth like the first hit off a Marlboro Red.  Perfection transcended upon the combination of sugar, soy sauce, and apple cider vinegar.  Creeper spice, nothing on initial tasting, but snuck up behind and bit the tongue."

I'll tell you what I want, what I really, really want: the term "creeper spice" to catch on. Wonder which one she was. Zig a zig ha!

Seriously, though, good jerky, probably the best I've had in recent memory. Price isn't too bad: $5.99 for a 3.5 ounce bag. You'd be hard-pressed to spend less elsewhere, even at the online mecca of Amazon. Just needs that extra kick of spice, and it'd be a Pantheon shoo-in. As is, it knocks at the very door.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Natural Buffalo Jerky: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Sorry, baseball nerd's almost Opening Day! And yes, our office chairs are Ryan best. Which is kinda appropriate if you think about it.       

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Spicy Ranchero Egg White Salad

I think the most common problem I've come across in three and a half years' worth of Trader Joe's reviews is blandness. TJ's foods seldom taste bad in my opinion, but they occasionally taste like nothing at all. I don't know that we've run into that problem much in recent history, but it has been an overarching trend since the beginning of this blog. TJ's foods are at least as "healthy" as food in mainstream grocery stores. And for some reason, I feel like they seldom offer foods with terrible textures—granted, many TJ's products are far from perfect in the texture department, but the "feel" of their foods is usually at least acceptable. So yeah, I think a lack of flavor is one of the few negative trends we've discerned among Trader Joe's brand food products.

That's what we've got here. After eating a forkful of this product, I smacked my lips and desperately tried to taste it. Eggs? Mayo? Anything? There might have been hints of vinegar or something, but I couldn't really tell. So just as I was about to give up and take another forkful, a mild to moderate tingling came over my tongue. "Ah, that's the 'spicy' part mentioned on the packaging," I thought. Sonia swears she actually tasted bell peppers. There might have been traces of pepper like from a pepper shaker, but I didn't notice the taste of any vegetables. To me, this egg salad was like a bit of hot sauce with an unusually complicated texture.

But I liked the texture. Sonia didn't. She thought the eggs were too firm. I agree that they were firmer than normal egg whites, which was weird, but I found that to be a welcome surprise in an otherwise totally unremarkable product. You can also feel little bits of vegetabley things and a semi-velvety sauce. It had a nice mouthfeel. And FYI, "mouthfeel" is not one of my many made-up words. Food rheologists use it all the time...apparently.

Although someone will inevitably disagree, we're gonna go ahead and tell you that this isn't a great stand-alone food. Neither of us could eat it straight out of the tub the way we could the Curried Chicken Salad. Truth be told, this egg salad isn't terrible when eaten with other foods because it's so neutral. It just adds a little tingle to whatever you're having. You can't even taste the 360mg of sodium in each serving. But in the end, Sonia and I both say "fail." 2 stars from her, 2 from me.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10. 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Trader Joe's Thai Style Citrus Chicken Salad

Another month, another dietary page being turned here at the Western PA bookend of the WGATJ team. I'm not gonna really bother rehashing most of the past because, well, it's kinda boring and ultimately fairly mixed results at best. Our newest thing: the 21 day fix. I'll admit, as is our custom, I was pretty skeptical while Sandy very gung-ho about it. She did the first go around and lost about 10 pounds in three weeks, and I'll you what: there was nothing wrong with how she looked before, but now, let's just say, extra fine. Meanwhile, my weight loss/get in shape DIY plan has kinda plateaued after some decent results (lost about 35-40 pounds since my pregnancy-sympathy-cheeseburger-fueled peak), so I'm now giving it a try. Not the hugest fan so far. If you're not familiar, it's basically a repackaging of portion-control ideals mixed with exercise videos led by over-ecstatic half-naked people with a side of near-contempt for carbs (understandable) and dairy (whiskey tango foxtrot?). There's also an overpriced shake you can drink every night that if you try hard enough you can forget it has a very distinctive Alka-Seltzer aftertaste.

Anyways, we were both in need to find a lunch that easily fit into our diet, and would be hopefully tasty to boot. Our local Trader Joe's used to have only a small handful of salads to choose from; now, there's close to twenty, and so an early A.M. trip to scope them out seemed like a worthwhile endeavor. That's how we both came away with our own Thai Style Citrus Chicken Salad to give a whirl.

I'll give it this: it's a pretty flavorful little package that's pretty fun to crunch through. Almost everything is literally crunchy: the cabbage (there's a few types), the carrots - with lots of flavor assist by cilantro and scallions and the like. It all seemed pretty fresh, especially by prepackaged salad standards. Big plus: the little lime wedge that comes with to squeeze out for a little extra flavor. And the dressing kinda helped tie everything together with a gentle yet potent citrus flavor, and a little goes a long way, especially with adequate lime implementation. That's a bonus as most of the fat, calories, and assorted bad stuff are all in the dressing. I used maybe half the packet and that was more than enough. If you're looking at the word "Thai" and concerned about spiciness, don't be; there's next to none to be found here. It's much more flavor than heat.

The problem is, there's not a whole lot of it, even by fairly restrictive portion control standards. There were five miniscule nibbles of chicken in it - I'd estimate at best it'd be an actual quarter serving. Okay, I'll be generous: a third. The rest of the salad amounted to large handful of assorted veggies. Even Sandy, Ms. Portion Control Squadron Commander herself, said it seemed a lot more like a side salad than a main entree. Even after eating an apple and a couple handfuls of baby carrots, and drinking lots of water, I was downright hangry by dinnertime. For $3.99 a pop, I'd hope for more.

It's worth trying, but come prepared. There's some other fresh salads with some cous-cous and other tasty looking mix-ins that I'll probably try out before getting this particular salad again. Get a respectable amount of bird and some more veggies in there, and then we're talking. It's not like there isn't room in the container. Halve the dressing packet if you really need to. Eh. Good thing that what's in there is pretty tasty and flavorful. Though, upon inspecting the ingredients, I don't really recall tasting any papaya in there, but I could be wrong. Sandy gives it about 3.5, while I go a little lower.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Thai Style Citrus Chicken Salad: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

You Might Like: