You’ve probably heard about the oncoming Breakfast Armageddon. Your traditional, western-style breakfast table of bacon and eggs – the hearty, workman-like breakfast of middle-class, middle America – is on an out of control roller coaster ride straight into the mouth of Hell. What I mean, of course, is that the cornerstones of breakfast – bacon and eggs – have seen unprecedented price spikes over the last 12 months (Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics). Due to a conflux of calamities, including global drought and widespread swine pestilence, the price for a pound of bacon has jumped nearly 19% between May 2013 and May 2014.
Certainly I don’t want to be accused of fear mongering, but according to the computer simulators here at EatingAtJoes.net, if this trend continues a pound of bacon will cost $572.38 by 2029, at which point it will be cheaper to just start eating human. At the risk of appearing hyperbolic, I absolutely urge you to smash down the doors of your nearest supermarket and steal as much bacon as you can carry this very second. That, or switch over to Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends and Pieces!
I picked up this oblong little pack of scrunched up pork while weighing my grocery bill against the climbing price tag of Trader Joe’s truly, truly delicious Applewood Smoked Bacon. I’m on the record as saying that the bacon fad long ago become tiresome, and am the foremost proponent calling for a period of bacon tumescence, say a decade or so, at which point we can all start eating it again and sticking it in vodka and whatever. That said, TJ’s applewood smoked bacon makes me go weak in the knees when I smell it sizzling up in it’s own, rich fat on the skillet.
It was this battle of my animal id against my budgetary superego that Trader Joe’s so deftly diffused by producing their bacon ends and pieces.
As you can gather from the name, Trader Joe’s Bacon Ends and Pieces are the assorted left over bits of bacon that they didn’t see fit to package in their regular packs of Applewood Smoked Bacon. To a certain mindset, that means you’re eating Trader Joe’s trash, but don’t think about that. Instead, focus on the deal! In exchange for choosing the bacon rejects, and forgoing the niceties of traditional packaging, you get 12 oz of delicious, nitrate-free, applewood smoked bacon for only two bucks and change, less than half the regular price.
What I was expecting from that price, and the smaller package, was a bunch of irregular chunks of varying thickness. I was surprised to find that this wasn’t the case. On opening the pack, I discovered that the strips had been folded, but were otherwise the same size and shape as regular bacon. The big difference is in the fat/meat ration. While TJ’s regular Applewood Smoked Bacon is more or less uniformly fatty, these bacon ends varied between 50% – 80% fat. Obviously, this isn’t ideal. After all, I’m the yutz who usually buys turkey bacon. That said, a little carefully slicing with my kitchen knife before putting them in the pan left me with bacon that was as lean or leaner than what I normally get.
It’s important to note, by the way, that your results may vary. The bacon ends and pieces are a grab bag by nature. The fattiness of the pieces, and their size, is likely to vary from package to package.
I’m sure there are those of you out there who fear picking these up lest they be branded by the stigma of poverty. After all, isn’t this just poor people’s bacon? Well – yes, maybe. But don’t forget that what you’re buying here is not just a breakfast substitute, but a raw ingredient with a long culinary tradition. There are things you can do with bacon ends and pieces that you can’t do, or wouldn’t want to do, with the neatly packaged kind. As the internet has exhaustively noted, the applications of bacon are limited only by your creativity, but in particular the higher fat content of the end pieces makes them perfect for dicing up and cooking in stews and soups, adding to green beans and baked beans, or any dish that you want to infuse with a rich, smokey hint of savory bacon.
For my part, I poured off the excess bacon fat, then cooked my eggs straight on the still glistening skillet – giving them that extra touch of delectable goodness. If you’re happy with your bacon as is, by all means continue buying as usual. If, however, you’re looking for relief from the rising cost of breakfast, or are looking for some fatty goodness to throw in the stock pot, this bacon gets the job done.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, if you’re not concerned about your fat intake.
Would I Buy Them Again: Yes for cooking projects, but they were too caloric for my everyday bacon.
Final Synopsis: Extremely delicious bacon, with more fat for less money.
I love salad, but so often it mystifies me. For instance, why do salads always cost more than the surf ‘n turf at restaurants, and why has no fast food chain been able to create a salad that tastes better than a pile of anemic grass clipping with woody chicken strips on top? But of all the salad imponderables, I’m most perplexed by the salads that manage to pack in more fat and carbs than the grossest monstrosities ever to shamble out of Wendy’s R&D department.
Now, Trader Joe’s Cobb Salad isn’t the worst offender on the block (that honor belongs to the 800 calorie candied pecan and blue cheese salad) but it’s still a serious fat delivery system.
Now, yes, before we get going, I am fully aware this is a cobb salad we’re talking about – never high on anyone’s list of healthy noshes. Nevertheless, this is one deceptively hefty salad we’re talking about.
Trader Joe’s bring you by-the-book cobb salad with no real surprises here. Grilled chicken breast, bacon crumbles, ripe blue cheese, some tomatoes, and of course, a sliced hard boiled egg, served with a side of hearty ranch dressing.
What, no olives and anchovies? No sir, I’m afraid not. Perhaps Joe was afraid of turning off the 98% of the population that can’t stand the two of those things together. The salad attempts to compensate for this by bringing in a second cheese in the form of some musky gorgonzola. At any rate, with a run down like that you’re going to expect a certain amount of fat, etc. And, in fact, in some ways this salad isn’t that bad. Only 380 calories, with dressing, and a quite satisfactory 10 grams of carbs.
Just below the surface, however, lurks some shocking stats – 250 calories out of 380 are from fat – that’s 28 grams AKA 43% your daily recommended amount. Combine that with the 47% of your daily cholesterol limits, and you might start to think twice.
Normally, salads that suffer from such unhealthy nutritional profiles are under the sway of a fatty dressing. That’s true here – to some extent. The ranch kicks in 12 grams of fat, but even without it you’re still talking about 42% of your cholesterol.
None of that would be so bad, if only the dressing was better than it is. A far as ranch dressings go, this is actually a really nice version. This clearly isn’t something taken from another brand’s mass produced bottles. The ranch in this salad feels downright rustic – smooth and creamy, sure, but swimming with full-bodied herbs that season the ranch and give it some real character. It practically feels home made.
That said, it doesn’t really work in this salad. This ranch is too mild for such a robust salad as this. It’s a gentle butter milk ranch that disappears into the background of each bite, and while there’s much to be appreciated in subtlety, it leaves you wondering why you’re pouring 12 grams of fat into your arteries if you can’t even taste it.
Just like the Artichoke and Hearts of Palm salad from the other day, I’d recommend a dressing substitution. Chuck that tub of ranch (or save it for a future occasion) and drizzle on a little of Trader Joe’s Light Champagne Vinaigrette. Not only is it much, much healthier, and tastier but the creamy zing of the vinaigrette really plays well against the savory and salty flavors of the bacon, eggs, and cheese.
With the dressing switched out, this cobb salad does better – but it didn’t wow me. It’s not bad – just very average. The tomatoes taste like tomatoes, the lettuce tastes like lettuce, and everything else just sort of tastes pretty okay. Like Trader Joe’s Cowboy Bark, I feel if you’re going to sit down and eat 28 grams of fat, you should enjoy the hell out of it. Trader Joe’s has some great salads and some healthy salads – this one is neither.
Would I Recommend It: It’s not bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Would I Buy It Again: Not if I want to lose any weight.
Final Synopsis: A standard cobb salad without anything to recommend it by.
Bacon week continues with Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Bacon!
This has been a banner week for me. The transition from a baconless existence to a world of delicious bacon has left me unnaturally giddy and elated. Not just one, but two different kinds of suberp, praise-worthy bacon have glorified my breakfast this week. Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon we already covered, and by gum if you don’t have some of this in your pantry already then I don’t know what you’re doing with your life. Today we take a look at Trader Joe’s other delicious bacon – Black Forest Bacon.
Is the Black Forest bacon delicious? Absolutely – it’s a nice thick cut of fatty, smoky, slightly sweet bacon that is almost too good for this earth. Is it better than the Apple Smoked Bacon? That’s a trickier question. Where the applewood smoked bacon comes out the gate strong with plenty of razzle dazzle, Trader Joe’s Uncured Black Forest Bacon offers a more sophisticated and nuanced bacon choice.
Tastewise, these bacons are playing quite different games. The apple smoked bacon has set out to dominate the world of smokey, strongly seasoned bacon and it has done exactly that. In a side by side taste test, I’d have to choose the the apple smoked bacon, no question. But real life isn’t a taste test. When it comes to a bacon you’re going to turn to every morning, you don’t necessarily want the intense flavor and smokey aroma of the apple smoked bacon day after day. In the same way that you don’t always turn to the maltiest beer, or the sweetest soda, Trader Joe’s Black Forest Bacon provides a more nuanced alternative.
The taste of the black forest bacon is still as absolutely delicious as the apple smoked bacon, but plays up the “cured” side of bacon over the smoked side. You’ll notice the rind of spices on each slice forms a sort of natural crust once cooked, almost like a honey baked ham, and the raw sugar in the rub gives this bacon just a hint of sweetness. The taste is overall much broader than the apple smoked bacon, a little sugary, a little smokey, and lots of rich meaty flavor.
Two other factors enter into the comparison: nutrition and price. The Black Forest Bacon is actually the healthier choice, despite the sugar rub, with 70 calories a slice, and 45 from fat. That’s still 5 grams of fat per thick slice, but that’s better than the 7 grams of fat in each apple smoked slice. Pricewise, Trader Joe’s Black Forest Bacon is the more expensive option, $4.99 / 13 slice pack – a dollar more than the apple smoked variety.
Like the apple smoked bacon, the black forest bacon is also “uncured”, meaning no sodium nitrate or commercial curing salts were used in the process – nothing but the natural nitrates found in sea salt and celery power.
The takeaway is, on the balance these bacons are equally good. If you’re only an occasional bacon eater, the apple smoked version is probably the better choice – given it’s bigger flavor and worse nutritional profile. If, on the other hand, you’re snacking on bacon all the time, you might want to go with the more nuanced, and slightly healthier, black forest bacon.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, but try Trader Joe’s Apple Smoked Bacon first.
Would I Buy It Again: I already have.
Final Synopsis: A delicious bacon for frequent bacon eaters.
To date, the only bacon I’ve had from Trader Joe’s has been the healthy, if middling, Turkey Bacon. In fact, so devoted have I been to the concept of being healthy while eating bacon that turkey bacon is the only bacon that I’ve ingested for the last two years. So biting into Trader Joe’s Uncured Apple Smoked Bacon was like a spelunker emerging from cloistered subterranean depths to thrust his head into the sunlight again, like a skin diver coming up for air after a crushing 120′ dive, like Dr. Manette emerging from the Bastille to be recalled to life. It was, to be blunt, really good.
This is, quite simply put, some knock-out bacon. And it’s not like I haven’t had bacon before guys. I was raised on Oscar Meyer brand, I enjoy a slice or two with the occasional Denny’s Grand Slam, but there was never anything really and truly memorable about the long train of sizzled bacon slices that came before. Certainly nothing to make me buy into the still white-hot bacon mania that has gripped the nation lo these past few years.
Folks, I’m telling you this bacon has turned me all around.
I’m going to start out with my one quibble, my one insignificant little quibble, then commence with the waxing rhapsodic. The bacon, as you can see above, is all layered on top of each other – not fanned out as in most bacon packages. This makes it a little more difficult to pull the bacon slices apart – especially considering how marbled with thick bands of delectable fat they are.
Manage to pull off a couple thick slices of bacon, however, and you are in for a treat. The smell, by itself, is enough to get you drunk. It’s almost hard to find a bacon in this country that isn’t “applewood-smoked”, or “mesquite-smoked”, or appended with some other marketer-inflated appellation that means, essentially, nothing at all. Believe me when I tell you that this bacon has been smoked – really and properly smoked. It smells so richly of the savory curls of smoldering wood that you will swear you’re smoking it yourself as you cook it. It smells so good you’ll have to fight off the urge to shove raw strips of meat into your mouth with both fists.
Once your nose has feasted to satisfaction, it’s time to take a bite. Friends, every promise that the sizzle and smell of that bacon made to you the taste more than delivers on. Is it fatty? Yes, tremendously fatty – packing in 7 grams of fat per slice, but it is deliciously essential fat, fat which enriches the smoky meat with melt in your mouth, hug-your-tongue flavor. It is a lot of fat, but that, of course, is God’s way of keeping us from eating bacon all the time, non-stop. If you have room in your diet for a little extra fat, this is a fantastic way to spend it.
It’s all so wonderful, that it’s impossible for me to fully describe to you with mere human words how much this bacon pleases me. To top it all off, this wonderful apple smoked bacon is uncured and nitrate-free. Delicious and nitrate free? What else needs be said?
Would I Recommend It: Yes, please buy this bacon.
Would I Buy It Again: As frequently as my diet allows.
Final Synopsis: The tastiest, store bought bacon I have ever eaten.
When is a salad not a salad? No, that’s not the set up for a hilarious joke – it’s a dead on serious philosophical musing. Undoubtedly there are as many different answers as there are salad lovers on this planet. Some might quibble over the presences of leafy greens, others might argue the necessity of a dressing. For me, it comes down to nutrition.
When a salad is delivering 108% of your daily fat intake in a single serving, that’s a poorly constructed hamburger not a salad. When someone can say to you, “Whoa, buddy, instead of that salad, why don’t you try something healthier. Here, shove these two Big Macs into your mouth at the same time.” That for me is where a salad crosses the threshold into junk food. What I’m saying is, brace yourself for Trader Joe’s Bacon and Spinach Salad.
I bought this salad the other night because I was hungry and had managed to convince myself that, you know, in light of the paleolithic diet, Atkins, etc TJ’s Bacon and Spinach Salad wasn’t actually that bad for me. If you haven’t looked yet, I’m going to direct your eyes to the bottom of this article. Yup, that’s right. Not just 108% of your daily recommended fat, but 105% of your cholesterol, 68% of your sodium, and even some trans fats in there for good measure, all delivered directly to your arteries on a healthy bed of fresh spinach.
Who in their right mind can call this a salad? If they’d stopped at the bacon, that’d be one thing but this salad by no means stops at the bacon. What else is in there?
Well, we’ve got some cherry tomatoes, nice plump and juicy, that’s fine, a whole hard-boiled egg, that’s not too bad, then we have the mozzarella cheese and the poppy seed dressing. I’m not sure which of those chokes me with surprise more. I mean, the mozzarella just seems egregious. We’ve already slathered the spinach with a hefty helping of cured pork belly, bacon that is literally sagging with fat, who was out there was thinking, “This salad just isn’t rich enough. Throw on a bunch of fatty, white cheese!” And, with that in mind, can I just say – poppy seed dressing? Really, Trader Joe’s? On top of everything else, poppy seed? One of the richest, liquid-fat infused dressings on the books? And not even a poppy seed dressing that makes overtures at healthiness, but an oily poppy seed dressing? Honest to god, this poppy seed dressing has a thick layer of oil floating on the surface when you crack it open. I’ve had poppy seed dressings many times before, but never one that comes with its own oil slick.
It’s astounding, readers. This salad is practically a novella about the rage simmering beneath the exterior of one crazed salad designer at Trader Joe’s, a man who has been forced, day after day, to design fresh, light new takes on lemon chicken while his soul within slavers for sticks of butter and pork flesh, a man who, one day, snapped when presented with a bag of broccoli slaw, the levees of his mind giving way to the flood of carnal need, and leapt about ransacking the shelves, tongue hanging out of his mouth, loading up a bed of spinach with his every secret, depraved desire.
Okay, so if you eat this salad everyday your body fat will eventually smother your heart and you will die, on that we can all agree. On the other hand, it’s very tasty. And of course it’s tasty, it’s a pile of fat and salt – it’s incredibly delicious. Pour on the poppy seed dressing, mix up the bacon and cheese and dig in – you’re taste buds will be taken on a wild ride of salty, fatty, meaty tastes. In fact, the most incredible thing about this salad is that it’s actually edible. As anyone who’s had a Big Mac can testify, it’s hard to eat so much fat and salt in one sitting and not leave feeling at least a little ill. For this we can thank the spinach and cherry tomatoes, which provide a clean, light taste counterbalance to the more dominant heavy tastes. In a way, it’s a brilliant solution to the problem of how to eat a bunch of fatty bacon and cheese all at once. If that’s not a problem your trying to solve, then this may not be the salad for you.
Would I Recommend It: No to salad fans, yes to bacon fans.
Would I Buy It Again: I’m not sure my blood pressure can take it.
Final Synopsis: A novel way to eat a bunch of sloppy bacon.