Pizza in a burger, folks. Think about that. Has it really taken us this long to combine two of America’s favorite foods into one delicious food? Isn’t that strange? What’s even stranger is that it took Trader Joe’s Pizza Veggie Burger to do it. I myself am an unrepentant carnivore and steer clear of the veggie burgers unless a particularly whimsical spirit seizes me, nevertheless I am a huge fan of these. Go pizza burgers! Show us the way to a better future!
All the veggie burgers I’ve had in my life to this point have been a disappointment. When you get the hankering for a nice, sloppy burger it’s never satisfying to sit down to a heavily processed mass of tofu studded with whole peas and corn kernels. I always have been disappointed, and I expect I always will be in the future (Trader Joe’s excluded) for the simple reason that veggie burgers are playing a losing game. Vegetables simply cannot replace meat. They are beautiful and wonderful in the own right, but even the absolute best slice of marinated seitan is going to come second to a middling steak. Yet for some reason vegetarian food providers return to the well of ersatz meat products – foisting not just veggie burgers, but tofurky and chik’n and vegetarian bacon and countless other so-called “meat analogs”. It’s this sort of weird fixation on replicating meat that turns so many of the vegetarian-curious away from the shores of meatlessness. Try as you might, a soy protein patty isn’t going to be mistaken for a ground beef patty.
On the other hand, vegetables can do all sorts of excellent things that meat can’t. Where vegetarian cuisine embraces it’s flexible, malleable and adaptable nature it champions greatly. There are a million ways to cook delicious vegetarian meals that don’t resort to imitating meat products – take the world of Indian cuisine for instance. There’s no reason that a veggie burger has to try and force itself to taste like a ground beef burger – by branching out into a world of other interesting tastes, in this case pizza, Trader Joe’s flips the game on its head by setting its own standard of success. It’s not trying to be a regular burger – it’s trying to be a pizza burger, and on those grounds it succeeds.
Trader Joe’s Pizza Veggie Burger is made from a big chunk of reconstituted soy protein, yes, but it’s also chock full of tomato, basil and melted mozzarella cheese. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.
Two things really work to sell you on these before you get to the taste. First is the color, while most veggie burgers are a variation on beige, the pizza burgers are a dark, almost incarnadine red, thanks to the tomato infusion. Second is the smell, which is very reminiscent of cheese pizza.
I zapped my burgers in the microwave, and they came out piping hot and smelling great after a couple minutes. I added the usual burger toppings and a bun, and the first bite turned me into a fan. These pizza burgers don’t taste like your usual burger, but they don’t taste like a veggie burger either. They occupy their own unique space – moist, chewy, and really bursting with the flavors of a margarita pizza. I was particularly impressed by the texture, which held up well, felt natural and didn’t crumble or fall apart during either cooking or eating – a typical weak point of vegetable patties.
Unlike their rather unfortunate attempt to make a new type of sushi, Trader Joe’s can chalk their pizza burgers up as a solid success. They are a delicious alternative to beef and vegetable burgers alike, and a real contender for my future barbecuing purposes.
Would I Recommend Them: Yes, to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.
Would I Buy Them Again: Yes. In fact, I might choose them over beef patties.
Final Synopsis: An tasty melding of pizza and burger that does vegetarians proud.
Masa, delicious corn masa. It’s about time some bum decided to start making Mexican-style pizzas with this stuff. Lord knows I wish it had been me. Trader Jose’s Pizza al Pollo Asado Pizza (Hurray, another “ethnic” cousin!) is a tasty and original take on the world of frozen pizzas that will delight your taste buds, and perhaps even open your heart to a whole new world of pizza variations.
Accurate, I’m afraid to say, on every point. Let’s take a look:
The pizza is layered on a thick, masa crust and it is without a doubt the showcase item here. Masa is simply spanish for dough, and corn masa is exactly that – a thick, tasty corn dough. TJ’s manages to make theirs tasty and flavorful while avoiding the common pitfall of being unpleasantly mealy. The toppings aren’t bad either. The chicken chunks taste nicely roasted (it isal asado, after all) and have been spiced up to provide a peppery kick to each bite. The bean-cheese substrate of the pizza is the perfect tomato sauce substitute, binding the toppings to masa in a mild, creamy base.
That said, the promised tomatillo “salsa” is far less than stunning. In fact it’s nothing more than a scattering of dry tomatillo chunks that are so dry and blocky that their more an obstacle to overcome in chewing than a friendly ingredient.
The failings are quite moderate however. Straight out of the oven, the corn masa crusty and piping hot, this tasty appetizer/entree will leave wanting to experience more. Sopes and huraches are all well and good – but the crumbly, yeilding crunch of the thick masa crust brings something new to the game. More substantial than the hurache, and more manageable (and servaable) than the sope, the corn masa pizza is the perfect bridge between Tex and Mex. All the more so if you start layering on lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream to make a towering, masa-crusted tostada cum sliceable seven-layer dip.
Would I recommend it: Popping ’em out at parties or chow down with a cerveza
Would I buy it again: Heck yeah – but next time I’ll layer on my own toppings.
Final Synopsis: It’s biggest failing is that they don’t sell a bigger one.
One of the little touches that so endears me to Trader Joe’s is the way they slightly tweak their brand name on certain products in order to, I don’t know, infuse it with whimsy or something. What ever the reason, I sorta love it a lot. Whether it be Trader Giotto’s bruschetta or Jo Jo’s Animal Crackers, everytime I see one it gives me that little inward thrill of smug pleasure. “If you look closely you’ll see those taco’s say Trader Jose,” I feel like pointing out to everyone, “I’m pretty clever, so I notice those sorts of things.” Yes intellectual self-wankery, one of the many perks of visiting my neighborhood store.
That said Arabian Joe’s Spinach Pizzas might be slightly too erudite for me, for I did not know previously know that tiny spinach and onion pizzas intersected with the Arabian peninsula. The connection is a little easier to spot when you realize these aren’t actually pizza’s in the sense that most American’s conceptualize the food.
Trader Joe’s Spicy Spinach pizzas are more of a pre-made snack bread, than a mini pizza. Rounds of flat bread, rubbed with olive oil, are topped with a minimal (but still delicious) amount of chopped spinach, onion and spices. Instructions call for a very quick jaunt in the oven (about 3 minutes) and result in some delightfully crispy, deliciously snackable food. Delicious en mass as a meal, or excellent one at a time as an appetizer or meal-rounder-outer (if there is a pretentious French word for that term, by the way, please let me know).
The “pizzas” are flavorful by themselves and, as advertised, a little spicy, but not particularly filling. The bread crisps up well, and makes a good base for additional pizza modifications. I topped one with a bit of prosciutto, which was the tits, and I bet garnishes of olives and feta would be about the same. Live it up – or not. Between their small size (6” diameter) and sparse toppings, they are about the healthiest pizza option as you’re likely to find.
Don’t be put off by the unusual packaging. It looks like you’re just buying a bag of blank pitas, but the toppings are packed facing inwards on both sides for some reason. Check ‘em out in the refrigerated food aisle.
Would I Recommend Them: Go at ‘em, they’re good.
Would I Buy Them Again: Yep – cheap, tasty & easy to make.
Final Synopsis: A tasty alternative to the shlumpy pizza bagel, with the potential to be customized.