Trader Joe’s Magic BeansPosted: September 24, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 2 stars, Candy, Chocolate, milk chocolate, nougat, Trader Joe's 10 Comments
Trader Joe’s is no stranger to whimsy, and what could be more whimsical then bringing a bag of magic beans to market? That’s precisely what Trader Joe’s has done with their mysterious new offering, Trader Joe’s Magic Beans! An extremely enigmatic offering that combines vagueness with and strange product impulses into a bewildering product.
|What it is:||Milk chocolate over crunchy nougat.|
|Price:||$3.99 for a 7.7 oz bag.|
|Worth it:||No, not very good quality sweets.|
Trader Joe’s Magic Beans are certainly magical. Not necessarily in the way that wizards and dragons are magical, and not in the way that rainbows and a child’s smile are magical, but in that way a that mild concussion is magical – by turning ordinary things into an set of surreal and perplexing stimuli that don’t really make sense.
Upon seeing a bag of Trader Joe’s Magic Beans for the first time, many questions immediately spring to mind. Magic beans, really? What makes them so magical? What are they exactly? Where do they come from? None of these questions are answered in the slightest anywhere on the bag. You are presented with a strange, plastic sack of oblong candy, a product name, and no more.
One of Trader Joe’s more infuriating traits is a tendency to leave off the product copy. When they do include copy, it’s uniformly delightful and well considered – equal parts gently amusing and gently educational. However when they elect not to include copy, it’s almost always in instances like this – on their most unusual and unique items.
TJ’s is giving us nothing to go on here. “Mystery Beans” might be a better name. All we’re told is that they’re chocolate covered nougat beans. The surprise is that not only is the chocolate shell hard and crunchy, but so is the nougat in side.
Yes, crunchy nougat – not the typical soft and pliable stuff so pleasantly yielding to the tooth. This nougat has been hardened to a brittle condition. Biting into one of these over-sized beans is an act of crunch, crunch, crunching – like biting into some chocolate covered brittle or toffee.
That’s the other unusual thing. The nougat is crispy hard and almost buttery sweet – not at all like ordinary nougat, much more like toffee or crunchy caramel.
I’d never had crunchy nougat before. It’s certainly not something I ever though to ask for. Are there people out there who appreciate crunchy nougat? Is this a thing? I have to say it wasn’t entirely unpleasant, but going in expecting nougat made it a little off putting.
The chocolate part can pass largely without remark. It’s your basic, low quality Halloween candy-style milk chocolate making up a quarter inch thick cocoon. Not the best Trader Joe’s has to offer by any means.
Interestingly, these beans have also been shellaced – literally. Shellac is listed as the eighth or ninth ingredient. As you probably know, shellac is a resin generally encountered as a wood or nail polish varnish. Typically, that’s not something I’m looking for in my food – even though it is technically edible and a somewhat common food glaze.
In the end, there’s nothing really for me to recommend these on. Unless you’re intrigued by the concept of crunchy nougat, it’s hard to imagine anyone picking up these mysterious shellaced beans, even if I highly recommended them. Apart from giving them to out to kids as part of a “magical” gift bag, these beans were just sort of blah.
Would I Recommend Them: No, not particularly.
Would I Buy Them Again: I have had a enough crunchy nougat and shellac, thank you.
Final Synopsis: Low-quality chocolate around a nougat-esque core does not necessarily equal “magic”.
Trader Joe’s “This Pumpkin Walks Into a Bar…” Cereal BarPosted: September 17, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 3 stars, breakfast, cereal, pumpkin, Snacks, Trader Joe's Leave a comment
Look, I have to hand it to the product naming team at Trader Joe’s. Sure, in the past I’ve excoriated them over inconsistent and even nonsensical naming schemes. I may have lambasted them for giving products unpronoucable French names, but when it comes down to it, they’re basically geniuses and I love them.
|What it is:||Sweet pumpkin filling in a cereal bar|
|Price:||$1.99 for a box of 6.|
|Worth it:||Yes, if you like a sweet breakfast.|
I love Avacado’s Number Guacamole, I love their Carrots of Many Colors, I even like their Popcorn in a Pickle. It’s crazy, but what can I say. I like it when they get a little crazy. However, of all TJ’s product names the one I’ve somehow avoided talking about until now is Trader Joe’s “This Pumpkin Walks Into A Bar…”- one of the proud members of the ridiculous family of “This Fruit Walks Into A Bar…” cereal bars. It takes a bold unwavering vision to end a product name with an ellipses. “Just sort of trailing off without finishing your thought – that’s what customer’s respond to! Release a dozen varieties and keep ’em coming!”
In addition to the Pumpkin version we’re looking at today, Trader Joe’s also offers “This Apple Walks Into A Bar…” “This Strawberry Walks Into a Bar…”, “This Fig Walks Into A Bar…”, the list goes on… You certainly can’t accuse TJ’s of not committing to the gag – even if it makes scanning their breakfast aisle feel like flipping through a joke book.
All of these cereal bars offer basically the same thing, a strip of fruit puree surrounded by a wheat bran sheath. It’s a familiar set up for anyone who’s ever had a Nutrigrain bar, or one of the other many “cereal bar” versions on the market. The big difference is that Trader Joe’s brand cereal bars proudly boast they that they contain no synthetic colors, perservatives or hydrogenated oils. In addition, Trader Joe’s has blended an elixir of vitamins into the fruit filling which contains 6 different B vitamins and, oddly enough, selenium.
Selenium, which Trader Joe’s highlights on several parts of the box, is an essential trace mineral linked to various vital functions. Just one bar contains 50% of your daily selenium value. Most people get enough of this in the typical balanced diet – but if you’re worried you’re selenium levels might be low, hey, chow down.
As far as the taste goes, these are pretty ordinary fare. The bready casing is dry and crumbly, and the filling is sugary sweet with fruits flavor underneath. To TJ’s credit the first ingredient listed is actually “pumpkin filling”, less impressive is that fact that this pumpkin filling lists rice syrup, cane syrup and apple powder above the actual pumpkin.
It’s definitely the syrup you taste most, with the sugar levels pushing my tolerance for a breakfast food. Think “concentrated poptart filling”, and you’re about in the area. If you’re looking for an intense sugar lift to get you started in the morning these would do the trick (and be sure to please the kids), just watch out for the imminent sugar crash waiting around the corner. There are 15 grams of sugar per 37 gram bar, but it tastes like more.
Eaten straight from the box, I didn’t find these a satisfying breakfast addition – and eating more than one in a sitting left me filling sugared out. They fared much better after a few minutes in the toaster oven – crisping up slightly and filling the house with the warm smell of pumpkin pie. Tastier, but still super sweet and not particularly convenient if you’re using it as an on-the-go meal substitute.
Trader Joe’s cereal bars might fit the bill as a substitute pop tart, but if you’ve outgrown those sort of sweets it’ll leave you flat.
Would I Recommend It: Only to people who like a sugary breakfast.
Would I Buy It Again: Not I.
Final Synopsis: Sugary pumpkin filling in a Nutrigrain-like bar.
Trader Joe’s Baked Blue Corn Tortilla Chips – SaltedPosted: September 15, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 2 stars, blue corn tortilla chips, Chips, Snacks, tortilla chips, Trader Joe's 1 Comment
I am a dyed-in-the-wool, straight-up chips and salsa fiend. Give me some chips, give me some salsa, and everything is just fine as far as I’m concerned. I have yet to find a jar of salsa that is big enough that I won’t finish it off in a single sitting.
|What it is:||Bland tasting, baked tortilla chips.|
|Price:||$1.99 for a 7 oz. bag.|
|Worth it:||No, they taste stale.|
Unfortunately, I’m getting fat. And while salsa is a good, healthy, vegetable-based, low-cal snack – tortilla chips, with all their carbs and fat, definitely are not. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I now live a chips and salsa free life.
There are many types of delicious (and not so delicious) salsas available at Trader Joe’s, and just as many unusual chip choices – often featuring healthful gimmicks (such as flax seeds). However, even “healthy” tortilla chips usually have more fat and carbs than I’d like to gorge myself on. So I was delighted when I came across Trader Joe’s Baked Blue Corn Tortilla Chips the other day. Promising only 2 grams of fat per serving, they were the healthiest chips I have ever come across. Taking them home, I gleefully rejoiced in finding the answer to my prayers.
Unfortunately, they taste like crap. Or, more correctly, they taste like bland tortilla chips that have gone stale straight out of the bag. Another review of these chips likens them to “cardboard”, and that’s not far off. The sad fact is that Trader Joe’s Baked Blue Corn Tortilla Chips are flat and lifeless. Even salted, these chips simply fail to delight the tongue.
Not being fried, these chips lack the crispiness, crunch and snap of a traditional tortilla chip. If, before I ever tried them, you’d asked me if I would trade such seemingly inconsequential concerns of texture for less fat, I would have said yes. And I would have been wrong. It doesn’t seem like something as run-of-the-mill as “crunchiness” should make or break a tortilla chip – but in this case it absolutely does.
If you’ve ever tried a tortilla chip from a bag that’s been left open a few days too long, you know exactly how these taste. There’s simply no saving a stale tortilla chip – no matter how flavorful the salsa or how delicious the nacho cheese. It’s sad, but a stale tortilla chip is little more than garbage.
No matter how I tried to appreciate the healthy elements of these blue corn chips, I simply couldn’t get over the stale taste. Maybe you’ll have better luck at that than I did, but as far as I’m concerned my quest for a healthy – and tasty – tortilla chip continues.
Would I Recommend Them: Nope – too stale tasting.
Would I Buy Them Again: Not unless I’m reaaaaally desperate for a chip fix.
Final Synopsis: Unless they actually made you thinner, these chips ain’t worth it.
Trader Joe’s Shrimp ToastPosted: September 10, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 1 star, chinese food, dim sum, shrimp, toast, Trader Joe's 8 Comments
Shrimp toast. Shrimp toast. Shrimp toast. What is a shrimp toast? No, it’s not a meaningless Da-Daist phrase (well, not just that anyway), it’s actually a dim sum phrase! Trader Joe’s Shrimp Toast is TJ’s new Chinese-inspired appetizer that combines shrimp (natch) with toast (also, natch).
|What it is:||Toast with shrimp paste on it.|
|Size:||10 little slices|
|Worth it:||No, dry and bland.|
Shrimp toast is as nearly as simple as it sounds – toast with shrimp on it. More accurately, it’s small triangles of bread, sprinkled with sesame seeds and topped with a thin layer of minced shrimp and tapioca yeast . The result is something that doesn’t taste all that much like shrimp. Instead, it tastes like toast with a sort of mild, not easily identifiable, slightly moist topping of some sort. All authentic seafood flavor has been left far behind.
It’s not exactly a taste sensation. Shrimp toast, also known as prawn toast, has a tradition in Chinese American cuisine as a classic dim sum selection. Done right, it can be crispy and delicious – a palette cleanser between richer dishes, or eaten with a drizzle of duck sauce.
I’ve had quite good shrimp toast at dim sum – although my favorite versions end to be lightly fried. The Trader Joe’s variety is instead oven baked, and while that helps to keep the fat content down it doesn’t help out the flavor. And about that fat content – even baked, one serving (two of the tiny triangles) has 6 grams of fat (50 calories), and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Not exactly a health food.
About the best thing I can say about Trader Joe’s Shrimp Toast is that they were easy to make. 8 minutes in the oven and they came out hot and crisp. Even then, however, they felt less like an appetizer in their own right, and more like the base for an appetizer that the top fell off of.
With a little creativity and ingenuity, you could probably whip up a topping that would make up for lackluster shrimp paste – but really I’m not sure it’s worth it. Trader Joe’s carries a lot of delicious bite-sized appetizers – but this Shrimp Toast isn’t one of them.
Would I Recommend It: Not even to the most devoted dim sum-er.
Would I Buy It Again: No more shrimp toast for me.
Final Synopsis: Not very good shrimp, not very good toast.
Trader Joe’s Burrata, Prosciutto and Arugula FlatbreadPosted: September 1, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 3 stars, arugula, burrata, flatbread, italian food, Pizza, prosciutto, Trader Joe's Leave a comment
Sometimes too much of a good thing can be too much. Trader Joe’s Burrata, Proscuitto and Arugula Flatbread pizza is an exercise is decadent excess – not dissimilar to their Cookie Butter Cheesecake, or Caligula’s Rome. And like those forebearers, this flatbread tantalizes more than it delivers.
|What it is:||Cheese and prosciutto flatbread|
|Price:||$4.99 for a 12 oz. pizza|
|Worth it:||Yes, but take small bites|
On paper this flatbread sounds like it should be about the best thing ever – a hand-stretched, brick oven-fired crust, topped with mozzarella, fontal, Pecorino Romano, Parmigiano Reggiano, and burrata cheeses, atop a spread of mascarpone garlic cream sauce, topped with wild baby arugula and marbled slices of prosciutto.
The flatbread comes as a simple kit, ready to be warmed to a crispy golden hue in your own oven, then topped with two broad slices of prosciutto. It sounds perfect, basically.
Unfortunately, all this goodness run into the classic “more isn’t always more” quandary. I usually encounter this in terms of drinking. One drink, and I feel good. Two drinks, and I feel a little better. Three drinks, and hey this is really getting fun! Four drinks, however, and things take a rather unpleasant turn. Trader Joe’s is essentially taking the four drink approach to salty food with this flatbread. Those are some good cheeses, and good cheese sauce, and good prosciutto, but when you put them all together you end up with a flatbread that’s too overwhelming to really bite into.
However, that’s not to say this is a bad flatbread. There’s nothing wrong with the individual components – all of which are very tasty and decadent indeed. The problem comes when you try and eat it like an entree. The servings per container given on the package is 3 slices. I would suggest changing that to 30.
Sliced up into a few big bites, this flatbread is simply too rich with fat and salt to really savor – even if you’ve got a good beer at hand. However, cut it up into smaller, hors d’oeuvre sized bites and you’ve got an instant party classic. When you’ve sized it down to nibbling size, the tongue is given a chance to experience the richness of the soft white cheeses, the supremely savory prosciutto, and the spicy arugula.
Just as the cure for Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Cheesecake was Cookie Butter Cheesecake Bites, this sumptuous pizza is better served by smaller servings.
Would I Recommend It: I would, just not very much of it.
Would I Buy It Again: I’d bring it to a potluck.
Final Synopsis: An overwhelmingly rich flatbread.
Trader Joe’s Rainbow Slaw Salad with Honey Herb DressingPosted: August 27, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 3 stars, Carrots, kale, Salad, slaw, Trader Joe's 2 Comments
Trader Joe’s is no stranger to slaw based salads, so their new all-slaw salad might be unprecedented but isn’t a surprise. Like their broccoli slaw, and Chinese chicken salads before it, Trader Joe’s Rainbow Slaw Salad is a big pile of shredded veggies. What’s different about this version is the riot of colors and flavors at play.
|What it is:||Lots of veggie slaw|
|Price:||$3.49 for an 11 oz. tub|
|Worth it:||Yes – healthy and refreshing|
Slaw has always been the laziest form of salad. Unlike some of Trader Joe’s rather well thought through salads – like the very pretty Grain Country salad – a slaw salad doesn’t have to worry about presentation or what to layer where or even freshness of produce, a slaw salad just runs everything through an industrial dicer and dumps the resulting shreds into a single, undifferentiated pile. Like “dump pies“, the result might well be tasty, but they don’t really impress anyone.
However, Trader Joe’s Rainbow Slaw Salad bucks this slaw trend. By combining a variety of colorful and tasty produce Trader Joe’s has produced a slaw salad that’s actually worth talking about.
Take one look at the Rainbow Slaw Salad and you’ll immediately notice two things – one, that this is a lot of slaw we’re looking at, and two, that it really is very colorful. At the very least, we can say that Trader Joe’s has fully delivered on the “rainbow” and “slaw” parts of the salad. In this case, the myriad of bright colors comes from the many colorful veggies that go into this really massively vegatatious salad. Said vegetables include cabbage, sweet onions, kale, celery, mustard greens, corn kernels, and every color of carrot from the aptly named Carrots of Many Colors. All julienned up together, the result is a truly rainbow-hued mix that ranges from pale yellow, through greens, yellow and reds to vivid purple.
Very nice to look at – but what about the taste? Is that also nice? Well, yes – I suppose. The Rainbow Slaw Salad tastes good in so far as it tastes very healthsome and nutritious – you can really taste the vitamins and nutrients in each vegetable packed bite. To balance out the all vegetables/all the time approach, TJ’s has also seeded the salad with finely chopped bits of tart green apple, which pop up here and there to inject a bit of sweetness.
The honey herb dressing – a sort of sweet, seasoned vinaigrette, helps to add a lot of life to the salad – perking up the greens with a light zestiness that does a good job heightening the natural flavors of the mix rather than masking them. As I chewed away at mouthful after mouthful, I couldn’t help but feel like I was appreciating the subtle sweetness and inherent flavor of these so often sidelined vegetables in a whole new light. If there’s one thing this salad does well, it’s letting wholesome veggies speak for themselves.
On the other hand, it’s certainly not the most delicious Trader Joe’s salad I’ve ever had. In fact, if I’m being honest, it doesn’t even rank in the top 50%. Placed back to back with the Bacon and Spinach salad, or even the Arugula and Pimento Salad, Rainbow Slaw just feels incomplete. While I liked what it was doing, if I was hungry for slaw and vinagraette, I’d be far more likely to pick up Trader Joe’s Honey-Glazed Miso Salmon Salad which does a lot of the same things, just a little better.
Would I Recommend It: Yes, it certainly makes for a good side.
Would I Buy It Again: Sure, if I wanted to add some veggies to a meaty entree.
Final Synopsis: A healthy and light veggie salad.
Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot SaucePosted: August 25, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 4 stars, hot sauce, jalapeno, sriracha, sriracha sauce, Trader Joe's 9 Comments
Ever since they introduced their own brand of (rather delicious) sriracha sauce last year, Trader Joe’s has been actively working it into as many different products as possible. We’ve seen spicy sriracha ranch, sriracha BBQ sauce and, not to be overlooked, sweet sriracha glazed bacon jerky. These have been heady months.
What better time, then, to introduce a brand new form of hot sauce to the shelves – Trader Joe’s Green Dragon Hot Sauce – a bolder, hotter variation of their tasty sriracha.
|What it is:||A spicy, jalapeno-based hot sauce|
|Price:||$2.99 for an 18 oz. bottle|
|Worth it:||Yes, spicy and bold!|
I should note, just in passing, that this is a pattern that exactly follows what Trader Joe did with their amazing cookie butter. First, filling the shelves with as many cookie butter infused products as they could spin out (seriously, there’s a ton), then introducing a brand new member of the cookie butter family with their “Oreo” based cookie butter.
Although packaged in nearly identical bottles, and emblazoned with a similar dragon logo, there isn’t a lot of family resemblance between these two hot sauces. What’s different? For one, the green dragon looks a lot wussier than the rad red dragon – but more importantly the Green Dragon Hot Sauce dispenses with the flavorful, sweet tang of the red sriracha sauce in favor of a bolder, more herbaceous, and overall spicier taste.
The green color in the Green Dragon comes from replacing the ground chili peppers in the original sriracha sauce with a jalapeno and tomatillo pepper puree. You’ll find the same vinegar and garlic base in both, giving them that slightly acidic zing – however the new Green Dragon sauce also adds a strong dose of cilantro to the mix. This results in a very strong, earthy flavor that lingers long on the tongue.
The difference between these two sauces is almost like the difference between those famous, commonly related seasonings salt and pepper. The red sriracha sauce is more like salt – zippy, very flavorful and, for all intents and purposes, the more popular choice for putting on everything. On the other hand, the green pepper sauce is better for adding a more complex, heavier and spicier dimension to your food – and because there’s so much cilantro on board, a few dashes is probably all you need of it.
In fact, cilantro has such a strong presence in this hot sauce, that I’ve found that it makes it particularly suitable for spicing up Mexican dishes – tasty with eggs (ranchero-style or otherwise), tacos, burritos… the whole enchilada. Combined with the distinctive taste of jalapeno and tomatillo peppers, this sauce feels as Mexican as it does Thai.
Trying them both back to back, I can’t help but prefer the red sriracha sauce. It’s still my go to hot sauce from Trader Joe’s – improving on Hoy Fong Foods famous rooster sauce by sticking closer to the authentic Thai recipe. However, while it may not get as much use as the red sauce, the green dragon sauce is still a welcome tool to have on the spice rack.
Would I Recommend It: I would – there aren’t a lot of sauces out there like this right now.
Would I Buy It Again: This bottle should last me a while, but I might pick up another one in a year next year.
Final Synopsis: A bold, spicy hot sauce with plenty of jalapeno and cilantro.
Trader Joe’s MuhammaraPosted: August 20, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 4 stars, Condiments, Hummus, mediterranean cusine, middle eastern cuisine, muhammara, pomegranate, Trader Joe's, Walnut 11 Comments
Every now and then, after Trader Joe’s comes out with a particularly weird or goofy food product, I get to feeling a little bit superior to Trader Joe’s – sort of like they’re my wacky next-door neighbor.
|What it is:||A hummus like spread made from|
|Price:||$2.99 for a 8 oz. tub|
|Worth it:||Yes. A delicious hummus substitute.|
“Pickle-flavored popcorn, TJ?” I’ll think to myself, shaking my head, “You’re just lucky I love you so much, you big goof!”
And without exception, every time I start to feel this way, Trader Joe’s turns around and absolutely embarrases me with a product that is elegant, nuanced, and grounded in a rich culinary tradition that I’ve never even heard of.
“What d’ya got this week, TJ?” I ask, sauntering into the store, “Another wacky popcorn flavor?”
“Actually,” Trader Joe’s casually informs me, “This is muhammara – a middle eastern condiment similar to hummus but made from walnuts and pomegranate juice. A product of ancient Syria, of course. Ahahaha – no, don’t try and pronounce it, you’ll just make yourself look silly.”
Yes, today we’re reviewing Trader Joe’s Muhammara – a delicious, hummus-like spread with a cool, dark red color and a smooth, gently earthy, mildly piquant taste.
Unlike hummus, that can taste a bit grainy or mealy due to the garbanzo beans it’s made from, muhammara is a blend of walnuts, roast red peppers, pomegranate juice, olive oil and bread crumbs. While that sounds like it would result in a weirdly lumpy or heterogenous texture, it couldn’t be more smooth and velvety – perfect for veggie dip, cracker spread, or pita filling.
The taste itself has quite a bit of the mildness of a red pepper roasted to softness, and only a subtle touch of the nuttiness of walnuts, and even less of the tart pomegranate flavor you might expect. In fact, muhammara is generally made with pomegranate molasses, much more similar to the pomegranate syrup we made up than mouth puckering pomegranate juice. As such, the muhammara also has an understated touch of sweetness to it that makes go down particularly smoothly.
Despite never hearing of it before, I enjoyed the hell out of my muhammara. It was good with pretty much whatever I tried it with, and made an excellent “before dinner” snack with just a handful of Triscuits I had at hand. I’ve always been a little bit ambivalent on hummus – which generally ears out it’s welcome with me after a few bites. Muhammara has all the qualities I like about hummus, the soft spreadable texture and cooling, snackable taste, with an added edibility and improved texture.
As you may have guessed from the walnuts and olive oil, muhammara shares hummus’ high fat content – but thta’s simply the nature of the beast. Buy a tub, enjoying it moderation, and you won’t regret it.
Would I Recommend It: If you like hummus, give this a try.
Would I Buy It Again: I do think so.
Final Synopsis: Just like hummus, but a little tastier.
Trader Joe’s Organic Sriracha Ranch DressingPosted: August 18, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 3 stars, Condiments, Organic, ranch, salad dressing, sriracha, Trader Joe's 12 Comments
I’ve seen some pretty shocking things appear on the Trader JOe’s shelves over the years – chocolate/wine drinks, pumpkin greek yogurt, chocolate bars made with bacon – but I’m usually able to take it all in stride. When you shop at Trader Joe’s you have to expect the unexpected. However, Trader Joe’s Srirach Ranch Dressing I was totally unprepared for. Ranch dressing? Available at Trader Joe’s? Holy crap!
Unfortunately, however, this new salad dressing offering is a mixed blessing.
|What it is:||Very spicy ranch dressing.|
|Price:||$2.99 for a 16 oz. bottle|
|Worth it:||Good for wings, but too spicy for salad.|
As you might have gleaned from the frequency I write about them, I’m a fan of salads. I’m a fan of salads in the same way that rats are a fan of untended grain silos – which is to say I eat salads with a ravenous, unstoppable intensity. With their plethora of fresh produce, Trader Joe’s is a real boon for salad lovers like me – except that they seemed to miss the memo on two important points.
One, for some reason Trader Joe’s refuses to sell reasonable quantities of croutons at reasonable prices. You can buy a small sachet of artisinal cheese bagel rounds for $4.99, and that’s it. How can you carry two types of salmon jerky, but no croutons, Trader Joe? Madness.
Two, Trader Joe’s refuses to expand their salad dressing line. The salad dressings they offer are good, sure. I love a little bit of Asian Sesame Seed Dressing or Balsamic Vinaigrette on my freshly washed greens, but the quantities are laughable. Only available in small, solid glass, 8 oz bottles, picking up salad dressing at Trade Joe’s feels more like picking through potions at a medieval apothecary than shopping for condiments.
So as exciting as a new flavor of Trader Joe’s dressing is – and being able to buy ranch dressing at Trader Joe’s is *very* exciting – what I was most shocked by was the new, full-sized, 16 oz. salad dressing bottle. The bulbous plastic bottle with screw on cap might seem weirdly plebeian by Trader Joe’s standards, but it’s nice to see Trader Joe’s do something like a normal person every once in a while as well.
So at $2.99 per bottle the price is right, the size is right, and since this is just spicy ranch dressing we’re talking about, surely the flavor is just fine as well. Right? Right? Well, no – not really.
Look, I’ve had spicy ranch dressing before. I know what to expect from spicy ranch dressing – that familiar buttermilk creaminess spiced up with some piquant red pepper. Trader Joe’s Sriracha Ranch Dressing may look like it’s taking this route, but they actually deliver something far more intense.
Taking the “Sriracha” part of the name seriously, they’ve loaded up this simple dressing with a mouth blistering blast of pure chili paste. I’m not kidding – this “ranch dressing” might even be spicier than Trader Joe’s own Sriracha knock-off. How does that even work?
Overall, the whole ranch dressing part takes a serious back seat to the sriracha. That means if you want to use this dressing to kick up your burger and fries, add flare to your tacos, or serve as a dipping sauce for chicken wings you’re in good shape. However, if you want to slather it on a bed of lettuce and carrots, you had better be ready for your lips to blaze with the fire of a thousand raging suns. It’s far more a hot sauce than a salad dressing.
As far as I’m concerned, I could maybe see incorporating this into an Asian noodle salad or similar, but this was way to spicy for my daily salad needs.
Would I Recommend It: Only if you like your salads hot.
Would I Buy It Again: Nope, too spicy for me.
Final Synopsis: A good hot sauce substitute, but not great on salads.
Trader Joe’s Wild King Salmon JerkyPosted: August 13, 2015 Filed under: Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: 2 stars, fish jerky, jerky, salmon, salmon jerky, Snacks, Trader Joe's 8 Comments
Trader Joe’s can now proudly claim they belong to that class of supermarkets that doesn’t have canned pineapple, or beans, but does carry two different kinds of salmon jerky. Which is to say that Trader Joe’s is in a class all by itself.
|What it is:||Jerky made from salmon|
|Price:||$5.49 for a 3 oz. bag|
|Worth it:||No. Fish jerky tastes weird.|
Trader Joe’s Wild King Salmon Jerky is, yes, the second salmon jerky Trader Joe’s has brought to market. The original Wild Salmon Jerky I reviewed way back in 2012 when I first started this blog. Back then I had two big issues with their jerky. ( Or three, if you count the fact that it’s weird to jerk salmon in the first place).
The original salmon jerky was very fishy smelling, almost like the smell you get from a box of fish food, and, worse, very sweet due to the addition of brown sugar, molasses, carmelized sugar, and maple syrup. As a result I gave the original salmon jerky a big thumbs down.
Trader Joe’s acknowledges on their own website that the original salmon jerky had some issues, and so decided to reformulate it – hence our new, slightly different named, wild king salmon jerky. However, is the new version any better?
On both accounts, it actually is. This new salmon jerky has a far milder smell – nowhere near as fishy as the original version. TJ’s attributes this to the use of Alsakan king salmon instead of the previous chum salmon. I’d imagine there was probably a change in processing as well.
I’m also happy to report that even Trader Joe’s is capable of stepping back from the howling abyss of madness, and decided to cut down way down on the amount of sickly sweet sugar going into this fish jerky. Like any good jerky brine, there’s still a dose of brown sugar in there, but it isn’t nearly as much. The result is a much cleaner taste, that lets the dried salmon taste speak for itself.
Which brings up back to that third point from way up above. Yes, it’s a marked improvement on their last salmon jerky – but is it actually something you would want to eat? What does this fishy jerky taste like?
Trader Joe’s indicates that this salmon was smoked as part of the jerking process, and that’s what you’ll taste most of all – the distinctive, musky flavor of smoked salmon. If you’ve ever had that, just imagine drying it out it’s hard, and spicing it with a dash of salt and garlic.
It’s not necessarily the best taste in the world, but it is edible. I never found myself really enjoying it at any point in the way I might happily gnawing on a fine piece of beef jerky. That said, the flavors were more odd, than objectionable. I could imagine slowly becoming acustomed to it over time, but I can’t think of a reason why I would want to when Trader Joe’s offers a selection of other tasty jerkies – like their sriracha bacon jerky, and South African biltong jerky.
While it’s certainly an improvement, there are better ways to eat your salmon, and better ways to eat your jerky. No need to take this detour aside from general human curiosity.
Would I Recommend It: Not while there are so many other tasty types of jerky out there.
Would I Buy It Again: No, I would not.
Final Synopsis: An improved fish jerky – but still, it’s fish jerky.