Best of Trader Joe’s

When I first moved to LA, I stumbled across a Trader Joeís one day when I was giving a party. Someone told me they had cheap, but good wine. Iíll never forget how thrilled I was to be able to buy not only decent wine, but also really cool eatsÖthat seemed homemade. Try their killer olive paste in a jar, or their frozen mini-crab cakes when you want to get a party started fast. Yum!
Started in 1958 as a convenience store chain called ìPronto Marketsî, the owner, and yes, his name is Joe, decided on an image makeover in 1967. He devoted his entire stock to culinary, hard to find specialty items and also worked to find healthy food at the lowest prices possible. To create an image and lend a fun feel to the place, he adopted a nautical theme for the stores by insisting that everyone wear Hawaiian shirts. It worked, because no matter where I go into a Trader Joeís, the people who work there seem to be having a good time. Here at we all have our secret favís and decided to share them with you. Mine run the gamut from the ice cream sandwich soy ëcuitesí, which are a full dollar less than at Whole Foods, to their organic Caesar salad dressing which is perfect for just about everything you dip into it. I also love the fact that they try hard to stock organic everything (chicken, strawberries, soy milk) at reasonable prices. Hereís some tips from the gang:

Man-oh-man, my larder is full of TJ’s finest. Aside from their insanely
great, everyday-low prices on cheese, nuts and hooch (staples of the
communicatrix’s Get Fat Quick! diet), I’m a repeat purchaser of the house
brand gourmet sausages (SCD-compliant), the watery (but addictive) Salsa
Authentica and those coconut-date rolls that are so good they make my eyes
roll into the back of my head.

But if I have to pick one favorite, it’s the humble blue can of Bay Blend
coffee. I grind the beans myself to brew in a machinetta (stovetop espresso
maker) and lemme tell you, barring King’s Road and Silver Lake Coffee, me and TJ’s make as good an Americano as almost any coffee house in town. Well, for the price, anyway.

Frozen Tamales. Has to be the frozen tamales. So much yummy goodness in such a little package. And so cheap! They have three kinds – beef, chicken and cheese, and green chile and cheese. I’m partial to the chicken,
personally, with beef second on the list. But watch out, they’ve just
started wrapping the beef tamales individually inside the packaging. I
didn’t notice at first – boy did that taste unpleasant.

Sliced organic Havarti. So creamy and tasty and no hormones!
Naan – both garlic and curry. Brush a little olive oil on top, grab a slice of
the aforementioned Havarti, and toast in the toaster oven. Heavenly. Or ñ toast the naan and get some…
Hummus. I’m particularly fond of the 4-variety package. Regular, garlic, spicy, and tomato, I think. I always forget what the last one is.
Add in a bottle of Chilean or South Australian wine for around $5 and you’ve got yourself a party.

OK, fine! I’ll give up the best kept Trader Joe’s secret in town.
Trader Joe’s has a precooked, frozen pizza called “Trader Giotto’s Three Cheese Pizza.” It cooks in about 8 minutes and it’s damn near the best frozen pizza I’ve ever had. Oh. And it’s like 4 bucks.

When I feel like braving the Trader Joe’s parking lot in Silver Lake I always get two things: 1) this McDonald-esque hash browns that are the most delicious breakfast treats on the entire planet and 2) the $2 garlic olive oil. I cannot live without these two things. Of course other things about TJ are nice too such as the fabulous wine selection and the cheaper than normal Jameson and Johnnie Walker Black.

1) Trader Joe’s Low-Fat Pre-Stirred Lemon Yogurt – If I were J.D. Powers I’d bestow upon it a “Best in Class” award.
2)Solea Olive Oil potato chips. I’m embarrassed to admit how fast I tore through a bag of their Rosemary chips. Just about the best most addictive chip I’ve ever tasted. Other flavors include Sea Salt, Lemon, and Cracked Pepper. Hell, just typing this up I gotta go get me some more.
3) But not before giving it up for the ubiquitous Two-Buck Chuck. Wine connies keep your swish & spit sensibilities.. Charles Shaw’s Cabernet is all I need. Only way to make it better is if they’d follow Franzia and package it in a box.

My favorite item at Trader Joe’s has got to be there incredibly cheap yet totally delicious selection of brie cheese. In fact, there entire stock of cheese is both extremely affordable and tantalizing to the taste budís. But the brie is my favorite.
It simply melts in your mouth, and paired with some of their re-bake it yourself french bread it’s any cheese lover’s dream come true.
Now with that said, can I rant a little? I absolutely HATE their selection of fruit. There’s always too much per bad, box, or whatever, and half of it is usually rotten anyway. What’s up with that? You’d think a store that scores so high in every other
yummy respect would be able to hold it together with the fruit and veggies, but no, it’s all disgusting! Anyway, there’s my best and worst of Trader Joe’s.

19 thoughts on “Best of Trader Joe’s”

  1. Oh man, where to begin? Their refrigerated pizza dough. The frozen tamales. The fact that Mochi ice cream costs much less $$ there than anywhere else. The “Tasty Bites” brand of open-heat-and-serve Indian cuisine. The lowfat cranberry orange bread. The turkey meatloaf and chicken lasagna, both in the refrigerator case. Two-buck Chuck. And so much more…

  2. Frozen turkey meatballs! Eggplant Hummus with Sea Salt Pita Chips! The stuffed flank steak with spinach, red bell pepper, and feta (fresh)! Dill couscous stuffed Salmon filets (fresh)! Cheap flats of sport-top bottled water! Frozen spinach lasagna! Low-Fat Frozen Chicken Chow Mein!

    Shit, I know where I’m going after work now . . . .

  3. i agree that their brie is awesome. a while back a co-worker picked me up a wedge of it on her lunch break and it tasted like butter. i actually sat at my desk eating it with a spoon.

  4. One of my favorite treats is their frozen shrimp/vegetable stir-fry. And they have fantastic prices on “staples” like whole wheat pasta and sprouted grain bread. We live on their Cream Line Whole Milk Plain Yogurt. And they charge less for milk and eggs than my local supermarket in Lynwood.

  5. Trader Joes should cut a deal with Vons to have them do their online grocery delivery. Nothing would make me happier than having TJs delivered right to my door.

  6. It’s all about the Vodka Monopolowa! Polish-style potato vodka (made in Austria), but smoooth! Potato vodka isn’t easy to find in the first place, and if you do it’s usually Chopin for like $32 a bottle (or more). For that price, you can buy 4 BOTTLES of Monopolowa!! It’s the best!!

    (also, TJ’s sausages, granola, cheese, juice, yogurt, etc., etc. But really, $8 vodka??)

  7. Here’s a couple of staple meals: “Italian” – Organic Vodka Sauce, Frozen Turkey Meatballs and weekly pasta choice, with a salad. For an easy lunch, “Erik’s TJ Fish Taco/Wrap” – Frozen Tilipia Filet (cooked per instructions), baby spinach, shredded cheese; heat a $0.99 flour tortilla over gas range 10-20 secs each side. Add spinach, fish, cheese and any other condiments.
    Can’t seem to function without their Guac-in-a-box, Garlic Hummus, Dill Havarti, Cheese Enchiladas… on-and-on…

  8. I almost can’t pick a favorite… No, of course I can’t. I find myself stuck forever in South California because of my TJ. And don’t come tell me about the other locations of TJ! ;)

    Well, since I’m on a diet, I will have to say that I’ve been doing a lot of the baby broccoli steamed and dipped into the eggplant hummus. Sharon’s lemon Sherbet is a good friend of ours, too.

    Cindy, I hear you about the fruit… however I find TJ is my favorite source of blueberries during summertime (I’ll have, like, 1 pound a day) and lately I’ve been pretty fond of their lychees – I found that the yellowish ones are tastier and meatier than the red ones! :)

  9. 1) Tuna in three kinds of curry sauces (panang, yellow, and green).

    2) Jarred Pesto sauce. Put it on top of just about anything and you have an instant appetizer.

    3) Monopolova Vodka. The best $10 vodka you’ll ever buy. Guaranteed. Also, the bottle is v. cute.

    4) Frozen Fruit (particularly the mango). Great for smoothies, or for eating on a hot summer day.

  10. Right now I’m addicted to their Hawaiian Style Aged White Cheddar Potato Chips. But pretty much everything is good there, except Two-Buck Chuck. I’m not a complete wine snob, but I do have some standards. :D Rosemount Estates makes a great Shiraz.

  11. TJ’s is the only store where I got Food Poisoning (Greek Yogurt Tziki Dip) and still happily return every week.

    -Olive Oil Rosemary Chips
    -Black Corn Salted Tortilla Chips (although they recently changed suppliers and taste different)
    -Eggplant Hummus

    I have to go now – This is making me hungry.

    FYI – It was the worse case of food poisoning I’ve ever had, knocked me out a whole week.

  12. I’m looking for a spinach – strawberry – mandarin oragnes – salted pecans, etc. salad with Trader Joe’s raspberry balsamic vinegarette dressing (no fat). Does anyone have this recipe? Please email if so.
    Thank you!

  13. I nearly puked after my first visit to Trader Joe’s! Their pizza tastes like cardboard, their gelato is way off, and their trail mix smells like dirty laundry. Very stale to say the least. I will never go to TJ’s again. I’ll stick to the local Tops or Giant Eagle. Seriously, TJ’s has to have the worst tasting food ever sampled in any supermarket i’ve been to.

  14. I hate trader joe’s. I hate the people who shop there. I hate the people who work there. The people at Ralph’s or Von’s are so gentle and sweet. You get to trader joe’s and everyone is smug, pushy and entitled to be in front of you and stop in the middle of the aisle and talk on their phones to aks their spouse about which $1.48 bottle of wine they want.

    I used to live in laurel canyon and the people there had this bucolic peaceful exterior, but they were all pig shitheads who were in a rush to get home and align their chakras and didn’t care who the fuck the ran off the road to accomplish that. trader joes is laurel canyon in a store.

    plus, you can’t read the price labels because the dredlocked/tatooed/ponytailed/vegan assholes who work there write them in different colored inks and put them in counterintuitive places.

    yes, i hate trader joe’s. slightly less than erewhon. erewhon should be invaded by gangs with blowtorches.

    oh… and those fucking clever brands. the mexican food is “trader jose’s”. hahaha hooo, oh man, they’re funny. if they were really funny, the oriental food would be called “tlader joe”.

    the only good thing about trader joe’s (other than driving by and not going inside) is that their workers aren’t unionized but have better benefits and crap than union stores. but you still can’t convince anyone who works there that unions are worthless.

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