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 blogging.la 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.