Food Buzz

Because maybe you do care what I had for lunch...

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The last to know: Trader Joe's

We kind of live in an alternate universe out there in Brooklyn. Park Slope is this little family-friendly, adorable boutique-laden, movie-ready enclave as it is. We sometimes like to pretend we're not really part of the United States of America. Add to that the Park Slope Food Coop and you might as well call the neighborhood a little socialist republic of loveliness. I mean, grass-fed ground beef for $5.99 a pound? Please.

Every once in a while I'll venture outside of Brooklyn and try to shop at Whole Foods. It all goes well, since the place is basically a larger, tidier PSFC, until I get to the checkout. The bill is invariably twice what it would be at the Coop, and I invariably panic.

Now I'd heard about Trader Joe's for years and even visited one once back when we had a car, about five or so years ago. I don't remember much from that visit, except that we purchased a bottle of truffle oil that sat in our pantry unused because everyone knows you use truffle oil only when you're out of ideas and need something to make your food taste "fancy." Years later a Trader Joe's opened in Manhattan but I never went because I'd heard the lines were always long and if I wanted to wait in a long line for my food I could stay in my own borough and shop at the Coop.

All of this is to say I AM SO EXCITED TO BE LIVING WITHIN BIKING DISTANCE TO A TRADER JOE'S HERE IN CALIFORNIA. It's not the same as the five-minute walk to the Coop, but there are some advantages.

Before I made my first trip to Trader Joe's I found this bag of potstickers in the freezer.

Yeah, and they're great, especially with ponzu sauce. (We'll replace them, Dough & Rebecca.) I didn't like how they package much of the produce -- I prefer selecting my own quantities. But they have these cute little salsa and guacamole packages. They're missing the cilantro, but it's still a clever idea. I love the samples, especially since they keep Jasper amused while we shop. He picked out this green tea mochi ice cream, by the way. We'd just gone out for sushi the night before and he was delighted by these hand-held treats.

The item that most excited me was the fresh pizza crust dough. I bought some with fresh herbs mixed in and then bought some "starter" tomato sauce that was pretty good on its own and a cheap ball of mozarella. We made the pizzas tonight. I stretched the dough out into two pies; good thing I did since as even a thin layer of the dough took a while to cook. There was no helping Jasper's meltdown, however. The clock at the pool was an hour and a half slow so he was stark raving mad with hunger by the time I finally dragged him out of the pool and home to start dinner.

Fortunately (for me) Lane had picked out some two-dollar Argentine wine at Trader Joe's. It was surprisingly drinkable. Either I was too exasperated to care or all that Yellowtail we've been drinking in Brooklyn has really lowered my standards. At any rate, I'm looking forward to visiting the famed institution Beltramo's for some good California wine. Meanwhile, please be patient with me as I "discover" Trader Joe's. I know you're totally over it. I'll try to make it new for you, really I will.


Adriana Velez said...

Oh yeah, and we topped the pizza with olives, salami, and sweet potatoes. TJ's sells bags of sweet potato sticks which are probably fantastic on their own bakes with olive oil and salt. But since the asparagus I was planning on using had turned I needed a vegetable, so I diced the potatoes and they were pretty good on the pizza.

Luisa Perkins said...

I'm not over TJ's. The nearest one for me is 45 minutes away; I keep hoping they'll put one in closer to us. In the winter, I can't get enough of their frozen skinny whole green beans. And the chocolate-covered Dulce de Leche balls....

Anonymous said...

Chocolate-covered dulce de leche balls? You're killing me here.

We have a TJ's in our neighborhood, and it's great for less-guilt-inspiring prepared foods, especially for parties. Sometime pretend you're having a party (or actually have one!) and get the frozen little sweet onion tarts and spanakopita. Maybe pretending to have the party would be better, because then you could eat all the onion tarts yourself.

I also have a serious problem not buying every other item in the cookie/candy aisle (are they always located conveniently over the frozen foods?). Their cookies are buttery and crunchy and nut-rich, just like they ought to be.

Hmm, must be close to dinner time.

Janet M Kincaid said...

The trick with TJ's fresh pizza dough is to throw in a little flour as you roll it out and then to roll it out as thinly as you possibly can. I've had similar issues with 'doughiness' when I use their stuff, but 4 out of 5 time, I end up with decent pizza. And it's a fun way to make a meal when it involves friends with kids. I always let everyone make their own.

Hevansrich said...

yes, the delicious, inventive treats ARE always located over the yummy, quick, quirky frozen foods. by far my favorite aisle. (and Jed's too, because it has a faux pirate ship theme to the aisle. really!) (ps i love the mini choc. peanut butter cups. really good mixed in ice cream or better by themselves...)

Anonymous said...

I once substituted those mini peanut butter cups for chocolate chips in chocolate cookies. Yummy, if a little too sweet--they would work better if they were *dark* chocolate peanut butter cups.

Adriana Velez said...

Thanks for the tip, Janet.

Cookies and dulce de leche balls? I'll have to look for those.

ME said...

I always prebaked the TJ crusts for a few minutes before slathering on the toppings. They end up nice and crispy by the time the cheese melts.

I can't find premade pizza dough here. I REALLY miss it--especially the kind with the herbs already in it. That used to sell out first. I can make crust if I happen to think about it a day or two ahead of time--which has happened exactly once in the last 10 months. I've thought of approaching local pizza joints to ask if they'll sell me some dough balls, but haven't worked up the courage.

When we're in CA, we stock up on TJ stuff. I go for boxed/bagged speciality items (dried tomatoes, mushrooms, pine nuts) and Mike blows his wad on the candy aisle. Fortunately, he shares.

Mary Ellen