I went off to Trader Joe’s Thurs. night, having recently discovered there was one in the area. If Whole Foods is the Giant Eagle/Heinen’s of natural food, then Trader Joe’s is the Aldi/Save-a-lot. They’d probably be insulted by this, but it’s an accurate comparison: smaller stores, no ready-to-eat food, a big reliance on store brands, and low prices. Whole Foods is fun to go to, but they kind of lost my respect when I saw the varietal chicken eggs; sorry, I’ve raised a number of breeds of chicken, and there’s no discernible difference in taste between Rhode Island Reds, Araucanas, and Leghorns, and it isn’t really nice to fleece the city slickers who don’t know better, at 3/$1 (i.e., $4/doz). (To be fair, there’s a “brown egg mystique” out there too; brown eggs aren’t ipso facto better, it’s just that brown egg breeds are more likely to be ranged, and that definitely makes a difference in the product.)
Here’s what I love about TJ’s:
1. Cheese! They have a selection of raw milk cheeses for under $10/lb. Yes, WF has wonderful cheese too, but it’s a lot spendier. I’ve just had the Swiss Emmenthaler @8.99, and it’s wonderful. I also bought NY extra-sharp firstname.lastname@example.org and their regular cheddar @5.29. IIRC, that’s even lower than the lowest price I’ve seen for Heini’s raw milk cheddar. Yes, I wish they were Aldi cheese prices, but I’m willing to pay a little more for raw milk.
2, Booze! TJ’s became famous for Charles Wood wine, aka “Two-buck Chuck”. It’s $3.69 now. I bought some Shiraz, and a slightly more expensive ($4.29?) J.W. Morris Riesling
But TJs also does a whole run of craft/import beer knockoffs. I just finished a Simpler Times lager. This is an excellent, full-bodied beer. I’m reminded of what the old Frankenmuth Brewery used to say about their beer: “Pour it in a glass with 2 ice cubes, let the ice cubes melt, and it tastes just like Coors.” Except it doesn’t. there’s a hint of aged hops, sort of like the revival POC (alas, now defunct) but not as strong. It’s very drinkable but at 6.2% alcohol, you won’t want to overdo. $3.99/6 cans. $4.99/6 bottles…sipping beer at lawnmower beer prices. Buy! Buy! Buy!
They also have a generic lawnmower beer which I haven’t tried yet.
Black Toad is a “dark ale”…pretty much a porter, really. Not too hoppy, a creamy finish.
Trader Jose Light and Dark are their Mexican beers (made in Mexico). The dark is supposed to be a Negro Modelo knockoff, per the store advertising. Er, not quite. It’s too brash and fizzy to be a Negro Modelo. Not a bad drink, and would go well with Mexican food, just not Negro Modelo.
I have the Stockyard oatmeal stout and the Vienna lager yet to try…but 3 beers in a day is about my limit, lightweight that I am.
3. Other stuff. Their coffee looked interesting, and reasonably priced, but not competitive with the Aldi Beaumont French Roast I’ve been drinking. I’ll try it someday. The Euro-style Yogurt is a quality product at $2.99, but there again, Aldi has the better deal. I’d gotten some excellent chicken-basil sausages there on an earlier visit, $3.99 IIRC. This last time, they were demo-ing seafood sausage. Tasty but quite fishy, definitely something that would not appeal to the wife, and at $5.99/lb a little spendy for sausage. In general, their cured meats looked quite interesting and competitive. Some of their breads looked quite interesting, but I’m not eating grain products these days. Also some good frozen entrees for those who do that sort of thing, including some Indian dishes.