September 24, 2010

Trader Joe's Corn Dogs

Sorry for missing last week's review - I realized late Saturday night that I hadn't posted anything for Friday morning, and by then it was too late to do anything, so I figured I'd just wait until I had something solid to post, rather than cobble something together. Nothing but the best for my readers.

So today, I'm going to talk about something that's been in my freezer for quite some time. I'd made a big fake meat purchase at Trader Joe's a while back, about half of which was refrigerated stuff and half frozen, so I had to use up all the non-frozen stuff first. You know how it goes. So here comes my next Trader Joe's review.

As recommended by j spiker here, I decided it was time to try Trader Joe's Corn Dogs.

Easy enough preparation - bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Nothing fancy - it's just a frozen corn dog, for crying out loud. Usually, when I get frozen real-meat corn dogs, I have to bake them for quite a bit longer than indicated, to get the level of crispy-crunch I like. These, however, were super crunchy and perfect at the end of the prescribed 20 minutes. I was pretty excited to dig in, to be honest. Texture is a big thing for me. So, I busted out some ketchup (much as I try, I just can't get into mustard), and took a big, optimistic bite.

Luckily, I was not disappointed. The texture of the cornbread part was awesome! Ditto the flavor! Just like the real-meat corn dogs I like. However, the dog part was a little different, as you'd expect. A little background - when I get real-meat corn dogs, I prefer the beef dogs to the pork (or, as my favorite brand calls it, "classic"), because they have a more meaty flavor. Pork hot dogs just don't cut it, ever since I switched to beef hot dogs. So I've built up a pretty high standard for corn dogs. Once I got over the fact that it wasn't beef, I was able to fully embrace the experience. No weird flavors from the dog - at least, none that I could detect over the taste of the cornbread - and the texture was just mushy enough to simulate a cheap hot dog (the kind with ingredients that you try not to think too much about).

There's a very good chance that we'll eat these again. They are close enough to satisfy a corn dog craving (at least, for me), and are drastically lower in fat than a real-meat corn dog. We're talking about a 65% reduction in fat, here, plus a bonus 3 grams of protein per corn dog. The calorie content is relatively similar, but if you're concentrating on eating less fat (especially saturated fat) and cholesterol (no meat = no cholesterol), then this is a good way to go.

Well done, Trader Joe's - you've restored my faith in your products. Until next time, perhaps. We'll have to see.

The experience:
Texture - Crunchy on the outside, squishy on the inside - very accurate representation of a frozen real-meat corn dog
Flavor - Cornbread part was great - hot dog part didn't have a great deal of flavor on its own, but it's not intended to be eaten on its own, so who cares?

Final grade for this attempt: A

September 10, 2010

Tofurky Deli Slices, Hickory Smoked

This week, we're checking out another lunchmeat product: Tofurky Hickory Smoked Deli Slices. I had tested out the oven roasted variety before, and was a little disappointed at the lack of flavor, but was hopeful that the actual flavored varieties might work better. Let's take a look.

As before, they bragged about their thin slices, but I keep forgetting that whenever I go to the package. I see what looks like nice, thick slices, and I pull one out, only to discover that it's two slices stuck together. And then, since I'm generally not excited by paper-thin slices of meat (or meat analogues), I went ahead and used the two slices still stuck together. Take that, thin-slice mafia! Once again, I went the crackers and cheese route, since that's the way I do things at my house. But first, I sampled a bite of deli slice on its own. Gotta say, not great. Same off-flavor as the last deli slice product. But, it seemed a little bit less prominent, as the slice had a more smoked-turkey-ish flavor.

So I loaded up some crackers with Swiss cheese and some fake meat turkey slices. Once I had everything all together, and I don't say this often, it actually tasted just like real lunchmeat turkey. The powerful Swiss flavor overwhelmed the off-flavor, but the hickory-smoked flavor stuck around. I assume this was also due to the fact that I had a double layer of the deli slice - not sure if a single super-thin slice would have stood up to the cheese. Honestly, this was very tasty, and I've eaten it again since testing out this product. Once I'm done trying out all the other flavors of deli slices that Tofurky has to offer, I just might end up buying this on a more regular basis.

The experience:
Texture - Standard lunchmeat texture - nothing much else to say about that.
Flavor - Not great alone, but when combined with other ingredients, it actually tasted just like turkey lunchmeat.

Final grade for this attempt: A

September 3, 2010

Trader Joe's Chicken-less Pulled Chicken

This week, we veer away from the meatless meatball realm and towards some chicken-less chicken. That's right - more Trader Joe's Chicken-less Chicken! Pulled chicken, this time, with barbecue sauce! As with the chicken-less stuffed cutlets, the box is less than enthusiastic about its contents. The highest praise it can muster is "good, home-style barbecue on every count." But in my experience, a good barbecue sauce can cover a myriad of flaws, so maybe these won't be so bad.

This was one example of the picture on the package not looking as good as the contents of the package. Not sure what exactly they were going for, but the picture has some really dim lighting, which leads the food to not look terribly appetizing. It does look better on a bun than in a plastic pouch, but still… Actually, the package itself looks worse than the scanned version I posted here. Weird.

I followed the instructions carefully - again, the recommended method was the microwave. I pierced the bag and placed it into a bowl, and microwaved that sucker for the required 2 minutes (until hot, as indicated). Then I carefully cut open the bag the rest of the way (careful - it really does get quite hot), and scooped out a chunk of chicken-less chicken. I took a deep breath and ate it. First off, the sauce was very nice.

Side note: I've been coming around to the whole barbecue sauce thing over the years. I was never much into it - in fact, my parents would leave a couple pieces of chicken un-sauced for me when my dad was grilling some barbecued chicken, because I just liked it better that way. But now, thanks to my wife's near-obsession with the stuff, I eat it a lot more.

Okay - back to the chicken-less chicken. The sauce was good, but it was unable to disguise the flavor of the chicken-less chicken. That's some serious flavor happening if barbecue sauce can't cover it. It did, however, mute it significantly. And, with further experimentation, when eaten on some bread, the flavor was much more manageable. In fact, I thought I'd go ahead and eat some more of it. While I was munching away, I pondered the texture. Plain, it still had that weird springiness that I noticed in the stuffed cutlets, but for this application it didn't seem terribly out of place. With the bread involved, the springy texture was also downplayed a bit.

One more thing I noticed while working my way through my chicken-less pulled chicken sandwich: if I waited too long between bites (at least 30 seconds or so), a weird aftertaste crept in - sort of reminiscent of body odor. Not great, and it actually prevented me from finishing my sandwich, because after this happened a couple times, it got me thinking about what might be in there that would cause that aftertaste, and suddenly I just didn't want to eat it anymore.

The experience:
Texture - Weirdly springy, but didn't seem too bad for this purpose
Flavor - The barbecue sauce took care of most of the nastiness - the bread took care of most of the rest. That aftertaste though…

Final grade for this attempt: B-