Friday, March 20, 2009

Trader Joe's

This month, a Trader Joe's opened up in my neighborhood. I'd been to a TJ once before but wasn't too impressed. But since a TJ was now going to be within walking distance of the homestead, I thought I should give them another try. I'm glad I did. TJ, for those of you who aren't familiar with one, is a grocery chain that specializes in selling its own brands of food, everything from beers to frozen coissants, at reasonable prices. The problem with TJ is that their store brand items are totally hit-or-miss. Like their cheeses: sucks. I bought a Monterey Jack that wouldn't melt and was tasteless. Their "Parmesan" cheese crumbled so badly, it was impossible to grate, and had an icky taste. Their gyozas aren't much better: I tasted the Thai vegetable gyoza and the filling was gluey. Yuk. And I'd stay away from their toilet paper or tissue, unless you're seriously into self-harming or get off sandpapering your body parts. I dunno — that works for some people. I'm not judging.

BUT, I like their frozen tamales. Good flavor and so handy to have around. And, surprisingly, their frozen chocolate croissants work. Okay, they're really not croissants — they have yeast in it for god's sake — but they do bake up nice and crispy (although a tad greasy) and the chocolate isn't bad. I will also give them BIG bonus points because TJ included two bars of chocolate instead of a measly one (I get so upset about this, I actually joined the Facebook cause crying for the inclusion of two bars in every chocolate croissant). I also love the fact that it comes in such a tiny package (my freezer is minuscule) but bake up so big and fat and fluffy.

So, being a newbie to Trader Joe's, I have to ask: what's good at Trader Joe's? what should be avoided? Please comment!

Oh! Here's a fun video about TJ from Carls Fine films.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pastrami Heaven

Before moving to LA, I'd always thought New York was pastrami heaven. I now realize LA is pastrami heaven. In New York, pastrami is something you find in Jewish delis. And God forbid, you eat it in any other form except as a sandwich on rye with mustard. In LA, pastrami is everywhere. At hot dog stands, hamburger joints, taco eateries. And it's in everything, from burritos to double dips. A pastrami burrito? How good is that, you might ask? I have to admit, I haven't had any good examples. There's a famous one at the Oki Dog on Pico, but I couldn't see the point of it all (it was huge, with a lot of cabbage so it was like a pastrami stir-fry wrapped in a giant tortilla). Much more successful is the concoction at Oinkster, a huge pastrami sandwich on a bun dripping with red slaw and gruyere cheese.

Does that mean LA pastrami is inferior to New York's? Not at all. In fact, my all-time favorite pastrami is at Langer's. Langer's pastrami is sliced thick and framed with succulent fat — the prime rib of pastrami. And their rye bread is fantastic. I also like the pastrami at Greenblatt's, which is more like the New York deli kind, sliced thinner, a bit drier, but absolutely addictive. With Pastrami King now Pastrami Queen and Second Avenue Deli no longer Second Avenue Deli, there seems to be less and less things I miss about New York.