Monday, August 5, 2013
10 adventurous items to look for at Dallas’ new Trader Joe’s
It's open now.
DALLAS Trader Joe's opened its Greenville Avenue location on Friday, August 9, and as Plano and Fort Worth shoppers have learned, whenever the California-based specialty grocer moves into a new neighborhood, it brings along a selection of curious goods.
But what exactly does that mean?
Trader Joe's locations tend to be smaller than big-box grocery stores. The new Greenville Avenue Trader Joe's is 14,000 square feet -- larger than the locally-owned Green Grocer -- and comparable to the former Newflower Market, recently rebranded under the Sprouts Farmers Market name. But, Trader Joe's isn't your one-stop supermarket with loads of produce and name brand items.
In fact, while TJ's does feature staples and sparse produce, its real strength comes in the form of gourmet condiments and pre-packaged meals with emphasis on hard-to-find special diet items, unusual combinations, "exotic" tastes, and environmentalism. They also feature a health and beauty section with household items, cosmetics, vitamins, and supplements. Many of Trader Joe's products bear labels declaring unique qualities appealing to niche crowds such as: gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, kosher, quick meals, fat free, and low sodium.
While the prepackaged and prepared meals concept may sound similar to eatZi's, Trader Joe's does not offer on-the-go take-out stations like the former. And, it also doesn't bear its higher price tag. According to CNN Money, about 80% of Trader Joe's merchandise falls under its own Trader Joe's label, which saves customers money.
Instead, TJ's functions as a place to explore -- a spot for the adventurous foodie who is not in a hurry or in need of a specific item for a recipe. And don't get too tied to a brand or flavor: TJ's selection frequently changes. According to the official site, the chain introduces and eliminates 10 to 15 items per week, stating that each item must "earn a spot" on Trader Joe shelves by maintaining popularity with enough shoppers.
Here are a few of our favorite items you'd likely have a hard time finding anywhere other than Trader Joe's:
Dark chocolate edamame: In Portlandia, the solution to most any query may be "put a bird on it," but at Trader Joe's, the answer is "dip it in chocolate." Among its rarer experiments are edamame, pomegranate seeds, ginger, and sunflower seeds.
Two-Buck Chuck: The nickname may be misleading, but only slightly. Trader Joe's infamous Charles Shaw brand wines are still $1.99 per bottle in California, but in most other states, the price is $2.99 due to shipping fees. Still, it's hard to shake a stick at spending "three bucks" for not-bad vino. (Seasoned wine drinkers may not agree.)
Falafel chips: Made from garbanzo beans, duh, and corn with cayenne, cumin, garlic, and other spices, falafel chips are thin and flaky like a tortilla chip, and meant for dipping. Another bold chip is Trader Joe's exclusive Cheddar and Horseradish Potato chip, which, according to TJ's, complements the store's sweet, caramelized onion dip.
Edamame tofu nuggets: A TJ's exclusive, these curious little chunks are advertised as a vegetarian version of chicken nuggets, prime for dipping and snacking, with a crispy outside filled with smooth tofu and "toothsome" edamame and carrot filler. Yum?
Cookie butter: If you've heard anyone raving about Trader Joe's, you've likely already caught wind of this little gem. Like nut butter but, y'know, made from cookies, this is a fan-favorite and essentially a variation on spreadable dessert. Other exciting butters include pumpkin and chocolate almond. TJ's is also the spot if you're looking for coconut oil, which also comes in a sprayable variety.
Wild blueberry vanilla chevre: Goats have received a brand turnaround, with their comical renditions of Taylor Swift songs, but the oft-misunderstood barnyard animal has always been ahead of the cheese game. The tart blueberries and aromatic vanilla accentuate this creamy cheese at Trader Joe's.
Turkey meatloaf muffins: They're frozen, individually sized slices of turkey meatloaf, but in a twist of hearty, starchy proportions, they're topped with sauteed spinach and a major dollop of Parmesan mashed potatoes. TJ's calls them "architectural accomplishments," but we've got to wonder if they turn out soggy.
Espresso pillows: One more item that TJ likes to dip in chocolate are crunchy espresso beans. They offer a jolt of caffeine and decadent flavor with only 70 calories for 22 pieces. The espresso beans are "toffeed" and covered with heart-healthy dark chocolate, making them a wiser indulgence.
Quinoa steel cut oatmeal: Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is an ancient grain that has made a recent reappearance among health conscious eaters. And while most mainstream stores now carry it, Trader Joe's has just released a new breakfast mix with the higher-protein quinoa added to steel cut whole-grain groats and sweet maple syrup. It could help take the guesswork out of "power-packed" breakfast combos.
Strawberry chia smoothie: If you've yet to jump on the chia bandwagon -- yes, of "cha-cha-cha-chia" fame -- this is an easy way to get your feet wet. When mixed with water, the healthful seed expands, locking in hydration and nutrients, and turning into an unusual gel with a questionable (but pleasant, mostly tasteless) texture. Trader Joe's puts the thick and slightly slimy gel into a strawberry smoothie, which tones down chia's shock factor with major yum factor.
What have we missed, and what are some of your favorites? Have you had luck finding similarly obscure items at other Dallas grocers?
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