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Last Month With No Joe

July 3, 2012

Have I told you yet that I’m going to miss the Grand Opening of the Capital Region’s long awaited Trader Joe’s? I already broke the news to AOA Greg. He’s the one who generally sends me into the swarming masses of humanity on the days when a long-awaited market opens its doors in our region.

When The Fresh Market opened, I was there.
When The Pioneer Market (aka the Troy Co-op) opened, I was there.
When ShopRite opened, I was there.

But on arguably the biggest day in the last decade for Capital Region grocery shoppers, I will be in Pennsylvania. And part of me is a little bit relieved. Because while it’s fun to have an excuse to brave the crowds on opening day, I really wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of spending the wee early hours of the morning in a parking lot on Wolf Road.

Mark my words. People will be sleeping out.

I just hope everyone stays calm, and there aren’t too many fender benders on day one. Still, I will get in there just as soon as I can, even if it’s mobbed. While there are a lot of things at TJs that I love, there is only one that I REALLY NEED RIGHT NOW!

That would be a regular source of tasty and inexpensive olive oil in glass bottles.

Holy cow, I go through olive oil in the summertime like nobody’s business. It dresses all of those salad greens, it gets brushed on vegetables that go on the grill, it carries the flavor of all my favorite raw pureed sauces (like pesto and salsa verde), it emulsifies my cold bean dips, and it also fills its normal role of sauteeing my vegetables.

The good olive oil is mostly reserved for bread dipping, topping popcorn, or otherwise finishing a dish. The good stuff doesn’t get heated. Actually, I hope to experiment with some on vanilla ice cream with a bit of sea salt.

Yes, a lot of my food would probably be a lot better if I used better oil. Especially the raw dishes, like the bean spreads and salad dressings. The killer part is the difference in cost. Using exclusively good olive oil would break the bank. But the stuff we get at the supermarket in large multi-liter tins is decidedly not delicious. With some careful picking, it can be fine. However, sometimes it’s unpleasantly bitter. And other times, it doesn’t taste like anything. And for sautéing foods where lots of other flavors get added, that’s fine.

But inferior oil makes green salads that much more unpalatable.

Trader Joe’s does have a few varieties of olive oil that fill this middle ground nicely. It’s been a while since I’ve been, and they have a way of changing up their product line. But I recall a Spanish extra-virgin olive oil that was cold pressed. If I remember correctly it came in glass liter bottles for about $7. Its taste was decidedly decent. No, it’s not as good as the more precious oils I used to buy from Honest Weight Food Co-op and now get at Adventure in Food Trading.

But it’s so much better than anything else I’ve found at that price point, it’s not even funny.

So we are on hopefully our last tin ever of the cheap supermarket olive oil. Our stockpile of Trader Joe’s olive oil that we brought in from out of state dwindled months ago. And with the anticipation of our own local store opening “soon” we never made another trip to restock. As a result, the last couple of months have been all about subpar oil.

We may have to nurse this last tin. As it runs low, we’ll reduce our consumption, lest it run dry before the Trader Joe’s opens. But we’re also lucky in that we’ll be leaving for Pennsylvania a few weeks prior. So we don’t have that much longer to hold out.

Speaking of which, I’m going to have to abandon my CSA shares on July 24 and July 31. If you are interested in seeing what Roxbury is like for a week, I’d rather give these shares away to a couple of readers than have them go to the food bank. The pickup location is in Albany.

If you would like to be considered for this giveaway, please email me which date you would like along with a few words on why I should choose you from all the entries. The winner will be determined at my discretion, and you may not find it fair (although I will try to be). If you are going to whine should you not be selected for the prize, please don’t play.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 3, 2012 9:31 am

    I guess I should confess that I’ll miss the grand opening, too. Not because I’ll be in PA, but because I don’t see the need to frustrate myself with traffic on an already congested spot and inconsiderate people just to look at groceries which might be good. :P

    Speaking of Adventure in Food and olive oil, I don’t know how inexpensive you want, but I’ve been buying the Frantoia Sicilian olive oil, and it’s been a great all-purpose oil that I think is extremely reasonably priced. I just bought the 33 oz bottle last week and it was under $20. Fun fact, it’s the same oil Mario Batali used to use on his show “Molto Mario,” which I call “Malto Mario” for fun.

  2. July 3, 2012 11:07 am

    I really love Colavita EVOO, it’s the best mid-range supermarket extra virgin I’ve tried. They also make a nice balsamic vinegar (and the organic variety is only $0.50 more expensive at Hannaford).

  3. Ewan permalink
    July 3, 2012 11:28 am

    We’d love to try a Roxbury share: we had a sub for a couple of years to a different CSA (out in Altamont) which got dropped for inconvenience and product mix; and the pork CSA last year we are still eating :) so it would be excellent to be able to see what else is out there as a prelude to perhaps jumping back into the game.. whining, I promise :).

  4. permalink
    July 3, 2012 12:04 pm

    As a west coast frequenter of Trader Joe’s, I would like to steer you and your readers towards two fantastic products. The Lentil Chips and The Marinated Artichokes (in the refrigerated section) Both are staples in my home.

  5. July 3, 2012 1:07 pm

    Building on the above comment, I could use a little guidance:

    What things should be at the top of my Trader Joe’s shopping list? I’ve never been to one before. Which things are either awesome things you can’t get elsewhere around here, or things you can get elsewhere but they’re cheaper or better quality at TJ’s?

    • July 3, 2012 2:02 pm

      The coffee is priced well and there’s a good variety of tasty fair trade. Part of the fun is finding unique snacks – like chocolate covered pomegranate seeds or those chocolate peppermint cookies I’ve only seen at the holidays that taste like Thin Mints. Their convenience freezer foods look good for those times you don’t feel like cooking, but I haven’t gotten those since we’re usually shopping in Jersey and have a four hour drive back to Albany.

    • July 3, 2012 3:01 pm

      KB, I think the TJ’s house brand has been watered down somewhat since they were acquired by Aldi’s. I used to go out of my way to buy their no salt (but very greasy) potato chips and crushed garlic. Both these products have been retired. When I return to CA these days, I buy convenience items for the place we stay nearby and TJ’s is great for that… you know the quality will be good and the prices fair.

      One thing, hopefully they will bring east the “Fearless Flyer” which is the most outrageous grocery circular you will ever see. Buy some of the items in there, just to let them know you’re reading the copy.

      • July 3, 2012 5:25 pm

        My favorite TJ items are the lemon pepper papardelle, Thai yellow and red curry sauces, Israeli couscous, gingersnaps, jasmine green tea, PB Puffins cereal, everything crackers, little rice crackers (including a soy sauce flavored one that’s addictive), nuts for trail mix, birthday cards (cheap! cute!), challah rolls, chocolate covered espresso beans, chocolate covered edamame, frozen shelled edamame, frozen rice, fresh tabouli, fresh mild salsa, jarred bruschetta and other spread-y things, kosher chicken (they typically carry Empire).

        These are MY standbys, but everyone has a different chocolate covered thing or tea or chip or cracker or dip that is a favorite for them personally. I like these things because I can’t find them elsewhere or they are much cheaper at TJ. See link for prices from a winter trip.

    • July 4, 2012 1:00 am

      Their Pound Plus blocks of dark chocolate can not be beat for baking. Or eating. Or turning into hot fudge. Or regular fudge. Or…you get the idea. I can’t recommend it enough.

  6. enough already! permalink
    July 3, 2012 4:43 pm

    try the salted, skin-on olive oil roasted marcona almonds….you won’t be sorry.

  7. servedx1 permalink
    July 3, 2012 6:17 pm

    Come on sick of cabbage already! J/k I would love some fresh produce. My family loves almost all veggies. Have not been able to dole out the cash for my own share. Thanks

  8. Kate H permalink
    July 3, 2012 6:47 pm

    I love TJ’s olive oil – my sister brought me my last bottle from brooklyn but I’m out now so the store needs to open soon. There are tons of other products there that I really like but the olive oil and ketchup (no hfcs) are two things I always grab, and the lowfat granola with almonds. . . . . .

  9. Ellen permalink
    July 3, 2012 9:07 pm

    1: try California Olive Ranch olive oil, available in Hannaford and Price Chopper. I use the Arquebina for finishing, salad dressings etc.

    2: I notice that most folks mention snack items or processed food items when they talk about TJ’s. Personally, I don’t get it.

    • July 5, 2012 2:23 pm

      I love snacks. For the most delicious fresh produce I head to the farm stand. For fresh prepared food then if I’m not cooking I go to local restaurants that incorporate some local stuff–produce, meat, cheese. If I’m going to buy dry goods and snacks (pastas, crackers, chocolate covered stuff), why not get interesting, creative stuff at a great price? Why not buy almond butter for half the price that it is at Price Chopper? I’m not trying to make you a Believer, but at least explain why I like Trader Joe’s even though I buy my snap peas from Farmer Jon.

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