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TRADER JOE'S and Whole Foods- BEST PRODUCTS

o
opinionatedchef Jan 12, 2006 01:23 AM

There was a time when i did not buy many items at these stores, but as i have trial-purchased more things over the years, and their product lines have improved, these stores have come to contribute substantially to my larder.Below, I am listing my favorite things from them (and some 'Never Buy Again's).I would urge you all to keep in mind that both stores GUARANTEE a refund on anything you did not like- no questions asked. so be adventurous and reach for that thing you've hesitated to try- you can always get your money back if you don't like it- for any reason. this policy is actually a very smart one for both stores, i think, as it encourages trying new things.I do return things fairly regularly, because i AM always trying new things, and i have never had a problem at either store.
please post your own favs. - anything to make our lives easier and more delicious!!:

TRADER JOE'S:
Crackers and chips: stoned wheat thins / parmesanpita toasts/ cheddr pota chips and blue bag potato chips/ tr giotto crostini/ Snap Pea Crisps ( i am completely and helplessly addicted)////

Frozen: stir fry snow pea mix/ french green beans(HARICOTS VERTS- stir fry these; do not blanch))/ grilled corn/Mandarin orange chicken (in a pinch)/ TAMALES- Grn chili and cheese, and Chicken /MINI BEEF TACOS/( i have detested all their other frozen mexican products- skimpy fillings and poorly flavored)/ MUSHROOM RAVS (though bj'S are better, to my great surprise)/TR JOES SPINACH PIE (not Filo Factory version)//TJ's eggplant parm in filo (good flavor but yes it is mushy)/exotic mushrooms/shiitakes/ edamame/artichoke hearts/ Tarte d'Alsace w/ gruyere and ham(what a tremendous product)/ turkey stromboli/calamari rings( good for quick protein/seafood addition to a soup or entree)////

Deli: niman bacon/corned beef/ cilantro lime noodle salad/ spinach, red chili, flour tortillas/ mexican layered dip/ North Atlantic (navy label)smoked salmon/ grated parm in navy blue bag(watch out- this can go moldy)/ aged Old amsterdam gouda w/ black rind/ drunken goat cheese/salmon caviar/pate in mini loaf- shaped crock//////

Baked Goods: all scones/ almond croissants/ triple ginger gingersnaps in tub///

Dry Goods: all nuts/ roasted sunflower seeds/thai
chili lime cashews/ dark chocolate bars- the single source ,and the larger tr joes bittersweet and extra dark ones( i use all these for baking)/coffee////

Cans and Jars: hearts of palm( neat addition to salads; though some of theirs are too soft)/ thai and moroccan simmer sauces/ vodka marinara sauce/ salsa with corn and black beans/ salsa verde///black truffle oil (better than the other cheap[less than $25] ones i've tried)/ presidents choice extra virgin olive oil///

WHOLE FOODS:
Packaged Starches: Seeds of Change 7Grain Pilaf(TREMENDOUS ), and Cilantro Quinoa/ Casbah Saffron Jasmine Rice/Casbah? Moroccan Rice w/Lentils ,and Couscous w/Lentils and Tomatoes

Chips etc: Barbara's Cheese Puffs in White Bag (the ONLY great cheese puffs i have ever found); Frontera Chipotle Lime Tortilla Chips

Frozen: Blue Moon sorbets- grapefruit campari, and peach melba/ V cornmeal pizza crusts (TREMENDOUS;the ONLY pizza crust for me; just bake longer than they say)/Nature's Touch veggie patties- vegetable medley and spicy black bean/RUDOLPH'S WHOLE RYE BREAD, brown wrapper- The most toothsome hearty Rye bread i have found -for toast- not sandwiches)

Bread: Pigs Fly- Dark Rye , Harvest/ Iggy's- all theirs but especially Francese(though the holes are a real drag)////

Chocolates: Vosges Bars- esp. Red Fire Bar and the one with smoked salt//newman's own peanut butter cups/Black and Green dark chocolate bar/ Lemon Chocolates in box (by bakery)////

Cheese dept.: fresh ricotta/ red pepper and feta spread/ vermont cheese co.? lightly salted or unsalted butter in yellow paper-wrapped tube/ bruderbasel cheese- for pizza/ parmesan (their new wisconsin parm is very very good, as cheaper alternative to the exp.italian ones)/danish feta in a jar (with herbed marinade which can be used to marinade lamb or chicken or beef; add red wine vinegar first)/ fresh ravioli- smoked mozzarella and red pepper, and lobster////

Dairy: Eggs/ Lifeway Raspberry Kefir///

Salad Dressings: Cindy's Chipotle ranch, Cilantro, Deeply Roasted Sesame, Greek with Feta and Olive, (Ranch , and Creamy Miso need work)// Annie's Goddess/ 365 Peanut Sauce////

Seafood: trout, skate ( both are very flavorful fresh fish that won't break the bank); charlie trotter's 2 gravlax types/ frozen minced clams/ smoked scallops/
whole foods teriyaki orange marinade next to seafood////

Deli: Risotto Cakes/ Masa Cakes/ Cilantro Fritters/
the best deli Corned Beef i have had/ Turkey/Smoked Turkey/ Sesame Noodle salad/Roasted Beets//Guacamole-not low fat////corn tortillas/ red pepper hoomus///

Soups:corn chowder(i add cooked shrimp, smoked and regular scallops,clam juice, cilantro and pesto to this)/ clam chowder(i add more clams, and corn to this)/tomato fennel soup (i add cooked wheatberries or brown and wild rice, and/or chopped ham to this)/////

Produce: peeled garlic/ mixed sprouts- for salad/ chanterelles////

Jars: arrowhead crunchy peanut butter and almond butter/maple syrup- grade B for stronger flavor)///

Spices: they are the only ones who carry my fav curry powder-Sun brand Madras-in small gold square can- TONS better than any other brand,(even from Indian food stores).

o.k. i've been working on this posting for the better part of this day. i quit now! it's YOUR turns!!

  1. l
    Limster Jan 12, 2006 03:26 AM

    A few things to add off the top of my head:

    TJ's - Chocovic chocolate bars
    WF - Neal Yard cheeses, Guittard chocolates (my favourite US chocolate so far)

    2 Replies
    1. re: Limster
      g
      Gary Soup Jan 12, 2006 10:31 AM

      I agree with you on the Chocovic -- $2.00 or less for a 2.8 oz criollo chocolate bar is an absolute steal. Guittard is a master of midrange cacao content chocolate (60-65% or so) but personally I like the darker stuff. My favorite U.S. chocolate maker is Dagoba, from Oregon.

      Link: http://eatingchinese.org

      1. re: Gary Soup
        l
        Limster Jan 12, 2006 02:48 PM

        Yes - Dagoba's also available from WF. :)

    2. k
      Kelvin8r Jan 12, 2006 03:54 AM

      Your post is forcing me to stay up later than I should but here goes.
      As a long time and frequent (was there tonight) TJ shopper, I am well aware of their return policy. My brothers family returns so much stuff, they have to do it in shifts!
      IMHO, in general, most of the prepared foods, whether they're boxed, frozen or refrigerated are skippable. I'm not too thrilled with the teas or coffee, although the organic camomile has some snap to it. Tonight I'm gambling on TJ Organic Earl Grey Green tea...we'll see.
      And all that TJ candy in tubs is ultimately very unsatisfying, heavy-handed & definately not worth the calories.
      Of course there are exceptions. The tamales are good, for frozen. The rice chips w/sesame are good. Had a new chip tonight that was good: TJ's "Rice Sembei snacks". But the TJ corn and potato chips are consistantly pretty rotten. Ditto for most TJ cookies-ugh!
      Mostly I rely on TJ's for staples like good cheap pita, some of the breads, plain nuts (giant cashews are a fave), Valrhona chocolate (3 varieties huge value, low price) most cheeses-dirt cheap & good but you MUST check for exp date! (got a Grana Padano Parm tonight @$8.99lb.)
      They have great vanilla extract (Madigascar or TJ bourbon style)
      TJ Mayo, organic ketchup, organic sugars and E/V olive oil are all low priced but actually better than mainstream alternatives!
      Come to think of it, they do have an organic choc-chip cookie that's excellent-it's made w/butter, unlike most of their other ones. And the ginger gelato is yummy, as opposed to the green tea gelato, which is...strange.
      So even though it's mostly staples I'm there for, they're high-end staples at a low price.
      Also pick up Tom's of Maine products, some pet products (chicken jerky and biscuits get a paw up from the hound)
      I think TJ's is a great place, you just have to be very selective.
      I'm too tired to get into whole foods now, goodnight!

      1. l
        loveskittles Jan 12, 2006 07:16 AM

        My only suggestion is for a don't buy product at Trader Joe's-the frozen avocado halves. They are disgusting.

        1. m
          Monty Jan 12, 2006 09:06 AM

          Buy all my fresh eggs at TJ's. the jumbos are outstanding for the price, $1.29/dozen yesterday. Plus, I've probably gotten more double yoke eggs in 6 months than I've seen in my entire life.

          There price of some liquers (Irish Whiskey) is very good. Salami, ham, very good. Their heavy cream is excellent. Frozen petit peas.

          Plus, as a non-food item, their flowers are priced far below anyone else in the area. Since I'm there probably twice a week I always buy my wife at least one bouquet, many times 2.

          1. d
            danna Jan 12, 2006 10:19 AM

            Thanks for taking the time! I printed your list, and when our new WF opens in March.....I'll be ready.

            Also thanks for making me realize it's time to start concentrating on eating the things that are in my pantry so I can prepare for the deluge of new products! A 6 day power outage already took care of the freezer :-(

            1 Reply
            1. re: danna
              h
              Hungry in Seattle Jan 14, 2006 03:10 PM

              Thanks for this thread.
              I try to keep my trips to WF to a minimum, but do make a point of buying the Guittard cocoa powder from the bulk bin. Infinitely superior to Hershey's.
              On a splurge, I looove the Neal's Yard cheeses and fresh sausages.

              TJ's on the other hand, is a lifeline for me. I don't know what I'd do w/o it.
              What you'll find in my cart:
              Crumpets
              Eggs, milk, and butter,
              Fage Yogurt (great w/fig jam!)
              Irish Oatmeal
              Green Chile tamales
              Chicken Taquitos
              Triple Ginger Cookies (the other cookies are nasty, but these are spectacular)
              Neiman Ranch bacon
              Orange Chicken and frozen brown rice
              Frozen veggies of all sorts
              Herb salad mix
              Cheap Wine (but I'm tired of the Chuck)
              Japanese Rice Crackers
              Spa shampoo and Conditioner
              Handmade corn tortillas
              Buddees liver dog biscuits

              TJ's coffee and tea are missable, for the most part.

            2. r
              rworange Jan 12, 2006 12:00 PM

              Thanks for the post. It will be a good link to reference when people ask in the future.

              At TJ's do NOT buy the smoked salmon which is a salty, chemical tasting vile piece of fish. I've seen people on this board recommend it to mix in dips ... yuck ... why start with such a bad product.

              Also, do NOT buy the canned smoked salmon, an oily barely edible mess. Not oily in a good way either.

              However, the canned salmon chowder is pretty good.

              Fortunately I've found other sources for the few other items I like at TJ, so I don't need to darken their door.

              8 Replies
              1. re: rworange
                t
                Two Forks Jan 12, 2006 12:18 PM

                I wholly disagree on the smoked salmon. First of all, there are several brands and types there, so to dismiss it all offhand is wrong (unless you just don't like smoked salmon). Personally, I like the Scottish Smoked Salmon pieces, at $6.99, which is a bargain! Never got a chemical taste from it at all. Try it for yourself, thye'll take it bak if you con't like it.

                1. re: Two Forks
                  r
                  rworange Jan 12, 2006 12:32 PM

                  I was on a smoked salmon tear last year and tried EVERY brand of smoked salmon available where I live from fresh vendors to Safeway, Trader Joe's, Albertsons. ALL the TJ's smoked salmon is substandard and bad tasting to me.

                  1. re: rworange
                    a
                    Amuse Bouches Jan 12, 2006 01:44 PM

                    I just ate a package of the Pacific Supreme (gotta love low carb diets) and I thought it was pretty tasty. But maybe I'm not picky about smoked salmon.

                    1. re: Amuse Bouches
                      r
                      rworange Jan 12, 2006 02:25 PM

                      The problem is when you have local people who are smoking it fresh, it's hard to eat the supermarket stuff.

                      The best supermarket variety, IMO, was Lasco Alderwood Smoked Atlantic Salmon (didn't like their flavored ones). In my area this is sold at Raley's.

                      Like all the other supermarket brands it was overly salty, barely short of unpleasant. However it was very moist and oily, in a good way.

                      Besides the excessive salt and chemicals, the problem with most supermarket brands is they are frozen and thawed. This ruins the texture, giving it a more mushy mouth feel. One of the local fresh vendors freezes his salmon with the same unpleasant result in texture.

                      1. re: rworange
                        b
                        bibi rose Jan 13, 2006 09:58 AM

                        Ditto on the salmon. If I want inexpensive shrink-wrapped smoked salmon, Echo Falls is available at several of my local supermarkets. Oh yeah, and I occasionally think TJ's refrigerated canned crabmeat is a good idea. But each time it is so remarkably taste-free.

                        I forgot my new favorite item from WF: lowfat "chocolate chewies." Cookies I can eat on Weight Watchers without that awful "diet" taste.

                2. re: rworange
                  o
                  opinionatedchef Jan 13, 2006 12:18 AM

                  i completely agree with two forks about the smoked salmon.have you tried the atlantic harvest navy wrapper sm.salmon? it's not mushy or chemical tasting or over salty. i forgot to mention that i also have the niman ranch cured ham- cryovac pkg.-on my tj list.

                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                    r
                    rworange Jan 13, 2006 12:31 AM

                    Yep, tried them all. Perhaps it is handling at my local TJ's, but there has never been a piece of smoked salmon there that isn't defrosting from the freezer. They don't do fresh fish very well either.

                    1. re: rworange
                      o
                      OPINIONATEDCHEF Jan 14, 2006 11:41 AM

                      I can just see it now- teeshirts illustrated with a wheel of cheese , sweating or crumbly, or whatever, with an unhappy face on its side, and the caption,
                      "Cheese is a living organism too!
                      Treat it with the respect it deserves!"
                      should we market them through the Chowhound Market page?!

                3. a
                  Alexandra Eisler Jan 12, 2006 12:33 PM

                  My standard TJ's list:

                  Plugra
                  Organic non-fat yogurt, milk, and eggs: much more competitively priced than WF
                  Crumpets
                  Dried pineapple rings/unsweetened mango/cherries
                  Blister peanuts-sort of addicting...
                  Emergen-C and Airborne
                  Organic Earl Grey tea
                  72% bittersweet pound-plus chocolate bars
                  Frozen chicken breast tenders
                  Frozen organic brown rice: 3 10 oz. packets that microwave very nicely on nights I don't have 45 minutes to make my own

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: Alexandra Eisler
                    b
                    bibi rose Jan 13, 2006 09:49 AM

                    TJ: Fage Total yogurt. Some frozen fruits and vegetables. Hanson's diet ginger ale. Dark chocolate when certain kinds are available. A trip a month at most will do it for me.

                    WF: I have a local butcher that does prime meat and a Japanese market for fish. At WF, all I buy in those categories are the fabulous ready-skinned skate wings and the whole boneless turkey breast. Parmesan rinds sold cheaply for simmering in soup. Occasional produce items, but produce has declined sharply at my local WF. In other departments: Special butters. For a special treat, a small selection of things from the olive bar, especially when they have balsamic cippollini onions. Snacks: WF now have Stacey's soy crisps which are miles better than any other soy crisps IMO. Frozen fruits and vegetables. Quorn, Amy's entrees and soup, and other vegetarian products.

                    I used to buy a few of their ready-made foods, say for a lunch on the go, but either their cooking has changed or my tastes have. We went to their deli and food bar yesterday intending to pick up something for an emergency meal and didn't see a thing we wanted.

                    1. re: bibi rose
                      gansu girl Jan 2, 2012 05:00 PM

                      For the most part, I can't stand WF's prepared foods - they have all started to taste the same to me. The exception is this unhealthy but (I think) delicious broccoli salad with mayo, bacon, sunflower seeds, raisins . . . OMG, I am salivating right now. The rest is WAY overpriced and underflavored.

                      GG
                      http://www.semisweetonline.com

                      1. re: gansu girl
                        n
                        nandrew Jan 16, 2012 01:30 PM

                        I think you could mix *anything* with mayo, bacon, sunflower seeds and raisins and it would taste good! ;-)

                  2. d
                    Dommy! Jan 12, 2006 12:51 PM

                    I go to TJs for staples, Eggs, Butter, Milk, Cheese Flour, Nuts etc... Also for snacks, the Pita Chips and Black Bean Chips are seriously banned from my house! I'm not a fan of their frozen food, nor their meats or produce (I got to farmers or ethnic markets for those things). For speciality items, I go to specialty stores.

                    I'm also not all that impressed with WF since it's SO pricy!! My purchases there are strictly relegated to Prime Steaks(which is rare purchase) and their Cranberry Tuna Salad from the Deli... I LOVE that stuff... serious, it's the tuna form of Crack... I could eat a bucket of it...

                    --Dommy!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Dommy!
                      c
                      Carb Lover Jan 12, 2006 01:38 PM

                      I'm in total agreement w/ you Dommy! TJ's is fine for staples and some name brand items that are more expensive elsewhere (Chimay, Plugra, King Arthur, etc), but many of their house brand chips and frozen foods are awful! Not only do they taste bad, but the quality control is not consistent so the next batch might be different. The rice crackers w/ sesame were soooo salty one time that I won't buy them anymore.

                      I loathe the pita chips and pretzels, and the "gourmet" potato chips (sesame and ginger, cheese, etc) were terrible. The latest ban from my house and the first thing that I'll ever bother to return soon is the jar of mayo. I ran out of my usual Best Foods and thought the TJ's one looked good enough. But no, tasted weird. Looked at ingredient list after the fact and includes cider vinegar and lemon juice! Blah. At this point in my grocery context, TJ's is just one small step up from Safeway IMO. The service even seems to be declining since I get more clueless responses than I used to.

                      I have only stepped inside a Whole Foods a couple of times in LA and had sticker shock everywhere I looked. I don't live near one now so don't shop there, but the only reason I might go is for the nice cheese selection I've heard about. If I had a good cheese shop near me, I suppose that would eliminate the need though...

                      1. re: Carb Lover
                        m
                        Mo Jan 12, 2006 03:56 PM

                        As by buddy calls it, WHOLE PAYCHECK!!!

                    2. a
                      Amuse Bouches Jan 12, 2006 02:00 PM

                      Things I love at TJ's:

                      Ultra Dark French Roast Coffee Beans -- I hate their regular french roast coffee, but I'm totally addicted to the Ultra Dark -- it's spoiled my palate for other coffees.

                      Dairy -- milk, cream, eggs, butter, yogurt -- great prices, and while the house brand Greek yogurt is especially good, the regular nonfat plain is also the best yogurt I've tried

                      Bakery -- I like their whole wheat orange bread toasted with peanut butter in the morning. The cranberry orange tea scones are fabulous, and I also like Druid Circles and Gingeroos. The Middle Eastern flatbread is also a regular purchase of mine.

                      Frozen -- I'll second the tamales, though I like the chicken the best. And the Tarte D'Alsace, and the Haricots Verts. I also like the Thai spiced green beans (Pad Phrik Khang?) that come with a great seasoning packet, and the frozen corn and berries are terrific -- particularly the mixed berries.

                      Grocery -- nuts are good, though avoid the pre-toasted and toast them yourself. Their organic crystallized ginger chunks are hands down the best I've found. The masala and tagine simmer sauces are nice pantry staples for when you need a quick dinner. The mojito simmer sauce is a pretty good marinade, though I wouldn't use it as a sauce. They carry excellent whole wheat couscous, and many varieties of brown rice, and their chicken broth is good and a bargain. I also buy quinoa, and their seasoned rice mixes. I'll second the corn and black bean salsa; also I like the tomatoless corn salsa they have. My husband loves the oriental rice crackers and the cheez-its -- not quite as good as regular, but no trans fats. Pumpkin butter is good. I occasionally buy Puffins cereal (I like the peanut butter), and often buy the wild berry flavored crystal geyser, and the Italian lemon or grapefruit sodas.

                      Fresh foods: They have good prices on lemons and limes, if you don't mind buying a barrelful. I like their house brand chicken sausages, and some of the salad mixes (though some are always past their prime). I like the precut carrot sticks that come in little bags already. The barbecued chicken pulled chicken is a nice alternative for lunches sometimes -- I pair it with arugula and homemade pickled onions. Pate is good, cheeses are inconsistent, though I've always been lucky with chevre and gruyere.

                      Wines and liquors -- I love the Honey Moon Viognier as a great quaffable summer wine. They carry my favorite scotch (Dalmore) for cheap. I'll buy other wines there, too, but not two buck chuck. You can occasionally find good $3 a bottle cooking wines though.

                      1. s
                        sue Jan 12, 2006 03:18 PM

                        Reading this thread makes me sooooo jealous. Although we do have a Whole Foods here in my neighborhood (Greenwich Village, NYC) there is still no Trader Joe's although there is rumor/speculation that one will be opening. Does anyone, who may be reading this in NY, have any info on when (and if) Trader Joe's will really be coming to the Union Square area?
                        Thanks, and thanks for the thread. Susan

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: sue
                          t
                          Tom Steele Jan 13, 2006 03:42 PM

                          I live very near Union Square, and the space that's supposed to become Trader Joe's is suddenly looking more and more like a grocery store. I gather they're skedded to open in February.

                          Still there's nothing at their Web site about opening a store in NYC, but TJ's is notoriously secretive:

                          http://www.traderjoes.com/new/east.asp

                        2. v
                          Val Ann C Jan 12, 2006 07:16 PM

                          In my area (central NJ) both TJ and WF offer mostly pre-cut saran-wrapped chunks of cheese. Even the Neal's Yard at WF is pre-cut and wrapped in plastic and it sits there for days... weeks...

                          Unless a cheese chunk is factory-shrink-wrapped, it has STORE SMELL. It's ruined. I can't abide it. My WF has a cheese clerk, but they don't want to cut a piece just for me. They always politely insist I buy the pre-wrapped cheese. "This one was cut just this morning. You'll like it." Wrong. I won't eat it. My dog likes it.

                          Really good cheeses don't come factory-shrink-wrapped. They need more careful handling. Should a Neal's Yard sit in a layer of saran wrap, absorbing odors from the meat counter and grocery? What a waste.

                          I buy factory-sealed bricks -- like Cabot cheddar. Or I mail order my cheese from people who know how to pack it.

                          That said... I like the (factory-shrink-wrapped) string cheese at TJs.

                          8 Replies
                          1. re: Val Ann C
                            n
                            nooodles Jan 12, 2006 08:42 PM

                            Wow. Maybe people in SF are cheese snobs so the cheese people are used to our demands, but I've never had someone at WF refuse to cut me a portion of a wheel of cheese. My friend lives in DC and often asks for weird sizes of cheese as well. I haven't heard her complain about being told no.

                            1. re: Val Ann C
                              w
                              Will Owen Jan 12, 2006 11:42 PM

                              If that were actually Saran Wrap you wouldn't have that awful taste - it's not from the refrigerator, but from the nasty plastic wrapper. I don't know what moron at the FDA approved this stuff as the national standard Food Wrap, but he ought to be taken out and whipped. Real Saran Wrap has NO smell (and therefore taste) of its own, and it forms a very good barrier against other stinks. That stretchy crap OTOH has its own vile vinyl reek, like the toy department at your local Walgreens, which it imparts to everything they wrap in it, ESPECIALLY cheese. The first thing I do when I get any store-wrapped TJ cheese home is to unwrap it, let it sit out for an hour or two, then put it either in a Ziploc or a semirigid plastic refrigerator container.

                              1. re: Will Owen
                                c
                                coll Jan 13, 2006 03:38 PM

                                Hopefully you can can tell us the difference? Saran Wrap is acually too thick to really seal anything completely, what is wrong with say, Reynold or Borden brands? Just curious.

                              2. re: Val Ann C
                                l
                                Limster Jan 13, 2006 02:19 AM

                                At the WF in Boston, I get cheese cut to whatever size I want -- I'll typicaly look out for cheeses in the refrigerated display that aren't wrapped in plastic and then ask for a piece of that.

                                1. re: Limster
                                  k
                                  Karl S Jan 13, 2006 04:01 AM

                                  That's because WF in the Boston area has to compete with Formaggio Kitchen, which knows how to treat cheese.

                                2. re: Val Ann C
                                  j
                                  JudiAU Jan 13, 2006 01:17 PM

                                  I can't remember the source but I read an interview with one of the Whole Foods big whigs which was very dismissive of cheese lovers and basically said that they had made a deliberate choice of crummy cheese handling/pre-cutting/no service staff because that was what their customers wanted/it wasn't worth it to provide better service. I wrote them a nasty letter at the time and at least some stores have better cheese service now. They've received poor press about their cheese counters in cities that have competition. Overall, it makes me so sad. They buy *lovely* cheese and mishandle it terribly.

                                  1. re: JudiAU
                                    o
                                    opinionatedchef Jan 14, 2006 01:37 AM

                                    wow,judiau, so sorry about your bad WF cheese experiences. our whole foods in cambridge ma. has a terrific cheese manager, edward, a british fellow (when we last spoke,he said he had been travelling the last 2 yrs all over the u.s., training wf cheese people). i have had the same good cheese products and service at WF in Arlington Va. and San Fran and Monterey Cal. i so hope your local store will get better.

                                    1. re: opinionatedchef
                                      r
                                      rworange Jan 14, 2006 01:48 AM

                                      If it is the Whole Foods on Franklin in San Francisco, major cheese abuse goes on there. I'd go there more often if the cheese was handled correctly.

                                  2. c
                                    Christine Jan 12, 2006 10:00 PM

                                    Trader Joes:

                                    Snap Pea Crisps (I read this string from bottom to top and didn't notice anyone else's mention of this - shockingly - until I came to yours). They're the main reason I go to TJ's.

                                    Tom's of Maine Fennel Toothpaste - Well, it's a food, kinda. If they ever discontinue this, I'll stop brushing my teeth.

                                    Heavy cream, eggs, house-brand organic butter for cooking.

                                    Salad with baby spinach, gorgonzola, pecans, and dried cranberries. Look at all packages closely.

                                    Meat lasagna - totally serviceable. In the deli, not the frozen one. And I really do not like the chicken lasagna.

                                    Ginger gelato - ditto your comment about green tea, the green tea mochi tastes too much like perfume, or something.

                                    Deals on imported beers, when they got 'em.

                                    Dragon Fire gum.

                                    Nuts.

                                    My list of things I hate at TJ's is really long, though.

                                    Whole Foods:

                                    I'm with Dommy. Special occasion prime beef. Maybe some Saint Agur if I have a fig cake from our local Spanish deli, La Espanola.

                                    Otherwise I think Whole Foods is ridiculous.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: Christine
                                      g
                                      Gary Soup Jan 13, 2006 05:52 PM

                                      I don't know where you are, or what your normal shopping patterns are, but Snow Pea Crisps are quite common at Asian markets (and probably cheaper, though I don't recall ever checking the price at TJ's). People who shop at TJ's are likely to focus on things unique to TJ's and many probably don't particularly associate Snow Pea Crisps with the store.

                                      Link: http://eatingchinese.org

                                      1. re: Gary Soup
                                        o
                                        opinionatedchef Jan 14, 2006 01:30 AM

                                        You know, I do go to oriental markets a lot BUT I have never seen those snowpea crisps there so now I will look again. That is so helpful, because TJ is notorious for discontinuing my fav items there. And you know, addiction is a serious thing…
                                        Best and thank you
                                        I’ve also added the eatingchinese.org link-to my favs- and WOW, it will be tempting to just read THAT all day!

                                    2. t
                                      Tugboat Jan 13, 2006 12:59 PM

                                      Whole Food for the salad bar. Maybe cheese. Fish if I want something really nice (and $$$)

                                      TJ's. Pantry items (nuts, some sauces, sparkling water). Butter sometimes if I am not near Wegmans. Yogurt.

                                      Not much else.

                                      Both are great stores. I am glad they are both near me. But I can't see how some people can use either as their primary shopping spot.

                                      T

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Tugboat
                                        d
                                        danna Jan 16, 2006 02:15 PM

                                        That's me. Although I am thrilled to pieces that WF is about to open a store near me, I plan to go there for meats, cheeses, bread and the odd bit of prepared food.

                                        I'll go to the farmer's market and fruit stands whenever I can for fruit and vegetables.

                                        I'll go to Sam's club to stock up Gatorade, power bars and dog food.

                                        I'll go to the closest mega-mart for basics like condiments, sugar, juice, butter, etc.

                                        Because of this, I don't expect WF to take the "Whole Paycheck". *possibly in denial*

                                      2. r
                                        rumdrinks Jan 13, 2006 02:48 PM

                                        At our local Whole Foods (Philly area) they carry mama Vida's salsas. Ok, so make it yourself, fine, but...I like this stuff for jarred salsa. The one called Pico de Gallo is not really authentic but i love it. And the one with blue crab is very nice - EXCELLENT in the summer...with chips (Nona's Cucina), or on an omelette, or as a sauce on fish...its great.

                                        Also, found sottecenere with truffles. fantastic cheese mild cheese very truffley flavored.

                                        Lastly, I am addicted to the 365 brand of cheetos.

                                        1. g
                                          Gypsy Jan Jan 13, 2006 09:00 PM

                                          Wow, what an effort and thanks, I love lists and I will take the time to go through yours thoroughly.

                                          As far as I could tell in a quick scan is that you don't reference the pet products.

                                          Well, I know that the "return, no questions asked" policy is an absolute because over "cough" many years of shopping at TJ's, I have tried out all of their pet products on my many companion animals at various times. And I have kept buying many items and returned many, many others because someone in the gang; Oscar, Brandy, Felix, Chica, Max, Diego, Lady, Goldie, Dulcinea, Augie, PJ, Oscar II, Ene or Koa didn't like it.

                                          I may get a lifted eyebrow when I bring in a return, but no argument.

                                          Interestingly, I have noticed that when I return a pet product, it usually disappears from the shelves at TJ's pretty soon after the event.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Gypsy Jan
                                            g
                                            Gypsy Jan Jan 13, 2006 11:52 PM

                                            On a side note, in re Whole Foods, the acronym that comes to mind when I shop there and consider the quality of the products and the prices attached is:

                                            WTF?

                                            Apologies in advance to the offended.

                                            1. re: Gypsy Jan
                                              4
                                              4chowpups Jan 14, 2006 11:23 AM

                                              I'm with you...my friend (now I do too) call it Whole Wallet Foods. I like WTF better!!

                                              1. re: 4chowpups
                                                b
                                                bryanj Jan 14, 2006 04:50 PM

                                                i don't think there's much special about tjs or wfs--both are huge chains now, their prices are ridiculous and their quality is getting iffy.

                                                plus, go to any trader joes parking lot and the bmw/lexus/hummer quotient is waaay to high for me.

                                          2. k
                                            Kivarita Jan 13, 2006 11:54 PM

                                            My faves at TJs:

                                            Frozen: Chicken Potstickers, Chudleigh's Apple Blossoms (seriously the tastiest frozen apple dessert I've had - far surpasses the TJ's Apple Strudel).

                                            Coffee: Bay Blend

                                            Produce: Bagged salads, lemons, limes. Otherwise, I go to the farmers market.

                                            Dairy: Milk, heavy cream, buttermilk, Greek Yogurt (not the TJ's brand), fresh mozz (not as flavorful as some, but a good value), yogurt cheese, Castello triple creme blue cheese.

                                            Deli: Pizza dough (esp. when I haven't had time, or have been too lazy, or the house too cold to make my own) - the regular is the best, IMHO. The low-carb is terrible (bought it accidentally when I just grabbed two bags). Cornmeal is just ok -but maybe I'm not that big a fan of the cornmeal crust in general. TJ's Spicy Italian chicken sausage, Cantella's chicken andouille --great in red beans and rice!!

                                            Wines: Can be hit or miss, but of late -- Five Rivers Merlot 2002 or 2003 (I can't remember.) $7.99 at TJ's, 11.99 at my Safeway.

                                            Pet: CloudStar Molasses dog biscuits. Labbie tested, Kivarita approved.

                                            1. 4
                                              4chowpups Jan 14, 2006 11:48 AM

                                              Interesting to read all of the other posts and to realize how varied our food tastes can be!! I am also in Boston area and find that the supermarkets here are really bad, I shop at several each week to get everything I want and under duress only do I shop at just one. WF makes things visually very appealing and I feel that is their main plus. I shop there (it is a 20 min. trip) primarily for Alba body cream which I cannot find anywhere else for the price. Everything else I've purchased I find "okay." This past New Year's Eve I made the HUGE mistake of going there for the above cream and deciding last minute to bring some things to a friend's. I purchased all of the prepared stuff which I rarely do and nearly had a heart attack at bill time and a second one when I ate the purchases and thought most of it was terrible. HATED:spinach/artichoke dip, salsa,cocktail sauce, and even the cooked $17.99 shrimp was gross (I NEVER buy precooked and I know why). I did get stuffed clams which were excellent and which I thought I wouldn't like. The one in our area used to have wonderful cheese personnel but the current woman is terrible. I now just go to our local Wine Shop which has wonderful cheese and at a better price.
                                              TRADER JOE'S: I love the Fage yogurt and I top it with the apricot sauce (yum!), prepackaged greens especially the Southern mix, cilantro yogurt dip, unlike Carb lover I love the parm.herb pita chips, cereal bars for the pups, shelled edamame beans, roasted corn, my pups like the frozen chicken burritos, potstickers, a few of the rice bowls and the pizzas. AND the gruyere tart...I like that and I don't usually eat most of the frozen prepared foods. I like the chicken chili for making nachos, vanilla, sea salt, olives esp. the vacuumed packed green ones, olive oil, nuts and dried fruits and the Ritter Sport chocolate bars.
                                              I have disliked the produce, tortilla chips, frozen appetizers, frozen chicken breast, animal crackers and the much loved snap pea snacks...but that is just me!!!

                                              1. b
                                                bruingal Jan 14, 2006 05:38 PM

                                                These are my staples when I shop at TJ's:
                                                Soy Corn Dogs
                                                BBQ Chicken Pizza (Although the quality has gone down recently)
                                                Frozen Chopped Spinach
                                                Frozen Organic Brown Rice
                                                Gardenburger Riblets
                                                Cinnamon Sugar Pita Chips
                                                Soy Flax Seed Chips
                                                Multiseed Corn Tortilla Flat Bread (Great with cheese)
                                                Wheat English Muffins
                                                Hummus
                                                Tarte D'Alsace
                                                Frozen Low Fat Chicken Chow Mein (Add in more brocoli, we eat this twice a week)
                                                Crunchy unsalted peanut butter

                                                I don't shop at WF bc of the price, but will sometimes splurge and get their prepared food.

                                                1. l
                                                  Limster Jan 14, 2006 07:10 PM

                                                  Just remembered - Comanzo's biscotti - great crumb without being rock hard, good ingredients.

                                                  1. e
                                                    Ericka Jan 15, 2006 02:49 AM

                                                    TJ'S:
                                                    Plugra butter
                                                    Fage Yogurt
                                                    Free range eggs
                                                    Milk
                                                    Cream
                                                    Double Rainbow vanilla ice cream (unbelievable)
                                                    French Apple Pie (frozen dessert, delicious)
                                                    Triple Ginger Cookies
                                                    Haricots Verts (frozen)
                                                    Organic brown rice (frozen)
                                                    Tart d'Alsace (frozen)
                                                    Herb salad mixture
                                                    canned organic black,garbanzo and pinto beans
                                                    canned Artichoke heart
                                                    canned hearts of palm
                                                    Santini olive oil
                                                    Mesquite potatoe chips (in red bag, to die for!)

                                                    1 Reply
                                                    1. re: Ericka
                                                      e
                                                      Ericka Jan 15, 2006 02:50 AM

                                                      And thye frozen roasted corn in the red bag is great!

                                                    2. a
                                                      AlwayzHungry Jan 19, 2006 06:20 PM

                                                      Although I haven't shopped at TJs too often, what I like so far include...

                                                      Honey wheat bread - very dense and sweet
                                                      Dried apple rings - cheap and delicious!
                                                      Pastrami
                                                      Tamales - the Corn Maiden brand
                                                      Tomato basil hummus

                                                      Since I'm a poor student, I don't go to WF very often either, but I've liked...

                                                      Pita bread - very soft and no fat per serving!
                                                      Granola - wide selection

                                                      But on the whole, I've found WF's prepared foods to be bland and not very tasty - chicken, lasagna, brown rice and spinach cakes, etc. Maybe they're supposed to be that way?

                                                      1. e
                                                        elanarchist Feb 3, 2006 09:04 PM

                                                        Which Whole Foods has the Madras curry powder? I looked at the N. Avenue store, didn't see any. Thanks!

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: elanarchist
                                                          opinionatedchef Dec 5, 2011 02:33 PM

                                                          sorry, i just saw this! my WF Fresh Pond in Boston area.

                                                        2. g
                                                          GingkoCat Aug 22, 2007 11:37 PM

                                                          TJ's--Frozen Roasted Vegetable Enchiladas!!!!!!! OMG I could eat those everyday.
                                                          WF--Blood Orange Sorbet at their gelato bar (the Pasadena, CA Whole Foods has a gelato bar next to the bakery). The blood orange sorbet is like heaven.

                                                          1. Chew on That Aug 24, 2007 11:23 AM

                                                            I'm hands down obsessed with their frozen mochi ice cream that they sell! I love the green tea and mango flavors! I could eat it all day!

                                                            I also really like their chocolate covered blueberries, and the Joe's Diner Four Cheese Mac and Cheese, among oh so many other things...

                                                            1. a
                                                              annaeats Aug 24, 2007 11:47 AM

                                                              wow, what a list!
                                                              i'm just gonna add something to the trader joe's list.
                                                              the lemongrass chicken stix are THE BEST.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: annaeats
                                                                opinionatedchef Dec 5, 2011 02:34 PM

                                                                yes, agreed. i like both types of their chicken mini spring rolls/stix.

                                                                1. re: annaeats
                                                                  peppermint_sky Dec 31, 2011 11:15 AM

                                                                  Watch out with those chicken sticks. I went through a phase where I indulged in those frequently and now I don't want to see them again! LOL.

                                                                2. opinionatedchef Jan 2, 2012 12:51 PM

                                                                  I have updated this list quite a bit in the last 6 years! feel free to add your favs!:

                                                                  * TrJ changes their items all the time, retiring some and introducing others*

                                                                  TRADER JOE'S SHOPPING LIST:

                                                                  CRACKERS AND CHIPS:

                                                                  ----------------------

                                                                  Stoned wheat thins

                                                                  Parmesan pita toasts

                                                                  Blue bag potato chips

                                                                  Ruffle Potato chips

                                                                  Trader Giotto crostini (best crackers for cheese I have found)

                                                                  Mini multi seed rice crackers

                                                                  Snap Pea Crisps ( i am completely and helplessly addicted)

                                                                  FROZEN:

                                                                  ---------------

                                                                  Stir fry snow pea mix

                                                                  Exotic mushrooms/shiitakes

                                                                  Edamame

                                                                  Artichoke hearts(nuke 2 min.; much better than in jar)

                                                                  French green beans(HARICOTS VERTS- stir fry these; do not blanch))

                                                                  Grilled corn

                                                                  --------------------------

                                                                  Southwest Grilled Chicken Patties

                                                                  Chicken Tikka Masala
                                                                  Chicken Tenders

                                                                  Biryani Rice
                                                                  Multigrain Medley
                                                                  Quinoa with Vegetable Medley

                                                                  Vegetarian Pad Thai

                                                                  Chicken spring rolls- both Coconut and Lemongrass types

                                                                  Tamales- Grn chili and cheese, and Chicken, and Beef- all are excellent

                                                                  Mini Beef Tacos

                                                                  Steak Burritos (we add more beef)

                                                                  Chicken Chilaquiles (good flavor, but a bit mushy.we add more protein and corn)

                                                                  Tr Joe’s Spinach Pie (not Filo Factory version)

                                                                  TJ's eggplant parm in filo (good flavor but yes it is mushy)

                                                                  Tarte d'Alsace w/ gruyere and ham(what a tremendous product)

                                                                  Mushroom tarte

                                                                  Chocolate Croissants

                                                                  Roasted Vegetable Multigrain Lasagna (we add Italian sweet sausage and chevre to it when 3/4 cooked)

                                                                  Pasta Italiano ( we add Italian sweet sausage, artichoke hearts)discont'd

                                                                  Mushroom Fetuccini (we cook down w/ sherry or marsala)

                                                                  Mushroom Ravioli

                                                                  Coffee/Vanilla ice cream bars

                                                                  Tropical bars

                                                                  ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  DELI:
                                                                  --------------

                                                                  Butter Chicken- fantastic deal; one of my top 3 TJ items

                                                                  SouthWest Salad

                                                                  Lentil Ancient Grain Soup

                                                                  Fondue(made in France)

                                                                  Niman ham,corned beef

                                                                  Cilantro lime noodle salad

                                                                  Spinach, red chili, flour tortillas

                                                                  Corn tortillas (much better/more flexible than Whole Foods’)

                                                                  Mexican layered dip

                                                                  Hoomus 3 Layer

                                                                  Red Pepper Hoomus

                                                                  North Atlantic (navy label)smoked salmon, But only the Sliced version

                                                                  Grated parm in navy blue bag(watch out- this can go moldy)

                                                                  Parmiggiano reggiano chunks

                                                                  Truffle Cheese

                                                                  Cave Aged Gruyere (in Paper)

                                                                  Aged Old Amsterdam gouda w/ black rind

                                                                  Goat cheese crumbles

                                                                  Greek yoghurt w/ honey on the side

                                                                  Cilantro Yoghurt Dip/Spread

                                                                  Salmon caviar

                                                                  Pate in mini loaf- shaped crock

                                                                  --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  PRODUCE:
                                                                  -----------------

                                                                  Clementines Box

                                                                  Bags of Baby Spinach

                                                                  -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  BAKED GOODS:
                                                                  ---------------------------

                                                                  All scones

                                                                  Almond croissants discont’d

                                                                  Triple ginger gingersnaps in tub

                                                                  Tandoor Curry Nan

                                                                  DRY GOODS:
                                                                  -----------------------

                                                                  Brown Rice Medley -wonderful components for color and texture

                                                                  Sprouted Brown Rice in tub

                                                                  Trotolle Pasta – great shape for catching sauce between its coils (discontd)
                                                                  Indian(vaccuum packed in foil pouches in box): Eggplant ; Dal

                                                                  All nuts/ roasted sunflower seeds

                                                                  Thai chili lime cashews

                                                                  Raspberry chocolate trail mix

                                                                  Peanut Toffee- in black bags (discontinued)

                                                                  Dark chocolate bars- the single source ,and the larger tr joes 72%( i use all these for baking) people have said this is Caillebaut chocolate but i have lately detected a possible decline

                                                                  Coffee

                                                                  Jasmine Green Tea bags

                                                                  Calcium w Magnesium and Vit. D
                                                                  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  CANS AND JARS:
                                                                  ------------------------------

                                                                  Canned hearts of palm( neat addition to salads; though some of theirs are too fibrous)

                                                                  Thai Coconut, Mojito and Moroccan simmer sauces(some have been discontinued)

                                                                  Vodka marinara sauce

                                                                  Salsa with corn and black beans (may be discontinued)

                                                                  Salsa verde

                                                                  Black truffle oil (better than the other cheap[less than $25] ones i've tried)

                                                                  California Estate EVOO

                                                                  ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                                                  *
                                                                  I also do a lot of TrJ product tweaking; some simple, some more complicated. If you want my tweaking descriptions, write to me at opinionatedchefatcomcastdotnet and i’ll send them to you.*

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                    l
                                                                    littleflower Jan 8, 2012 06:13 AM

                                                                    Ooh...Butter Chicken in the deli...as in Indian Butter Chicken?! How does it come packaged - is it in a tub/sandwich/salad?

                                                                    1. re: littleflower
                                                                      opinionatedchef Jan 8, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                                      yes. if they still carry it, in a rectangular tub w/ clear plstc top.

                                                                      1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                        opinionatedchef Jan 12, 2012 04:03 PM

                                                                        They do still carry it at my tr j. Just got some.

                                                                        also, i tried the refrigerated box w/ foil pak of fondue. it is very good. For my taste, i added maybe 1/2-1 cup grated cave aged gruyere tossed w/ 1T. flour, and maybe 1/3-1/2 cup kirsch, a bit at a time (it keeps evaporating out!).

                                                                        1. re: opinionatedchef
                                                                          l
                                                                          littleflower Jan 12, 2012 05:17 PM

                                                                          We were just at TJ's and I forgot to look for the butter chicken...will have to remember next time. I got sidetracked in that section when the TJ's manager informed me that they are no longer carrying the Chicken, Barley, and Vegetable soup!!

                                                                          1. re: littleflower
                                                                            opinionatedchef Jan 12, 2012 10:14 PM

                                                                            yep, trauma sets in and one's brain goes to hell in a handbasket.;-}

                                                                  2. r
                                                                    rasputina Jan 2, 2012 02:37 PM

                                                                    I haven't shopped at Trader Joes in years. So I have nothing to list for them. As far as Whole Foods.

                                                                    Quince jam

                                                                    their bread dept

                                                                    their grade B maple syrup

                                                                    the whole bakery dept LOL

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: rasputina
                                                                      n
                                                                      NCVeggie Jan 9, 2012 07:45 PM

                                                                      Yes, Grade B is definitely the way to go! Why don't more people realize that?

                                                                    2. l
                                                                      littleflower Jan 16, 2012 03:40 PM

                                                                      Here are my current lists:

                                                                      WF: Deli meats (contain no nitrites) - turkey, virginia baked ham, and turkey bologna, Buffalo Ribeye Steaks, Ground Buffalo Meat, Chicken when it goes on Sale, All Natural/No-Nitrites Pork/Beef Hot Dogs in the packaged meats section, 365 Cola in the cans (tastes just like Coca-Cola to me, without the HFCS or the phosphoric acid), 365 Organic Milk, Fresh Squeezed Tangerine Juice in the fruits section, bulk granola and pink himalayan sea salt, Kozy Shack Pudding (no HFCS), 365 Organic Hot Chocolate in the little packets, NC Style Pork BBQ in the prepared foods section - great deal for the price.

                                                                      TJ's: Pumpkin Butter, Peppermint Pretzel Thins, and Candy Cane Joe Joe's (seasonal); Organic Apples and Pears, Bananas at $0.19/ea., Chicken Tikka Masala dinner, Hot Dog Buns and canned Chili for summer bbq nights, Crescent Rolls, Lactose Free Creamer, Cabot Whipped Cream in a can, TJ's Root Beer in the bottles, Earl Grey Tea bags, frozen artichokes, frozen strawberries, and frozen brown rice.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: littleflower
                                                                        opinionatedchef Jan 16, 2014 12:03 AM

                                                                        flower, prob my fav current TJ product is frozen Multigrain packets (3 to a lavender box) Short grain brown rice, red rice, black barley (iirc) chewy and flavorful and no salt.

                                                                      2. keirarose Jan 15, 2014 07:27 AM

                                                                        I agree. I have been really impressed with their frozen veges, especially the broccoli and French green beans. I also love the raspberry gorgonzola walnut salad dressing.

                                                                        1. globocity Jan 17, 2014 08:57 PM

                                                                          WF has a pretty impressive line of vegan products. They carry a locally-produced (San Diego, CA) vegan cookie dough that is pretty tasty. In fact, there are a few locally-produced items I enjoy. I also like their fat free tortillas, Hampton Creek Foods vegan mayo, coffee beans, and fresh herbs.

                                                                          1. h
                                                                            HillJ Jan 19, 2014 12:45 PM

                                                                            I just finished off the last of the six bags :(

                                                                            TJ's Dried Baby Sweet Pineapple. Small nibbles of chewy naturally sweet pineapple rounds, dried perfectly. Def. my favorite buy of 2013.

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