I haven’t made it to the Trader Joe’s here in Houston, yet. I used to go all the time when I lived in Vegas, since the grocery stores there were awful. So, I can’t review this particular store, but I can give you my list of favorite items. What I like about TJ’s is they source products from all around the world and package them under their name. So, you can get very good extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, Belgian baking chocolate, and other condiments at very reasonable prices. The kaffir lime-chili cashews are addictive, the corn tortilla flatbread crackers are great; they have really good tortillas, cookies and frozen foods (including pizza from Italy, mochi, etc. etc.). You can find good prices on baby heirloom tomatoes and large bunches of basil for you pesto makers out there (impossible to find here in Houston, for some reason). They don’t have the best cheese selection in the world (Central Market is definitely better here). Meats and seafood are prepackaged (at least at the ones I’ve been to – don’t know about here). So, it’s not all a food shopper’s paradise. I would recommend starting out at Trader Joe’s and buy the best they have to offer, then fill in the rest at your regular grocer.
I would add that I intend to avoid the pine nuts they sell there since every case of pine mouth I've heard of originated with the Chinese or Korean growers they buy from. I've not had it, but apparently it's a big pain and alters taste for days or weeks. Google the two together for more information.
OK, so I was killing time Saturday morning waiting for the Texas game to start, (I appreciate the condolences), and managed to find myself at Trader Joe's at 8:10 am, shortly after opening.
To remind you, the new Voss store is a mere 100 yards from my office and is due to open in late Nov I think. However, I couldn't wait that long, so...
As this was but the first of several stops on that morning, I was not able to avail myself of the frozen goods, but walked every aisle, touched everything and certainly understand the appeal.
I bought some masala sauce, canned Hatch peppers, turbinado sugar, white balsamic vinegar, a bottle of $3 buck Chuck, (CabSav), and maybe a coupe of other things.
I won't make the trek in to Montrose again for it, but it will definitely be a frequent stop when they move in next door.
Okay so I went before Bro Doobie.
Smoked sardines, and anchovies at a buck fifty ea. yeah in a tin.
Little Rye nibbles for the fishes, (and the oil therein).
I was looking at the canned stuff as I was on my lunch break.
Beans, tomatoes, jams and the like.
I’ll have to try again after work, for the fresh stuff.
I was beginning to think you flew souther for the winter. I have yet to go, mainly because I like to cook from scratch with fresh ingredeii and the thought of boil-in-pouch dips and sauces and something called "cookie butter" make me think of my college years with a hot plate. I trust you will report in due course.
Hello - just wanted to mention that "cookie butter" isn't a TJ thing. It is a French thing - speculoos spread - and widely revered on the CH France board, even by those who cook from scratch! That's how I found it, and was sad to scrape out the last of what I brought from Paris this summer. It is remarkable, and delicious, and I am happy to report that the TJ brand (which may well be sourced from one of the French brands - that's how they work) is GREAT!
Not familiar with TJ boil-in-pouch dips (sounds scary!), but love their par-baked breads, truffle cheese, fresh pizza dough, simmer sauces (I can make a 15 ingredient masala sauce, but sometimes midweek it is nice to get fresh chicken and veggies and throw them into a reliable pre-made sauce), and snacks. The prices are great for a nice array (which changes) of interesting items.
I'll admit that long ago (20 years!) I partook frequently of frozen stuff such as shepherds pies, nasi goreng, and other conveniences....but haven't had anything from that aisle in a while.
Cookie butter...for me and my kiddo, it is straight from the spoon...he calls it a cookie mush lollipop. I have had it on crackers, baguette...have heard tell that people frost cupcakes with it. Oh - almost forgot - WAFFLES. The stuff is amazing on hot waffles. Speculoos spread...off I go to the fridge.....
An article in the Press yesterday about the new Voss store:
Breathless anticipation or something close to it, as you might expect in the Press these days.
I've been to the Montrose store once and thought I had posted about it; can't find my notes, now. I will check out the new store and post then but so far I've been underwhelmed.
The comments on the Press article say it well, particularly one guy who opines something like it's an upscale convenience store. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Not my style but to each his own.
Went by the Voss store this morning at 8am when they open.
It was the store's second day of business but cold and rainy. I wasn't the only person there, but there certainly wasn't a line to get in.
2 cans of whole bean coffee, (Brazilian Peaberry and Bali Blue Moon)
Carton of organic beef broth
Green Curry Sauce
Cookie Butter (Haven't opened it yet and never heard of it until this thread)
Green Tea Bags
Tube of Tomato Paste (For when a dab'll do ya')
Anchovies (2 tins - didn't see a country of origin, but I'm still looking for good, Non-Morocco ones)
Pretzels Bites filled with Peanut Butter
Pasta (Fusilli and Linguine)
Chevre Blue Cheese (January Special)
Spicy Brown Mustard
Sweet Chili Sauce
Bottle of Dry Vermouth
Bottle of Tawny Port
$60, ($49 without the alcohol and $33 without the coffee)
I felt like the prices are good for what I got and as long as the quality is there, (and rumors are that it is), then I think it's a good value for certain things.
Like my visit to the Montrose store, this was my first stop of several, so except for the blue cheese, I skipped anything needing refrigeration.
Also, because it was relatively empty, I walked through it one direction, turned around and went back and discovered all new things I missed the first time. They literally have things stacked on top of one another so you really need to take your time and look at everything.
It's fun and as I've noted before, the Voss store is a just a couple of hundred yards from my office, so I'll be going often.
But then, I like grocery shopping. After TJ's, I went to an Indian-Pakistani market down Hillcroft and then went to Whole Foods for game steaks, so I may not be the most objective source.
I've been taking little field trips at noon this week. Made it into Trader Joe's on Shepherd and was floored by the size. I had heard, but was not prepared.
There are FOUR aisles! Four! In Texas! I don't know how these stores will survive here, and I'm not just joking. I got a prepared lunch to go from a tiny selection. The Whole Foods on Waugh dwarfs their selections. I was going to buy the pizza dough, but they were out of the regular. I couldn't have bought all the ingredients there anyway because they don't carry fresh mozzarella in their otherwise respectable cheese section. A lady looking for Sriracha was perplexed to find they don't carry it. All the sauces are TJ brand. This is a store of 99% their own labels in a food town that hasn't had those labels before. That's an uphill battle.
I bought fresh English Peas, some frozen Thai Tom Yam soup, TJ label hummus and pita chips, 2 bottles of 2 buck chuck and olive oil - they only have extra-virgin and I really needed a lighter one. I ultimately found a blend. I found Cento San Marzano tomatoes relegated to the bottom shelf like a bad apple.
For lunch I heated up a prepared lunch: mushroom tortellini with fresh asparagus and basil. The asparagus and basil steamed on top of the pasta for 3 minutes in the micro. It was under $4 and was very good, While I waited for the micro to ping, I sampled the cilantro and jalapeno hummus and pita chips. The hummus has a strong acid twang, but I grew to like it.
There was plenty of parking and not too much traffic in those 4 aisles.
I doubt I'll go back, except for maybe the peas. This is a specialty store, not a weekly shopping store, and I love my mega HEB and Whole Foods stores. Woman can not live on cookie butter alone (read the label).
Thanks for the report.
"This is a store of 99% their own labels in a food town that hasn't had those labels before. That's an uphill battle." - I particularly agree on this.
I tried following the TJ's thread on Chains but miss a day or two and it's too time consuming to try to catch up. There do seem to be people who exist on nothing but TJ's branded products.
I expected from that thread that about half the store was going to be devoted to snacks - cookies, crackers, chips, etc., another half devoted to prepared/frozen meals and then just a small portion of the store of miscellaneous other stuff - I was surprised that was not true but there isn't much variety - this is definitely a niche marketer and I still haven't found an excuse to make a second visit.
Unless they were out of it, they usually carry several different fresh mozzarellas. Also, they usually carry some "regular" olive oils, you might want to ask an employee if you can't find something you think they might have - sometimes I find their items in non-intuitive locations.
" Woman can not live on cookie butter alone (read the label)."
Guilty pleasure - for me and many others...
Yes, it is a specialty store - one that has some solid and interesting staples with which to augment weekly shopping. I love my Big Texan HEB, but the space and choice is really irrelevant if you find things at TJs that are nice, and unavailable elsewhere.
What about the flowers? If only for the beautiful and cheap flowers, I want a TJs here that I can visit twice a month.
Will bow out now...hoping that special, unique elements of TJs will seduce Texans the way they have seduced the folks in many other places...come on Austin....
This isn't a regular grocery store like Fiesta or HEB. You don't come to Trader Joe's for the usual grocery items. They do have prepared foods, but, as someone who used to cook professionally (for 20+ years), I go for the selection of condiments - extra virgin olive oils from some small producer in Italy, whole raw nuts for baking, Belgian chocolate for a fraction of the price you find at Central Market or Whole Foods. Yes, I like their cookies and snacks, but I tend not to buy frozen or canned foods. That being said, they do have decent, low-cal, inexpensive Indian, Asian, etc. dishes, hand-thrown wood-fire cooked pizza from Italy, and more. You can find great items, just don't go there with a grocery list until you get to know the place. Embrace the difference!
Have been meaning to try TJ. Especially the vino. Whole Foods is competing with some $2.99 bottles that taste a little thin.