Do our eyes deceive us? Banh mi AND poutine under one roof? The two dishes we live and die for were both on the lunch menu at Creo Restaurant. It's like they were meant just for us. I was always intimidated by Creo, thinking it was too stuffy to be part of our dining scene. We frequent Mr. Fuji Sushi and The Meat House on a regular basis but for for some reason or another, we always bypassed Creo at Stuvesant Plaza. Setting our prejudices aside, we set off for to try a new experience. The menu had our names written all over it; how could we pass up on two of our favorite meals? Our search for poutine in the Capital Region has led us to various interpretations, from The City Beer Hall to Capital City Gastropub, with little success in replicating the flavors and squeakiness of this French Canadian delicacy. They both deserve honorable mentions for use of quality ingredients but the magic is in a certain cheese curd and execution of the dish. It's hard to impress this Canadian-Vietnamese. Thus far, the only place that has been able to perfect the ratio of unmelted cheese curd to crispy fries and gravy has been The Montreal Poutine food truck. The cheese curd I look for has a particular flavor and texture that local cheddar curds here just don't have. Oddly enough, Montreal Poutine truck aside, the only other cheese curd with the exact flavor profile can be found frozen in Trader Joe's version of poutine but the fries and gravy that come with it are atrocious. It's difficult to describe what I'm looking for exactly in terms of flavor but it's almost a cross between mozzarella and cheddar and the texture and squeak of halloumi. So how does Creo's poutine fare?
Hummus is one of the easiest dips you can make at home but sometimes I'm just too lazy to make and it's just too easy to pickup quality ones at Trader Joe's. My new favorite TJ hummus is a cilantro and jalapeno hummus. It's slightly spicy and for some reason reminds of Indian flavors, like the green chutney you get on the side from those all-you-can eat lunch buffets. Delicious with pita chips and sugar snap peas. Another unusual TJ product is edamame hummus. It's made with edamame instead of chickpeas and has this fun green color. You still have the classic flavors of tahini, lemon, and garlic but with a unique twist. My other go to hummus when I'm not at Trader Joe's is Sabra's Sun Dried Tomato Hummus with the fun dip in the middle and Tribe's 40 Spices Hummus. I have no idea what all forty spices are but cumin is definitely one of 'em. It's about time I snacked on something healthy.
Trader Joe'sis one those places where it's dangerous to shop when hungry. But it's also the best place for snack attacks! I love it when TJ's features new products, and usually they are unique enough for me to want to try at least once. I'm a sucker for pretty packaging and different flavors. Case in point: Beurre Meuniere Popcorn and Cheddar & Horseradish Potato Chips. If you love wasabi peas, the cheddar & horseradish is a pretty good alternative. That horseradish is sinus clearingly good and who doesn't love ruffled chips? The Beurre Meuniere Popcorn on the other hand, more of a one time snack for me. What is beurre meuniere? It's a brown butter sauce with lemon and thyme and parsley. On popcorn, it tasted too much like boxed stuffing. As much as I love the Thanksgiving staple, it didn't quite work out here. I'd say stick to the cheddar and caramel popcorn.
While I haven't had much luck with any of the Trader Joe's ice creams (too average and odd textures), I'm absolutely obsessed with Green Tea Mochi Ice Cream. Although not a TJ brand product, it needs to be shared. Haven't heard of mochi? It's an Asian dessert made with rice flour that's like a marshmallow. You might have seen it in the toppings bar of most fro yo places. It's not too sweet and has a fun chewy but soft texture. Most times you'll see mochi stuffed with red bean paste, but with ice cream it's the perfect summer treat! Some green tea ice creams have a bitter taste but this one is perfect and creamy. These mochi ice cream bites are addicting. It also comes in mango, strawberry, and chocolate flavors. Pick up a box, or two, this summer.-R
I get made fun of at work for drinking this glowing green smoothie but it's so delicious! Green smoothies are my way of getting the fruits and veggies in that my body needs in order to balance out all the sugar and bacon food groups that I consume. You can't even taste the spinach with all the fruit and juice blended in. Some people substitute or add kale, but I think spinach is the most neutral tasting green for smoothies. My go to green smoothie consists of a blend of a handful of fresh spinach, frozen mangoes, greek yogurt, and Trader Joe's Green Plant Juice, which contains broccoli, spinach, barley grass, chlorella, and spirulina. Looks like pond scum but you mostly taste the fruit in the juice which also contains apple, peach, pineapple, banana and mango. For good measure, I add a tablespoon of chia seeds, also from Trader Joe's. Told you I had an obsession with TJ's. Apparently it's the same kind of chia seeds used for chia pets...cha cha cha chia! But a lil goes a long way; a single tablespoon gets you 6g of fiber, 3g of protein, and 2.9g of Omega-3 fatty acids. That to me sounds healthy and it adds a great texture to smoothies. Chia seeds makes your drink thicker too. When you soak chia seeds, they turn into a very space-age like gel. Some other great add-ins for these green smoothies are bananas or blueberries. Any fruit really! Go ahead, try a green smoothie! Promise you won't turn into the Hulk. -R
I have an unhealthy obsession with all things Trader Joe's. I'm also going to pretend that most everything at TJ's is healthy because it's all organic, including that 1-pound bar of chocolate that J and I love so much. What I love most about TJ's is that it satisfies my penchant to try new and most often weird snacks, all for a reasonable price. My latest favorite snack are these dried mandarin oranges. Funky right? But so delicious. Forget the fact that they're loaded with sugar. It's almost like eating a "healthier" version of a gummy. "Healthier" only because in my mind it's made from real fruit so it totally counts. Even though it's dried oranges, it's still soft and juicy, just like the package says. My only gripe is that some products at TJs are limited edition/seasonal, so I hope this one stays around for awhile. It's a 9 out of 10 in my book. -R