Sunday, July 24, 2011

House Guests

I have quite a few dishes and recipes in the hopper, whirling around waiting to spew forth onto the blog but not this weekend because I forgot that I was hosting some house guests.

I give you the very obedient and extremely well behaved Toby.


I also give you Rudy. Rudy likes runs a lot.


So while I'm entertaining my guests, there will be no cooking or shooting of food, because Goldens can't bear to be less than 6 inches from any human at any time and the Irish Setter believes he's a small lap dog.


Which means it's time for Plan B, better known as What The Heck is All the Love for Trader Joe's???


Kansas City just became home to two brand spanking new Trader Joe's stores. I thought some of the Trader Joe Junkies were going to blockade the city limits from any bbq from going out into the world until their demands for a Trader Joe's of their own were met.


Last week it finally happened, one on the Missouri side of the city and another deep in the Golden Ghetto. And despite a heat wave of pavement parching proportions, the Junkies gathered to battle over parking spots close to the source of their desires.


I decided to venture forth this weekend and investigate all the hubbub and I am back to report that I am thoroughly confused. First of all, when compared to regular grocery stores, TJ's are not very big. Their produce is ok, their dried fruits and nuts are really nice, they have a decent variety of frozen choices and some meat. As I stood in the midst of the milling crowd, suffering from a wee bit of agoraphobia, I realized that it wasn't a store meant for me. By "me" I mean someone who takes the time to buy fresh ingredients and cooks a dish, either from a recipe or totally pulled out from my.....imagination. No, TJ's is a godsend to those folks who want to buy eight different frozen meals to stick in the freezer and not worry about what to make when they get home from a long day at work. I'm guessing that the Trader Joe's line of ready made meals is a step above a Stouffer's Chicken Pot Pie. But is it really better than making it yourself and freezing your own? I decided to give one of their meals a try.

Trader Joe eggplant parm

I love a good eggplant parm but already I was having some misgivings. They grilled the eggplant? Really? My skepticism comes not from the fact that it's a healthy way to cook the eggplant, it's that the flavor has to be really pronounced for it to come through the tomato sauce and the cheese. However the label is a bit misleading. Unless in Trader Joe's land, grilling means hold over a weak flame for 15 seconds because the eggplant I got was floppy and full of liquid. No grill marks were evident after my CSI-like examination. I appreciate that there were no preservatives or artificial flavors but c'mon people, a flavorful eggplant parmesan is not that hard to make. It's also not like Kansas City isn't home to some incredible shopping options. We have a Dean and Deluca. We have Whole Foods. We have a ton of other organic full featured grocery stores popping up. Not to mention some excellent home grown regular grocery stores who buy and promote local produce and proteins. So while the Junkies are happy (and still fighting over that parking spot 10 feet away from the front door) I'll be hitting the farmer's markets and enjoying the Karmic Kitchen line of fresh and frozen foods.

That's not to say I didn't also pick up some dark chocolate covered cherries to stash back home. If there was a silver lining to the my little dark TJ cloud it was THIS!!!

le creuset

A store of just Le Creuset. Next to the Apple Store, across from the parking lot of the Crate and Barrel. This shopping center would be perfect if they would just open up a Nikon Store and the Just Bacon Butcher.


froggy said...

Once upon a time we had a grocery store open that was supposed to be upscale and kind of 'Seattle-y'. So I went. They had a fish counter. Up I siddled. Then, out of nowhere, seagulls started cawing at me! Dear Gawd they were running a sound track! I looked over at the milk section - was it going to moo at me? I got the heck out of there as fast as my little Birkenstocks could carry me.

Big Shamu said...

Bwhahahahah. I remember that happening as a kid in a convenience store chain in Maryland whenever the door for the milk was opened. I'm pretty sure the clerks told the robbers they'd open the safe if they shot the Moo Trigger.

MakingSpace said...


The doggies look happy.

Trader Joe's doesn't sound like the fantasy world I've heard it to be, when you describe it like that...

Dani said...

Le Creuset! ***drool***

I love those kinds of house guests. No panic cleaning of the bathroom or house required.

Buzz Kill said...

The dogs were well behaved? They all lokk wet in those pictures. Last week my neighbor's dog had an encounter with a skunk. Almost a whole week of baths and sprays. But dogs do listen better than kids.

We've had a Trader Joes about a mile and a half from the house for maybe 5 years. I go there every now and then but I think they're very expensive. The Mrs likes their soups, so I pick some up evry now and then. And around Christmas, you can't even get in the parking lot. I think it's all the "natural" and "organic" signs all over the place.

Big Shamu said...

Dani, it's bad that I know that store is there. Very bad!!!

The dogs were shuttled frequently to a friend's house, otherwise known as Dog Heaven. Pool, huge fenced yard, owners with a big pile of dog treats always at the ready. With the weekend as hot as it was, both Toby and I made good use of the pool. Rudy, however, would have none of it.

MS, if you have one in your area, I'd check it out and test some of their products but for me, it's just not somewhere I have to go every week especially with so many better choices closer to Casa de Shammy.

K9 said...

beautiful photographs of the dogs. where did you take them to a lake? nice break from the heat dome. I agree TJ's is okay....but if you have a decent regular grocer and a real farmers market...youre good.

K9 said...

oh - a pool!

Big Shamu said...

K9, they are very beautiful dogs and very attentive.

Melissa said...

We had a houseguest for the last two weeks - one little shitzu of my mom's...such a good sweet thing. It's sad whent they go home.

TJ's - been to them in other parts of the country, and really like them - but I think I'm hitting them more as a shop-around store than a regular grocer...Kind of like I enjoy going to World Market and looking at the candies and items....? And you know I do likes me Price Chopper, and I loves me my Price Chopper Frequent Shopper Card.

Big Shamu said...

Melissa, it was nice coming home to happy furry faces again but dang, I was incredibly popular. My EVERY move was followed with laser-like focus.

You know, if it wasn't so far out from me I might give it more a go but I just can't justify spending the gas money and fighting the crowds just for chocolate covered dried fruit. Not when Whole Foods, Price Chopper and Hen House are closer. World Market is good for me too for foodie photo props not to mention the spectacular Pryde's of Westport. Hmmmmmm Fiesta hhmmmmmmm.

Melissa said...

Ooh! It will cost you in gas, but out this way (actually PAST this way) is Cockrell Mercantile.

The original owner of Pryde's, started the place. They have the Fiesta Cottage! A house with nothing but Fiesta in it. And other cottages, too. There's a firepit on the property, and in the fall, it will be going. Well worrth the visit, and on the way to Powell Gardens, too.

Big Shamu said...

Oh bloody hell....