You recognize the logo. You know the stores. Trader Joe’s: The brand that has redefined grocery shopping, and turned it into an fun experience, full or discovery and surprises. Trader Joe’s, the *cool* brand, and its cult-like following. I am lucky: I have two Trader Joe’s stores less than 15 minutes away from my place. There is the old one, that looks like a trading post, where I have been shopping for almost twenty years. There is a newer, larger, prettier one, that appeals to the more affluent crowd. A visit to Trader Joe’s is like going on an international trip. The products come from around the world, and you know you will not find them at other local stores. They are affordable too, and that is, in itself, a great reason to go.
As a French native living in the United States, there are many good reasons to shop at Trader Joe’s. This is my personal list of the 10 best French food products sold there. They are made in France, allegedly (Trader Joe’s likes to keep the products’ origin shrouded in mystery.)
1. Les surgelés: Picard-like frozen food selection.
Picard. You would be forgiven if you have never heard this name before, but I would venture to say the only French people who have never shopped at Picard, do not have one in their neighborhood. Once you have sampled their incredible lines of frozen products, you will never go back. I know. You thought French people only ate fresh food, purchased daily at [organic] outdoor markets or specialty stores. They do not. At least not all the time. French people, like everyone else in the Western world, are often pressed for time. And they take shortcuts. In the U.S., the frozen food aisles in most supermarkets are created equal: same brands. Different prices. Until I set a foot at my local Trader Joe’s, all I could do was mourn my monthly visits at my old Parisian Picard store. Here is a sampling of the wonderful products I find at Trader Joe’s on a regular basis.
2. Les tartes salées (savory tarts)
Perfect for movie nights; or to feed last-minute guests. Just add a green salad, whip up some vinaigrette, and voilà, l‘apéritif is served!
3. Le fromage
One of Trader Joe’s best departments. Variety. Decent prices (Some of these can be found at other supermarkets… for a lot more.)
There are many good French cheeses sold at Trader Joe’s. Le Délice de Bourgogne is a favorite of mine.
If you enjoy hosting traditional Raclette parties, as I do in the winter, and have already had to slice Raclette cheese yourself, you, too, will feel like hugging the Trader Joe’s buyer for this wonderful product.
4. La moutarde
From Dijon, Burgundy, of course. Check out this affordable selection. The perfect hostess gift! — Or keep it at home and enjoy!
5. Fleur de Sel (the Cadillac of hand-harvested salt)
I have seen Fleur de Sel sold at local (high-end) retailers and recoiled in fear when looking at the price tag… until I started laughing hysterically. Trader Joe’s, once again, saves the day this season, with this pretty, affordable, new product. Another great hostess gift!
6. Les Biscottes
A staple on many French breakfast tables. Good with butter and jam. Better with chocolate. Out of this world with that chocolate-hazelnut spread. Spreading butter on a biscotte without breaking it up is a rite of passage (Hint: Don’t use cold butter!)
Come to think of it, a suggestion: Try spreading some of this delicious mousse on a biscotte. Ah, Heaven!
7. Les tartes sucrées (sweet tarts)
Trader Joe’s sells French macarons, and they are ok. These tarts (the pear tart, especially,) are my favorite French desserts there. I always keep a couple in my freezer. After all, it is customary in France for a hostess to purchase (rather than make) dessert. Shortcuts are ok, remember? – Just serve a quality product.
Doesn’t this look délicieux?
8. Les Pâtes feuilletées (flaky dough)
Trader Joe’s sells croissants, and pains au chocolat. This product, however, is a bit more original, a traditional specialty from beautiful Brittany, le Kouign Amann (French people have a hard time pronouncing it, too.) Here is an online review for the [trendy] Kouign Amann.
9. Caramel au beurre salé (salted caramel)
You can purchase the sauce, presented in a pretty jar; the chewy caramels; or these cookies. I have tried them all. This week, I went back to the cookies. Butter, milk chocolate, caramel: How bad can they be? Merci Trader Jacques !
10. Les boissons (beverages)
Trader Joe’s wine selection is small, but well stocked.
They have [renowned] French bubblies, too.
But the best part is getting your hands on a Trader Joe’s special find…
To be enjoyed after the meal… or to be used in cooking. If Calvados is good enough for Normandy, it is good enough for me.
Have you tried any of these? What did you think? Are there other French products you like chez Trader Joe’s?
Here is one I would not mind finding there this week, when the French celebrate l’Epiphanie (the Epiphany,) with a traditional Galette des Rois.
Granted I could always make my own, thanks to Trader Joe’s most excellent (but unfortunately seasonal) pâte feuilletée, made with pure butter…
Bonne année à tous ! Happy New Year!