At some point, I hope to get to a Trader Joe's "Best Values" feature.
For now, here's two selections that will make the list that were served with quick, weeknight dinners over the last two weeks.
Trader Joe's does a solid job of getting representations of nearly every grape/sub-region at dirt cheap prices.
These two offerings offer that and a little more.
Meal #1 - Pasta Roulades And Meatballs With 2007 Archeo Ruggero Di Tasso Nero D'avola - $5 Trader Joe's
Okay. This Nero D'avola is softer than most, offering less spice and a somewhat mealy mishmash of berries usually found in Nero D'avola on its own.
But it's $5! And with tomato sauce and meat-type products, it's elevated to something much better than passable, especially for a quick, thrown-together dinner of Italian fare. And did I mention it's $5?
Pasta roulades came from Pasta Fresh on Harlem, still the most annoying errand run in Chicago but worth it if you toss it together with other annoying errands (putting it all under one annoying umbrella).
They were coupled with Trader Joe's Frozen Party Meatballs, an another passable packaged meat product when making dinner seems like a lot of work. The entire meal was gussied up with a homemade marinara sauce using Italian (not San Marzano) tomatoes.
The pairing is like an introductory course on why Italian food should be paired with Italian wine. No illusions here. This is cheapish food with cheap wine, but the result approaches that uniquely Italian wine and food combination that gets Italians' undies all in a bunch. Just simply approaching. Not entirely there, but good nonetheless.
For the effort and cost, it's a solid little weeknight meal.
Meal #2 - Zucchini Pie With 2008 Caves des Perrìeres Pouilly Fume - $12 TJ's
Zucchini pie is a staple Thursday night meal (our Monday) in the Ney house. Once or twice a month is pretty standard.
Trader Joe's Pouilly Fume is a satisfying little afternoon drinking wine, especially in the summer, offering simple, light lemon fruit, a hint of straw and plenty of minerality - a delicate wine on the rougher, more simple end of the spectrum - it's a base version of what Pouilly Fume does with the Sauvignon Blanc grape.
I love it by the gallon, second only to Trader Joe's $6 Muscadet (Château des Cleons Sur Lie).
It's usually reserved for drinking on its own or with pre-dinner snacks but we gave it a whirl with zucchini pie and it didn't really come close to working.
Zucchini pie is a combination of zucchini, onions, copious amounts of garlic, parsley, basil, grain mustard, mozzarella, parmesan and black pepper. Delicious. Every time.
Something killed the wine. Pepper? Garlic? Onions? Something. In retrospect, it should have been obvious that it was a gamble given the delicacy of the Pouilly Fume but it was worth a shot. Now we know.