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Monday, December 8, 2008

Frozen Pizza pt1 - Trader Joes

I will eventually be reviewing all the well known frozen pizza brands.  To start I will go to a grocery store that is specific to the West Coast, and that is Trader Joe's.  A small chain of markets that specializes in mainly organic and fresh type foods.  Most of which are small brands or their own Trader Joes brand, like 'Trader Giotto's'.  
I am starting with trader Joe's because it has been said that the best frozen pizza can be found here.  With many foods, Trader Joes is kind of on another level.  So we shall see.  
Trader Joe's has 2 styles of pizza.  One is their frozen pizza, the other is a freshly made cold pizza, that can be warmed up.

Freshly Made Cold Pizza:One day for lunch I was forced to go to Trader Joe's to get some kind of prepared meal for lunch.  The first thing that caught my eye of course was a freshly made chilled pizza.  They had several different kinds.  I got one with pockets of goat cheese and tomatoes, lots of other things I cannot recall.  I warmed it up in the toaster oven when I got back.  To my surprise it was not bad at all.  The ingredients were very refreshing and tasty, a very good combination.  The crust of course was nowhere near right.  I suppose that was to be expected, not that it tasted bad but it was just typical pre-made bread that didn’t get crispy.  Is this really pizza, I asked myself, and I suppose it doesn’t matter, it was food that tasted good.  It doesn’t matter what you call it.  I suppose by definition it was pizza, but it certainly was not by NY standards or Italy standards, or even California standards.  Trader Joes or any other grocery store is the only place you can get away with calling it pizza.  If you ordered it in a restaurant you would be disappointed. Some how because you can see what you are getting into when you buy it, it is acceptable.
However, it was fresh and very tasty.  If you are craving a snack it's better than those pre-made wraps they have.  
I later had some of the pesto pizza, that is made in the same style.  This was no good.  There was more pesto sauce on that thing than there is tomato sauce on a regular pizza.  

Frozen Pizza-Cheese Pizza:
The last pizza I had was their Pizza Margherita.  Made with large chunks of mozzarella and Grana cheese (I'm not sure what grana is).  This was made in Italy by hand and in a wood fired oven.  Sounds great.  Of course if you say it was made in an assembly line in a factory on a conveyor belt oven, it doesn't sound as good.  But these both mean the same thing.  There are pictures on  the back.  Anyway, here is the pizza box and the pizza when frozen, of course I forgot to take a picture after it cooked, stupid !  Just too hungry I guess.
So I can tell you it looked more like the frozen picture than the box, just a little more cooked looking, ha.
The crust was similar to the rest, very crispy and thin.  The rest of the pizza was all cheese.  The too kinds of cheese were very heavy.  Granted they were very creamy and delicious.  The sauce if there was any, was almost completely canceled out.  The specks of basil that were in the picture maybe they were oregano, were non-existent in visuals and taste.  Overall it was pretty bland tasting, not much kick.  I put sausage on half of the pizza, and that helped take it up a notch.  For bland frozen pizza it was good, would be better if it had a little less cheese, and more sauce.  But you can't be perfect.      

Frozen Pizza-Philly Cheese Steak:
The first frozen pizza I tried was the Philly cheese steak pizza, Kelly bought it on a whim, not thinking that Trader Joe's is known for their frozen pizzas, and not thinking that I, a pizza lover would love to eat and review it.  No she was only thinking jee, I love cheese steaks and I love pizza, this might be good.  Just like deep fried Oreos.  So there it was in the freezer and so we ate it.  On another note, I wish people would stop using the town of Philly to categorize this specific flavor.  Not only is this not even a cheese steak but if it were it wouldn't taste anything like a philly cheese steak.  It is an insult to Philidelphia, and their great sandwich invention.  It is a cheese steak sandwich, do not bring Philly into it, what they do is not this.  
However I am a sucker for onions steak and cheese, so I enjoyed it.  The combo is great, whether on a pizza or in a bun.  Excellent.    

Frozen Pizza-Pesto:
A few weeks later I tried the Pesto Pizza. This looked a little different than the picture on the box, the whole crust turned out green from the pesto.  There was a lot of pesto flavor and it also had broccoli on it, which I was not a fan of.  Plus the pizza was a little un balanced, having a lot of cheese on one side and very little on the other. 

Frozen Pizza-BBQ Chicken:
I was a bit disappointed with this one.  It was not the same as the others.  The crust had a different texture and consistency to it.  It was hard and chewy but not crispy.  Slightly thicker as well.  The taste was pretty good as usual.  The chicken and sauce and veggies that were on it all went well together and were as fresh as frozen food can be.  The cheese was kind of lacking but then again I guess you don’t get a bbq chicken pizza for the cheese.

Overall review:
One thing that they all had in common (except the cooled pizza and the bbq) was the crust.  The crust got surprisingly crispy, and when you put it directly on the oven rack it even gets super crispy.  However its not just the crispy-ness that makes the crust, it’s an over all texture, taste and thickness that changes the way a pizza is enjoyed.  These frozen pizzas didn’t have this.  Yes it was crispy, but the crust wasn’t light and doughy on the inside, it didn't have a slightly chewy texture to it, it didn’t give much rise on the end and it didn’t have that baked hot oven taste. So we don't have to worry about frozen pizza replacing real, freshly made pizzas, just yet.  Frozen just doesn't compare.  It is its own style of pizza.  Frozen style pizza.  For what it is, Trader Joe's does pretty good.  I still prefer the real thing.  Obviously.  

A Side Note:  for you health conscious people out there, yes all pizza is probably high in calories and yes frozen pizza is probably worse.  I noticed however that the Trader Joe's Margherita pizza has 340 calories, 110 from fat.  That is for 1/3 of the pizza !  It also has 710 mg of sodium and 5g of Sat. fat.  I don't pay much attention to this, but that sounds bad, at least for what Trader Joe's usually brings to the table.        

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