by Hunter Hermanson and Yanit Mehta
The daily predicament almost every UCI student faces is that food on-campus can be bland, hackneyed and dull, but across Campus Dr. lies an oasis in a desert of dreary, dreadful food: Trader Joe’s.
Trader Joe’s abundance of wraps are the holy grail of healthy and delicious college food. The self-contained nature of the wrap is easy to grab and go, and they are well-crafted and can be a well-earned break from a hectic schedule.
With a plethora of refreshing and ready-to-eat delicacies ranging from the vegan Spicy Lentil to the hearty and meaty Cubano, Trader Joe’s pre-made wraps are sure to satisfy any craving you may have. For the sake of science, we have compiled a quick guide to the TJ’s wrap selection (in alphabetical order).
“Buffalo-Style Chicken Breast Wrap” with Blue Cheese Dressing: spicy chicken with celery in a tomato wrap.
The Buffalo Wrap contains a great balance of ingredients, but lacks a distinct buffalo sauce taste. The chicken is spicy, but the buffalo flavor comes more from the association of the chicken with the Blue cheese (which is remarkably flavorful, yet not overbearing) than what one would conjure when thinking of buffalo. That being said, the wrap is tasty indeed and well worth the buy. The Blue cheese dressing surprisingly cuts through the spicy buffalo chicken while adding a creamy finish with a sour punch at the end and leaving you with a lingering aftertaste. The sweet tomato wrap holds the contents well for on-the-go pleasure.
We give the Buffalo Wrap 7 bison out of 10 buffalo for trying to venture into a territory of flavors that shouldn’t play along. But somehow the tomato tortilla and the blue cheese dip make up for the paucity of the buffalo sauce.
Moving on to a more traditionally styled wrap with the “Chicken Wrap with Pesto Vinaigrette.”
This wrap was made to be eaten after about a minute in the microwave, but it tastes gourmet. If the prospect of microwaved food deters you, the wrap also tastes great out of the oven. We would highly recommend heating it, though you could easily eat it cold; we did it accidentally the first time we got it and our taste buds lived to tell the tale of delectable wonders. However, this heated wrap adds a great break in the rotation with a more savory chicken and beautifully melted creamy ricotta cheese.
The flavors blend more when heated, and the vinaigrette adds a tinge of sweetness to the traditional olive oil and basil flavors. The sun-dried tomatoes also add another layer to the already complex flavor. Warming the wrap, however, sacrifices some of its portability, as it makes the wrap slightly flimsier. It also requires that you have something to heat the wrap with. Despite these drawbacks this wrap delivers, we give it 9 authentic Italian breadsticks out of 10.
“Cubano Seasoned Wrap:” Roasted Pork, Ham, Swiss Cheese and Dill Pickles in a flour tortilla with a Cuban Inspired Mustard Dressing.
The Cubano Wrap is everything that a wrap can be (even though it’s more of a traditional sandwich). It’s a familiar and loved Cubano, but in a new form. The Cubano boasts the best balance of ingredients of all the wraps. All of the flavors complement one another; even the pickles, which can sometimes steal attention in a dish, do not overpower the wrap. The Cubano is filling and magnificent, though relatively simple. Stacked with multiple slices of cheese and a generous amount of meat and pickles, Trader Joe’s weren’t frugal with their ingredients. The Cubano also has one of the best paired sauces – the mustard’s flavor typical of a Cubano adds a nice smoky yet sweet and tangy feel to the palate. A traditional Cubano is served warm, and this wrap is not meant to be heated, however, four minutes in the oven at 350 degrees makes the wrap feel more like a Cubano. Cold or hot, the Cubano is guaranteed to please even with its newfound flour tortilla body. The “Cubano Seasoned Wrap” gives you all 10 reasons to end the trade embargo.
“Spicy Lentil Wrap” with a Tahini Sauce, is a vegan option (for diversity’s sake), along with another “Veggie Wrap” TJ’s offers.
As a vegan option it functions well, the lentils are well-cooked with some great spicy undertones, but this is all lost in the bland cabbage. The lavash wrap it comes with holds its shape well and has a nice consistency to it. The “Spicy Tahini Sauce” it comes with tried really hard but even that can’t add flavor to the insipid cabbage. Another important note is that all other wraps on this list cost $3.99, but the Lentil wrap costs and additional 30 cents. For this reason and the surplus of cabbage, this wrap receives 6 and a half Spicy Lentils out of 10 bland Cabbages.
Finally, the “Turkey Club Wrap” features turkey, uncured bacon, lettuce and tomato.
This wrap is the only one we reviewed that did not come with a sauce, which was a bit of a disappointment because the sauce adds so much to the other wraps. Purely having a separately contained sauce adds depth and texture to the wrap. Nonetheless, it comes with modicum of sauce pre-drizzled in the wrap. Moving past the lack of sauce, this wrap fell short in several other places as well, for example, the wrap does not stay together well. Lettuce kept falling out of the wrap before we could even take a bite, taking tomatoes and bacon with it. The only redeeming quality of this wrap is the merit of the bacon, which has a smokey and crisp finish. This T.B.L.T receives a dismal 4 letters out of the Alphabet’s entire 26.
Our local Trader Joe’s offers up some great items clearly catered predominantly to the college demographic, and in the process they have ended up offering a myriad of scrumptious wraps for people of all ages to enjoy.