Roland Mussels a la Nicoise and Mussels in Tomato Sauce. I turned the jars over in my hands at Ocean State Job Lot, peering through the glass at the shucked and prepared mussels inside, trying to make up my mind whether or not to put them in my shopping cart. On the one hand, they were by Roland, a company I have come to trust through long experience with their truly excellent (and generally low-cost) products. On the other hand, they were mussels, which are delicious but somewhat delicate, and my prior encounters with canned mussels have been less than ideal. In the end, curiosity won out. Of course.
Mussels a la Nicoise was more of a mussel salad. Tiny tender mussels, pickled in a vinegar brine along with small bits of cucumber, onion, celery, and red pepper. The vinegar was a bit overpowering but I have to admit the mussels were rather awesome - nicely prepared and not at all similar to the nasty tinned smoked mussels I've had in the past, which taste and feel like little lumps of smoked clay. These would be quite worthy served as one portion of a relish plate.
The Mussels in Tomato Sauce are equally well-prepared and tender but I thought they were somewhat less successful. I guess I was just not expecting the tomato-sauced variety to be pickled (though I have to admit the flavors of the vinegary brine and the thin but very tomatoey sauce blended nicely.) As with the mussels a la Nicoise, I wouldn't hesitate to put them out on a relish plate. I think I would dress them up with some horseradish, though.
Available at some Ocean State Job Lot stores in southern New England while supplies last.
I just saw both of these varieties at Job Lot yesterday and immediately thought "I should see if Dave has talked about these!" and you have, so I'll need to go back after work tomorrow and pick up some jars to try (along with the smoked scallops). Thanks!
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