Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Sea Salt Chocolate Chunk Cookie Sticks

I dispute the existence of any proper food category that could be called "cookie sticks." I think we're all familiar with the concept of "cookie bars"--cookie dough baked in a cake pan instead of dolloped onto a cookie sheet. What Trader Joe's has done here is just take cookie bars and cut them into thin strips. This is not a new thing, it's just an old thing cut a bit differently.

I've never much liked cookie bars. I think the reason is that they throw off the ratio of surface to interior; you get too much interior texture and not enough surface texture. Obviously that problem is not cured by how you cut them after baking. As a result, I don't much care for these TJ's "sticks," either. There's very little crispness from the outer surface being in contact with the oven's hot air. Imagine taking a bunch of nice cookies, peeling off most of the crispy surface, and smooshing the resulting soft, bare insides together. That's what you've got here.

I have liked the addition of salt to chocolate in some contexts, but it didn't do anything for me here.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I rate this a pretty dismal failure. I ate one of the four "sticks" in the package. Nina ate less than half of one before turning up her nose. The remainder went back to the store for a refund.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Orange Sticks

One of the earliest members of my Top Ten list was TJ's Chocolate Orange Sticks. Like so many great TJ's products, they just vanished one day, never to return. No warning, no explanation. They're ghosted, as the kids like to say these days.

So I was surprised when this new version showed up. They're the same basic idea--an orange jelly coated in dark chocolate--but a different size and shape.

They're not as perfect as my memory has the departed original, but they're still pretty damn good.

Will I buy it again? 

Many, many times, I expect.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Peanut Butter Protein Granola

This is one of the many, many items that I have purchased solely because they show up on the new-product shelf at Trader Joe's, and writing this blog means trying virtually anything there (except for things I know I'll hate, which I don't bother with).

It turned out to be one of those occasional pleasant surprises--a thing I like without having expected to. It's a great mix of crunchy and chewy, sweet and salty. I'm not a granola guy, so I haven't tried more than a few varieties in my life, but this is easily the best I've ever had.

My only complaint is that, while the clusters are easy to pick up and pop in your mouth, probably a third of the bag was just crumbs. There's no easy way to eat those.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. On the days that Nina comes over to my place for dinner, I typically don't eat breakfast or lunch, but I need a little sumpin' to tide me over, and this is pretty much an ideal filler. I think it's going to be a snack I'll always keep on hand.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links about Trader Joe's.

Cheap wines from Target and Trader Joe's

The great pumpkin spice taste test

A guide to Trader Joe's cheap wine

Best Trader Joe's fall items

Trader Joe's among many commercial buildings destroyed in Santa Rosa fire (but see next item)

Contrary to early reports, Santa Rosa Trader Joe's damaged but not destroyed

Trader Joe's 6 best peanut-butter products

Trader Joe's manager does "ask me anything" on Reddit

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, in lieu of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, here's a cute kid in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:

Friday, October 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Brown Rice Medley

This is an unusual mix of brown rice, black barley, and something I had never heard of before: daikon radish seeds.

The non-rice components apparently make it slower to cook than plain rice, as you can infer from the cooking directions seen above. I still wanted to use my rice cooker, so I improvised by using about 50% more water than prescribed for plain rice. That worked well enough.

The result is really nice, with a pleasing mix of colors, flavors, and textures. It feels much fancier than plain brown rice.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. Plain rice is fine (and cheaper) for everyday use, but I think this will be a first choice when I want to make something a little more interesting and elegant for dinner guests.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Butternut Squash Mac & Cheese

We have a split decision on this.

I didn't care for it much. I did like the unusually shaped pasta, but I thought the flavor was too heavily influenced by the squash, which isn't my favorite thing.

Nina, though, loved it. She thought the squash flavor was mild and a nice accent to plain pasta.

The package claims that this serves two. That's a stretch. I think I could have eaten the whole thing by myself.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry Clementine Spring Water

I expected this to be a winner, possibly the best of the whole new line. It's not. It's just weird. I'm sipping some even as I write this. I'm trying to find the cranberry and clementine flavors, and failing every time. There's definitely some sort of flavor there, but damned if I can figure out what it is.

Nina tried some last night. After a sip, she screwed up her face and asked, "What is this supposed to be?"



"No, it isn't cranberry-clementine, or no you don't like it?"

"No. It's not successful."

She is, as usual, entirely correct.

Will I buy it again? 

To quote Nina, "No."