Friday, October 31, 2014

Trader Joe's Arancini Bites



Let me give you a hint about something you'll see many times in the future in these pages. When the product photo I use was obviously taken in the store, that almost always means (1) it's a product I tried and finished with before deciding to produce this blog, so I didn't have it at home to photograph, and (2) I didn't like it enough to want to buy it again.

A large fraction of the TJ's products I buy are things I noticed while looking for something else, and decided on impulse to try. This is one of them. I had never even heard of "arancini" before. (You can see what Wikipedia has to say about it here.) I don't think I had heard of fontina cheese, either. (Wikipedia again.) But hey--rice and cheese, how can you go wrong with that?

There's nothing especially wrong with them, I guess. But they sure didn't bowl me over. My main reaction was surprise at the rice:cheese ratio. The package's description of "rice balls filled with fontina cheese" caused me to expect them to be mostly rice, with a little cheese in the middle. Nope. A more accurate description would have been "Cheese balls with the thinnest possible rice shell." If that's what the box had said, I probably would have still purchased them, but I would not have served them in the place of ordinary rice with dinner the way I did.

Don't get me wrong--I do loves me some cheese. And what there was here was perfectly tasty. I just think they'd be a whole lot better if they were designed with something closer to a 1:1 ratio of the two main components.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, though I won't entirely rule out the possibility. If I do buy and prepare them again, it will be with the plan to dip them in marinara sauce, basically treating them like a variation on mozzarella sticks.


Nina's View

They look like the sort of fancy party item you'd want to buy prepared because making it would be such a pain in the ass. And they seem like hors d'ouevre-y things, not entree accompaniments.

But these arancini are decidedly unspectacular. As prepared, they were insufficiently crunchy on the outside, lacking in riceyness on the inside, short on seasoning, and endowed with unremarkable cheese. In short: bland, gummy, uninspired. And there weren't very many of them either.


Not interested in revisiting these.


Other opinions 

For a diametrically opposite point of view, take a look at what the good folks at "What's Good at Trader Joe's" wrote about this same item: http://www.whatsgoodattraderjoes.com/2012/02/trader-joes-arancini-bites.html 


Thursday, October 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Kettle Cooked Olive Oil Potato Chips



Trader Joe's packaging sometimes makes it hard to tell what the exact name of the product is. Here, for instance, I'm not sure if "olive oil" is part of the name or is just a helpful bit of information that happens to be plastered there between "kettle cooked" and "potato chips." I guess it doesn't matter a whole lot.

Nina and I were just writing about TJ's classic potato chips the other day, noting that we both preferred the kettle-cooked variety. Apparently TJ's, like the NSA, is monitoring our emails, because I popped into my local store soon thereafter, looking for some travel snacks, and spotted the above package on the shelf. Obviously they rushed it into production just for Nina and me.

OK, it's theoretically possible that they've been selling these chips for quite a while, and I just didn't notice. But that theory isn't nearly as much fun.

Anyway, I approached this bag optimistically. They smelled OK. Texture was nice--good, hearty crunch, yet not too thick. Decent flavor.

The big flaw, however, was a near total absence of salt. It does say "salt" right there on the front of the bag, but they sure didn't use much. Nina even asked me if I had accidentally picked up a low-sodium version, and I had to recheck the label to be sure, because it seemed like a distinct possibility. Nope. I've never in my life added my own salt to potato chips, but I'm going to be tempted to try it with these, because as they are, every chip I bite into leaves me dissatisfied and thinking, "These really need some salt."

Will I buy it again? 

After one tasting, I'm thinking no. But it's possible that digging a little deeper into the bag, and/or adding a little salt of my own, might change my mind.

EDIT: After writing the above, I did indeed apply the obvious remedy. I added some salt to the bag, then gently inverted it several times to distribute the salt without breaking the chips. It worked perfectly, and the result was some of the best potato chips I've ever had.


Nina's View

What can I say? The man is correct. Not enough salt.

I like everything else about these chips. Nice and potatoey. Crunchy. Not too oily. (Although what's with the olive oil? You can't heat it up enough for deep frying, what with its low smoke point and all. Must be used for flavoring? Or just hip healthy labeling cred?). These are good, but they are seriously insufficiently salted.

But I like them enough that I would consider adding my own salt.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Trader Joe's Oatmeal and Honey Soap






Frankly, I've never understood why so many manufacturers think that if something is good to eat, it must also be good as an ingredient in soap and/or shampoo. I can't think of any reason to believe that oatmeal and honey are good things to have in soap.

But I decided on a whim to try this anyway. I've been using it for over a month now. It definitely has a pleasant scent. In fact, it gives my whole bathroom a nice fragrance, though after the first couple of weeks I stopped actively noticing it.

It's hard soap, in the sense that it is relatively resistant to melting/washing away, so one bar lasts a long time (and the "Trader Joe's" embossing remains visible for a long time, too). What I didn't like about it is that it seemed harder to rinse off than my usual soap, which is Dove.

I'm prone to excessive skin dryness in the winter, which is why I like Dove's tendency to be less drying than most such products. I doubt that TJ's is as good as Dove in that regard, though admittedly I was trying it in summer, not winter, so I didn't give it the most rigorous test. (I'm writing this on August 31, and putting it in the queue for later publication.)

Will I buy it again? 

I might once in a while for a little variety in life. But though I like it just fine, I'm inclined to stick with my tried-and-true unscented "sensitive skin" Dove as my day-to-day choice.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Trader Joe's Collier's Welsh Cheddar Cheese



The reason I picked this particular cheese from all of the many choices available on my last visit to TJ's is that in four days (as I write this, on August 12), I'm going to be leaving for a two-week tour of the British Isles, including Wales. So when I saw "Welsh" in the name and "product of Wales" on the label, I thought I'd have some, sort of in anticipatory celebration. I admit that that's a pretty dumb reason to choose cheese, but that's what happened.

It's perfectly lovely cheese--firm but not hard, easy to slice without falling apart, flavorful but not overpowering. I have no idea what the label means when it promises a "slight hint of crunchiness." I sure didn't notice any, nor would I have wanted to. (Crunchy things do not belong in cheese. So let it be written, so let it be done.)

However, I found it indistinguishable from just about every other white cheddar cheese I've ever had. Maybe I could tell something different about it in a side-by-side comparison with another one, but just drawing on memory, it fades into the long line of white cheddars in my past. Maybe a little more on the mild than sharp end of the spectrum, but other than that, not particularly memorable.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe. I have no reason not to. But then again, I really have no reason to, either.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Brownie & Oat Bars



I hesitated buying these for two reasons. First, when you have both "brownie" and "chocolate chip" in the name of the product, it's pretty hard to convince yourself that these are somehow healthy snacks. I mean, why not just eat brownies? Second, the terrible photo on the box makes it look like they should have called these "Oats in Turd Bars."

My second concern was not borne out. Fortunately, this is one of the rare occasions when the actual product is more attractive than the picture.

My first concern, however, held up. Eating one of these bars is like eating a not-very-good brownie, including little moments of pause to wonder why there seem to be some oats mixed into the brownies. That would be acceptable--though still not ideal--if your intention was to eat a brownie. But if your intention is to eat something resembling a healthy granola bar, you have ventured far afield with this selection.

This was yet another item I was auditioning for backpack purposes. I was interested in things that were either genuinely healthy and nutritious, or that I could at least fool myself into believing were healthy and nutritious. These completely fail that test.

If I'm going to have a brownie for a snack, I don't want there to be oats, and I want the thing to taste a lot better than these do.

Will I buy it again? 

Uh, no.



Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Chewy Coated Granola Bars



This is yet another product that I probably never would have sampled if not for the need to find some backpack-worthy snacks for my trip.

I didn't like these quite as much as the "This Strawberry Walks Into A Bar" things, but they were certainly better than other granola bars I've tried in the past (which, admittedly, isn't a whole lot). Really nice texture, simultaneously crispy and chewy.

This is going to sound scandalous, but I thought they were too sweet, and too chocolaty. But I can put a couple away for some quick energy without any serious complaint.

Will I buy it again? 

They made the cut for my trek backpack, but I didn't enjoy them enough to seek them out for my snack cupboard.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Ode To The Classic Potato Chip




These are good potato chips. Not great, but good. They are comparable to Lay's--large, light, delicate, not too oily. I have come to prefer kettle-cooked varieties, especially Cape Cod brand. But if I were out of chips and happened to be at TJ's before another grocery store, I would happily put another bag of these in my basket, and happily devour it over the next several days.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes.


Nina’s View

These are the chips that come with the kid’s meal at restaurants. While clearly made of potatoes, they have only the merest whiff of potato on the palate. They are the briefest of crispiness, followed by a slim slick of oil, a tiny tang of salt, and then they are gone.

If you like the sound of that, you’ll love these.

Like Bob, however, I prefer a kettle-cooked style of chip—something with a little more potatoey heft to it. A chip that has the feel of food.


Update

It's been more than a year since that post was published, and I find that I like these chips more each time I buy them. So I buy them a lot. I do still like the kettle-cooked kind even better, but I have these around often enough that it's safe to call them one of my staple items.


Saturday, October 25, 2014

Roundup

Periodic list of links to news, reviews, etc., about Trader Joe's:


Trader Joe's and the art of being a great merchant 

Autumn in Tucson 

Has pumpkin jumped the shark? 

10 amazing foods that you didn't know you could buy at Trader Joe's 

2000 health professionals petition Trader Joe's to stop selling meat raised on antibiotics 

12 favorite fall foods from Trader Joe's 

Why a Marxist loves Trader Joe's 

Begging for Trader Joe's to open in Hawaii 

This week's cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag 


Trader Joe's Pomegranate Blueberry Sherbet



I realized the other day that not only had I written over 100 reviews of Trader Joe's products without any ice cream among them, but I had never even purchased any TJ's ice cream. I thought it was high time that changed.

But it couldn't be just any old ice cream. I mean, I'm a simple guy, and plain old chocolate is still my first choice of ice cream. But it's no fun writing about a TJ's product when it's the sort of commodity that you can get anywhere, just with a different label on it. I didn't know what kinds of ice cream TJ's might have, because I had never looked over the selection, but I knew that they must have some unusual types--ones that were unlike anything I had ever had anywhere else.

I was right. I started looking over the choices, and quickly spotted this: Pomegranate-blueberry sherbet. That was it. I didn't need to look through the rest. I didn't even know such an item existed, yet I knew instantly that it was going to be a winner. That was what needed to come home with me.

Of course, I'm a big fan of both pomegranate and blueberry going in, so it could hardly fail. I suppose I'm of the opinion that it's probably impossible to make a bad pomegranate-blueberry sherbet. But one could surely make one that was merely mediocre. TJ's has not done that.

This stuff is scrumptious. It gets the balance of the two flavors just right. It's just the right hardness--not maddeningly difficult to scoop out of the tub, yet not mushy-soft and melting too fast. It's smooth and creamy, with lovely bits of fruit mixed in. It might be the best sherbet I've ever had. And, surprisingly, it's not very expensive; I paid $2.49 for this pint.

It's so good that it went from me never having heard of it straight onto my Top Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

I haven't even finished this carton yet, and I already want another one. So I guess that means "yes."


Nina's View

I have been cutting back on desserts, as a certain porkification has been settling in lately. However I did taste of a spoonful of this out of Bob's bowl and BOY-HOWDY is it delicious. Yum yum yum.


This is why I don't purchase this kind of stuff for myself. Because if it were in my freezer it would all be gone by now. And by "by now" I mean about 10 minutes after bringing it home from the store. I would put it in the freezer just long enough to feign some dignity.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Trader Joe's Beef And Pork With Cracked Pepper Snack Stick


I don't buy items like this often. In fact, I brought some beef jerky with me when I moved to Asheville a year and a half ago, and still haven't finished it. But I was preparing for a long trip on which there would be days where I would need to have some portable snacks to munch on instead of meals, so I went to TJ's and bought several varieties of dried meat products, granola bars, and other snackage.

I thought this was excellent. Exactly the right amount of spiciness to be invigorating, without being overwhelming or unpleasant. It's the best product of its kind I've ever had.

Will I buy this again? 

Not often, but on the rare occasions that I have some special need or yearning for such a thing, definitely.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Trader Joe's Yellowfin Tuna In Olive Oil



Unlike the skipjack tuna, this stuff tasted exactly the way I have come to expect tuna to taste after 50 years of eating it. However, as far as I can tell, TJ's does not sell a version of this packed in water.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe if I'm in a pinch. But I would prefer water-packed tuna to cut down on the calories, so for the most part I anticipate continuing my practice of buying mass quantities of Bumblebee brand when I find it at a good price.

Note 

While looking to see if TJ's had this same thing packed in water (thinking that perhaps it was just out of stock at my store), I came across this announcement from TJ's last year, about switching their sources of tuna and other seafood to more sustainable sources. A couple of months ago National Geographic magazine had an article about the overfishing of some types of tuna. It's possible that I should reconsider my purchasing habits on the basis of this concern. After all, I doubt that Bumblebee, Star Kist, and Chicken of the Sea will pay as much attention to this issue as TJ's does.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Trader Joe's "This Strawberry Walks Into A Bar..."



I have never before had to wrestle with how to punctuate a blog post title here. I decided that the quotation marks and ellipsis were part of the name of the product and thus had to be included.

This was the second (of many) product I bought to test for its suitability as a backpack item on my recent trip where I would sometimes be without meal facilities.

I have very little experience with cereal or granola bars. They have just never seemed very appealing to me. But I figured if I could find one I liked, it would be good for purposes of my vacation.

I was greatly surprised at how good these were. Soft and delicious. Very strawberry-y. After about two bites of the first one, I had moved them from the mental category of "if I can choke these down, they'll save me from being miserably hungry when I can't stop for real food on my trip" to "these should be in regular rotation in my snack cupboard."

I'm not yet ready to crown them a Top Ten item, but I'm very happy to have discovered them.

Will I buy it again? 

Literally on my next trip to TJ's. I want more!

Addendum 

I did take them on my trip, and they were a great part of my backpack food collection, along with fruit bars, dried fruits, peanuts, and granola bars.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Trader Joe's Tuna For Cats



Today's post has a special guest author--my kitty Lucy (photo by Nina).



Lucy's view 

I DID NOT LIEK DIS KAT FUD. IZ FISHY

I DOAN LIEK FISHY THINGS

Y U BYE FISHY STUFF DAT I NO LIEK?


Will I buy it again? 

Take a look at that sweet face. Would you buy her food that she doesn't like? I didn't think so. Neither will I.


Oh, look--we have another special guest blogger! It's Nina's kitty-boy, Loki!




Loki's View


OM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM NOM. NOM. NOM!

The fishes are good. I liek them. Moar plz. All the proteens make my furs shiny. The tastes are tasty. Why you not give me this all day every day?

In conclushun: NOM.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Trader Joe's Beef Chili With Beans


I suppose I eat canned chili about once a month on average. It's always when I'm feeling lazy or in a hurry. The ability to dump it in a bowl and be eating it after three minutes in the microwave is the main appeal. I've never found any varieties of it that I love, but some go down unobjectionably, even pleasantly. Others, not so much.

I'm afraid that TJ's offering goes in the "not so much" category. It's too spicy, and too loaded up with chunks of onion and pepper. (Yes, I voluntarily ate something knowing it had onion in it. I almost died, but not quite.) It wasn't awful, just not to my taste.

Will I buy it again? 

No. There are too many competing products that I like a lot better.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Recipe: Spicy Miso Sesame Chicken(less) Strips

This is a different kind of blog post. Rather than review one specific Trader Joe's product, I'd like to tell you about a meal I made using a bunch of different TJ's products. That's because they were combined in such a way that it would be essentially impossible to comment on each individual component, as I have only experienced them in an integrated fashion.

A few weeks ago, I bought a small tub of TJ's Mild Yellow Miso because of the glowing terms in which it was described in the Fearless Flyer that I got in the mail. But frankly, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.




As a completely separate thread of my life, for a couple of months I had been following on Facebook the posts of a company called Beyond Meat, which makes vegetarian-friendly meat substitutes. I'm always on the lookout for good meat substitutes. I initially misread the company's map of retail outlets, and thought they had no stores in Asheville, though I have since learned that they do, in fact, have two places in town to buy their products (Greenlife and the French Broad Food Co-op). One of their recent posts was a recipe for "Spicy miso sesame chicken," which you can find here. Of course, despite the name, it actually recommended using their fake chicken rather than real chicken.

I knew that I had some Trader Joe's Chicken-Less Strips in my freezer, which I assumed would work just as well.



I was delighted that the recipe called for miso paste, as it would finally give me a chance to use what I had bought. It also requires honey, which is one of my favorite things in the world. I had on hand hot sauce (sriracha), garlic, and Trader Joe's Brown Basmati Rice (which, by coincidence, was exactly the kind that the recipe recommended).





I actually went to TJ's and bought a bottle of rice vinegar and one of toasted sesame oil, since I didn't have either at home. But when Nina heard that I had done so, she suggested that I just borrow hers, so that I wouldn't waste money on things that I might use just once. That seemed wise, so I returned the TJ's bottles to the store unopened. (In keeping with their reputation, the return and refund process was fast, completely painless, and hassle-free.)

(EDIT: Since writing this, I decided that I liked the recipe enough that I would want to make it again, so rather than bother with carting bottles back and forth between Nina's house and mine, I bought another bottle of each on my next TJ's trip. I used them the second time I made this recipe, so I feel that I can put their pictures here, even though I didn't use them the first time.)




The last thing I needed was either cilantro or micro-greens for garnish. TJ's had no such items, except for their pea shoots, which I had previously tried and didn't like. But at a grocery store next door to the Asheville TJ's, I found a nice little carton of locally grown micro-greens that both looked and tasted great.

I'm not generally comfortable with deviating from recipes, at least until I've made something enough times to be confident in how to improve it. (The chief exception is that the first step in following any recipe that contains onion is to mark that out with a heavy Magic Marker. Even the presence of the evil word on the printed page can contaminate an otherwise delicious meal. Obviously.) So I followed the directions to the letter.

When boiling the marinade down to a glaze, I let it cook too long, and it got both slightly scorched and overly thick, hard to pour. I'll have to watch that better next time.

The other main mistake that I made had to do with the side dish. I had decided to try some "Trader Joe's And The Organic Carrots Of Many Colors."



My plan was to chop them into large chunks and steam them in the vegetable steamer that sits on top of the pot on my rice cooker.

But a few seconds after that beautiful bunch was in my shopping basket, my eye caught something I had never before noticed: TJ's Mini Heirloom Tomatoes.



Now, I've never been a big fan of tomatoes per se. I love all sorts of things made from tomatoes, but something about the texture of tomatoes themselves I find, well, kind of gross. So until yesterday, I had never in my life purchased tomatoes. But they looked so pretty, and seemed to be begging to be served alongside the multicolored carrots. Can you steam tomatoes, I wondered? I had never heard of them being cooked that way, but what did I know? It didn't seem far-fetched. What's the worst that could happen? So I brought them home.

I added the carrots and tomatoes to the steamer when I thought the rice had about ten minutes of cook time left. Then I got everything else ready, and waited for the rice. And waited. And waited. It was taking much longer than usual, and I didn't know why. I wanted to lift the lid and steamer basket to look, but Nina silently judges me (or, not so silently) when I lift the lid on cooking rice, and she was watching, so I resisted.

Nina finally suggested that the rice cooker was perhaps not finishing its cycle because the tomatoes were dripping their juices down into the rice. That seemed entirely plausible, and potentially disastrous, so I quickly pulled off the lid and steamer basket. She was exactly right. The rice was done--overdone, in fact--but still had lots of water trying to boil off. And the brown rice had been stained pinkish from the tomato drippings.

I strained the excess water from the rice and served it up. It wasn't quite what I had envisioned, what with the rice being oddly pink instead of brown, but it was pretty nonetheless.

A bed of rice, with the fake chicken strips, drizzled with the glaze, garnished with the microgreens, alongside the rainbow carrots and tomatoes:




(Photo by Nina.)

We also had TJ's pumpkin soup, some chips and dip, which I'll review another time, TJ's Spiced Cider, and a salad made from a blend of TJ's Cruciferous Crunch Collection and spring blend (both to be reviewed another day). It's a meal that could be made with 100% TJ's products, though I didn't quite go that far.

How was it? I thought it was one of the best meals I've ever made, though I wish I had omitted the pumpkin soup, which was both too much and kind of off-putting. But the main course and the veggie side dish were great. I probably should have been able to predict that the tomatoes would be mushified, but I didn't mind that. Both they and the carrots tasted just fine. I thought the spicy miso sesame chickenless strips were, overall, one of the best things I've ever made--like a sweet and sour fake chicken.

It's a very easy recipe, really, though even so it was pushing the edge of my meager culinary skills, as you can probably tell from the rookie mistakes I made. But I liked the result so much that I'm eager to try it again and see if I can get it just right. (EDIT: I tried it again the next week in a larger batch, but apparently got one of the measurements wrong when I scaled up the recipe, and ended up with a super-hot version. Edible, but not as good as the first time. Third time's the charm, right?)

Will I buy it again? 

I will definitely try the carrots and tomatoes prepared some other way. They were tasty and really pretty on the plate. This particular kind of rice, as discussed in its separate post, is not going to be coming back, though TJ's has about a billion other forms of rice that I'll experiment with. The fake chicken I thought was perfectly decent, though not outstanding. I would get it again, except that Nina has now tried the Beyond Meat fake chicken product and thought it was even better. If I agree with that assessment, then the TJ's version may be permanently out of luck. (EDIT: It wasn't better--in fact, wasn't as good. But there's a local company, No Evil Foods, that makes a fake chicken product. For my third attempt, that's what I'll use.) The miso? Well, I'll keep looking for ways to use it, but it's a little exotic, and I'm not even sure how or whether I'll finish up this current tub of it, let alone buy more. We'll see. (EDIT: I'll definitely buy more when making this recipe again. As for other uses, it's still "we'll see.") The salad blend is one I like a lot, and will definitely be making future dinner appointments.


Nina's View

When I met this man his pride and joy in the kitchen was boxed mac and cheese with tuna (admittedly delicious, but you get my point).

Bob has become a shopper, a meal planner, an experimenter, and an actual cook. [Bob interjects: And a professional food critic! Well, minus the "professional" part.] I am not even going to bother sharing any quibbles I might have had about this dinner. Look at that plate! Color, texture, flavor, variety! COME ON.

Words cannot express how delighted I am that he has come to enjoy the preparation and consumption of a whole rainbow of foods from around the world. I am the lucky spectator, participant, and cheering squad for this great adventure.



Saturday, October 18, 2014

Roundup

It's my quasi-weekly roundup of news, features, blogs, and reviews from the Interwebz, all about Trader Joe's.


13 essential pumpkin foods at Trader Joe's 

28 things people obsessed with cookie butter will understand 

How Trader Joe's became the king of organic 

The only 23 things you would buy at Trader Joe's if you were honest with yourself about why you're there

Trader Joe's obsession of the day 

Some Trader Joe's food is amazing, some is disgusting 

Trader Joe's--is it worth the hype? 

The 7 best things to buy at Trader Joe's 

The 4 worst things to buy at Trader Joe's 

Autumn in Tucson: Pumpkin picks 

And finally, this week's cute picture of a cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:


Trader Joe's Pita Crisps With Cranberries & Pumpkin Seeds



Maybe it's my own fault. Maybe I didn't understand the basic nature of this product. I had thought it was to be savory, like potato chips, tortilla chips or even TJ's own vegetable root chips.

As a result, I had a rude awakening when I first bit into one and found that it was sweet, tasting more like it was intended to be a dessert than a dipping chip. The experience was kind of like when you think there's one more stair than there actually is, and your foot flails around, uncertain what went wrong.

I picked up some hummus on one, and my mouth sent all sorts of error messages to my brain. Incompatible things were being inappropriately mixed. Danger, Will Robinson!

Maybe these are actually fine, if used as a sweet, late-night snack, where one might otherwise go for, say, a bag of caramel popcorn or a bowl of ice cream. I can't say, because I didn't try them that way. I couldn't get past the idea that they should be salty rather than sweet. Frankly, I found it so jarring that as I sit here writing this I don't even have a clear memory of whether the pumpkin and cranberry components were separately identifiable. I suppose I could walk down the hall to the kitchen and eat a couple more of them to find out and report--but I really don't want to. I'd rather they just disappeared from my cupboard so that I don't have to figure out what they are, or how I'm supposed to use them.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Confusion does not beget fondness.

Now, we have an unusual situation here. Nina wrote her comments about these, then later forgot that she had done so, and sent me another review. So I might as well share both of them! The first one was written after just one tasting. The second was after she had had them several more times on visits to my place, and had, in fact, just finished off the bag.


Nina's View (1) 

I liked these, but NOT as appetizers or crackers. They are practically cookies, what with the sprinkling of sugar on them. They make a nice snack. They would be great with tea. I would eat the rest of the bag Bob is threatening to throw out.

Nina's View (2) 

I actually LOVE these. They are flavorful, sweet but not too sweet, and *different.* Unlike most pita chip products, I would almost never use these with a dip—it would have to be something quite particular, maybe yoghurt or cream cheese based and not salty, for them to work. Hummus is a DEFINITE NO. They do pair nicely with certain kinds of cheese (like the cinnamon dusted toscano). They also go great with applesauce as a dessert pairing.

In my opinion Bob needs to give these things another chance. Me, I'm mourning their passing as a seasonal product, because I would happily munch on them all year 'round.



Friday, October 17, 2014

Trader Joe's Brown Basmati Rice


Nina got me an Oster rice cooker for Christmas. The idea is great: measure out some rice, fill the pot with water to the specified level, flip it on, walk away, and it tells you when it has cooked you a batch of perfect rice.

In actual practice, this has not been my experience. As the appliance's owner's manual makes clear in the fine print, for any particular kind of rice, the right amount of water may be more or less than their default pot markings indicate, and the amount of time the thing automatically goes for may not be right. You may need to keep it on the "warm" setting for a while after the cook time. (On my particular model, the thing unfortunately doesn't beep or otherwise let you know it's finished cooking and has switched itself to "warm"; you have to be in the room with it to hear the switch move, or you'll miss the allegedly perfect time to remove the rice.) The instructions also say to be sure to rinse the rice very thoroughly before starting in order to remove excess starch and reduce stickiness. I also discovered that if I don't occasionally remove the lid and stir the rice, particularly in the last few minutes of cooking, the outside layer sticks to the pot (despite its non-stick coating), creating an unappetizing and sometime inedible crusty/sticky/starchy outer shell. I've been experimenting with these variables, and still don't feel that I have the formula perfected.

I bought this rice to continue my experimentation after going through a bag of TJ's Basmati White Rice.  (The photo above is not a full bag. I had already done several batches before I got the idea to create this blog.) At the time, I didn't understand that brown rice is notorious for being even more difficult to get right, requiring a whole different set of parameters (water level and cook time) than white rice. Also, Nina has been trying to convince me, in her firm but gentle way, that rice should be left to cook without the lid ever being removed, and without pre-rinsing. This creates tension between her usually excellent cooking advice and what I read in the rice cooker's instructions (about rinsing), and my experience about the crustiness problem if there is no stirring.

Because of my inexperience and attempts to juggle all of these variables and conflicting advice, my results have still not been ideal. Some batches have been OK, some undercooked, some overcooked, some sticky messes.

All of which makes it really difficult for me to come up with a sensible opinion about the quality of the rice itself.

Still, I can offer these observations: (1) Even my best batches have not been any better in taste or texture than the Basmati White Rice. (2) It is definitely more difficult to get the variables exactly right for this stuff than the white.

As a consequence, it's not likely I'll try this again--at least not until after I'm sure I feel I have mastered the formula for some easier-to-prepare variety.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not.


Nina's View 


The last batch Bob made of the Brown Basmati was *this* close to being right. Just a tad too much water, I think, so it was a little mushy instead of fluffy. I think it's got a good flavor, and I'd be curious to try cooking it the conventional way myself one time, just to see.

The Oster rice cooker was, I confess, the most *cough* economical model available, and I suspect seriously set back Bob's rice preparation skills—although my intention was to make it easy and pleasant, the thing is just not very good or sophisticated. I am heartily sorry for making this whole business MORE not LESS aggravating.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trader Joe's 100% Honey Crisp Apple Cider Unfiltered



Honeycrisps are my favorite apples. Maybe this is because of some weird pride at having lived for 17 years in Minnesota, where the variety was developed. But they're mainly famous for eating, not juicing, so it surprised me to see this item on TJ's shelves. It was an instant decision to give it a try.

It is definitely different from most apple juices and ciders, and definitely recognizable as honeycrisp. (I don't know why TJ's calls it "honey crisp" instead of "honeycrisp." Maybe there's some sort of trademark issue.) Very tasty. At $2.99 for 64 ounces, it's no more expensive than others.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. When I'm in the mood for apple juice, this is likely to be my first choice.


Nina's View

This juice has a nice, distinctive flavor. And it would be great if it weren't so darn sweet. This is perpetually an issue with apple juice for me—after all they use it to sweeten OTHER juices so that they can still claim to be 100% juice. So, I'm hardly ever just drinking a glass of the stuff. But it might make a nice mixer.



Addendum, October 30, 2015: 

Trying this again a year later, and comparing it side-by-side with another excellent apple juice, TJ's flash-pasteurized, convinces me that my original praises were not high enough. It's simply the best you can buy. I'm belatedly entering it into my Top Ten list. And to see the opinion of somebody who loves it even more than I do, see this post from the "Trader Joe's 365" blog.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Trader Joe's Maple Leaf Cookies



I liked the picture of the cookie on the box. I was worried, however, as soon as I cut open the package, because the fragrance that wafted out was very heavily maple, and I thought it was going to be way too much. I think maple works best as a light, sort of background flavor, not as the star of the show.

But I was pleasantly surprised; the smell is deceptive. These mostly taste like high-quality vanilla sandwich cookies with just a touch of maple, which is probably how they should be. I liked them enough to eat three--and then three more. Just for purposes of doing a thorough analysis for my readers, of course.

Will I buy it again? 

They're pretty good, but maple still isn't among my favorite flavors--so probably not.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti




I was genuinely surprised by how good these were. I anticipated that they would, as a seasonal gimmick, be pumped full of pumpkin essence so that no consumer could be left wondering what time of year it was. I expected them to be over the top and kind of gross.

But actually, they're subtle--subtly sweet and subtly spiced. The dominant characteristic here is crunchiness.

I ate five at one sitting tonight, and look forward to a similar number nightly under they're all et up.

Will I buy it again? 

As with several other pumpkin items, I think once a year will be nice--but also enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Trader Joe's Spiced Cider



This is the classic autumn/winter spiced apple cider, heavy on cinnamon and clove. It's exactly what you remember and what you expect. I like it--but it's just like a million other similar products.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's another in a group of products that I think I'll like having as markers of the changing seasons.


Nina's View

Ugh, no. Too heavily spiced, too sweet. MAYBE cut with some sparkling water and a bunch of ice and a twist of orange. Or heated up on a cold winter's day after a snowball fight. But otherwise, no.


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trader Joe's Pear Cinnamon Cider


This isn't complicated. You pretty much know from the name of this product whether you're going to like it.

I like pears. I like cinnamon. Ergo, I was virtually certain to like a cider made from pears and cinnamon--plus some apple juice thrown in. (What makes it cider instead of juice? It's the use of unfiltered juices.)

Yummy.

Will I buy it again? 

Unlike many of the TJ's autumnal products, this is one I will genuinely look forward to again next year.


Nina's View


This is pretty good. Except TOO MUCH APPLE JUICE (i.e., too sweet). If I were to buy it (which I won't), I'd probably squeeze a little lemon or lime juice in it to cut back on the sweetness. I could also use with a touch less cinnamon.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Harvest Blend



I'm not sure that salads are really the best way to showcase pumpkins, but I was going to be buying some sort of packaged salad for a weekly dinner with Nina anyway, and this was the new and different one in the TJ's display, so I decided to give it a go.

I believe this stuff has more ingredients than any other salad I've ever bought. That list you see under "Harvest Blend" on the package is just getting started. The base is a spring mix of several lettuces, spinach, red and green chard, red and green mustard, and radicchio. Then they throw in some shredded carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower. Separate packages inside the bag contain pumpkin seeds, dates and raisins, pumpkin cornbread croutons, and, finally, pumpkin vinaigrette dressing.

I was suspicious of the dressing, first because the very concept of a pumpkin vinaigrette seems dubious, and, second, because the package had a small leak. So I mixed together everything except the dressing, which I kept on the side, in case Nina decided to use her usual Newman's Own balsamic vinaigrette instead.

I decided to let the Trader Joe's people dictate the outcome for me all the way, and ventured ahead with the pumpkin dressing on mine, without taste-testing it first. Nina tasted it, definitively rejected it, and went with her usual.

In retrospect, I should have done the same. Without the dressing, the salad as a whole works well enough, though I remain unconvinced that the pumpkin flavor--in the form of seeds and the croutons--really enhances a salad. But the dressing was gawdawful. Nasty. Artificial. Overly sweetened. I doubt that its badness was attributable to the package having a small hole in it; my guess is that the sugar and salt content is high enough to retard any significant microbial growth.

I've subsequently had the salad with one of my usual dressings, and it's fine. Not one of the best ever, but solidly in the broad "average" zone of packaged salads.

Will I buy it again? 

As a novelty, I think once a year will be enough. I hope, though, that next year I remember to make the first step in preparation to throw away the packet of dressing before I do something foolish with it--like putting it on the salad.


Friday, October 10, 2014

Roundup

My more-or-less weekly roundup of news, articles, reviews, blog posts, etc., about TJ's.

Check Out The Insane Amount Of Good Food That Starbucks And Trader Joe's Throw Out Every Night

Trader Joe's Cheap Beauty Products

5 reasons why Trader Joe's is so much better than Whole Foods 

What not to buy at Trader Joe's 

Sampling Trader Joe's weird pumpkin paraphernalia 

What to buy on your next Trader Joe's run 

Pumpkin spice gluten-free survival guide 

Trader Joe's favorites 

How Trader Joe's sells twice as much as Whole Foods 

Trader Joe's extravirgins and floozies 

Cat in a Trader Joe's bag 


Trader Joe's Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps


I read an article recently in which a Trader Joe's store manager is quoted as saying that TJ's has 63 seasonal pumpkin-flavored items this year. Sixty-three! How is a blog supposed to keep up? I could review one every day, and pumpkin season would be over before I was finished.

But I'm really not that pumpkin-crazy. I've bought less than a dozen of the 63. Sorry TJ's, but that's going to thoroughly exhaust my interest in the Pumpkin Everything meme.

Nina is the one who purchased this item, and brought it to my house for dinner last week. It bears more than a passing resemblance to the Raisin Rosemary Crisps discussed recently. Because of having been surprised at liking those, I was less suspicious of the pumpkinized version than I probably would have been otherwise.

We had them with thin slices of Iberico cheese, and it made a fine combination. All sorts of flavors and textures were going on simultaneously: some sweet, some savory, some crunchy, some chewy, some smooth, some rough, some dry, some moist. I was pleasantly surprised again.

Will I buy it again? 

I think I could make room in my life to revisit this once a year.


Nina's View

These are good, but I'm fine with one box a year. They do not compete at all with the Raisin Rosemary Crisps. 




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Soup



Maybe there's a way to make pumpkin into a delicious soup. But even if there is, this isn't it. To me it tasted like just a puree of pumpkin, with little else going on. Lifeless. It might work as a base, with veggies added and some grated cheese on top, or something like that. But heated straight out of the box? No, thanks.

Will I buy it again? 

If I happen to stumble on a interesting-sounding recipe that uses this as an ingredient, then maybe. Otherwise, no.


Nina's View

This could be the best soup in the history of mankind. I say "could be" because after the recent parade of seasonal pumpkin-flavored items I simply am incapable of taking any pleasure in anything pumpkin-y, pumpkin spicy, or—let's face it—orange. (Also, soup NOT on a cold day is just not working for me, most of the time.)

It was meh. Not an item I'd ever buy. Bob is right that you could probably tart it up with various additions and make it more interesting. I'd rather see a savory take on pumpkin than yet another item that's sweeter than it should be and flavored with the accursed pumpkin spices. Which should be reserved for their correct, original application, namely pie.

TJ's, listen up: Here's what pumpkin is really good for—pie. Pie. And perhaps a few pie-like items. PIE. Did I mention… pie?

Most everything else? No. Except jack o'lanterns. Those are excellently made of pumpkin.


Now wasn't that easy?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Rolls With Pumpkin Spice Icing



Look, I love Trader Joe's Jumbo Cinnamon Rolls as much as anybody can. So I had high hopes for this seasonal version. Those hopes were only heightened by the apparent popularity of this item; I had to make four trips to the Asheville TJ's before I found any in the marked slot in the refrigerated case.

I was sorely disappointed.



The packaging, preparation instructions, textures, etc., are exactly the same as for the cinnamon rolls--no surprise there, as they are clearly made by the same manufacturer using the same basic dough, just different flavorings. But the taste? It's just off. I don't get "pumpkin" at all. I get some weird artificial vaguely vegetabley but overly sweetened flavor.

From the fact that I ate three of them, you can infer that they're not so awful as to be completely inedible. From the fact that I threw away the last two, you can infer that they're not good enough to be worth buying.

Will I buy it again? 

TJ's has several pumpkin items that I think are good enough to enjoy as a once-a-year novelty treat. This is not one of them.


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Organic Frosted Toaster Pastries--Pumpkin





I used to eat Pop Tarts a lot--both when I was a kid and for much of my adult life. It's a habit that has fallen by the wayside in recent years. I've lived in Asheville for almost two years, and have had none in that time.

I honestly didn't even know that Trader Joe's had its own line of Pop Tart knockoffs. I almost never buy traditional breakfast foods, so I haven't explored that section of the TJ's shelves. I only knew about the pumpkin variety because of posts on Twitter. Then when my local store had a big display of them set up on the end of an aisle, I gave in to curiosity. Frankly, I expected to find them disgusting, but I figured it would be worth a laugh, and give me a chance to write a funny, scathing review.

Well, I can't do that. I actually liked them. The pumpkin-spice flavoring is much sweeter and milder than I had anticipated. The strangest thing is that somehow they tasted like real food, which one could never say of the Kellogg's products. Maybe that's because of ingredients like whole-wheat flour and cane sugar. I'm genuinely surprised by how good these things are. They are no mere seasonal gimmick.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm not so gung-ho for them that I'm ready to overhaul my eating habits in order to fit toaster pastries back into my daily routine. But I think I can bring home one box a year when TJ's rolls them out every fall, and look forward to it, without making myself sick of them. And now that I look around the web, I see that TJ's has a cherry-pomegranate flavor of toaster pastries. It took about three seconds for that to go onto my shopping list. Stay tuned.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Salted Caramels



The chocolate here is nice. The caramel is smooth and creamy and nice. I'm not a big fan of the salt-on-chocolate fad, but I didn't mind it much here.

You know what didn't work? The pumpkin spice element. It just would not play nicely with the other flavors. It was so far off that it was jarring when it hit, tasting almost rancid.

Will I buy it again? 

Not until they make it just "Dark chocolate salted caramels." They really need to get that pumpkin spice flavoring out of there. In this context, it's just awful.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Roundup of links

News, articles, blog posts, recipes, etc., that I've recently encountered.



Trader Joe's iPhone app being discontinued 

Pumpkin items at Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's 10 best pumpkin products 

5 easy Trader Joe's meals (5 ingredients or less) 

Trader Joe's mashups you can make right now (video) 

The man who smuggles Trader Joe's into Canada 

Trader Joe's sues pirate grocer in Canada 

10 of the worst frozen items you can buy at Trader Joe's 

Top 13 Trader Joe's staples 


Trader Joe's Raisin Rosemary Crisps



I tried these crackers at Nina's house. I had noticed them in the store when searching for crackers, but always passed them by because I couldn't wrap my brain around the concept of raisins in crackers. That's just too much of a crossing of food boundaries for me. To quote Dr. Peter Venkman in Ghost Busters, "Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!" Or to quote George Constanza in Seinfeld, "It's just common sense. Everybody knows, you've gotta keep your worlds apart!" Crackers, and all things in them, are to be crunchy, crackly, and savory, not sweet, fruity, and chewy. This is Food Science 101.

That said, when topped with some nice white cheddar cheese, the whole flavor combination worked really well. It threw me off when I ran into a raisin, which clearly did not belong, categorically speaking. But if I ignored the knowledge of what was going on, and just tasted, it was very nice.

I might have to rethink the worlds and categories thing, because there was something quite right about these things with cheese on them. This requires further study.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm still unsure at this point. They were good--but there were raisins in the crackers (did I mention that?), which is unsettling.


Nina's View


I think these things are the diggity-bomb, which is why I served them up. I am a huge rosemary fan, the texture is perfect, and the raisins are by no means overwhelming. I would eat these all day by the handful if they weren't expensive.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Haul videos

I have just become aware of the phenomenon of Trader Joe's "haul" videos. I won't link to any, but just Google "Trader Joe's haul" and you'll see what I mean. These are just YouTube videos of incredibly annoying people pulling items out of their TJ's bags, holding them up to the camera, and explaining why they bought each thing. They go on for 5, 10, 15, even 20 minutes. There are HUNDREDS of these things, and they each have HUNDREDS or even THOUSANDS of views.

My mind is blown. Who are these people? Why do they make these videos? Why are there so many of them? Who watches them? I couldn't make it all the way through any one of half a dozen that I sampled; the combination of tedium and annoyance was just too high.

You humans continue to baffle me.

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Juice--Red



This is the last of the three varieties of TJ's expensive ($4.99 a bottle) line of "cold pressed juice." (Reviews of the other two have been posted previously--yellow here and green here.) 


Ingredients: 


Frankly, I found it hard to taste anything other than the beet juice. I specifically strained to see if I could detect cucumber, apple, or carrot, but failed. I tolerate beets, but I don't love them. Predictably, then, I would say the same for this juice. 

Will I buy it again? 

Not even at $1/bottle. 


Nina's View

This grew on me as I drank it, and not in a tendrils-sprouting-from-under-my-fingernails kind of way. I could definitely taste some of the other flavors, predominantly the celery and ginger. The main thing I like about this and the yellow juice is that they are light and refreshing and not too sweet. (The apple juice is in the mix entirely for sweetness.)

But at $5 a pop, still not happening. I own a juicer, after all.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Trader Joe's Scallion Pancakes (Pa jeon)



Nina's View 

You may remember when Bob commenced this enterprise, he swore a mighty oath that he would not be reviewing anything with onions in it. That would, of course, include spring onions, aka scallions, of which this product is chockablock full.

Words cannot express the tragedy that this represents. Alas, Bob will never enjoy or have the chance to come to appreciate the all-out deliciousness that are Trader Joe's frozen pucks of delight, the Scallion Pancakes (Pa jeon) of Joy.

I eat them for breakfast.
I eat them for lunch.
I eat them for dinner.
Or a snack. 

I fry them in a non-stick pan. The packaging says you should add oil, but I don't, because they've got plenty oil in them (enough so that they even require blotting with a paper towel when done). In about five to seven minutes on a medium-low heat, with plenty of pressing and flipping, you get a marvelously browned item with a crispy outside, a tender inside, and oodles of scalliony goodness. A little soy sauce or just salt and you have nomming perfection.

You get four pancakes in a bag. Generally, I find one makes a good serving size. But they're so tasty that I'm frequently tempted to cook another one up right after I finish the first. I recommend refraining. They are filling and the second one is too much for one person.

This is the sort of prepared food I can get behind. Yes, I'm sure I could learn to make these (in fact, I should probably try). But the reality is I'm unlikely to decide to whip up scallion pancakes on short notice *and* have all the materials to hand. Whereas these can reside in my freezer awaiting my whim. This is a little indulgence I'm prepared to pay for.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Trader Joe's Premium Pine Cat Litter



I should have known better. Once your cat likes a certain kind of litter box, its location, and the litter within it, you change any of those elements at your peril.

I bought the package above on a whim: I was in Trader Joe's in the late morning of a day when I knew I would later be doing a complete litter change and box cleaning. So I thought, "What a perfect time to try some different litter!" About the time I got it home and was taking the picture of it, I started thinking more clearly about the ramifications of this, and had my first "This may have been a bad idea" inkling. But I persisted nevertheless.

The first problem I noticed at home that I had failed to notice at the store was that this is not clumping litter. Usually that means that you have to throw out and completely replace the litter every two or three days. OK, I thought, so this will just be a short-term experiment.

But then I got to reading the instructions, and it turned out to be more complicated than that. These pellets are meant to dissolve in urine, so you know it's time to replace the litter when all the pellets are dissolved. I had never heard of a cat litter that worked that way. Again, though, I ignored the warning lights that this unusual scheme was flashing in my brain.

When I poured the litter into the freshly cleaned box, two more problems became evident. First, the pellets are large enough that I wouldn't be able to use standard slotted scoops to separate solid waste from the pellets. I didn't know how I would solve that problem, but decided to cross that bridge when I came to it.



Second, the directions say to spread a one-inch layer in the box. The manufacturers are apparently assuming they know the size of every litter box. They don't. The one I use for Lucy is much larger than average (in fact, it's a Sterilite storage box), because she refuses to use anything smaller. The result is that even the entire contents of the bag were insufficient to produce a one-inch depth.

Yet I carried on. Lord, what fools these mortals be.

By the time I went to bed, no business had been done in the new litter, which I knew was a portent of nighttime trouble.

Sure enough, when I got up this morning and checked the box, it was obvious that Lucy had scratched around in it, but left nothing behind. She couldn't possibly have held everything for the nearly 24 hours it had been, so I started a search of the apartment (stepping carefully) for what alternative she might have found.

I got lucky. She had settled on a box in my work area in which I keep package stuffing--air bags, Styrofoam peanuts, brown paper, etc.--that I get in boxes and then reuse when I have to ship stuff out. It was absolutely soaked with a huge amount of urine. Poor little girl must have held it as long as she possibly could in the vain hope that I would remove the abomination from her litter box.

Yet rather than visiting vengeance upon me with some ungodly mess, she had chosen the option that resulted in the least possible trouble for me--other, maybe, than using the bathtub (which would not be something she would consider acceptable). The packing materials had absorbed enough of the cat pee that it didn't soak through the bottom of the box into the carpet. I deserved far worse punishment. I got off easy.

I wasted no more time in calling an end to the experiment. I dumped the unused TJ's litter into the soiled box and took the whole mess out to the trash, then refilled the litter box with the stuff she is used to. Within a few minutes, we had a solid waste deposit, suggesting that she had uncomfortably been holding that in, too.

To be fair to TJ's, the package does warn that cats may not accept this stuff at first, and recommends a program of gradual transition. But that would mean buying more bags of it, since one was not even enough for the recommended starting depth--and with no guarantee that at the end of the process she would like it. And even if she did, it would leave me with the problem of separating the poops from the pellets. Not an insoluble problem, but one that I'd rather not deal with.

So the bag and its contents are gone, having lasted less than 24 hours before being soundly rejected by the only one whose opinion really matters. It was an epic fail in every possible way.

Maybe there are cats who will love this stuff. Lucy is not one of them.

Will I buy it again? 

Not even if I were being offered an unlimited lifetime supply for free. (Actual cost was $3.49, by the way.)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Preserve toothbrush



You might guess that my approach to toothpaste carries over to toothbrushes. (I almost made a pun and said "caries over," but I thought most readers would assume it was just a typo, failing to appreciate my brilliance.) If so, you would be correct. As long as they're labeled "soft," and they're cheap, I'll buy them. Right now I'm still working my way through a ten-pack of some drugstore brand that I bought back in Nevada.

So, again, buying the above-pictured item--one of the handful of non-TJ-branded things sold there--was a departure for me. I rolled my eyes at the "made with recycled yogurt cups" thing, a blatant appeal to the hippie-dippie crowd. The things I do for my readers!

I fully expected my reaction to be, "It's a toothbrush, like every other toothbrush." I have to admit that I'm happily surprised. I've never had one classified as "ultra soft" before, and I like that. It's a pleasant physical sensation on the teeth and gums.

I also thought the extreme backwards bend in the handle would be either unnoticeable or a hindrance, but in actual practice it's really nicely shaped to bring the full head of bristles into contact with those pesky back molars.

The handle is more rigid than most. It seems that the fashion these days is for highly flexible handles. I think I prefer this opposite approach, with a rigid handle, and any excess pressure being absorbed by the ultra-soft bristles.

There is another hidden dumb gimmick: the container it comes in can be reused, if you're careful, to ship the toothbrush back to the manufacturer when you're done with it, for further recycling. Oh, brother. As if people don't have better things to do with their time than save a toothbrush wrapper somewhere they'll remember it weeks later, then figure out how to close it, print out a mailing label, blah, blah, blah. Life is too short. Besides, can the energy expenditure of the return shipping really be less than that used to make a new toothbrush? The whole enterprise strikes me as exceedingly silly, aimed to appeal to a particular stereotype of customer that does not include me.

But I'm willing to overlook that folderol and just focus on how the thing works. And that I am liking, more than I had any reason to anticipate.

Will I buy it again? 

I think I probably will.


Update, January 1, 2016 

I've bought many more of these since writing the above. In fact, I rarely buy any other kinds of toothbrushes anymore. Definitely elevated to "staple" status. Just be sure to get the "ultra soft" one--reject the others.