Monday, August 31, 2015

Trader Joe's Fruit Jellies



I thought there was a good chance I'd like these. And I did--even more than I expected. The fruit flavors are both more intense and more natural than in most fruit-flavored candies. I can easily identify which varieties are which, as opposed to the vague, generic fruitiness of many similar candies.

These are right up there with the Gourmet Jelly Beans as the best non-chocolate candies I've found at Trader Joe's.

Will I buy them again? 

Yes--but please don't tell my dentist. I doubt she would approve of how the outside coating of granulated sugar gets ground directly into one's teeth when eating these.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Fruit Wrap



I'm not sure why Trader Joe's chooses to call these fruit "wraps," since their shape is such that you couldn't wrap it around much of anything. There's nothing to unroll; they're shaped like a giant stick of gum. I find this advantageous, as they're easier to eat than the kinds of fruit wraps/leather/roll-ups that are broad and thin, but it's basically the same stuff.

They're tasty and make a nice snack. As with TJ's frozen "Fruit Frenzy" bars, they serve a nice purpose when I want to snack on something that's sweet, but don't want to go for more candy (of which I have an excess in my life already). All of the flavors are about equally good; I don't find myself having any strong preferences among them.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. I like having a few of these on hand for when I don't have any fresh fruit to snack on.


Editorial note: 

Readers with a sharp memory may recall that I reviewed this item previously, here. If you look back, you'll see that I had just three of the five flavors shown, which is all that my local TJ's had available the first time I bought them. When I went back another time, I noticed the additional two, so I took another photo, as seen above. The way I keep track of which products I have reviewed is by moving the product picture out of the folder of pending reviews. So two different pictures means that I was cued twice to write about them. This was completely unintentional, and I had forgotten about writing the first review when I wrote this one.

I'm leaving them both up, because it shows how my subjective impression can change over time, without me even being aware that it has changed. Which I think is kind of interesting, even if it's a little bit embarrassing to have to face the fact that I'm not very consistent.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Roundup

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


Six rules for line-shopping at Trader Joe's 

Top five new vegan products from Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's announces recall of Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams 

Whole Foods versus Trader Joe's: A price comparison 

Trader Joe's beats Whole Foods for serving the wealthiest customers 

Montezuma chocolates will come to the US via Trader Joe's 

Brooklyn Trader Joe's is built on top of old George Washington fort 



Best tweets of the week:

1.


2.



3.


4.


5.



Here's this week's YouTube video from "Trader Joe":




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


Trader Joe's Ciabatta Rolls



Nina bought these and used them in place of hamburger buns for a second try at the Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers. I liked the flavor, and would probably like the texture in other contexts, but I thought they were a little too unyielding to serve well as burger buns.

I'll have to try them again in some other way before rendering a firm thumbs-up or thumbs-down.

Will I buy it again? 

So at this point we don't know. (That right there is a completely random, out-of-context quotation from David Mamet, "Sexual Perversity in Chicago.")


Nina's View

I like these rolls A LOT. They were not a good match up with the the Quinoa Cowboy Veggie burgers, which are exceedingly mooshy. The flavor and texture are excellent; they taste non-generic in a very nice way.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Bisque


This is OK, but doesn't excite me. I served one small bowl to Nina, but finished the rest myself--so it's not like I find it inedible. But if I had not know the name of the product, I don't think I would have guessed that it was supposed to be based on sweet potatoes. It tastes sort of generically vegetabley, and definitely sweet, but try as I might, I couldn't identify any specific flavor of sweet potato in it. After water, the ingredients are sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, honey sugar, salt, and oils. It should taste like sweet potatoes, but it just doesn't. I can't explain it.

Will I buy it again?

No. It's mediocre. I have no place in my life for mediocre soup.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Sriracha Ranch Dressing



Trader Joe's own description of this brand-new product is here.

I had read the "Eating at Joe's" review of this dressing before trying it, so I was, fortunately, forewarned that "if you want to slather it on a bed of lettuce and carrots, you had better be ready for your lips to blaze with the fire of a thousand raging suns." I therefore was much more sparing in its application than I normally would have been--and issued the same warning to Nina.

But it was still way too hot. I think sriracha ranch dressing is a great idea, but with a little sriracha to liven it up, not so much that it turns eating a salad into a freakish medieval trial by ordeal.

Where, I ask, is the Trader Joe's Blandification Committee when you need it??? (That was Nina's line. I told her I was going to steal it, and I'm a man who keeps my promises.)

Look, it's not that this stuff is so hot that you physically can't eat it, but it is so hot that you taste nothing but the heat, and therefore won't want to eat it. Sure, that looks like lettuce you have it on, but it might as well be green pasteboard, because they would both equally lose any chance at having their flavors get through to your taste buds. Put another way, if you're going to have this salad dressing, you might as well skip the salad and just chug some from the bottle, because you're never going to taste the salad anyway.

Frankly, for me that makes this functionally inedible. It goes onto my Bottom Ten list, and the bottle goes back to the store for a refund.

Will I buy it again? 

If they were to reformulate it with maybe 1/10 the sriracha--maybe even as much as 1/4--yes. Otherwise, no.


Nina’s View

Whenever anyone reviews a product by saying something along the lines of “Oooo too hot, lips burning, thousand suns, ouch ouch ouch!” I think to myself: WUSS! So I was prepared to enjoy this so-called sriracha ranch with gusto.

Nopety-nope-nope.

It’s just hot and more hot and no flavor. It’s obviously not made with delicious rooster sauce, because if it were, it would be TASTY, whereas, as mentioned, this is just HOT.

Bob has it exactly right: might as well be eating shredded tax bills instead of salad. And any ranchiness there might once have been in the dressing is long since overrun by the HOT.

Away with you, useless sauce.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Multigrain Bread



I liked most things about this bread: The slices are even over the length of the loaf, it tastes good, it toasts nicely.

But one thing that's wrong with it is a dealbreaker: the seeds on the outside (judging from the label, these are poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, and white sesame seeds) fall off so easily that it makes a mess. They fall off on the counter. They fall off in the toaster. They fall off on the plate and table. It's a small annoyance, perhaps, but a persistent one, happening every single time I used a slice or two of this bread.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I don't need another annoyance in my life, even a small one.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Trader Joe's Wild King Salmon Jerky



This is a brand-new product at Trader Joe's. See the company's description of it here.

TJ's had a salmon jerky before, but I never got around to tasting it. TJ's description of the new product kind of bashes the old one, so I assume they are not keeping the old one around. If they were, they'd find some way to say that they're both excellent, just different tastes for different folks. If you want to read a comparison from somebody who tried both, see here.

I liked this more than I thought I would. Its flavor is that of salmon, mostly without general fishiness. It breaks and tears easily, which is nice--unlike some beef jerky that you could use to pull out teeth. It is not overly sweetened, and doesn't taste too salty (though the label discloses that there is actually one metric ton of salt in each bag--or something like that, I may have the details wrong).

All in all, I found it surprisingly pleasant.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe someday, though I didn't like it enough to add to my regular snacking rotation.


Nina's View

This is yummy. I can see myself eating it often. The sodium content is high enough to brine a whale, so I shall have to moderate my inclination to snarf down the whole package at one sitting. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Trader Joe's Heirloom Red Spinach



My results with this product were mixed. On the good side, it's very pretty, and really punches up the appearance of what might otherwise be a dreary-looking salad. And as spinach, it's entirely fine, even if nothing special in terms of flavor.

On the bad side, this was the last bag on the shelf, and it was nearing its expiration date. It was tired-looking enough that it even caught the cashier's attention. He had somebody go look for a fresher bag, but there were none to be had. I bought it anyway, taking my chances. Perhaps I shouldn't have.

There was a residue of red liquid on the outside of the bag, which stained everything it came into contact with. Inside, at least a quarter of the spinach leaves were blackening and completely dead. It took a long time to sort through them. I mixed what I thought was salvageable with some butter lettuce for an easy salad, and the result was, I thought, very pleasing--except for still finding some wilted spinach leaves even after the initial pick-through.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I don't blame the store for this one sad bag. After all, I bought it knowing it was already on its last legs, and despite store personnel gently trying to tell me I probably shouldn't. I'd like to try it again when I can get a fresher sample.

Addendum 

I did try it again, and it was much better: tender and flavorful, not limp and dying. My main complaint about the second bag--and I don't yet know if it was an anomaly or pervasive problem--was the large number of spinach stems and twigs left in:


There were lots of these in that bag, not just this one.

Despite that, this spinach tossed with TJ's butter lettuce made for a tasty, pretty, and exceptionally simple salad. Yes, I will buy it again.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Butter Lettuce


I've never bought butter lettuce before. I had seen these bags at Trader Joe's many times, but didn't know what I would do with it. On a recent trip, I decided to try making a simple salad by tossing this with TJ's red spinach. I liked the result a lot. This is far better than iceberg lettuce--both more tender and more flavorful--as the base of a salad, though obviously kind of boring all by itself.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. The spinach ended up being less than an optimal bag, but I'd like to try the combination again.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Roundup

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


A week's worth of dinner for under $25 at Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's: A business that welcomes children 

54 Trader Joe's items you must try 

Trader Joe's shiraz beats $27 bottle in blind taste test 

Kindness of Trader Joe's employees 

My first trip to Trader Joe's 

Trader Joe's wine deals and reviews for summer, 2015 

Salad recipe using all Trader Joe's ingredients 

Program to help developmentally disabled adults become successful Trader Joe's employees 



Here's this week's YouTube video from "Trader Joe":





Best tweets of the week:

1.



2.

3.

4.


5.



6.




Finally, here are this week's cute cat and cute dog with their Trader Joe's grocery bags:





Trader Joe's Salted Tortilla Chips



Yet another in Trader Joe's bewildering array of tortilla chips. I finished my bag of the one reviewed here Thursday and started on this one in the same sitting, so I could compare them directly. These are a little better: thicker and stronger--hence better for dipping into dense hummus--and with more corn flavor. But really, if I weren't trying them side by side, I wouldn't have noticed any difference.

TJ's could do with some serious thinning of its tortilla chip line. The proliferation of minor variants--white corn/yellow corn/blue corn, organic/regular, triangular/round/"longboard"--just wastes shelf space and confuses customers.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure, though without any particular enthusiasm.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Dinner



When Nina was here for dinner Wednesday night, I did one of my occasional all-Trader-Joe's meals.

That's TJ's Chickenless Mandarin Orange Morsels on top of TJ's brown rice fusilli pasta, with a side of TJ's Soycutash. Salad is a blend of two of TJ's bagged salads (butter lettuce/radicchio and Organic Power to the Greens) with TJ's shredded carrots. The pink beverage is the Italian Blood Orange Soda sold but not branded by TJ's. Dessert was to be TJ's vanilla soy ice cream, but we were too full.

Many reviews to write now!

Trader Joe's Burrata, Prosciutto & Arugula Flatbread



Brand-new product. See Trader Joe's description here.

This is a nice pizza--sufficiently different from your average frozen pizza that it's worth a try. The flatbread makes for a thicker and chewier crust than is typical, and the cheese--burrata, which was a new word for me--is unusually creamy. What's most different, however, is using prosciutto instead of pepperoni or sausage or Canadian bacon.

That, however, also leads to the biggest annoyance. The prosciutto comes in a separate inner wrapping, and you have to separate the three super-thin layers, cut or tear them into pieces, and distribute them on the pizza yourself. (The package directions say to put the meat on after baking. The web site says either before or after works.) Kind of a pain, compared to standard frozen pizzas.

I have a gripe about the serving size, too. The label claims three servings here. I had the whole thing, with a salad, for a lunch, and didn't feel that I overate. I'm 5'7" and weigh 148 pounds--not exactly what you'd call a giant. Draw your own conclusions about feeding three people with this thing.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was good, and interesting once, but not something I want to make a staple. Part of that is the my growing unease with using adorable, intelligent piggies as food. But just as much was the overall different-ness of this compared to what decades of experience have led me to expect from frozen pizza. Writing this blog has given me many opportunities to discover that new-and-different sometimes means better than anticipated, with new favorites displacing lifetime habits. But this is not one of those revelatory moments.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Trader Joe's Restaurant Style White Corn Tortilla Chips



When I see tortilla chips labeled "restaurant style," I expect them to have a noticeable thin sheen of oil, as if they were lifted from the deep fryer mere minutes ago. Admittedly, only a few packaged chips actually deliver on this. This TJ's offering is not among them.

These are perfectly acceptable tortilla chips, but they are completely generic and ordinary, indistinguishable from a thousand other brands--and indistinguishable from several other from TJ's own bewildering lineup of tortilla chips.

Will I buy it again? 

I probably will, not because I especially like them, but just because I know that sooner or later I will forget which varieties of tortilla chips from Trader Joe's I've liked more than others. But it will be OK if I do; these will serve their purpose, even if they're not the best available.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Baby Swiss Cheese Chalet Brand


Apparently, in this context, "baby" is a euphemism for "flavorless." Eat a piece of this cheese by itself, and you can tell, with a bit of effort, that it's Swiss. Put it on anything, however, and the flavor is so mild that it just vanishes.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I like Swiss cheese, and I want to taste it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Complete Body Cleanse





I love Trader Joe's so much that it's frankly embarrassing. I recognize, in my more lucid moments, that it's irrational and even bizarre to feel actual affection for what is, after all, a grocery store. But I cannot deny that I feel such affection every time I'm there, or when I see that name on one of my favorite products as I open it. It gives me a little Pavlovian jolt of pleasure. Whether I have conned myself into this one-sided love affair, or have been manipulated into it by the wily marketing folks at TJ's headquarters, I cannot say; the end result is the same either way.

But once in a while I find that TJ's has done or is doing something that I find vile and reprehensible--and this is one of those occasions.

About ten days ago, I saw a #TraderJoes tweet about a TJ's "cleanse," pointing to this newly posted YouTube video:



(Please note that my condemnation is not of the nice woman who made this video. I don't blame her for latching onto a common but incorrect view of how the body works. I squarely blame Trader Joe's for exploiting people's false beliefs.)

I had never heard of this product before or noticed it on the shelves. But as you can see from the three photos above, I easily found it in the Asheville store.

The first thing to note from the lists of ingredients of the three products is that the main constituents are basically the same for all three--namely, fiber, fiber, and more fiber, with a little glycerol thrown in. What varies between them are the minor components, which are just selections of plant extracts.

Here's the model that many people have of how the body works: You ingest various "toxins" along with your food. Some of these are "filtered" out by the liver. Others stay in the digestive tract and accumulate in the colon until flushed out by fiber or a purgative.

Trader Joe's labeling explicitly encourages this idea:
WHY CLEANSE? Support the body's ability to decrease toxins from external sources. Toxins may come from synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, artificial hormones used in raising livestock and processed foods.
Side note: Trader Joe's sells tons and tons of processed foods. I guess we have to assume from this label that all of that cookie butter and soy chorizo and mac 'n' cheese is filling us all with unnamed "toxins," right?

Continuing:
WHY FIBER? Fiber's key role in Complete Body Cleanse is to absorb and eliminate toxins. Toxins bind to the fiber and are carried out of the body. Without fiber, toxins may be re-absorbed and you cannot thoroughly detoxify. 
This is bullshit. Trader Joe's is lying to you.

Let's talk about the liver first. Now, to be fair, TJ's labeling does not say anything specific about the liver's role in all of this. But the fact that they include a "liver capsule" strongly suggests that they want you to buy into the concept of the liver as a filter, which, like all filters, needs occasional cleaning to get rid of the gunk it has filtered out.

But that's not how the liver works. It is not a mechanical filter that gets clogged up with the stuff it has removed, like the air filter in your car or the lint filter in your dryer. It is a biochemical machine that actively destroys harmful compounds, breaking them down into smaller molecules that can be eliminated by the kidneys. There is nothing left behind to be cleaned out. What's more, it absolutely does not need the "support" of "milk thistle seed extract," "artichoke leaf extract," "dandelion root extract," or "licorice root and rhizome extract" to be able to do this.

As for fiber and the colon: By all means, get lots of fiber into you, both by dietary choices and by supplementation. Eat lots of leafy and cruciferous vegetables. Buy and use Metamucil, Citrucel, or whatever store brand you like. Fiber promotes bowel regularity and softens stools, thus reducing problems like constipation and hemorrhoids. It may even help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of colon cancer. I'm a big fan of fiber. Yay, FIBER! Go, FIBER!

But to get these benefits, you need to have a high intake of fiber consistently, for years and years. A big jolt of it now and then via a 14-day "cleanse," as Trader Joe's is expressly promoting here, does no good at all.

With the rare exceptions of some disease states, matter does not accumulate in your colon; it passes through. You can definitely affect the rate at which it passes through, but overall the input to the colon and the output from the colon must be equal.

If you buy and use TJ's Complete Body Cleanse, you will poop more for two weeks, and then you will go back to your previously scheduled pooping. You will not have had any permanent weight loss. Your liver and colon will not be any healthier or happier. The amount of "toxins" in your body will not be any different. Nothing else will have changed.

Oh, that's not quite true. Two other things will have changed: you will be $12.99 poorer, and Trader Joe's will be $12.99 richer.

This is the first and likely last time that I will write a review of a Trader Joe's product without having tried it. There's a sound reason for that: this stuff is a scam, and I refuse to be scammed, even--maybe especially--by a company that I love.

This item goes straight into my Bottom Ten, and I'm not even going to ask the question with which I traditionally conclude.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Trader Joe's White Bean & Basil Hummus





For the sake of truth-in-labeling, Trader Joe's ought to call this product "Basil & Basil. And Oil. With Maybe Some Hummus. And a White Bean or Two."

This is oiliest hummus I've ever had, from any manufacturer. It's the only one that has a visible layer of oil floating on the top--you can see it in the side view of the tub above. I suppose I could live with that, after stirring it in, but then the flavor is basil, basil, and more basil. (Trying to come up with a Fawlty Towers joke here, but failing.)

The net result of these two characteristics is gross, inedible hummus, and automatic inclusion in my Bottom Ten list. This will become the sixth item I return for a refund.

Will I buy it again? 

Only after I have my stroke and forget having had it before.


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Mediterranean Hummus




I have a problem. I've tried so many different kinds of hummus lately, both Trader Joe's offerings and others, that they're running together in my brain. I remember which ones I liked or didn't like, but little about why, or what set each one apart.

That's the case here. I remember stirring this stuff up, so as to distribute all the little extras (seen in the top photo) evenly throughout the hummus, and then trying it and liking it--but nothing about what it was that I liked about it.

Oh well--guess I'll just have to get myself some more!

Will I buy it again? 

I have to, don't you see?

Update 

I did buy it again. I do still like it, though it's not my favorite hummus. I have developed a preference for the products of an Asheville company, with a denser, stiffer, more whipped texture. This is pretty oily. It doesn't have quite enough bite for me, in terms of lemon/tanginess.


Nina's View

Not my favorite version of hummus. I like olive oil, but I do not care for olives themselves. I keep thinking maybe some day I'll change my mind about this, but we are four or five decades into the testing process and it seems unlikely.

Update [from Nina]: 

So we DID have a second edition of this recently and either 1) the add-ins have changed or 2) my sampling was skewed or 3) I am insane. I categorically reject the third alternative. 

This second time I detected no untoward olivyness. In fact, no flavoring predominated whatsoever. It just seemed to me to be a pretty much ideal basic hummus. Very edible. I would buy and serve this without hesitation, and I would expect it to be well-received by most.  

We may have to have a tie-breaker sample. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Roundup

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


Trader Joe's boosts your home's value more than Whole Foods 

The 5 things you miss when you move to a city without a Trader Joe's 

The 39 Trader Joe's items you need in your life 

10 recipes with cookie butter as a main ingredient 

14 Trader Joe's party staples for busy hosts 

Best new Trader Joe's products for August 

Trader Joe's versus Whole Foods: Where you should actually be shopping 

What do you use cookie butter for? 

7 healthy Trader Joe's copycat recipes 

Episode 6 of the "Let's Talk TJ's" podcast 

7 delicious Latin-inspired treats you can buy at Trader Joe's 



Best tweets of the week:

1.


2.



3.



4.


Here's this week's YouTube video from "Trader Joe":





And finally, here are this week's cute cats in Trader Joe's grocery bags:





Trader Joe's Sprouted Flourless Whole Wheat Berry Bread



There's a lot that I don't understand about this bread. How can it be "flourless"? What are "wheat berries"? Why are they sprouted? Why does it need dates and raisins?

But I do understand one thing about it: It's delicious. It's easily my favorite wheat bread from Trader Joe's so far, and maybe my overall favorite TJ's bread. (I find wheat breads and white bread so different that it's hard to make a comparison between them--the old apples and oranges thing.) It's moderately dense, so that it feels substantial, without veering into the kind of bread density that makes it feel like it's an oppressive chore to eat. It's flavorful. It has nice little slightly chewy bits. It works well as both toast and sandwich bread. It's high in protein and fiber.

Highly recommended.

Will I buy it again? 

Certainly. In fact, I'm adding it to my Top Ten list. It's that good.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Trader Joe's Popcorn In A Pickle



Trader Joe's rolls out new products all the time. Most of these are not particularly exciting. Over the last couple of weeks, for example, there has been a new cheese, a blend of olive oil and lemon juice, an organic version of a previously available non-organic bagged salad, a medley of fresh fruit chunks, and two new varieties of seed blends. Ho-hum. I'm sure they all have their place, but nobody spots the 126th kind of cheese on the shelf and fires up his or her social media outlets to gush over the find. (You can see all the things in the "What's New" section of TJ's web site.)

Once in a while, though, a TJ's product comes along that is so crazy that people seeing it in the stores immediately whip out their phones, and send pictures of it to Twitter and Facebook, with comments about how they can't wait to try it. I monitor the #TraderJoes hashtag on Twitter and participate in a Facebook group of TJ's fans, which together operate as my own personal Distant Early Warning Line for new products.

And boy oh boy did that DEW line light up starting on August 2 when, apparently, the first TJ's outlets started stocking this pickle-flavored popcorn. I had never heard of it, and Google turned up absolutely nothing about it anywhere on the web, not even in the "What's New" section of TJ's own web site. (For some reason, it's still not there.) I went to my local store in Asheville that same day, hoping to be one of the first to try it, only to be bitterly disappointed: not only did they not have it, they had never heard of it, and it wasn't even listed in their computer as an item that they could order. Over the next ten days, I saw dozens of tweets from people gushing about it. These came from Connecticut, New York, Minnesota, D.C., Washington, Oregon, California, and Arizona--everywhere, it seemed, except North Carolina. And repeated trips to my store kept turning up no pickle-flavored popcorn anywhere. I felt sure that my state was being left out of the rollout specifically to punish me, probably for too many negative reviews of TJ's products.

But it's finally here, and Nina and I tried it Wednesday night. It's a freaky experience. It plays tricks with your brain and the expectations you have built up over a lifetime of dealing with food. You snip open a bag of popcorn, and immediately get a strong scent of ... NOT popcorn, but pickles. Then you pop a few kernels in your mouth, and you have the expected texture of popcorn, but all the flavor of a pickle.

Mind you, this is not some "popcorn with a hint of pickle." No. It's full-bore dill pickle. Your brain is all, "WTF, dude? I'm tasting pickle, but chewing on popcorn. Isn't that one of the classic signs of having a stroke or something?" It's a seriously confusing sensory rush, what with the signals crossing and all.

And I suppose that that's reason enough to buy and eat it once--for the sheer novelty of it. Like the Key Lime Tea Cookies a few days ago, or the Fireworks chocolate bar before that, it's a sensory experience sufficiently unlike any other available from a grocery store that you should probably give it a whirl.

But for long-term, repeat snacking? I don't think so. I loves me a good dill pickle, but, dammit, I want the crunch and the wetness to go along with the flavor. Conversely, when I eat popcorn, I want it to at least retain some meaningful flavor of popcorn--which this doesn't, because of how overpowering the dill is. It thwarts what I'm wanting from both possible snack choices simultaneously.

The stuff isn't bad. But it's never going to make me want more and more of it, the way that, for example, the TJ's Popcorn with Herbs and Spices does. (No link; review still pending.)

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'm delighted to have another unusual but not unpleasant sensory experience added to my lifetime experience, but I feel no eagerness to repeat it.


Nina's View

Bob has this right. I feel only journalistically obligated to report that my burps were dill-flavored for hours after eating this snack. 

You're welcome.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Trader Joe's Fig Bites Made With Turkish Figs



I didn't plan for this to be a "new product week" on the blog, but Trader Joe's has had another spurt of releasing interesting new stuff, and I'm trying to keep up with it.

Trader Joe's has a long list of product that are quite obviously copycat versions of other well-known national-brand items. Sometimes TJ's improves on the original--see, e.g., the cherry-pomegranate toaster pastries, a.k.a. Trader Joe's Pop Tarts. Sometimes they fail miserably--see, e.g., Joe-Joe's cookies, a.k.a. Trader Joe's Oreos.

The latest item in this tradition is Fig Bites, which, if honesty were the foremost consideration, would be called Trader Joe's Fig Newtons. (Yes, I'm aware that Nabisco has officially renamed Fig Newtons. I refuse to grant legitimacy to such sacrilege.)

If you want to see how these compare visually to Fig Newtons, there's a nice side-by-side photo in this review. 

How do they taste compared to the original? Not as good. I wouldn't call them a dismal failure, but they are a disappointment. The problem is simple and obvious: they badly overshot on the cake-to-filling ratio. Instead of the pleasing balance of the two given by the original, with these I get the sense of cake, cake, cake, little big of figgy fruitiness, cake, cake, cake. You can see it in that previously linked photo, and the taste experience accords with that. It's all wrong.

Will I buy it again? 

No. In fact, I've eaten one quarter of the package, and I think the rest are going back to the store for a refund.





Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Formula No. 3 Shampoo Conditioner Body Wash



Once again, I defy you to correctly discern what is product name and what is just ancillary descriptive copy on the bottle. Maddening for a blogger who has to guess! Maybe I should include it all: Trader Joe's All For One Head To Toe Formula No. 3 Head To Toe One For All Shampoo Conditioner Body Wash.

This is a brand new Trader Joe's product. I've been using it for about five days. Normally I would go a lot longer before writing a review, but since there seems to be nothing at all about it anywhere on the web (including TJ's own site), I decided to put something up now.

This stuff is lightly scented, with what I can only describe as mixed floral. Maybe the chamomile (which I just now had to try spelling six different ways before I got it right) is a little more dominant than the others, but I found it hard to pick out anything specific. It's perfectly pleasant, not too girly. (Am I allowed to use that word?)

My main complaint about it is that it's hard to rinse off. This wasn't really surprising, because it seems inherent in trying to make something include a hair conditioner. That product category necessarily implies something that will be left behind after rinsing, and I don't think chemical wizards have yet managed to devise a compound that will be left behind after rinsing in one place but not others.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you how it works as a hair conditioner, because I don't have much left for the stuff to stick to, and what's there is only about 1/4" long. I think it's clear that I am not the target demographic for this product.

TJ's is charging $7.99 for this 32-ounce bottle. I usually don't buy body wash, but spot-checking some products on Amazon, that seems in the right ballpark.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It may be fine for those who like this sort of thing, but it's not for me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Spindrift Seltzer Made With Fresh Squeezed Grapefruits




This is sold by Trader Joe's, though not under the store's own brand name. It showed up last week on the "new products" shelf of the Asheville store.

I liked this more than I like most such products (i.e., carbonated but unsweetened beverages). There's not much real grapefruit juice here--just that from 3/16 of one grapefruit, if the claim on the box is to be believed. But it seems to make a real difference in the flavor, while adding only 15 calories to each 12-ounce can. The taste is, as you might guess, like diluted, fizzy, grapefruit juice.

It's not as good as real grapefruit juice, of course, but for a light, bubbly summer refresher, it'll do nicely.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. But I'd be happy to drink it if it were offered at a party or somebody's house. It might make a nice mixer, too.

Update: I wrote that after having just one of them. I gave one to Nina, and drank the last two over the next couple of days. I liked each one better than the last, and will now change my final verdict on the "buy it again" question to yes. It's on my list for a repeat purchase next trip to TJ's.


Nina's View

It should come as no surprise that I liked this. It's not sweet. It tastes grapefruity, but very lightly so—and with a nice back-of-the-tongue bitterness brought to you probably by some grapefruit oil. Very refreshing.

As a mixer, I think it would all but disappear, as the flavoring is very low-key. It makes a great summertime non-alcoholic sipper.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Trader Joe's Key Lime Tea Cookies



This is another brand-new product from Trader Joe's; see the company's introduction here.

Not that it matters much, but I think one line in TJ's description is factually wrong: "These little rounds are premium butter cookies, infused with natural key lime flavor and dusted top to bottom with powdered sugar." That pretty clearly implies that the lime flavor is in the cookies themselves, not in the powdered-sugar coating. But I'm convinced that the opposite is true, and all of the lime flavor is mixed in with the powdered sugar, none in the cookie per se. Again--not that it matters much, since only a weirdo like me would scrape the powdered sugar off of one and taste the two parts separately in order to find out.

Anyway, I expected the lime flavor here to be pleasant but mild. Instead, it was intense. The "Eating at Joe's" blog describes it as "an outrageous blast of lime flavor in the pastry aisle," and a "shockingly big lime taste," and "nearly too much lime flavor." I can't say I disagree. What's more, they taste like real limes, not Popsicle-style "lime" flavor. I loved the first several that I ate with Nina upon first opening the package.

But after having several per day for three days now, I think I like them more as a novelty than as a staple of the portion of my diet that is cookies. The cookie inside is a bit dry and bland. After a few, when the "wow" sensation of the liminess has worn off, they seem to me just okay, not great.

One medical warning, though: Don't eat too many, or you may develop Lime Disease.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm very glad I tried them once; it was kind of mind-blowing. But as with other interesting TJ's novelty snacks, such as the Fireworks chocolate bar, I think once is enough.


Nina’s View

That whizzing sound you hear? That is the sound of these cookies rocketing past all other TJ’s cookies and heading straight to a pantheon spot in Nina’s Top Ten.

How do I love these? LET ME COUNT THE WAYS.

1. Good size. You can eat six of these and not feel like an oinker.

2. Powdered sugar. Powdery but not too powdery. I feared it would get all over everything and it didn’t. Win!

3. Shortbread consistency. I like me some shortbread.

4. …????

5. KEY LIME KEY LIME KEY LIME KEY LIME.

These cookies are true to the fruit. They really and truly taste like KEY LIME and plenty of it.

Do any of you remember Lemon Coolers? As a kid, they were my favorites. I loved how you could put in them in your mouth and suck on them and get a rush of almost mentholated sugary lemoniness. Those Lemon Coolers were great, but I don’t think their lemon flavor was as natural or intense as you get from these TJ’s babies.

I think some of the most successful TJ’s products are those that highlight and intensify natural fruit flavor: see the canonized Raspberry Tarte, for example. Concentrated, unadulterated, pure fruit flavors are absolutely fantastic. More of this, please, Trader Joe’s!

I can imagine the Lime Cookies going very well with a cup of tea. It is only the satisfying intensity of the flavor that would keep me from devouring an entire tub of these at once. Bob says that familiarity is breeding discontent, for him. I may never have that problem, because I am going to buy these things once in a very, very, blue moon. I want to keep having that first-taste thrill forever.

Postscript: Knowing retailers’ penchant for discontinuing every darn item that I adore, I should probably by a dozen tubs and freeze them.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Trader Joe's Black Bean & Corn Enchilada



This is a brand-new item; see Trader Joe's introduction to it here. I swiped the photo from TJ's, too, because I picked this up on my way to Nina's for lunch, and forgot to take a picture of it before we cooked and ate it.

I'm not sure why this isn't given TJ's usual "V" vegan symbol. Looking over the list of ingredients, I see no non-vegan elements. It is certified organic, however, as indicated by the seal in the upper right corner.

I was a little worried about trying this, after noting the presence of both tofu and onions. But I was pleasantly surprised that they did not play a prominent role.

With neither meat nor cheese, this didn't seem quite like other enchiladas I've had before, but it was OK. It's mildly spiced, but seems to have tiptoed past the Trader Joe's Blandification Committee without too much damage. It needed more microwave heating than the package suggested, but that was a minor inconvenience.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not--mainly because I'd really prefer to have some cheese and/or meat (fake would be fine for this usage), rather than all veggies. But I didn't dislike it, and if Nina served it to me for dinner someday, I'd eat it contentedly.


Nina's View

My views on frozen burritos and enchiladas and the like have been expressed before. Most of these things are easy enough to throw together that I'm almost never buying them frozen and prepared.

I'd be prepared to make an exception for these. I added a soup├žon of Rooster Sauce (sriracha) to the sauce and that, I thought, made them just right. The sauce has a bit of astringent piquancy (probably the citric acid), which I particularly like. If you hadn't told me that it was tofu in there, I could easily have mistaken it for potato.

I might be tempted to put one these babies in the back of the fridge for an I'M STARVING FEED ME IMMEDIATELY emergency.

In short, not bad. Not bad at all.