Saturday, December 31, 2016


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

Best frozen Trader Joe's appetizers for New Year's Eve

Trader Joe's is a living hellscape

The 6 best things to buy at Trader Joe's for your New Year's Eve party

If you have Netflix streaming, find the Gary Gulman stand-up comedy special called "It's About Time." He has a roughly 23-minute funny riff on Trader Joe's that's well worth hearing.

Best tweets of the week:



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

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Orange

Nina bought this. I'm glad she did. I had passed it by several times, thinking it probably wouldn't be very good. I was wrong. It's excellent. They balanced the dark chocolate and orange flavors just right. And the thing really does break apart cleanly, as promised--which I wouldn't have believed without seeing it for myself.

Will I buy it again? 

I'd be happy to get one in my stocking every Christmas.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies

These are pretty ordinary grocery-store chocolate cookies with some crushed candy cane bits sprinkled on top. Edible, but nothing special.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, December 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Sliced Smoked Gouda Cheese

My friend Dan suggested that I try this. So I did.

Remember that awful 1979 vampire comedy movie with George Hamilton, "Love at First Bite"? Well, that's what we've got here, even though I'm not a vampire.

I like plain Gouda just fine, but this smoked variation somehow lights up my taste buds like few things do. I finished the 8-ounce package in just two evenings, with quartered slices on Triscuit crackers. That's more cheese than I really should be eating, but I couldn't stop.

To the Top Ten list you go, Smoked Gouda!

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Fondue Au Chocolat

This is a brand-new product, probably seasonal, though nothing I found says so explicitly.

Frankly, I expected disappointment. How good could inexpensive microwavable fondue chocolate in a plastic tub be, after all?

As it happens, pretty darn good. I brought home some strawberries to dip in it, and the results were, well, scrumptious. The chocolate tastes and feels like high-quality stuff, whereas I had expected cheap, gloppy dreck.

You zap the chocolate right in the tub it comes in, then dip whatever you're using right into that same tub, so there's virtually no mess to clean up. This is surely the most convenient fondue in the history of the world. The texture is lovely--smooth and creamy, thin enough to make even coating easy, but thick enough to stick rather than drip off.

No question, this is a solid winner. Highly recommended.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Double Wide Cat Scratcher

I noticed that Nina had one of these, and that Loki seemed to be using it frequently when he came in from his outdoor roaming.

I bought one for Lucy, rubbed into its surface a tiny bit of the catnip that comes with it, and put it out for her.

Let's see how she reacts:

Lemme tell you, that is one seriously happy kitty.

She scratches on it, she licks it, she chews it, she rolls on it, she rubs on it. She's even taken naps on it.

This is the first cat item from Trader Joe's that both Lucy and Loki have loved. On that basis, I'm going to take the unusual step of putting this in my Top Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

If you're not clear on the answer to that, maybe you need to watch the video again.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Holiday Fruit Spread

I could tell from the description--"plums, apples, cranberries, cinnamon & cloves"--that I would like this. However, whether it turned out to be a modest "like" or a big one would turn on whether they avoided two obvious traps: (1) Making it too sweet. (2) Dumping in too much cinnamon and cloves.

I'm pleased to report that they passed both tests. It's excellent stuff.

Now I'm just disappointed that they called it "holiday," and will presumably sell it for just a month or two per year. There's no reason this shouldn't be on the shelves all the time.

Will I buy it again? 


Trader Joe's Cocoa Batons

Faced with the yearly onslaught of fall/winter chocolate offerings from Trader Joe's, all that a hapless reviewer can do is pick a few randomly and hope for the best. That's what happened here.

It turned out to be a good choice. Strangely, I didn't much care for the first one, but as I've eaten several more, I've come to like them quite a bit.

The subtitled description you can see above is better than anything I could come up with independently: "Delicate rolled wafers filled with rich chocolate cream." Exactly so.

I find that two of them make for a nice dessert, satisfying my craving for sweetness without being too calorific or indulgent.

It has not escaped my attention that these look suspiciously similar to the Pepperidge Farms Chocolate Fudge Pirouette Rolled Wafers. I believe a Congressional investigation should be commenced immediately.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Grump Tree

This is not a Trader Joe's-branded item, but it was being sold at my local TJ's, and presumably at others. I've also seen them on sale at other grocery stores. I loved it immediately. Part of the reason is that they're calling it a "Grump Tree" (probably to avoid the trademark issues that might arise if they called it the obvious thing, a "Grinch Tree"), and the other blog I keep is called "Poker Grump."

If I can manage to keep this thing alive through the winter, I hope to plant it in my girlfriend's large back yard. She has planted several different kinds of trees, but none of them evergreens, so a lemon cypress should make a nice addition.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Saturday, December 24, 2016


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

The church of Trader Joe

People try Trader Joe's winter products

Best tweets of the week:




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

Trader Joe's Roasted Vegetables

I was pretty sure I wouldn't like this--and I was right. It's too full of the veggies that I don't like (onions, squash, Brussels sprouts), and has too few of the ones I do like (which admittedly is a pretty short list). It's unfair for me to be reviewing this. I hope Nina will be able to provide a more useful perspective.

Will I buy it again? 


Friday, December 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Saw Palmetto Plus Selenium & Vitamin D

I am of the sex and age subject to the problems attendant to a gradually enlarging prostate gland. The symptoms are not severe enough to make me willing to try the various prescription medications available, but they're certainly annoying enough that I'd welcome an over-the-counter remedy that was reasonably effective, inexpensive, and free of side effects.

Saw palmetto extract is the mainstay in this category. Trader Joe's version is relatively expensive, but I figured that as long as I was going to be trying something, I might as well make it a TJ's product and get a blog post out of the experience.

I took the recommended daily dose for about three months, then waited another three months before writing this. The reason for the slow timetable is that I would expect any effect to be quite gradual in onset--enough that I might not notice until I stopped taking it and symptoms returned.

While using it, I sometimes thought, "I think it might be getting a little bit better"--the "it" there primarily meaning the long delay in starting a urinary stream, post-void dribbling, and nocturnal wakening. But if there was any improvement, it was subtle enough that I could never be sure if it was a real effect or just random fluctuation in severity of the symptoms. After I stopped using the product, I noticed no trend toward worsening.

My conclusion was that any benefit was too small to be confident that it was real. For me, that means that it's not worth bothering with.

Will I buy it again? 

I probably will, in order to run the same experiment again in a year or two. Maybe if my condition has progressed, it will be easier to discern a therapeutic effect.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Double Chocolate Shortbread Wreath Cookies

A year ago, Trader Joe's then-new Butterscotch Shortbread Wreath Cookies won me over, and joined my Top Ten list. So did the non-seasonal variant that came out a short time later. Now there's a chocolate version. Will it be as good?

Sadly, no. They have none of the fabulous buttery richness that made the originals so delectable. They're just ordinary baked chocolate cookie dough. There's nothing particularly wrong with them, but also nothing that makes me love them or want more.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Pear & Persimmon Tarte

This makes a pretty nice dessert pastry. It's pretty to look at. The crust has good texture. Not too sweet.

Minor flaw: I'm not sure exactly what persimmons taste like, but I didn't detect anything other than pear.

Major flaw: The filling:crust ratio is way too low. In the picture above, imagine that the little puddle of fruit you see in the middle is all there is, and that those wide margins of crust are, in fact, nothing but crust. Because that's about how it is.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Deep Dark Gingerbread Cake & Baking Mix With Molasses & Ginger

I made what were essentially gingerbread brownies with this mix--the most basic recipe provided on the box. While they turned out to have a nice texture, they were way too heavy on the ginger, and had an odd bitter note that I couldn't identify. I ate two, with the second being a day later just to be sure I had not been overreacting to the first one. I wasn't. I threw the rest away.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, December 19, 2016

Trader Joe's Nantucket Style Cranberry Pie

I bought this for Thanksgiving. I don't know if it will stay on sale through Christmas, or maybe it's even intended to be a non-seasonal item. For some unfathomable reason, Trader Joe's does not notify me about these matters.

I mostly liked this: Nice cranberry flavor, not disgustingly sweet, good crust. Super easy to prepare--just leave it on the counter to thaw, no cooking required.

The main thing I didn't like was the chunks of walnut in the crust. I'm sure many people--most, even--will find that to be a lovely touch, but I just don't care much for walnuts, so I judged this a fairly significant demerit.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, December 18, 2016

Trader Joe's Carrot Souffle

I liked the carrot flavor, the mild added autumnal spices, and the texture. But they put in way too much sugar. The description on the front says "sweet carrots," but they don't mean "naturally sweet carrots"; they mean "sweetened carrots." And that difference kind of ruins the whole thing. With my first bite, the messages of "carrot" and "sugar" from my tongue were about equally fast and strong, which is not how it should be.

I ate all of it over the course of several days, but with every serving I thought about how much better it could have been with some restraint in the sweetening.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, December 17, 2016


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

Trader Joe's new products for December

15 vegan holiday finds at Trader Joe's

Joe knows snacks

What's vegan at Trader Joe's for the holidays?

11 best Trader Joe's holiday products

15 best Trader Joe's holiday finds

10 last-minute gifts from Trader Joe's for under $10

Best tweets of the week:





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

Trader Joe's Fresh Cranberry Sauce

I wanted to buy this last year, but the store had run out by the time I was looking. I was stuck instead with their cranberry sauce in a jar--which I thought was pretty good.

This year I nabbed the fresh version, and it's even better. It contains actual whole cranberries--what a concept! It manages to retain their native flavor, with enough sweetening to counteract the natural tartness, but without being overwhelming.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I'd like some every holiday season, please.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Creamy Toscano Cheese Soaked In Syrah

Two years ago, when reviewing Trader Joe's Toscano cheese infused with cinnamon, I said that I liked the cheese itself, but not the cinnamon, so I should try their other variants. Now I'm finally getting around to doing so.

I definitely liked this one better than the cinnamon. But that's more because of the absence of cinnamon than because of the addition of the wine. I found it hard to even detect the presence of wine except for right at the rind. Its flavor didn't seem to permeate through the cheese the way the cinnamon did.

The cheese itself is, again, excellent--rich and buttery. Its main flaw, again, is being kind of crumbly and hard to slice cleanly.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe once more, but it's not likely to become a frequent purchase. I'm ready to try the pepper-coated version (if they still make it; I haven't checked recently).

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Giant Baked Beans In Tomato Sauce

This is a new product that appeared on the shelves about a month ago. I love baked beans--eat 'em once or twice a week on average. I've tried practically every brand that I've had access to. These are distinctly different in two ways. First, as the name implies, they're huge. I don't think that's either good nor bad; it's just different.

The second difference, though, is the dealbreaker. The sauce is heavy with dill. I like dill in some things, but as a strong flavoring in baked beans it doesn't work. It makes me feel like I'm eating pickled beans instead of baked beans.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I finished eating them, so they weren't so horrible as to require throwing away, but I was left with no desire for more.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trader Joe's Mini Marshmallows

Surprise! These are exactly like the big marshmallows--but little!

It is for that sort of hard-hitting, incisive food analysis that I know my readers keep coming back to this page, so that's what I deliver.

Will I buy it again? 


Special note

This is the 1000th post on this blog. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Spizzico Di Pizza

This is a box of 12 tiny pizzas. Well, that's the claim, anyway. Mine had only 11. Maybe Trader Joe's hates me.

They're what I suppose you would call appetizer size--about three inches across.

Frankly, they're not very good. Dry crust. Too much oregano, but otherwise mostly flavorless. Compared to the lovely photo on the box, they were far more misshapen and thinly layered in sauce and cheese.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Other than the possible situational convenience of having individual pizza-ish things this size, I see no reason to pick this over any of the really good pizzas that TJ's sells.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Trader Joe's Tarte Aux Fruits--Mixed Berry Tarte

It was with a heavy heart that I learned that Trader Joe's was discontinuing its Raspberry Tarte, which both Nina and I thought might well be the single best product in the whole store.

Not too much later, though, this quasi-replacement showed up. It's not quite as good as the original, but it's still great. You get a medley of raspberries, blueberries, and red currants, instead of all raspberries. The crust is more prone to getting soggy if not eaten in its entirety soon after thawing. But those flaws aside, the berries are superb, and the glaze that holds them together seems unchanged from the old version.

My conclusion is that this is about 90% as good as the original. That makes it still of sufficient quality to join the Top Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

Shhhhh. Don't tell anyone, but I've already had four of them.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Trader Joe's O Tannenbaum Crispy Potato Snacks

These are, well, a little weird. The main ingredient is potato flour, so they're sort of like Pringles. But with a lot less salt. And shaped like evergreen trees. And kind of a sickly green color, due to the addition of spinach powder.

They worked fine for scooping up some thick hummus. On their own, they're not terrible, but too bland.

All in all, a cute novelty item, but not something I need to have again.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, December 10, 2016


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

How I lost my Trader Joe's virginity

Trader Joe's foods that will trick people into thinking you can cook

Best new Trader Joe's products of 2016

Top Trader Joe's kid food finds

Trader Joe's favorites

Why are the parking lots at Trader Joe's always so small?

Sorry, no tweets worth memorializing this week.

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

Trader Joe's Peppermint Chocolate Bar

I tossed this in my basket unenthusiastically. Ho-hum, another Christmastime mint/chocolate combination. It's rare to find a mint/chocolate thing that's actually bad, but it's also sort of rare to find one that stands out as really good. 

This turns out to be in that latter group. Good dark chocolate, but not too bitter. Nice amount of peppermint to complement it.

Quibble: It's too thick to bite through easily, and too thick to break off pieces with one's hands. Eating it is therefore something of a logistic challenge.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm not feeling like stocking up my freezer with them, but if Trader Joe's brings this back again next year, I'll have another.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Garden Lasagne With Grilled Vegetables

This is atypical lasagna. First, there's no meat, nor even any meat substitute protein source. Second, it's thin, as you can tell from the photo on the package. Third, there's much less cheese than I'm used to seeing. Fourth, the vegetables are not minced, but are presented in fairly large chunks--most prominently, zucchini and broccoli.

I did not particularly care for the result. It wasn't awful, and I ate my half willingly, but it did not excite me in any way, nor make me want to buy another box in the future.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, December 8, 2016

Trader Joe's Pesto Gouda Cheese




Not even one little bit. The flavor was all pesto, no gouda. Which was, y'know, no gooda.

The texture is unbelievably rubbery. You could use wedges of this to caulk your bathtub.

The only worse cheese I've had from Trader Joe's has been the Mozzarella Cheese Sticks--but this is close to that bad. It's bad enough that it's joining my Bottom Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

Not if it were the last cheese on earth.

Nina's View

Yeah, this isn't great. I thought I'd had it before, but I'm wondering whether it was SOME OTHER pesto cheese, because I liked (whatever it was) then. 

I'm also gradually coming to the conclusion that I just generally don't care much for gouda. Life is too short to inflict an untasty cheese upon oneself.

That said, I'm really moving away from dairy products—so bidding farewell to gouda isn't much of a hardship. (If you're going to inflict pain and suffering on a cow for your eating pleasure, it should at the very least be a real pleasure, not something you unthinkingly cram down your gullet.)

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Curry Simmer Sauce

I used this just at the name implies, as the liquid in which to simmer an otherwise bland fake-meat product, which was then served on a bed of rice. The result was entirely acceptable, even mildly pleasant, but far from wowing me with wonderfulness. Nor did it make me feel as though I had made something genuinely Indian. It lacked zip. It lacked freshness. It lacked complexity.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I would much rather use Trader Joe's excellent Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Trader Joe's Almond Mozzarella Style Shreds Cheese Alternative

You may remember a review from almost two years ago of a different Trader Joe's "mozzarella style" shredded cheese substitute, here. It was vile, inedible, and remains on my Bottom Ten list as one of the worst things from TJ's I've ever put in my mouth.

Well, apparently the negative reviews were universal, and that nasty stuff has been discontinued. In its place, we now have this. How does it compare?

It's better, but still not good. It improves from "disgusting" to "meh." I used the entire bag, which is a far sight more than could be said for the product it replaces. But it's virtually flavorless. I basically can't tell by taste whether or not it is present on whatever I've put it on.

The previous version at least had the virtue of being genuinely vegan, for those who care about such points. This one is not; it uses casein (milk protein), and derives some of its flavor (or, "flavor") from Parmesan cheese.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It might have a role in the diet of people especially sensitive to lactose, but that does not include me.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Simply Lite Milk Chocolate

I found this for sale in the checkout line at Trader Joe's in Asheville. I was intrigued by how a chocolate bar could be "no sugar added" and low in carbohydrates. Isn't chocolate, by definition, basically cacao and sugar?

Apparently not always. The manufacturer of this bar has used maltitol instead of sucrose. The result is kind of peculiar. It's clearly not as sweet as most chocolate, but at the same time it doesn't have the bitterness of high-cacao dark chocolates. The overall effect is unlike any chocolate I've ever had before. It wasn't awful, exactly, but it seemed off. The flavor of the sweetener reminded me of the sorbitol found in hard sugarless candies, and it's really not what I want or expect in chocolate.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'm not sorry I tried it once, because it was interesting to find out what sugarless chocolate might taste like. But I'm not eager to have more of it.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Bacon Cheddar Cheese

The block of cheese you see above is not the one I ate. The first one I brought home got moldy within about four days, before I had even opened it. So I took it back to the store, got a refund, and bought a new chunk. As always with Trader Joe's, the return process was easy and without fuss.

I liked this cheese. It's mild, flavorful, slices easily, and tastes great on a variety of crackers I had with it. Cheese with embedded bacon bits is a crazy idea, but it works here. There's just enough bacon to taste and enjoy it, without overpowering the cheese. I think it's probably about the perfect blend ratio.

Will I buy it again? 

After that description, you'd probably expect a yes. And it would be, if enjoyment were the only criterion. But bacon is one of those foods that, though I love, I've been cutting out of my diet almost entirely, due mostly to consideration of the animal source, and slightly to consideration of the health effects. I've lived in Asheville 3 1/2 years as I'm writing this. During that time, I've never bought a package of bacon. I've had it with breakfast at restaurants three times, I think. I did buy this cheese, and the unusual Bacon Ganache chocolate bar--but that's it. I suppose that amounts to something like a 90% reduction in my bacon consumption from some years before.

On the rare occasions that I decide to indulge, I want the straight stuff. For items like this, I'm confident that a bacon-flavored, soy-protein-based product would work very nearly as well. If TJ's sold such a thing, I'd buy it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


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

Recall of Trader Joe's hummus because of possible Listeria contamination

Best and worst new TJ's products for November

Favorite TJ's holiday products

13 Trader Joe's holiday products every lazy girl swears by

Best tweets of the week:




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

Trader Joe's Mahi Mahi Burgers

Nina bought these and served them for a dinner at her house. They're pretty good--speaking as one who doesn't generally like fish. Good texture: neither tough nor crumbly. Not too fishy.

Will I buy it again? 

It's not something I would ever buy for myself, because I wouldn't ever choose it over several fake-meat burgers that we've found are excellent. But I wouldn't object to having it again when served to me.

Nina's View

I just had another one of these on a kaiser bun for dinner and enjoyed it thoroughly, again. The texture of these is much better than either the tuna or salmon versions of the same thing. Don't ask me why, but they're less sort of 'spongy.'

Quick to prepare and tasty to eat. What's not to like?