Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trader Joe's Spanish Manchego Cheese

This was possibly the best non-melange cheese I've had from Trader Joe's, and certainly the most distinctive. I lack the specialized vocabulary to convey what it tastes like, but it's never going to be mistaken for a cheddar or parmesan. Nobody will ever accuse it of being boring, or too much like a dozen other similar products. It also has the advantage of slicing nicely without crumbling.

I briefly toyed with the idea of adding it to my Top Ten list, but I think that I won't. It doesn't have that "must have more immediately" quality. But it's very, very good, and will be among my first choices when I'm selecting a cheese for myself and want a known quantity rather than an experimentation with the unknown.

Will I buy it again? 

With pleasure.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Tropical Mango Pineapple Salsa

This ain't salsa. You know how I know that? Because there are no tomatoes in it. No diced tomatoes, no tomato puree, nothing. It's orange, not red. The first ingredient is mango, the second pineapple. I like mango and pineapple just fine, which is why I was interested in trying this stuff. But when something is advertised to be a mango and pineapple salsa, I still expect it to be, at root, a salsa--but with some mango and pineapple thrown in as accents. That is not how Trader Joe's sees things, apparently.

Also, too much onion. I have begrudgingly accepted that if I'm going to eat commercial salsa, I'm going to have to put up with some onion. But there's a limit to my tolerance, and this exceeds it--though only by a little, not so much as to make it inedible.

Will I buy it again? 

No. And I'm tempted to report TJ's to the Federal Trade Commission for false advertising. Salsa, my ass.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic Hummus

Today's review is presented in the form of a syllogism.

I do not like garlic.

This hummus is garlicky.

Therefore, I do not like this hummus.


(I will grant that it has an unusually nice, creamy texture. But that is not enough to save it from the irrefutable logic of my syllogism.)

Will I buy it again? 

No. That would be illogical.

Nina's View

Logic has no place in food assessment. This is deliciously garlicky hummus, with a pleasant mildness, because: roasted. Get some.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa

Nina bought this. I've had it at her house a couple of times.

It's not bad, but it falls far short of my favorite so far, which is TJ's Fall Harvest Salsa. Even though pineapple is the second listed ingredient, after tomatoes, I get very little pineapple flavor. It conveys a general sweetness that I think is actually excessive. And it's too chunky; I prefer things more finely minced.

Will I buy it again? 

It's not terrible by any means--but no.

Nina's View

I bought this with Bob in mind, thinking salsa + sweet = winnar! But no. FAIL. I think it's tasty enough, but the last third of the jar has been sitting in my refrigerator for a month, and I think that tells us all we need to know. Farewell, adieu, aufwiedersehn, good-bye Pineapple Salsa!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Trader Joe's English Goat Milk Cheddar Cheese

This is surprisingly sharp, especially for something that is not labeled as "sharp," and, in fact, is described as "mellow." It was actually a bit harsh. Also: much too crumbly. My cheese slicer yielded random hunks. I hate that.

Will I buy it again?


Saturday, March 26, 2016


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

Top 8 Trader Joe's shopping tips and tricks

Trader Joe's to the rescue in a spicy-food emergency

"Let's Talk TJ's" podcast #21 

Kids' learning adventure at Trader Joe's

Best vegan foods at Trader Joe's

Aldi versus Trader Joe's price comparison

Why Trader Joe's has small parking lots

Trader Joe's announces recall of chocolate orange sticks and chocolate raspberry sticks

Best tweets of the week:



And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag (an insulated one):

Trader Joe's Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza

This is a brand-new item at Trader Joe's; see the company's introduction to it here. $4.99.

I loved this. It's right up there with this one as my favorite pizzas from Trader Joe's, and definitely better than my previous go-to choice, the Deep Dish Pepperoni.

This is the point in the review at which I'm supposed to tell you exactly why it was outstanding. I can't. A few times while eating it I thought, "I should slow down and figure out exactly what tastes so good here. The crust? The sauce? The cheese? The pepperoni?" But then that thought would pass as quickly as it came, and I resumed making it disappear as fast as I could shove it in my face. As a result, I'm left with the inarticulate but firm opinion that this is about as good as frozen pizza gets.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, although here I run into the problem of my desire to have very little beef and pork in my diet. I can tell myself that there's such tiny amounts of pork here that it makes no meaningful difference--unlike eating, say, bacon or pork chops. But that's obviously more rationalization than rational. We'll see how it plays out over time. Maybe I'll make the sacrifice to go with only meatless pizzas. But when and if it's pepperoni, this is to be the choice.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Rosemary & Thyme Maple Toffee Sunflower Seeds

I had never heard of these until a few weeks ago when my local Trader Joe's had strategically placed them right next to the bagged salads. It certainly seemed like they might make a nice addition to a green salad.

Between the sunflower seeds, the rosemary, the thyme, the maple, and the toffee, you'd expect these to add a lot of complex flavors to the salad--but they don't seem to. They definitely add crunchy texture, which is nice. But beyond that, I get a general sweetness, and not much else. I can't discern any of the specific four flavors that these are supposed to convey.

I'm not a fan of sunflower seeds as a snack, so I haven't tried them on their own.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Trader Joe's 100% Pomegranate Juice

This is a brand-new item from Trader Joe's; see the company's description of it here. $2.99/bottle.

I had every reason to believe that this was going to be a superior product. First, it's exactly what it says: 100% pomegranate juice. We've noted several times before that TJ's plays fast and loose with terms like "100% juice"--probably in ways that are technically legal, but which seem clearly deceptive to me. This one, however, has just one listed ingredient: pomegranate juice. Our experience with TJ's single-ingredient juices has been consistently good. Even better, this one is not reconstituted from concentrate.

It was, then, a huge disappointment to take a few sips and realize that the distinct taste of vinegar was nearly matching that of pomegranate in intensity. Nina and I were drinking it the same day I had purchased it, and it was a couple of months from its best-by date, so freshness should not have been an issue.

I figured we just got one bad sample. So I waited a week, then bought another one. Again I served it with my weekly dinner with Nina.

And it was the same: Pomegranate with a heaping helping of vinegar. Awful.

I don't know if they have some madman has formulated this product this way deliberately, or if I just got super unlucky and managed to select at random two bad bottles while most of the rest are as sweet and delicious as they should be. But you'll forgive me if I decline to keep sampling in order to find out. I'm done with this stuff.

Will I buy it again? 

No. However, if any readers have tried it, I'd be extremely interested in whether your experience was the same, so please leave a comment.

Nina's View

This stuff is baaaaaaad. I know from good pomegranate juice. I've had good pomegranate juice. And Senator, this is not good pomegranate juice. This is juice that is fermenting—not in a fun, bubbly, make you giddy and happy kind of way, but in a nasty, slightly yeasty, sour kind of way.

TJ's needs to destroy every bottle from this batch. And cease selling this stuff if it's all like this. I hope Bob will return what's left of his and demand satisfaction.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Vegan Tikka Masala With Cumin Rice

I have very little experience with Indian food, so there's a significant intimidation factor--fear of the unknown. I bought this and then let it sit in my freezer for several months, because every time I thought about trying it, I found some easier, more familiar choice.

Well, tonight I finally threw caution to the wind and selected it for my weekly dinner with Nina. (At the last minute, I had to run to Trader Joe's to buy a second one, because I had not realized that each box is just one serving.)

And the verdict is...

I like it! I was very pleasantly surprised. It's just about at the top of the range of spiciness that I can enjoy, before it starts feeling oppressive and unpleasant. The rice is nice, and the ratio of the "meat" sauce to rice is perfect. The fake meat is a little chewy, but it works fine in this context.

It makes me happy to try something new and have it be not just less awful than I feared, but substantially better than I would have imagined. I have a whole new thing to like!

Will I buy it again? 

Absolutely. It's the centerpiece of a quick, easy, and tasty meal to share with my vegetarian girlfriend.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Black Bean Rotini

This is a brand-new Trader Joe's product. It has not yet been introduced on the company's web site.

I cooked up the whole bag at once. This proved to be a mistake, because I badly overcooked it--worse than I ever have with pasta before, I think--and then didn't have any left for a second try.

The pasta has one solitary ingredient: black bean flour. You'd better like the taste of black beans, because it's here in abundance. This really sets it apart from any other pasta I've had. Most of them, even when not made from wheat, still have in common a sort of generic carby flavor. Not so here. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it's completely different from anything you've probably ever had that was called "pasta."

One unfortunate textural characteristic is grittiness. It feels like the world's softest sand has become mixed into your pasta. This isn't a dealbreaker for me, but it's mildly off-putting.

In addition to being gluten-free, it has at least one other advantage over wheat-based pasta: about twice as much protein per ounce. One doesn't normally think of pasta as a protein food, but with this you sort of can.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes--but with a qualification. I'm going to buy it again simply so that I can try it cooked right, then update this post with my second impression.

Update, April 20, 2016: 

Tried it again last night, without overcooking. Still not really good. Texture was better, and, interestingly, I no longer noticed the grittiness that bothered me the first time. However, as I commented to Nina, "It still tastes like eating a plate of black beans instead of pasta." To which she added, "Except not as good."

Monday, March 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Chocolate Mousse Eggs

These appear to be the same basic thing as the Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins reviewed here. Which means that they're scrumptious. Go get some.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. Ima hide them all over my apartment, then go hunting for them Easter morning.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Woven Wheats Wafers--revisited

As I mentioned in a previous post, I was interested in comparing these against brand-name Triscuits. So a couple of weeks after that post was written, I did just that. I bought another box of TJ's knockoff, plus one box each of original Triscuits and their reduced-fat version. When Nina was next over for dinner, our appetizer was some nice gruyere cheese with a few of each of the three crackers. There was no blinding; we knew exactly which crackers were which. But the results were so clear and definitive that I can't imagine that doing the taste-test blind would have made any difference. 

First, the TJ's crackers had the same stale taste that we had noticed in the first box, so I have to conclude that it wasn't a one-off problem. 

Second, the reduced-fat Triscuits were much tastier than TJ's, and the regular Triscuits were much better than the reduced-fat ones. Neither comparison was even close. 

Is the reduction in fat content worth the reduction in taste? Not to me. But you can look at the nutritional information and judge for yourself: 

Will I buy it again? 

No. The stale taste in two out of two boxes was enough to put me off of them. But the side-by-side comparison seals the deal. These are hugely inferior to the name-brand product. In my experience, that is not usually the case with TJ's products, but it is unquestionably so here. This second box is going back to the store for a refund, while I happily nom on both versions of Triscuit. 

Saturday, March 19, 2016


This is my weekly compilation of news and other links related to Trader Joe's. This week, not many stories, but the biggest-ever crop of tweets.

Delicious vegan options at Trader Joe's

The best frozen entrees from Trader Joe's

10 must-try products you can only find at Trader Joe's

Why I love Trader Joe's parking lots

After much too long an absence, here's the latest YouTube video from "Trader Joe":

Best tweets of the week:










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

Trader Joe's Reduced Guilt Woven Wheats Wafers

This is the third time that Trader Joe's has left me confused about a lower-fat product--specifically, as to whether there is or is not a "regular" version available. See that banner below the main product name? "50% less fat than our original woven wheats." That would lead you to believe that you could find the original version alongside this one, right? But you can't. Or, at least, I can't. After having tried these crackers, I've looked for a "regular" version on half a dozen trips to TJ's. Nothing. Nor does Google find me any such past or current product. Google the specific phrase "original woven wheats," and the only TJ's-related links that come up are those that are quoting the copy from the box of this reduced-fat version.

I had similar issues with TJ's "Reduced Fat Cheese Puffs" boasting "fat has been reduced from 11g to 6g per serving," but with no original version to be found, and with TJ's "Baked Cheese Crunchies," claiming "33% less fat than regular cheese crunchies," a product which seems not to exist. Having no resolution to these mysteries, I will leave them aside.

There are some Trader Joe's products that are so obviously designed to resemble a better-known national brand that one can't escape using that other name in describing the knockoff. People are going to call the toaster pastries "Trader Joe's Pop-Tarts," no matter how much both TJ's and Kellogg's object. The aforementioned cheese puffs will be called "Trader Joe's Cheetos." Everybody calls Joe-Joe's cookies "Trader Joe's Oreos." And, similarly, these here crackers will universally be known as "Trader Joe's Triscuits." Because that's what they are. Or, more precisely, they're Trader Joe's Reduced Fat Triscuits. (See here for Huffington Post's head-to-head taste test. Verdict: Indistinguishable.)

The unfortunate first impression I got when the first cracker from this box hit my tongue was "stale." I had had them home for only about three days. We were months away from the "best by" date. I had detected no defect in the seal of the inner bag. I have no explanation for this, but it persisted through the entire box. I'm willing, for now, to assume that this was a one-off problem.

Ignoring the staleness factor, I liked these. Not as much as I like regular Triscuits, but I've never tried the reduced-fat Triscuits, so it's not really a fair comparison. I like the thickness and texture and how they fracture predictably along the lines. There is no better vehicle for cheese than Triscuits, and this TJ's product admirably replicates most of what is good about them.

I'm going to have to do my own taste test of these against both regular and reduced-fat Triscuits to see if my initial impression holds up. It will also give me a chance to see if the staleness was, in fact, limited to that one box.

Will I buy it again? 

Well, I have to now, don't I? Stay tuned for a follow-up report.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Trader Joe's Premium Salmon Burgers

Nina is the real salmon lover; I usually find it OK, but don't get excited about it. That well describes my reaction here.

These things are pretty appalling to look at as they come out of the package, and don't improve if you just bake them, as I did the first time around. They're gray, and look like death that hasn't even been warmed over, maybe like something the Army would be serving in a chow line near the front, that you're only willing to eat because the alternative is starvation. The second time, at Nina's suggestion, I pan-fried them in a little oil after baking them, just to add a little searing for color. That helped.

Incidentally, the package says that you can cook them directly from frozen in any of several ways. But they're much easier to deal with if you let them thaw first. When frozen, you practically have to use a chain saw to separate them.

They're not too fishy. I tried them both plain on a burger bun and then with pickles and ketchup. The latter was better, but they held up acceptably on their own merits without such enhancement.

Will I buy it again? 

I don't think so, unless Nina decides that she loved them more than I thought she did. If I'm in the mood for such an item, the new Salmon and Vegetable Croquettes are better.

Nina's View 

I had high hopes for these salmon burgers. And then reality set in. This is what the first edition of these looked like:

[Bob interjects: Yes, that's after cooking in my toaster oven. Please disregard the odd variegated discoloration that my toaster oven's aluminum baking tray has accumulated over the years.]

If there is anything appetizing to you in this picture, I am worried on your behalf. Frankly, this is some of the most disgusting-looking food I've ever seen. And yet, I ate it. In the public interest. (Yes, I am just that selfless.) And also because my boyfriend made it, and I am bound by my love for him to try anything that he prepares for me.

Once safely ensconced in a burger bun, where prying eyes could no longer be judgey about its appearance, and slathered with condiments, I gave the salmon burger the full benefit of the doubt.

But the second fail made itself evident right away. The texture. Oh god, the texture. Like a sponge it was. SPONGY, I tell you. In case the memo has not been widely circulated, let me make clear that salmon should on no account be SPONGY. Tender, yes. Toothsome, yes. But not spongy. Never spongy.

When Bob served them again, having amended their appearance somewhat by browning them a bit, there was less sponginess. The part which was not spongy, however, had transformed into rubbery. Rubbery AND spongy: not a good combination.

This item ultimately reads like some kind of reconstituted salmon-ish product. It's not right. Even the flavor is off somehow. Which is a shame, because the price is right. But no. Nuh-uh. (RUN.) This product has garnered a spot on the ladder of infamy that is Nina's Bottom Ten.

Bob is correct. The Salmon & Vegetable croquettes are the way to go. I love them. They, despite being relatively pricey, are in Nina's Top Ten.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Apple Sauce With Wild Berries

This is the sister product to the applesauce reviewed yesterday. It's the same basic thing, but with blackberries and "natural wild berry flavor" (whatever that is) added.

It's marginally better, but only because the berry flavor partially disguises how thoroughly mediocre the underlying applesauce is. It moves the grade from, like, a D to a C-.

Will I buy it again?

No. But if a terrorist put a gun to my head and forced me to eat either this one or yesterday's, I'd pick this. (Hey, it could happen!)

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Apple Sauce

Several months ago, I thought that I had sampled all of Trader Joe's applesauce varieties. But then on a recent trip to the store, I discovered two more that had escaped my eye previously--this and its kissin' cousin, which I'll review tomorrow.

This is not the worst applesauce that TJ's sells--a dishonor that belongs to this terrible glop. But it's not good. It's thin and watery. It's sweetened by the addition of apple juice, which allows TJ's to make the technically true but seriously misleading claim, "No sugar added."

Strangely, it has the distinct flavor of delicious apples (the variety, not the adjective), which I've never noticed in applesauce before. The label doesn't specifically claim that they're using delicious, but I've had enough of them that I'd be quite surprised if I were wrong on this point. Of course, it might change from one batch to the next, depending on what's available. Which would not be the case if you were to choose, instead, the marvelous Gravenstein applesauce. Which is exactly what you should do. In case you have a fetish about buying organic, you could instead choose TJ's Organic Unsweetened, which is only one notch less outstanding than the Gravenstein.

I realize that this product is probably intended primarily for kids, with the convenient single-serving tubs to make it easy to drop one into a lunchbox. But please don't raise your kids to think that this is how applesauce is supposed to taste. Get some of those cheap reusable Tupperware knockoff containers and spoon some of the Gravenstein in. Not only will your children get much, much better applesauce, but you'll contribute one less disposable plastic tub to the landfill every time you do.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Concord Grape Juice

I passed this by many, many times in favor of juices that sounded more interesting. It's grape juice, yeah, I get it. BORING!

I was alerted to the wrongness of this decision by a post by STG at the "Trader Joe's 365" blog. And she's right--this is one of the hidden, under-heralded juice finds at TJ's.

The list of ingredients is exactly one item long: Organic Concord grapes. It has been our experience that when TJ's juices have a single ingredient, they are usually near perfection in how juices should be. This continues that trend. It's intense and sweet, without ever tasting like it's been adulterated with added sweeteners or other dreck.

STG was right about the dribbling down the side of the bottle, though. That's annoying and kind of baffling, but a trivial flaw in an otherwise superb product.

Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View


This juice tastes exactly like concord grapes, which should come as no surprise and yet it does. I ate those grapes as a child and this juice is the pure essence of that. Nice.

Sip 2: Yep, that's some grape juice, alright.

The thrill is already starting to fade.

Sip 3 and henceforth:

Grape juice, meh. It's okay, but for me it gets old pretty quickly.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Trader Joe's It's A Wrap Turkey Club

Let me count the ways in which this was a fail.

1. The outer layer is allegedly a tomato-basil tortilla, which I thought sounded interesting, but it was so bland that I couldn't discern any tomato or basil in it.

2. The mayonnaise was excessive--well past the point at which it ceases to be a nice set of complementary flavors and begins to be primarily an unpleasant sliminess.

3. The spinach was kind of all crammed into a wad, instead of dispersed evenly.

4. One of the slices of turkey had a big line of gristle through it, too tough to be bitten through. I had to eat around it.

5. There's just way too much turkey here. I realize that some people will see that as a feature, not a bug. For me, though, I'm not entirely done with meat in toto, but I am done with anything that is primarily meat, meat, and more meat--like this is. One or two slices of turkey breast would be nice, wrapped with some cheese, lettuce, maybe sun-dried tomatoes, or...heck, I don't know what else, but surely there are lots of choices available to Trader Joe's food geniuses.

"What else could we put in this, Joe?"

"Hmmm. How about more turkey?"

"OK. Anything else?"

"More turkey."

"Uh, OK. Now what?"

"More turkey."

I just think they can be more creative than that, and end up with a better product.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Ginger Chunk Cookies

I found these on the new-products shelf at the Asheville Trader Joe's Tuesday, having never heard of them before. There's nothing on the corporate web site about them, and, for once, nobody has tweeted about having discovered something new in the store.

My experience with TJ's gluten-free products has ranged from appallingly bad to so-so, and the three kinds of gluten-free cookies I've tried (Joe-Joe's, ginger snaps, and snickerdoodles) have all been on the bad end of that spectrum. As a result, I approached these cookies with considerable trepidation.

But--surprise!--they're pretty good! They're sweet as all get out, but I can live with that. They're also more brittle than most cookies. (I suppose they wouldn't sell as well if they were called "Gluten Free Brittle Ginger Chunk Cookies.") The big hunks of ginger are candied, and the cookie dough prominently features both brown sugar and regular sugar.

I'd call these a success. They are, however, quite spendy, at $3.99 for 14 cookies.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, both because there are so many other cookies I like even better, and because of the price. But if I were restricted to gluten-free products, I would consider these not just an acceptable substitute, but a godsend.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


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

23 hilariously accurate tweets about Trader Joe's parking lots

Taste test of several brands of gluten-free pasta

What to buy at Trader Joe's, according to its employees

Trader Joe's announces recall of pistachios

"Let's Talk TJ's" podcast, #20

Pepperidge Farm trademark infringement lawsuit dismissed by judge

Here's a new YouTube series of reviews of Trader Joe's products. Many people make such videos--eating something on camera for the first time, with the "review" being their immediate reaction--though few focus exclusively on Trader Joe's. Frankly, I don't get the choice of the medium. Why should I spend ten minutes watching a video containing information that I could read in one minute if it were typed it up in a blog post? These videos are never entertaining enough to be worth that extra time. The whole enterprise completely baffles me.

Best tweets of the week:





And finally, instead of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, we have a cute dog in a Trader Joe's t-shirt:

Trader Joe's Shredded Sweetened Coconut

Let's conclude our second Coconut Week with some actual coconut! 

Face it: you already know whether you want this or not. If you like coconut, you'll want to have some around. If you don't, you won't. It's about that simple.

I have eaten some of this straight from the package: good, but quickly tiring.

I have tried sprinkling it on fruit medleys (thawed from the freezer): excellent enhancement.

I have used it as a topping on Key lime pie: a perfect pairing.

I have put a little on some applesauce: the combination seemed a little off.

I added some to a bowl of TJ's strawberry coconut-based ice cream: yummy.

I even got a little crazy and threw some into a green salad with a few dried cranberries, on the theory that the sweet and tart would sort of cancel each other out: I cannot recommend this.

I would love to try some of it on pancakes, with a fruity syrup, but haven't yet.

Potential uses are limited only by your imagination.

Will I buy it again? 

I think it's going to become a staple that I keep around all the time.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Coconut Cream

This is Day Six of Coconut Week. 

I spotted this can in the store and bought it on a whim, knowing that I needed a bit more material to fill up this second Coconut Week. But I really had no idea what I would do with it.

Then I bought a Trader Joe's Key Lime Pie (review pending), and thought that maybe coconut cream would work as a topping for that. In my imagination, it would be kind of like a coconutty Cool Whip.

Well, it is and it isn't. It does have roughly the same consistency, at least at room temperature. (Refrigerated, it gets too stiff to work with easily.) And it is definitely coconutty. But it is not sweet. It's just coconut milk with some thickeners. It did not work well as a pie topping, even though in theory lime and coconut should make excellent partners (as Harry Nilsson taught us).

I looked online for ideas of what to do with it. Pinterest had a collection of recipes using this product, but I couldn't access them because I didn't have a Pinterest account and didn't feel like setting one up.

Then, by happy coincidence, just as I was wondering what else I could do with the 95% of the can that I had left over after the failed pie experiment, this photo and comment popped up under the #TraderJoes hashtag on Twitter, cross-posted from Instagram:

I asked her on Twitter what she did with all of that coconut cream. No response. But as you can see, somebody on Instagram asked the same thing, and her only answer is that she adds it to her coffee.

I ended up dumping what was left in my can down the drain. It's not that I dislike it; I just can't find a role for it in the foods I prepare and eat.

Will I buy it again? 

Not unless I learn of something fabulous that I'd like to make using it.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Trader Joe's Foaming Hand Soap--Botanical Bounty

Special note: This is Day Five of Coconut Week, a full week of reviews of Trader Joe's coconut-based products. The back of the package here explains that the surfactants used are derived from coconut oil. 

I like the smell of this--lightly floral. And the dispensing mechanism works smoothly and reliably, which isn't always the case with liquid soaps.

  • I actually prefer hand soap to be unscented. 
  • They lie about the dosing; they suggest two pumps, when one is plenty. 
  • It doesn't rinse off as easily as it should. 
  • It's way more expensive than my usual product, which is SoftSoap with aloe vera. 
  • There are no refills available, so to keep using the same product, you have to throw away the bottle and buy a new one every time. 

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

This is Day Four of Coconut Week. 

I bought this for two reasons. (1) I needed another entry for Coconut Week. (2) It's a perennial "OMG! Look what I found!" item under the #TraderJoes hashtag on Twitter. Apparently it's in chronic short supply, so the people who love it hoard it, and sometimes TJ's outlets that get some limit sales to one or two per customer.

It has the unusual quality that its melting/freezing point is near room temperature, so if the ambient temperature in your kitchen fluctuates, you may find it solid one day, liquid the next.

Cooking with it is mostly like using any other vegetable oil, as far as I can tell. Some foods end up with a distinctive but not unpleasant coconut note, others do not.

TJ's boasts that "it stands up to relatively high heat." This does not appear to be true, at least as judged from a table of the smoke points of various oils: Coconut oil is tied with butter and sesame oil for the second-lowest smoke point at 350, just above extra-virgin olive oil at 325. I've been mostly using Trader Joe's grapeseed oil, which I was told had a high smoke point, but is listed in this table at just 390, while things like corn oil, peanut oil, and soybean oil are at 450.

It makes a decent massage oil if you don't have a dedicated product on hand, and leaves the recipient smelling delightfully tropical.

The most annoying thing about this product is the jar. I find it awkward to pour from such a wide-mouthed container, and the stuff always runs down the side afterward, necessitating cleanup.

Will I buy it again? 

Not unless somebody gives me a better reason to do so than I have found so far.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Trader Joe's coconut water

This is Day Three of Coconut Week--and a post of which I'm very much ashamed. Continue reading to see why. 

These four bottles do not exhaust the variety of coconut water available at Trader Joe's. At least at my local store in Asheville, North Carolina, they carry two more versions of the Zico brand. And TJ's sells an expensive, super-high-end "single origin" coconut water under its own brand name--which I know only because of this review from the "Eat at Joe's" blog--that has never shown up on the shelves of the Asheville store. But since I had never tried coconut water before, I figured that four varieties was plenty. [EDIT: I have subsequently discovered why I never found it--I was looking in the grocery aisle next to the other kinds of coconut water. But the "single origin" variety is kept in the refrigerated case.]

This blog post should detail for you the ways in which these four bottles differ from each other--and, mind you, they do differ in sweetness, in drinkability, and in the sense of closeness to what you'd get from an actual coconut. This post should be able to do that for you because this time, unlike any other review of a single product or a comparison test of similar products, I had arranged for not just your usual two testers (Nina and me), but a third--a friend of Nina's in town for a short visit. We all tried them, carefully, repeatedly, comparing our impressions. Following that, I spent the next couple of weeks finishing off all four containers, at the rate of a few ounces a day, thus becoming very familiar with the characteristics of each. So this should be an unusually clear, enlightening, definitive review.

But it won't be. Because, truth be told, I hated all of them. As "Eat at Joe's" phrased it in his review of one of these (the TJ's not from concentrate), coconut water "tastes weird and kind of gross." Exactly. I never could get past that. He found himself later impressed by how well it gave him a feeling of rehydration after working up a sweat, but I kind of doubt that's anything more than a placebo effect.

I've procrastinated writing this post because I just wasn't interested in writing a lot of words about the shades of dislike these products evoked in me. All three testers could taste real differences in these four beverages, but I don't want to have any of them ever again. So now my memory of how they differed has irretrievably faded--and I didn't take notes.

I can tell you that, based on the labeling, they have baffling, non-intuitive, per-ounce differences in sugar, carbohydrate, and caloric values. And I can tell you that the not-from-concentrate one has added sugar in the form of fructose, while the Zico has added flavoring. But that's about it. My degree of dislike for them is roughly equal, and I'm just not going to go back and try them again.

Which means that this post holds the record for the most money, time, and effort expended for the least useful informational content of any I have written. It's likely to hold that record forever.

My apologies for a completely sucky review.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Seville Orange Marmalade

Every time I had some of this stuff, it seemed bitter. I couldn't figure out how you could take oranges, add sugar and thickeners, and end up with something bitter. Finally, as I sat down to write this review, I read the back of the jar: "Seville oranges, also known as bitter oranges, are the back-bone [sic] of a proper orange marmalade." So apparently it's intentional. I had never heard of Seville oranges before, so I didn't understand that the name meant I was signing up for bitterness.

Do not like.

Will I buy it again? 

No. In fact, after having eaten about 1/3 of the jar, the rest is going back for a refund.

For those keeping track, I've now returned something like 20 items. I've purchased something like 700 different products from Trader Joe's, so my return rate is on the order of 3%.