Thursday, June 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Automatic Dishwashing Detergent

The primary criterion on which dishwasher detergent must be judged is whether it gets the dishes clean. Sadly, the answer for this product is no better than a "sometimes," or "maybe," or "conditionally."

Specifically, it does OK for ordinary dishes on ordinary days. But pots and pans are another matter entirely. They are usually left with food residue on them after the cycle. Even when they get clean, I feel the need to rinse them under the faucet before putting them away, because there is a white, soapy residue left behind that I really don't want cooking into my food with the next use.

Even ordinary utensils are subject to poor cleaning if they have substantial dried-on food residue. And running them through a second or even third cycle doesn't improve matters--I've tried.

On two occasions I had a pot or pan with a lot of food residue caked on, and the load of dishes came out with little bits of that residue stuck on everything. It wasn't enough that I could see it, but when putting them away, I noticed what felt like grains of sand all over everything. It took me a while to figure out what was causing this. Both times, I basically ended up putting everything back in the dishwasher, and running it a second time with another brand of detergent.

I have half of the box left, and I'm giving up on using it for every dishwasher run. I'm going to change back to my Finish brand powder capsules whenever there's anything potentially challenging to be washed, and save this TJ's stuff exclusively for times when there is nothing heavily soiled in the machine.

Will I buy it again? 

That kind of conditional use is not fun or practical in the long run, so no. I'll do it until this box is gone, but then not again. Even though this detergent is dirt-cheap, its severe limitations make it a poor choice, in my view.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Homestyle Salsa Especial Medium

Good flavors, good texture, but ruined for me by being hotter than I can tolerate for more than a few chips' worth at a sitting. Maybe I'm just a wimp when it comes to peppers, but I would never classify this as "medium," and if TJ's has a "hot" version (I didn't see one, but maybe it exists), I would pass it by in fear for my life. I did notice a "mild" version of the same product, and I'm eager to try that one.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Trader Joe's dried cherries

Trader Joe's sells two different kinds of dried cherries. It seems logical and convenient to review them together.

I already had a bag of the Bing cherries in my cupboard, yet unopened, when my friend Dan in Minnesota emailed me with a tip to try the Montmorency cherries, which I had never even heard of before. So of course I did.

He was right: they're far superior to the Bing cherries. In fact, the Bings taste to me more like prunes than cherries. The Montmorencys (I stumble on the correct way to make that word a plural) are simultaneously more cherryful (it's a word because I say that it is), tarter, and sweeter than the Bings. There's just no comparison. I'm about halfway through both bags, but the only way I can make myself continue eating the Bing is to reward myself afterward with an equal portion of Montmorency.

Yes, the Montmorency have added sugar and the Bing do not, so it's not a fair comparison. But it's a lot of difference in flavor and not a lot of sugar.

Will I buy it again? 

Montmorency yes, Bing no.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Chocolate Joe-Joe's

I bought these accidentally. I intended to get the regular Joe-Joe's. Truth be told, I didn't even know there was a version with chocolate filling until I opened this box and got a little surprise.

They're great--better even than the regular vanilla-filled version. The chocolate filling is an entirely different texture than that in all of the other Joe-Joe's varieties I've tried. It's extremely soft, just short of being runny, probably the lowest viscosity you could make it and still have it stay in place. I didn't expect that, but I like it. The two flavors of chocolate blend really well. I can have a dozen of these things down before I feel any inclination that I should maybe stop for the night.

Welcome to my Top Ten list, accidentally discovered chocolate Joe-Joe's!

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Fat Free Spicy Black Bean Dip

I actually bought this several weeks before the new Chipotle Black Bean Dip, reviewed yesterday, came along, but had not gotten around to trying it. After I found that new one so delectable, I of course pulled its older cousin off of my shelf and dug in, hoping that it would be as good.

And it is--almost. They are very similar. The textures are essentially identical. This one has more heat, as correctly indicated by the cute little pepper temperature gauges on the sides of the jars. But otherwise I'd be hard-pressed to tell them apart. They share approximately the same sweetness and the same degree of vinegar acidity.

I saw a rumor on Twitter that this has been discontinued. I have not investigated that, but it wouldn't surprise me. The two products may be too similar for TJ's to keep them both. That's why I'm pushing this review up in the queue, so that readers can, if they're so inclined, try to buy both and make the comparison themselves. Of course, such rumors about TJ's products often prove to be false, so maybe you'll have years to try both dips. I hope so. I like them both. But if I had to pick just one to keep around, it would be the new chipotle version.

Will I buy it again? 

Just on its own merits, yes. And I liked it enough that I would occasionally pick it over the newer chipotle dip, just for a little variety. But I fear that it won't be around long enough for me to have the choice.

Saturday, June 25, 2016


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

Trader Joe's enters agreement with DOJ to reduce refrigerator coolant leaks

In praise of cookie butter

Trader Joe's items I am currently obsessed with

New vegan foods at Trader Joe's

"Let's Talk TJ's" podcast #26

Best tweets of the week:




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

Trader Joe's Chipotle Black Bean Dip

This is a brand-new product, not yet announced on the Trader Joe's web site. $1.69.

With my first bite of this, I thought, "Hey, that's pretty good."

With my second bite, I thought, "No--that's really good."

With my third bite, I thought, "Can I make something a Top Ten item after just three bites? Probably not."

With my fourth bite, I thought, "But with four I certainly can!"

This fabulous stuff has zoomed to the top of my favorite spread/dip kind of things, right up there with the best hummus and salsa.

Nina saw my reaction and asked me to articulate what about this dip make me like it so much. She's right to ask this, of course: she wants to know so that she gets a better read on what foods please me, and I need to be able to say something semi-meaningful when I write about my experience. (That was, after all, one of the motivations for starting this blog in the first place.)

So: I like its smooth but stiff texture. I.e., it's not chunky or runny. I like each of its major constituent parts--black beans, chipotle chiles, mild heat, sweetness, a little bit of vinegary acid bite--and I can easily find them all separately if I let my brain go into sensory-detection mode.

But the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as they say. It's much harder to explain the gestalt than the components, but they all just work perfectly together to make me happy.

Will I buy it again? 

I hope Trader Joe's has made a ton of this stuff, cuz I'm gonna be buying it all.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Social Snackers

If these crackers look familiar, it's probably because you've seen them before here:

Though the boxes and names are nothing alike, the crackers themselves are visually hard to distinguish. The Keebler Clubs are a little more browned on top, but other than than, external appearance is effectively identical, down to the size and the number of holes. Probably just a coincidence, right?

How about taste? To be honest, if I have on them anything with decent flavor of its own--cheese or some sort of spread, I have a hard time telling one from the other. When I taste them alone, however, they are really very distinct. Specifically, the Keeblers are saltier and have a much more pronounced butter flavor. I like both of those qualities, and thus prefer them to the Trader Joe's. But as a vehicle for toppings, either works just fine.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably once in a while--but if you look through the crackers label on this here blog, you'll find reviews of several TJ's crackers that I think are even better.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Marshmallow Treats

Let's not beat around the bush. These things are vile, unholy perversions of one of the best treats ever concocted. You know those always-disappointing factory-made Rice Krispie treats that Kellogg's sells in foil packets? I would rather eat ten of those than one more of these.

I actually powered through two of these bars (well, almost two; I just couldn't bear to quite finish the second one) trying to pin down just was was so repulsive about them, but failed. There's a weird flavor that I've never encountered before. I'm guessing that it's the "brown rice syrup" they use to make the "organic marshmallow" component.

It's not hard to find similar opinions elsewhere on the intertubes:

The Gluten-Free Gluttony blog (showing that the nastiness dates back to at least 2009):
I had to find out if it tasted like those treats I once loved so much. I bit in expecting ecstasy and all I got was a nastiness with a kicking after taste. Yuck. I was not feeling nostalgic one bit. Maybe that smell was a warning?

The Candy and Chocolate Lover blog
Greasy. Yucky.Well, caveat emptor as usual.Cut out the midpoint-man - just eat your money. At least there's a modest fiber in there. Or I suppose you could eat the box, it's going to taste best.

The Jessielah blog
The box reads: Kids and adults of all ages will like the crispy, chewy, creamy taste of these traditional treats made the healthy way! That. Is a lie. I gave a piece to Jaxon and he threw it down like a hot turd. Even this girl thought they were so gross she felt the need to blog about it. Crispy and creamy? How can you be crispy and creamy? You can’t. That’s called S-T-A-L-E. I didn’t know how these rice crispy treats failed so badly. It’s rice, marshmallow, butter, and some cold. I checked the ingredients. Oh. Vegan. Gluten-free. Crap. And what the hell is vegetable glycerin and why is it in my treats?!? Sigh. I seriously considered returning these to Trader Joe’s to demand my $2.99 and my taste buds back, but the dog got into them and puked them up all over the house. My life is fabulous.

To be fair, I also found three people saying that they liked them, or at least that they weren't as bad as they had heard. But those weren't nearly as amusing. Plus, if they like these things, they're demented, so their opinions don't count. 

I would not have thought it possible for the store I love so much to despoil rice krispie treats so badly that the result would end up on my Bottom Ten list. But that's just what they have done. 

Will I buy it again? 

Perish the thought. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Salsa Autentica

Nina helped me in my march through the TJ's lineup of salsas by buying this and serving it with some chips before a dinner at her place.

It was OK, with good fundamental flavors. I actually ate quite a bit of it, but I didn't like anywhere near as much as my two current favorites, Fall Harvest Salsa and Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa. First, it's a little too high on the heat scale for my taste. Second, it was kind of watery and runny.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I see no reason to choose it over my favorites.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Meatless Breakfast Patties

As I've said several times, I'm bound and determined to try every one of Trader Joe's fake meat products. And every time I think I've had them all, I stumble across another one.

This one is completely meh. The TJ's Blandification Committee thrashed it. The patties brown nicely, have a nice texture, and look like sausage. But they taste like grain. They're not awful, but much better versions of the same basic idea are available in most grocery stores, made by MorningStar, Boca, and others. Hey, Trader Joe's--how about adding some traditional sausage-like spices?

Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View

As the official non-meat-eater of this team, I am always rooting for the success of this kind of product. Sadly, I must concur with Bob. These were just south of mediocre.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Cherry Pie Filling; Trader Joe's Pie Crusts; Trader Joe's Whipping Cream

Today we bring you not one, not two, but three product reviews in one post. This is the 23rd--and final--consecutive day of reviewing new products. 

I made a pie.

Now, that might not seem like much of a brag, but it is. You see, I've lived just over 55 years on this planet, and I could never have said that before last week.

To be sure, what I mean by "I made a pie" is that I bought pre-made pie crusts, and dumped in a jar of pre-made pie filling. Yet it remains true that I made a pie! 

The cherry pie filling is a brand-new product; see here for the company's description of it. Of course it would do no good to buy that alone, so I decided it was a golden opportunity to also try TJ's frozen pie crusts.

Let's start with the crusts. This foodie web site last year did a comparison of seven brands of frozen pie crusts, and TJ's was judged the best. All the others come pre-shaped. TJ's crusts come rolled up. You thaw them, unroll them, and place them in your own pie dish; you're not stuck using the disposable aluminum ones that come with the other brands.

And yes, I actually did have a decent Pyrex pie dish on hand, in which I occasionally make one of my favorite things, this rice and tuna pie (omitting the onion to avoid being poisoned by it, obviously).

As the comparison test notes, the downside of TJ's pan-less method of packaging is that the delicate crusts inevitably tear in several spots as you're putting them in place. You have to do a fair amount of mending of these tears.

The result, though, is something that genuinely could pass for made-from-scratch:

And here's how it looks right out of the oven:

The crusts taste great. I've always been one to leave uneaten the edge of the crust after all the filled part of my slice of pie is gone. I didn't here; it was good enough to eat even with no cherries left. Even more miraculous, the crust didn't go soggy after sitting unrefrigerated for the three days that it took me to finish it off. 

The filling: I liked the taste of both the cherries and the sauce well enough. Not the best I've ever had, but passable. However, it's not nearly thick enough. With the first piece of pie removed, the guts just completely gushed out. Admittedly, I had not let it cool enough. But even later, at true room temperature, it was just too runny. The last couple of slices of pie were sadly collapsed, with almost nothing left in them. I suppose if I had kept it in the refrigerator, that would have been less of a problem, but I think pie is better not chilled. Yes, I know I could keep it chilled, then zap each slice before eating. If I ever try this again, that's probably what I'll do. 

The whipping cream: I did not know what to expect. I was totally ignorant of the different kinds of cream available. I bought this only because my local TJ's had cleverly placed a bunch of the little boxes right next to the big display of jars of the cherry pie filling. I didn't really grasp that it would involve a lot of, you know, whipping. This was especially problematic because I don't own a mixer. Nina and I had to take turns going at it with a manual egg-beater. This is not ideal. Also not ideal: I had no powdered sugar with which to sweeten it. (How is a bachelor supposed to know these things?) 

So the whipping cream was kind of a fail. Had I understood what I was getting into, I would have just picked up some Cool Whip at another store instead. 

But all the little problems aside, allow me to reiterate: I made a pie! 

Will I buy it again? 

The crusts are good enough that I can't see myself ever attempting to make a pie without them. I liked the taste of the filling enough that I would give it a second chance, knowing that I'd have to make accommodations for its runniness. I'll pass on the whipping cream. 

Nina's View

Pie crust = very good.

Cherry pie filling = NOT very good. Too sweet, too soupy, not enough actual cherry flavor.

Whipping cream = nothing a little cream of tartar and some powdered sugar couldn't have rendered ideal. 

I will DEFINITELY use the pie crusts one of these days.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trader Joe's Shooting Stars

I've temporarily exhausted all the new mango products I could stand to buy at once. However, we've still got a couple of brand-new non-mango products to talk about, so this is an incredible Day 22 of new products. 

I liked the flavor of the basic cookie, and the ratio of cookie to chocolate coating.

What I did not like was the thing that makes this such an unusual product: the "popping" candy crunchies. With the Fireworks Chocolate Bar, all the popping takes place safely inside your mouth, where it produces a fun, tingly sensation. But here, the popping things are on the outside, and they're highly prone (as the box itself warns) to going off at random times. Little bits of the candy get exploded at your face, and it actually stings. This is neither fun nor tingly. It's just plain irritating.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, June 18, 2016


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

Review of many of the new mango products

Trader Joe's among top ten brands among LGBT consumers

Best tweets of the week:




And finally, it's the next-best thing to a cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag--a cute cat on a Trader Joe's scratching pad:

Trader Joe's Tropical Mango Complete Salad Kit

This is OMG Day 21 of New Products Week, and Day 12 of Mangopalooza. 

The salad base here is acceptable, though I would prefer the lettuce:spinach ratio to be higher. (The exact contents apparently vary depending on what's available, so YMMV.)

Two extra packets are included. One has dried mango chunks, dried coconut flakes, and chopped cashews. The other has a salad dressing that the bag says is a "mango tamarind dressing." It's pretty decent.

Nothing about this is too mango-y or too sweet for a salad. At the same time, nothing about it is especially creative or desirable.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I didn't mind it in my first two servings, and I'll finish off the bag without complaint. But I just don't like it as much as any of my usual salad blends.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Chili Chicken

This is Day 20 of a how-long-can-this-go-on New Products Week, and Day 11 of Mangopalooza. 

This is one of the better new mango products I've tried in the past couple of weeks. But it has some problems.

First, it's kind of a pain in the neck to whip up. You have to bake the chicken pieces, while you're defrosting the packets of mango pieces and sauce. Then you have to sautee them all together. And you're probably making rice or noodles separately to put the finished concoction on. It ends up being a lot of work and a lot of stuff to clean up, and a lot of packaging to throw away.

Second, orange would work better than mango, as evidenced by the ongoing popularity of TJ's own Mandarin Orange Chicken.

Third, there's virtually none of the promised chili. There's no kick, no heat--just sweetness in the sauce.

Fourth, I wish they'd make a fake-meat version either instead of or in addition to this.

Will I buy it again? 

No. For a bunch of reasons, I'd much rather have more of this.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Chia Pudding With Cultured Coconut Cream

This is Day 19 of an apparently never-ending New Products Week, and Day 10 of Mangopalooza. 

No two ways about it, buying this was a mistake. And I knew it.

I was looking for the Mango Coconut Pudding, but its marked spot on the shelf was empty. This was next to it. So on an impulse, I decided to try it, though even as I put it into my basket I was thinking, "There's no chance I'll like this." I almost never buy products to try and review if it's virtually impossible that I'll like them--because what's the point? I'll be unhappy, and you won't get a fair-minded review. I broke that rule here, and I'm sorry.

It wasn't quite as bad as I expected, but three small spoonfuls was all I could stand. There is definitely a mango flavor, but I couldn't taste any coconut, despite the presence of coconut chips.

What I couldn't get past was the texture. It's slimy as all get-out. Really gross. And it looks just as bad--like some sort of semi-gelatinous green swamp water teeming with frog eggs.

Despite the unfairness of condemning a product that never had a fair shot at winning me over, this was bad enough to go in my Bottom Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

[stares blankly at the person asking the stupid question]

Nina's View

Plain awful in every possible way. The texture is congealed snot. Seriously horrible. Pass me the spit bucket.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Coconut Flavored Caramel Corn

This is Day 18 of a ridiculously overextended New Products Week, and Day Nine of Mangopalooza. 

They got the name of this product wrong. It should be Coconut Mango Caramel Corn. Open the bag, and coconut wafts out at you. Crunch down on a piece, and it's coconut and caramel. The mango only kicks in as an aftertaste. Which is fine with me, but if you expect to be walloped by mango, this stuff is going to disappoint.

I don't like it as much as the regular Caramel Popcorn (a Top Ten item), but it's pretty good, and unlike any treat I've had before.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I recommend trying it once, because I suspect you won't have many opportunities at such an unusual thing in your life. But for me, anyway, once was enough.

Nina's View

Given my lack of enthusiasm about most things mango, you'd think this would have not worked for me. But it did. The mango contribution was minimal and mild and the rest of it was pretty darn tasty.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

RJ's Licorice--Mango

This is Day 17 of an extremely extended New Products Week, and Day Seven of Mangopalooza. 

This is a non-TJ's-branded item that I assume was brought in to be part of Mango Madness.

It's unlike any licorice I've ever had before. It's much, much softer--which was surprising, but nice. I can't taste any old-fashioned licorice flavor, though the label says it's in there. The mango flavor tastes a little artificial, but at least it's distinctly mango, and not just a generic fruitiness.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It's perfectly pleasant stuff, and I'll be happy to slowly work my way through the bag, but that will fully satisfy my interest in it.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Joe-Joe's

This is Day 16 of an extremely extended New Products Week, and Day Six of Mangopalooza. 

I was dubious about this product. I didn't think that mango was a good flavor to impose on this type of cookie.

I was right. It isn't.

Both the cookie and the middle are mango-flavored. It's OK in the cookie, because it's very mild, toned way down. That's a minor problem, because there is little here to disguise the flouriness--unlike when they're chocolate.

But the real problem is the filling. It's disgustingly sweet. There's something I find jarring about the flavor of mango (which is real, achieved by the use of "mango puree") mixed with tons of sugar, as it is here.

If I just bite into the cookie so that I get proportional quantities of cookie and filling, they're tolerable. But when I try to eat the components separately, the filling is, to me, intolerable. I had four of them last night, and was left with no desire to consume more--which is a huge departure from my usual feeling after eating four such cookies.

I haven't yet decided whether I'll slowly work my way through the rest of the box, or just give up and return them for a refund.

Will I buy it again? 


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Mango Lemonade

This is Day 15 of an extended New Products Week, and Day Six of Mangopalooza. 

At my first sip, I thought, "They've made a terrible mistake. This is apricot nectar." It wasn't, but somehow the combination of mango and lemon made me think that. As I concentrated to try to break down what I was tasting, I could identify separate mango and lemon, but anytime I'm reading or doing something else when a swallow goes down, it still registers as apricot. Weird.

Overall, this stuff is a cut above the "melted lollipops" disgusting sweetness that is the downfall of so many of TJ's big-jug juice blends, but it still rates just a "meh." Sugar is the second ingredient, after mango puree, and it shows. Of course sugar is always going to be a major component in anything that calls itself "lemonade," but it can be and should be done more subtly than it is here.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, June 11, 2016


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

Trader Joe's favorites

5 reasons this Florida mom needs a Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's and Costco top in customer loyalty

9th Circuit hears appeal in Trader Joe's trademark-infringement suit against Pirate Joe's

Best Jewish food at Trader Joe's

Best summer snacks from Trader Joe's

7 days of healthy meals from Trader Joe's for $40

"Let's Talk TJ's" podcast #25

10 Trader Joe's goodies you need this summer

Trader Joe's best wines for summer

Best tweets of the week:


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

Trader Joe's Seeded Mango & Ginger Crisps

This is Day 14 of an extended New Products Week, and Day Five of Mangopalooza. 

The basic concept and structure of these crackers is the same as for their precursors, the Raisin Rosemary Crisps and the seasonal Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps.

These crackers, however, have a fatal flaw not shared by the other two variants: Due to the large pieces of soft, chewy ginger embedded, they are gummy in texture.

Note, first, that Trader Joe's has named these crackers "crisps." Note, next, that "crispy" is the first adjective used to describe them directly under the product name. Note, finally, that "gummy" and "crisp(y)" are incompatible descriptors. Something that is gummy cannot be crispy, and vice-versa. These crackers are gummy. They are not crispy.

It is metaphysically and morally wrong for crackers to be gummy. If the word "gummy" appears in any description of a cracker you can find, unless it is preceded by the word "not," you should not buy those crackers.

I did rather like the flavors, however. Nina suggested trying them with some sharp cheese. All I had on hand was the very first product I reviewed for this project, my first Top Ten list member, and the first TJ's product that ever caught my attention, Cheddar-Gruyere Melange. This is by no means a sharp cheese. It is, in fact, exceedingly mild. But as it was all that I had, I tried it. And I loved it. The combination of those two cheeses and the somewhat weird flavor profile of these mango-ginger crackers turned out to be fabulous.

This means that I will finish eating the contents of this box, just for how they taste with one of my favorite cheeses, in spite of the massive failure on the texture side of the ledger.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I will not support the production of gummy crackers.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Coconut Pudding

This is Day 13 of an extended New Products Week, and Day Four of Mangopalooza. 

I started hearing about Mango Madness via Twitter posts before I set foot in the store and saw how crazy things had gotten. Of all the mango products that people were tweeting pictures of, this was the one I most wanted to try. When I thought about what a mango-coconut pudding would taste like if I were in charge of it, well, I'd eat that until I exploded.

I did not explode. I did not even eat all 12 ounces of pudding in one sitting, as I easily can with puddings that I really like. In fact, it took me three servings to get through it, and I wasn't particularly happy about the last of them; it felt more like a duty than a pleasure, but I powered through it because I still had not figured out what to write about the stuff.

Maybe this is Nina's influence evilly taking control of me, but the bottom line is that this stuff is just too sweet. When I was growing up, my mother would sometimes make a fruit salad that had whipped cream and marshmallows as its base. I loved it, but I knew all along that it was not much better than eating ice cream; the fruit was just there to provide an excuse for eating a bunch of cream.

That's what this reminded me of--and I don't get anywhere near the same feeling when I mix up a batch of Jello-brand banana cream or coconut cream pudding. When you make your pudding sweeter than those, you've gone too far.

Other complaints: It's not thickened enough, and the mango:coconut ratio is skewed much too high toward the coconut side.

Price: $3.49.

Will I buy it again? 

No. In the end, the only thing I really liked about this pudding was my wistful thoughts of how great it could have been.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Chimes Ginger Chews--Mango

This is Day 12 of an extended New Products Week, and Day Three of Mangopalooza. 

This is a non-TJ's branded product. Perhaps it's been for sale for a long time, but it appears to be new to Trader Joe's, brought in as part of what they're officially calling Mango Madness.

These little candies pack an astonishing punch. I have never been hit with such a strong wave of ginger. The mango is an afterthought, and you might not even notice it's there. It's definitely the harmony to the belted-out ginger melody. I ate three of them after opening the bag, but had to wait about five minutes between them, to give my mouth a break. I'm writing this about 30 minutes after the last one, and there's still a prominent ginger tingle going on. They're that potent.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It's just too much for me. I'm glad I tried them once, to see what ginger can do when it's cranked up to 11. But frankly I experienced them more than I enjoyed them.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Trader Joe's This Mango Walks Into A Bar...

This is Day 11 of an extended New Products Week, and Day Two of MANGOPALOOZA! 

I was surprised at how good these bars were. They're right up there with the strawberry and blueberry versions.

Three Dog Night sang that they would "throw away the cars and the bars and the wars." I hope these were not among the "bars" they would get rid of.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Taffy

This is Day Ten of an extended New Products Week. 

If you've stepped inside a Trader Joe's store in the last week or so, you probably noticed that it looks like there was an explosion in a mango warehouse. It's MANGOPALOOZA! All mango, all the time! They have introduced a profusion of brand-new mango-flavored products. I brought home six of them, but left several more behind for another day. I'll do my best to review them as quickly as I can. But I'm without my trusty sidekick in this endeavor; Nina does not like mangoes, or mango-flavored things.

This is a brand-new product. There is nothing about it on Trader Joe's web page yet. Price is a mere 99 cents.

I love the flavor of these. It's rich and strong, far more flavorful than I remember TJ's Salt Water Taffy being.

However, the texture is off. They're tough-chewy, not soft-chewy. I bought them on one of the first days they were available, and was eating them within an hour of getting them home, so they were as fresh as possible, yet the toughness felt like they had been sitting on the shelf for too many months.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was a nice one-time experiment, but that's all.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Trader Joe's Parsnip Chips

This is Day Nine of an extended New Products Week. 

Parsnip Chips are only kinda sorta new. Trader Joe's announced them in March, 2015 (see here), with an anticipated arrival date of June. But then that got pushed to September. And even when they arrived, it wasn't everywhere. As usual, the west coast gets all the things first. They didn't show up in North Carolina until a couple of weeks ago.

So how are they? OK, but not about to replace potato chips for me. They're a lot like the Vegetable Root Chips, but with only the parsnip parts (i.e., leaving out the ones made from sweet potato and taro). They're definitely better dipped in some decent hummus than eaten straight from the bag.


Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View

I like these parsnip chips a lot. I am entirely content to eat them straight from the bag. If you don't want yours, I'll have them, no problem.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Trader Joe's Marshmallows (and Trader Joe's Crisp Rice Cereal)

This is Day Eight of an extended New Products Week. 

Of all the new products Trader Joe's releases, maybe one in ten gets a whole lot of people posting on Twitter with excited photographs of their new find. This is one of them. First there's just the fact that Trader Joe's now has marshmallows, so it's one less thing that you have to go to a second store to find in order to complete your shopping. But the added bonus is that they're vegan--no gelatin--which is a rarity in the marshmallow world.

Here's TJ's description of the product: They're kind of pricey, at $2.99 a bag.

I would have no difficulty distinguishing these from the more common national brands, like Kraft--but it would be on the basis of texture more than taste. They're a little softer and lighter. But more noticeably, they have an odd granular texture. When Nina tried them, she thought this was just in the outside powdery coating, but after repeated trials, I convinced myself that it's through-and-through. Others have noticed this, too; see here, for example. It's not bad, but it is distinctive.

I did not notice any major difference in taste from the national brands--unlike this astonishingly (and unjustifiably) glowing review.

I don't have any easy way of toasting marshmallows, so I can't comment on how they perform under fire (or, more accurately, over fire). But I did make up a batch of rice crispy treats, using these marshmallows, Trader Joe's Crisp Rice Cereal, and even Trader Joe's Organic Butter, for what was very possibly the nation's first batch of 100% Trader Joe's marshmallow-rice cereal treats. (I hesitate to call them Rice Krispie treats, since I didn't use that brand.)

Incidentally, I found the cereal by itself to be indistinguishable from Kellogg's Rice Krispies, in both taste and texture. Though I didn't try them side by side, I've had enough of the latter in my life to feel confident saying that nobody will ever notice if you make this substitution.

The treats were completely normal--just like every other batch I've made. Nothing about them betrayed the fact that I used TJ's versions instead of name-brand products. They were a complete success. I had started the job with some small worry that the lack of gelatin would adversely affect how the marshmallows melted, or the chewiness of the resulting treats after cooling down, but neither was a problem in the slightest.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, for both items. My only use for marshmallows and for rice cereal is in the occasional batch of treats, but when I get a hankering to make some, I'll be happy to be able to get the ingredients at my favorite store, instead of at the giant supermarkets. The one catch to this plan is that, for some unfathomable reason, TJ's is making these marshmallows a summer-seasonal product, instead of year-round. So if my urge for crispy-rice treats hits in, say, January, I'll have to go back to Kraft.

Saturday, June 4, 2016


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

The 8 best bottles at Trader Joe's wine shop

11 must-have items from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:




And finally, instead of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, here's two cute kids in Trader Joe's grocery bags--posted, ironically, by a woman named "Kat."

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Juice--Cantaloupe

This is Day Seven of New Products Week. 

Trader Joe's introduction to this product is here. $3.99/bottle.

I'm afraid it's been a dismal week for the new items. As of yesterday, we were 0/6 for things I would buy again. So I'm happy to close out the week with a solid hit.

This is the fifth in TJ's line of "cold-pressed" juices, and it's the best of them by a long way. I've never even heard of cantaloupe juice being a thing before, so I have no base of comparison, except for a lifetime of eating cantaloupe. This juice tastes just like I would imagine from that background, plus a bit of lime added for contrast and tartness.

It's sweet, refreshing, and delicious--pretty much perfect. If you like cantaloupe, I don't think it would be possible for you not to like this cantaloupe juice.

Will I buy it again? 

The price will make it just a rare treat, but yes.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Trader Joe's St. Nectaire Cheese

This is Day Six of New Products Week. 

This was the feature cheese of the month for May, at $9.99/pound. See Trader Joe's introduction to it here.

I knew nothing about this cheese when I brought it home. I tossed it in the fridge and didn't think anything more of it for a couple of weeks.

Then I started noticing that something smelled bad in my refrigerator. Since I'm a lazy old bachelor, this is not a particularly surprising condition. It means that something got shoved to the back of a shelf and forgotten for way too long. I poked around, though not especially carefully, not finding any culprit, so I ignored the problem for a while more.

Around the same time, I started seeing people on Twitter mention how this St. Nectaire cheese was the smelliest cheese they had ever had--and finally it dawned on me that there might be a connection between these two things.

Well, last night it was time to try this cheese as an appetizer for my weekly dinner with Nina. I opened the plastic wrapping and set it free.

Oh. Em. Gee. No kidding, you can smell it from across the room. And it's not a pleasant smell. TJ's says it's "aromatic of straw and mushrooms." No. It's stinky toejam. It's unwashed feet, the inside of old gym shoes.

However, the Twitter people were also saying that the cheese is delicious in spite of the smell, so I did my best not to let the aroma put me off--to no avail. I couldn't like it. The smell was just too much. The cheese itself is bitter--maybe a little less bitter if you're careful to remove the rind, but still too bitter for me to enjoy. It's also too soft to slice nicely (TJ's calls it "semi-soft," which I guess is accurate, since it's not really brie-soft).

I'll confess that the problem here might be me, that my palate just isn't sophisticated enough for a cheese this exotic. But after two chunks of it on Triscuit crackers, I was done. The rest is going back to the store for a refund.

Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View

Okay, this definitely falls into the category of "acquired taste." It is strong and distinctive, and will definitely not appeal to everyone.

I'm pretty sure that I could acquire the taste for this cheese. But I won't, for the simple reason that I'm never buying it (because: dairy) and will thus probably not have the opportunity of prolonged and/or repeated exposure to it.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Trader Joe's Island Salsa

This is Day Five of New Products Week. 

Trader Joe's description of the product is here. It's $2.99 per jar.

I passed this by the first two or three times I saw it in the store, for two good reasons. First, with mango as a main ingredient, I was pretty sure Nina wouldn't like it. Second, I haven't liked any of TJ's non-tomato-based salsas so far--and that specifically includes their Tropical Mango-Pineapple Salsa and their Pineapple Salsa. I saw little chance that I would like this version any better.

I was right. It's just too fruity, too nontraditional for my admittedly narrow taste in salsas.

I did try mixing it with my favorite, the Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa, to see if that would make it more palatable. It did, but only by dilution, not by the two products enhancing each other in any way. So I eventually gave up and threw away the last third or so of the jar, so that I could enjoy the Fire-Roasted by itself.

Will I buy it again?