Sunday, July 31, 2016

Trader Joe's Pergamena Di Pane Guttiau Sardinian Parchment Crackers

I thought this might be a new Trader Joe's product, because I've looked over the selection of crackers dozens of times without ever noticing it. But a little online search shows that it has been available for years.

It's probably good that I failed to find it earlier. Because I love it and I would eat it all--and because the crackers have heavy doses of olive oil, I would get fat. (Per serving size of 2 crackers, you get 120 calories and 5 grams of fat. Four servings per box.)

These are among the tastiest crackers I have ever had. How good? Well, Nina and I together ate four of these with hummus as an appetizer before dinner. What she doesn't know (until she reads this) is that soon after she left, I sat down and ate the rest of them with still more hummus. I find them irresistible.

Now, these are not the most practical crackers ever made. What makes them unique is their extraordinary thinness:

That makes it tricky to use them to scoop up dense hummus, or (I presume, without trying) stack meats and cheeses on. Surprisingly, however, they do break quite cleanly just about anywhere you want to snap off a piece, without the whole thing shattering.

But they taste so good that I wave off any niggling gripes about practicality or fat content, and elevate them to my Top Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

Many times, I hope.

Nina's View

These are really good—good enough that they require no adornment to be endlessly munchable. The texture is truly papery and flaky, and entirely delightful. If I were still eating congealed cow-pain, I would recommend a super-thin slice of a nice parmesan to go with them.

I think hummus and other thick dips are a mistake. Just eat the crackers.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


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

Slow week for Trader Joe's news. Let's move on.

Best tweets of the week:




And finally, instead of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, I give you a photo of a cute dog with his Trader Joe's treats, PLUS a bonus video of another cute dog (this one named Bob) in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:

A video posted by Char Bear (@charbear2) on

Trader Joe's Smoked Chile Cheddar Cheese

I bought this because I lack imagination. I couldn't conjure up a gustatory sense of what it would be like to combine cheddar cheese and hot peppers--because who does such a thing?

Well, now I know. And now I like the idea, though I think TJ's went a little too far. There is more heat than flavor from the peppers. But it's certainly an interesting combination, and sliced on crackers it makes for a whole different kind of late-night snack than I usually have.

Will I buy it again? 

No, I think once is enough. But I don't regret buying it at all. As I write this, I'm about halfway through it, and I'm looking forward to finishing it off--just not too much in a sitting.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Blackberry Crush

Another day, another ho-hum, overly sweetened, not-really-what-it-claims-to-be juice blend from Trader Joe's. In the least surprising development of the year, it has more apple and grape juice than blackberry juice, though the latter is at least noticeable. It's not as bad as some of the juice blends we've tried, but there's also nothing that makes it stand out as so delicious that I want more.

Will I buy it again? 

No. And are we getting anywhere close to the end of the juice line here?

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Shaved Brussels Sprouts

One of my favorite salads has become any of a number of primarily lettuce-based Trader Joe's bagged salads combined with a bag of TJ's Cruciferous Crunch Collection. However, the latter has big hunks of raw Brussels sprouts, which I don't mind, but Nina doesn't care for.

Today I was reaching for the CCC again when I spotted this sitting next to it. It's just Brussels sprouts--unlike the CCC, which also has kale, broccoli, green cabbage, and red cabbage. However, the sprouts are chopped much more finely. I thought that might make them go down better. So I grabbed it plus TJ's Organics Herb Salad Mix.

I thought the texture was a hit. The chopped sprouts added little bits of chewy-crunchiness throughout what is otherwise a uniformly soft salad. So a success on that point. However, it was too much of the Brussels sprouts taste. It dominated and made a not particularly pleasant clash with the herbs of the other salad bag.

What TJ's needs is the blend that is in the CCC, but with the sprouts component shaved down like this, instead of in the big chunks. That would be perfect. Are you listening, Trader Joe's?

Will I buy it again? 

No. It didn't solve my problem, just exchanged a texture problem for a taste problem.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Nature's Reward Purple Cauliflower

This is obviously a non-TJ's branded product, but is sold through their stores. You can read a bit about it from the producer here. As you'll see, it comes in purple, green, and orange. I'm assuming that they are all essentially the same, except for color. I picked the purple just because it was the most visually striking--utterly different from any other cauliflower I've had before.

It really is purple. Even better, when you add a little lemon juice, which is how I like to eat it, it turns a lovely shade of pink.

It's better than average cauliflower, whether or not you like the color. (I do.)

Will I buy it again? 

Once in a while. But mostly I'm going to stick to the pre-cut florets, and mix them with broccoli, because (1) I'm lazy, and (2) I like the combination better than I like eating either vegetable alone.

Nina's View

Pretty in pink! It's probably placebo effect, but I found this cauliflower to be slightly sweeter and less cabbage-y than your average head of the regular stuff.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Quattro Formaggio

As the label tells you, this is a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, fontina, and provolone cheese. Most shredded cheese is mild. This is not. It is boldly flavorful and distinctly Italian. That is both its strength and its weakness. It is superb atop pasta, for example, and would probably be similarly great on a homemade pizza, though I didn't try that.

But I use shredded cheese mainly for Mexican-style foods that I make, and this blend just doesn't work well there. It's more, I think, than my brain rejecting the idea of cross-contamination of international cuisines. It seems to me that it just doesn't play well with the flavors of Mexican staples like refried beans. With every bite, I got a mildly jarring hit of sensory discordance.

The problem for me, then, is not that this stuff is bad. It's that it has a specific niche--one that I need filled rarely enough that a package this size will mostly go moldy in my refrigerator before getting used up.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, unless I'm planning an Italian food bash of some kind. But if you do more Italian cooking than I do, by all means give it a try.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Asian Vegetables With Beijing Style Soy Sauce

Nina bought this bag and cooked it up as part of our weekly dinner at her place. It's something I never would have bought for myself, as I'm not a big fan of several of the components. But it was OK. The veggies had pretty good texture, but little flavor without the soy sauce.

Will I buy it again? 


Nina's View

There's nothing wrong with the veggies. The soy-ish flavored sauce was icky. Not even bad-Chinese-food icky, just not good. Stale tasting. Flat. Gummy. My instincts were right, and I only used half the packet, as I feared the worst. That restraint was the only thing that made eating the leftovers the next day even barely tolerable.

Begone, nasty sauce.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Roasted Potatoes With Roasted Peppers & Onions

Potatoes fine. Peppers fine. Onions icky. But you already knew that.

Will I buy it again? 

Well, I didn't actually buy it in the first place. Nina did. I'm unlikely ever to buy something with "onions" in the name of the product. So I'll let Nina tell you whether she'll buy it again.

Nina's View

This is food for the incredibly lazy, since roasting potatoes and veggies is pretty basic and easy. Cut, coat in oil, put in oven, done.

That said: I prepared these in a segregated fashion on the cookie sheet so that Bob's delicate sensibilities would not be assaulted by the onion. Trust me when I tell you that the entire flavor quotient of this offering is contained in the pepper & onion contingent. The result was much better when blended on my plate.

I'm not buying it again because PLEASE, I AM NOT TOO LAZY TO CUT UP A POTATO, A BELL PEPPER, AND AN ONION. You can easily do it while the oven preheats. SRSLY.

Saturday, July 23, 2016


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

18 new Trader Joe's products

How do Whole Foods 365 stores compare to Trader Joe's?

What I get at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's: Worth the hype?

Sorry, no memorable tweets this week. Sad face.

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

Trader Joe's Shredded Sharp Cheddar

There is nothing fancy or surprising here, but it is excellent. Bold, classic cheddar flavor. Nothing like the flavorless, wimpy Kraft crap. My favorite shredded cheese for the last couple of years has been Sargento's "Four State Cheddar." This TJ's product is now competing with that as my go-to item. I may have to get both at the same time and try them side by side to finally decide which is best.

Will I buy it again? 


Friday, July 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Artichoke Ravioli

I'm afraid this post is one of those that are more about my own weird history with food than the product itself. (But I warned you with my very first blog post that that was a large part of my motivation for doing this thing, so I feel no guilt.)

Until last week, I had never eaten artichoke. That's because I could just look at one and tell that it was inedible and awful and I could never like it.

But Nina cooked up some for part of a dinner she made me. I had a couple of slices of artichoke hearts. I didn't love them, but they were not as terrible as I imagined. I wasn't eager for more, but Nina asked me not to give up on them yet.

Fast forward to a few days later, when I'm in Trader Joe's buying a few things for the weekly dinner I make for Nina. While looking over the case of refrigerated, prepared foods to see if there was anything new, my eye caught the big artichoke on the package seen above. Well, if there is any way to get me to like something, mixing it with cheese and wrapping it in pasta is a damn good bet. So I abandoned what I had intended for the menu and got this instead.

Alas, TJ's may have found the one thing that is not improved by cheese and pasta. The cheese did not mask the artichoke flavor--but it did seem to clash with it quite severely. It was not a good combination. Even though I didn't love plain artichoke hearts on my first tasting, I'm pretty sure I would have preferred having them and cheese ravioli separately.

Will I buy it again? 

No. And it did not advance my appreciation of artichokes one little bit.

Nina's View

I regret that this was Bob's second encounter with an artichoke product, because it's just not that good. The filling has a sourish cheese in with the artichoke. They've used some of the more fibrous parts of the flesh, which makes the texture less than lovely. 

I have a vague recollection of having artichoke ravioli previously—I thought from TJ's—and enjoying them. If I did then, well, what can I say? I did not enjoy these.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Nourish Herbal Blend Liquid Soap

This has a very light, pleasant fragrance that I could not have identified as "lemongrass and clary sage" if my life depended on it--especially since I had never even heard of clary sage. It seems to do a good job, dispenses without muss or fuss, and rinses off nicely. It leaves behind a slight fragrance; you have to put your hands up to your nose to notice it, so the scent not forcing itself on you.

All in all, quite nice stuff.

Will I buy it again? 

Given that I have nothing bad to say about it, you'd probably think the answer would be yes. But it's a no. First, it's much more expensive than my standard purchase (SoftSoap with aloe--bulk refills). Second, I don't really want fragrances in my hand soap, even if they're fairly nice and non-intrusive.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Light Vanilla Ice Cream

This is not great ice cream. But then again, you wouldn't expect it to be, when you read that it has 80% less fat than TJ's premium vanilla ice cream. The flavor is decent, but the texture is missing all that richness. It reminds me of the "ice milk" that was kind of a big thing back in the 1970s and 1980s.

Still, if you put some sort of good topping on it, it's certainly passable. I suppose there may come a day when a cardiologist tells me that I have to drastically cut back on my total fat intake, in which case a product like this will probably seem like the best I can allow myself, and I'll be happy to have it.

In the meantime, I want better.

Will I buy it again? 

Not until after my first heart attack.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Trader Joe's Automatic Dishwasher Detergent Concentrated Monodose Packs

Unlike Trader Joe's powdered dishwasher detergent, this one does a good job of cleaning without leaving residue. It's a little more expensive than the powder, but still much cheaper than national-brand pre-dosed detergent packets.

If I look closely, I can see water spots on the silverware and glasses, but, being a troglodyte bachelor, I only looked closely enough to see them once, and that was solely so that I could comment about it here. Spots do not rise to the level of my everyday attention or concern.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It has become my default choice in this product category, a staple that is a constant presence under my kitchen sink.

Nina's View

Hmmm. I've been using this stuff recently, and for some reason it just doesn't do it for me. My dishwasher still smells sort of stale-foody after I run it, which I don't like. It definitely works better in combination with a rinsing agent.  I have been happier with 7th Generation or Method. 

I doubt I will buy it again.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Trader Joe's Beef-Less Strips

This is a superior meat substitute product, made primarily from a combination of soy protein and wheat gluten. It sautees quickly and easily. The result has both good texture and good flavor.

After trying the strips unadorned (i.e., sauteed in just vegetable oil) the first time, for a second tasting I cooked them in some barbecue sauce, making a BBQ fake-beef sandwich, which was also excellent. Given the dominance of the sauce, I would never have known I was dealing with a vegan product instead of something that used to moo.

I am now a bit disgusted with myself that I'm two years into this TJ's blogging thing before getting around to this little-publicized gem of a product. I wish I had found it earlier. I am going to make it a staple item to keep in the freezer at all times.

Will I buy it again? 

Many times, I expect.

Nina's View

I like them too.


Bad news: Apparently the package I bought was one of the last to be produced. The product has now been discontinued. So I guess I won't be buying it again, even though I want to.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Trader Joe's Barbeque Popped Potato Chips

Nina is a mighty strong woman. But she does have a few weaknesses, and I've known her long enough to be aware of what they are. Number one on the list? Barbecue potato chips. She will eat them compulsively, until her stomach ruptures open like that iconic scene from "Alien." You think I exaggerate, but I HAVE SEEN IT HAPPEN! Oh, if you could see the abdominal scars from where the doctors have had to suture her stomach closed again and again, it would make you turn your eyes away in horror.

So the other day when I saw somebody on Twitter ecstatic about their discovery of this product, which I had not noticed previously, I thought I should get some to feed to Nina. Y'know, to make her love me more. Fortunately, the bag is small enough that there was little risk of needing to interrupt dinner for a trip to the ER.

I liked them. They're better than typical BBQ potato chips for two reasons. First, the seasoning is milder, less in-your-face than I remember from other products. Second, the underlying puffed/popped chip is nicer, more delicate and airy. That said, BBQ potato chips are not really my thing. I would choose plain potato chips over them nearly every time. But if I got a hankering for BBQ chips, these would be my first choice.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not for myself, but I might slip a bag into a Christmas or birthday gift box for a certain someone I know.

Nina's View


What was that sound, you ask? That was the sound of this tasty, tasty snack breaking the sound barrier as it rockets to the top of my TOP TEN list. 

By coincidence, the host at a poker game I attend irregularly had introduced me to a snack chip (the exact name and maker of which I cannot remember at this moment, but he buys huge bags of them at Walmart) that looks and tastes exactly the same as these. I adore them and I eat them to the point of… well, let's just say it's a tad embarrassing. The others mock me. As I deserve. 

Anyway, my point is: these are the same. THE SAME. IDENTICAL. Clonishly alike. 

Where was I? Oh yes: buy them. Eat them.

Thank god the bag is small.

Saturday, July 16, 2016


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

Trader Joe's announces contest to name a new product

Trader Joe's snacks under 150 calories

The best Trader Joe's products of all time

10 favorite road-trip snacks from Trader Joe's

Five favorite Trader Joe's snacks on the go

An update on Pirate Joe's in Vancouver, B.C.

Review of TJ's Wild Mushroom And Black Truffle Flatbread

Best tweets of the week:


(I looked at the picture at full size, and it really does appear to be. A quick Google search will lead you to several similar stories of black widow spiders hitching a ride into consumers' homes via grocery store grapes.)



And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, plus a bonus cute (but bad) dog who got into a Trader Joe's grocery bag.

Trader Joe's Arrabiata Sauce

Apparently the name of this product translates as "angry" sauce, due to the heat of its chili peppers.

It is indeed somewhat spicier than most marinaras, but it hardly rose to the level of inflaming me, either biochemically or emotionally. It was also a little chunkier than I prefer. Still, it's my third-favorite Trader Joe's pasta sauce, after the excellent tomato-basil marinara and the Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce. 

Will I buy it again? 


Friday, July 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Creamy Corn & Roasted Pepper Soup

This soup is not so much "creamy corn and roasted pepper"--with the implication that these are equal partners--but more like "creamy corn soup in which you might detect a little hint of pepper if you close your eyes and concentrate on it."

Given that caveat, it's perfectly edible, but also perfectly forgettable.

Will I buy it again? 

If I do, it will be because I will have forgotten having had it before.

Nina's View

This soup tastes like melted tortillas. Which is not horrible but, as Bob notes, entirely uninteresting. I think any hint of roasted pepper is contributed by an active imagination. Begone, tortilla puree—I have no time for you. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Trader Joe's X-Tra X-Tra Sharp New York Cheddar Cheese--Revisited

When Nina and I reviewed this the first time (see here), I opined that it wasn't much different than, say, Cracker Barrel. Nina went further: "Meh. This is not at all 'extra extra-sharp.' Cracker Barrel's extra sharp is much sharper, and—if memory serves—more flavorful too."

Two readers challenged this assertion (see the comments on the original post). Ever since then, I've thought that we should eventually get around to doing a side-by-side taste test of TJ's and Cracker Barrel. We finally did.

My conclusion: TJ's is indeed a little bit sharper, but it's not better. In fact, I was surprised to discover that I had a strong preference for the Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp. I found it just generally more flavorful, more enjoyable, less one-note.

Will I buy it again? 

Now my answer has to change from "Sure" to "Probably not."

Nina's View

Cracker Barrel is sharper, not TJ's. But only by a smidge. What it is, however, is markedly more flavorful, with a nicer mouthfeel, and more nuance. I've always liked Cracker Barrel's extra sharp cheddar and I'm pleased that my sense-memory was absolutely spot on. I was able to identify which was which in a blind taste test, no problem. 

[Bob notes: That's true. I gave her chunks of each, same size and shape, and she confidently identified the CB within seconds.] 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Chicken Noodle Soup Low Fat

This is a little more flavorful than the ubiquitous Campbell's, but not by a lot. Perhaps the best thing that can be said about it is that I didn't notice anything about it that gave away its low-fat status. That's not nothing, but it's not enough to get me to love it.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Trader Joe's California Stem & Leaf Mandarins

These are good Mandarin oranges. They're easy to peel, sweet, and juicy. I didn't encounter a bad one in the bunch. I'm not sure why the stems and leaves are left on, nor why this feature is deemed important enough to emphasize in the name of the product. But I don't care much, as long as the fruit is good--and it is.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, July 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Soy Creamy Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert--Vanilla

The cherry-chocolate chip "Soy Creamy" blew me away with how good it was. So I had high expectations for its plainer shelfmate in vanilla--maybe higher than was realistic. Without cherry and chocolate flavors to hide behind, it was harder to disguise the non-dairy nature of this one.

That is not to say that it's bad. It isn't. It's just not "must eat all of it right now" good. It's sort of average vanilla ice cream. A really great, premium French vanilla ice cream can stand on its own. More mundane vanilla ice creams really need something to tart them up--fruit, a glaze, some chocolate syrup, or whatever. This falls into the latter category. There's nothing particularly wrong with it, but also nothing particularly exciting about it.

Will I buy it again? 

No. As I write this, the container has been sitting half-eaten in my freezer for two weeks, which suggests my lack of enthusiasm for it.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Trader Joe's Crescent Rolls

I was disappointed when I opened this package and bits of the dough exploded onto me and the counter and cabinets. Most of what were supposed to be triangular pieces of dough were blown into two or more pieces, and I had to do a weird kind of jigsaw puzzle to reassemble eight rolls.

However, this may have been my own fault. I had bought this package a long time before, and it got lost and forgotten at the back of a refrigerator shelf. I was finally opening it four months after its "best by" date. I had had another one of these before I started this blog, and it did not have that problem.

To their credit, the finished rolls, though somewhat misshapen due to being roughly reassembled, were still evenly browned, light, flaky, and tasty. In taste and texture, they are every bit as good as Pillsbury's more famous similar product.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I like them. I just have to do better remembering that I have them next time.

Saturday, July 9, 2016


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

Comedian complains "Trader Joe's is shit!" 

5 favorites from Trader Joe's

Best Trader Joe's wines to try

"Let's Talk TJ's" podcast #27

8 favorite Trader Joe's beauty products

Easy slow-cooker bean dip recipe using Trader Joe's ingredients

Best tweets of the week:




And finally, here are this week's two cute cats in (or on) Trader Joe's grocery bags:

Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water

You know what I really like about this product? It's the hydrogen-to-oxygen ratio. Trader Joe's does not mess around. They make it exactly 2:1. None of this sloppy 2.01:1, or 1.99:1 crap that some other bottled water brands try to get away with. Nosiree. Two parts hydrogen, period. One part oxygen, period.

Will I buy it again? 

When they fuss over the exact stoichiometric ratio like they do, of course I will reward them with my continued patronage. This has become another true staple at my house, with a couple of bottles always in the fridge, and a flat or two in storage ready to go.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Trader Joe's Dried Baby Sweet Pineapple

I love these things.

I'm not sure if "baby sweet pineapple" is a different variety of pineapple than one usually sees, or just harvested early, but they sure are delicious. I think they're much better than the dried pineapple rings. They're far sweeter, they're a lot less sticky, and they didn't leave me picking big hunks of fibrous stuff from between my teeth.

There's no added sugar; all the sweetness comes naturally. In fact, the list of ingredients is one item long: pineapple.

A few of these make a perfect late-night snack for me when my sweet tooth is calling for attention but guilt prevents me from pulling out a bag of candy.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have here the newest addition to my Top Ten list.

Will I buy it again? 

Again and again and again.

Nina's View

Nope. Nuh-uh. Negatory. Hell to the nizzo.

They look like wizened baby squid. They are chewy but not in a good way. They are more sweet than pineappley.

Bob has a ginormous sweet tooth, which is all very well and good, but I do not. I will eat the occasional piece of dried pineapple in trail mix or whatnot. But these? A drupe too far.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Broccoli Florets and Cauliflower Florets

I've written previously about how I buy and eat a lot of packages of mixed broccoli and cauliflower florets. I also mentioned in that post that Trader Joe's had become my preferred brand because they tended to skimp on the cauliflower less than other brands do, and thus have a more balanced ratio of the two vegetables.

Maybe the first few times I bought it I just got lucky on that count. Or maybe they changed how they package the product. But I found over time that it was getting hard to find a bag on the store shelf that maintained anywhere near the 1:1 ratio that I sought and had come to expect from TJ's.

One day, as I was feeling a bit irked by my perception that TJ's was going the way of the rest of the brands of similar duets, I noticed, for the first time, the separate bags pictured above. I suppose they had probably been there all along, and I didn't see them, because I was specifically looking for the mixture. But once I noticed them, it was instantly obvious that I had finally found the solution to the ratio problem: buy both and mix them myself!

So I did. And I am happy now. It's a tiny bit more work to open two packages and pour out some from each, but I don't mind that. I do have to check carefully to be sure I'm getting the freshest bags available, because they stay good for only about a week, and it takes me a week to get through using a bag of each item.

I sort of confirmed my suspicion that the packagers lean more heavily on the broccoli because it's cheaper; the broccoli alone costs $2.29, while the cauliflower costs $2.49.

Will I buy it again? 

Many, many times. You know how life is filled with tiny annoyances? I now have one fewer.


I wrote the above months ago, and since then I have continued to purchase and use these. They are a true staple in my fridge now, available just about all the time.

I believe I have also discovered a second reason that cauliflower is less abundant than broccoli in the duet mixtures: Cauliflower is denser. So even if you put equal weights of each together, you'll have more florets of broccoli, because each one weighs less. You can get a good sense of the truth of that from the photo above. Both bags have the same weight of produce, but the cauliflower bag looks a lot less full--because it is.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Trader Joe's 100% Whole Grain Fiber Bread Whole Wheat

This is another good one: good flavor, good texture, good weight (i.e., neither too dense nor too fluffy).

Two gripes: The oats on the crust fall off in the toaster, and it went moldy faster than any other bread I've had from Trader Joe's. This may all be due to a sample size of one, rather than being typical of the species.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm going to give it another chance.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Trader Joe's Oak Wood Cold Smoked English Cheddar Cheese

Once again, my lack of a fine-tuned sensory memory causes me problems. I think that this is very similar to TJ's Raw Milk Smoked Cheddar. But it's been enough months since I tried that that I can't call it to mind accurately. Perhaps a side-by-side comparison would reveal that I've botched it completely, and there is little or no resemblance. But for now, I'm saying that they're virtually the same, so see what I wrote about the other one, and it applies here.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe, but there are so many yet to try, and then so many that I liked enough to definitely want a second time, that it might be years before I get back to this.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Tomatillo & Roasted Yellow Chili Salsa

Good stuff. It's generally similar to my favorite, the Fire-Roasted Tomato Salsa, though a tad hotter, and much more pureed, with not a chunk of anything in sight.

Will I buy it again? 

I doubt it. I do like it, but not quite as much as the Fire-Roasted Tomato and the Fall Harvest Salsa, so I can't see myself choosing it over them.

Addendum, October 24, 2018 

Nina served me some of this with dinner last week, and I liked it even more than expressed above. (Yet another piece of evidence that my tastes do not remain constant over time.) I've already bought and consumed another jar on my own, and I've decided that it deserves a place in my salsa rotation.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trader Joe's Dolmas

I saw a photo of one of these cans on Twitter months ago and thought, "Leaves stuffed with rice? What has crazy Trader Joe's gone and done now?" I bought a can on my next trip. (They weren't easy to find in the store, though--must not be a big seller.)

I subsequently learned that dolmas are not a Trader Joe's thing, they're just a thing. Amazingly enough, it turns out, there are foods that everybody knows about except me. This is one of them.

They sat in my cupboard for months, victim of a syndrome with which I am commonly afflicted: I work up enough food adventurism to buy some odd thing, but not enough to actually eat it. Every time I thought the dolmas might be a nice side dish for one of my weekly dinners with Nina, I would think of something that would be even better, and let them sit for another week. (Even so, we were still a year from their expiration date when they were finally consumed.)

But finally I was trying a new recipe for chili, from a new cookbook, and decided that as long as I was going out on a limb, I might as well make the whole meal a risky experiment by adding dolmas to the menu. I looked around on line, trying to figure out whether to serve them chilled, room temperature (which is what the can recommends), or heated. I went with room temperature.

In the can, they are bathed in soy oil--not the olive oil you might expect. They need some serious degreasing with paper towels.

By far the strongest part of both the smell and taste was the dill. (Fortunately, it was strong enough to completely disguise the onion.) Overall, the eating experience was kind of weird, in terms of both taste and texture, but not gag-me unpleasant.

Each of the next two days, I ate a few of them with my lunch of leftover chili and salad, so I basically had the same meal three times in a row. I found that I liked them better cold. Maybe because the texture was a little firmer and they held together better that way? Maybe because the flavors are somewhat attenuated by the cold? I don't know.

But the point is that I ate them all, except for the couple that Nina had. This is another small personal achievement in food exploration for me. Where's my participation trophy?

As for the TJ's product, of course I have no prior experience with which to compare them. To the extent that there is a consensus opinion about TJ's dolmas in online chat groups, it seems to be approximately this: (1) TJ's used to sell, at least in its California stores, house-made dolmas, which were to die for, and which would literally get purchased the minute they were put out. (2) The canned variety, by contrast, were not worth bothering with. (3) However, if you must degrade yourself with canned dolmas, they may be about as good as you can buy.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was a successful experiment personally in that I didn't die, didn't gag, and even finished them off. But they fell short of being something I want more of in my life.

Nina's View

I know stuffed grape leaves as dolmades. When they are good, they are divine—tender leaves, moist and succulent rice, savory herbs and spices. Toothsome. Delicious!

When they're not good, they pretty atrocious. Tough, veiny leaves. Gummy rice. Single note seasoning. Stale.

For what it's worth, these are not the worst dolmades I've ever had. At least the leaves were tender. But the rest? An extreme lack of freshness and un-nuanced seasoning made them unpalatable. One day, I hope Bob will have the pleasure of really good stuffed grape leaves. Until then, we can leave these on the shelf.