Monday, January 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Vanilla Eclairs With Chocolate Fondant

I forgot to take my own photo of the box, so I'm borrowing this one from Trader Joe's own recent post introducing the product.

I liked these. They're not super-fantastic, but they're a darn sight better than eclairs can be expected to be when all you have to do is take them out of the freezer and let them thaw. Speaking of which, the recommended 30-60 minutes ain't nearly enough. They may be unfrozen by then, but they'll still be refrigerator-cold, which is not ideal for eating eclairs.

Will I buy it again? 

Once in a while, yes.

Trader Joe's Soft Black Licorice Twists

This is the best, most genuine-tasting licorice I've ever had. It suddenly made me realize that all the licorice I've had before has been too heavy on sugar and too light on actual licorice root extract. This seems like how licorice is supposed to be.

Will I buy it again? 

I don't get a hankering for licorice often, but when I do, this would absolutely be the one I'd choose.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


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

Trader Joe's snacks that are actually good for you

Trader Joe's announces recall of Sierra Nevada beer

Trader Joe's announces recall of whole wheat bread

7 healthy meals you can make with Trader Joe's frozen foods

10 things I always buy from Trader Joe's for breakfast

The 8 best beauty products at Trader Joe's

15 Trader Joe's foods for game day

Best tweets of the week:








Sadly, I have no more pictures of cute cats in Trader Joe's grocery bags. I've depleted my stored-up examples, and people haven't been posting them with the usual frequency lately. This is clearly unacceptable. Step it up, folks!

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Soft Strawberry Licorice Twists

These are suspiciously like the ones Trader Joe's sells (used to sell?) under the "Darrell Lea" brand name; see my review here. I'm tempted to conclude that they are that same product from that same company in a new package, but I am given pause by the claim that these are made in New Zealand while the others came from Australia.

Whether the exact same thing or just a very close copy, what I said of the Darrell Lea version applies equally here.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trader Joe's Sliced Havarti Cheese

This was, I think, my first try of Havarti cheese of any sort. I like it, but it seems exceptionally mild, almost to the point of being flavorless. Whether on crackers or melted onto a burger, it was hard to detect its presence, other than by texture.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Soft Handmade Pretzel

If there's anything that distinguishes this as a pretzel, anything to convince me that it's not just ordinary white bread tied into a knot, it escapes me. There's no saltiness, nothing special about the crust, none of the flavor that I've come to associate with pretzels. I don't get the purpose of its existence.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar

This is an interesting new Trader Joe's product--$1.49.

The crisped quinoa functions just like the rice in, e.g., Nestle's Crunch bars. The coconut component is, sadly, just a wisp rather than a major flavor. The spices consist of a blend of curry powder, salt, ginger powder, turmeric, cardamom, nutmeg, and black pepper. It all works together surprisingly well. The heat level is comparable to the milder samples in the Chili Chocolate Collection, which is to say, not hot at all.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I think it will make a nice occasional treat.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Restaurant Style White Corn Tortilla Chips

I've previously reviewed a TJ's product with an identical name, here. I'm guessing that this new version is replacing that one. It is much improved. I like that they are saltier, thicker, and have a really impressive crunchiness. They have much more flavor of corn oil than most tortilla chips, and it is indeed reminiscent of the chips served in Mexican restaurants.

Their one failing is that the promised lime is such a light touch that I couldn't find it, even when concentrating and trying to imagine its presence.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I've complained many times that TJ's has needlessly multiplied its varieties of tortilla chips. But if they're substituting this for the previous product of the same name, as I assume, it's a definite change for the better.

Saturday, January 21, 2017


First, an announcement about blog post scheduling. Starting today, I'm going to take weekends off from posting reviews. I'll move these Saturday "roundup" posts to the morning instead of afternoon, and no posts on Sundays. 

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

Trader Joe's announces results of annual customer-choice awards

The 16 best Italian foods from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:


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

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Buenalba With Paprika Cheese

Ugh. Eating this was like eating a chunk of congealed paprika. Oh, there's some cheese in there, too? Coulda fooled me!

Back to the store for a refund it went.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Trader Joe's Potted Herb Garden

I tried to keep this alive, I really did. But I couldn't. It died within a month, as does most every green thing that comes under my care.

Even if I had managed to nurture it to the point of harvesting, I wouldn't have known how to tell which plant was which, because they give you a list of what's in the pot, but not any key to matching the names with the leaves.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Chili Chocolate Collection

I think that this is probably a seasonal Christmas item. There's nothing overtly Christmas-y about it, but TJ's tends to bring out a slew of products at Christmas that make good gifts, and they disappear soon after. I bought it shortly before Christmas, but didn't get around to sampling it until last week.

There are four different chocolates here, each repeated four times. In order of what the box says is the order from mildest to spiciest:

Milk chocolate guajillo
Jalapeno ganache
Chili lime
Habanero milk chocolate

But Nina and I found that the actual order of heat intensity bore no resemblance to this claim, and I confirmed that impression again just now with another run through the four. We found the hottest one by far to be the jalapeno ganache (with the green chili design). The burn is a bit too intense for my taste.

The real standout is the chili lime, though it's the mildest of the bunch. I would never have imagined that chili, chocolate, lime, and caramel would work well together, but they do! They ought to sell this one as a separate treat--maybe even make it into an ice cream or something.

The milk chocolate guajillo suffers from being a milk chocolate, which just doesn't work well with the chili. This is the only one of the four that is a solid chocolate, rather than filled.

The habanero is also a milk chocolate, but it's not as noticeably deficient as the guajillo because of the addition of a dark chocolate ganache.

Will I buy it again? 

No--except maybe as a gift to somebody who I thought might enjoy the taste test. This is definitely in the "once is enough" category. But you really should try it that once. They're likely to be chocolates unlike any you've had before.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Sandwich Cookies

I couldn't tell, with any degree of confidence, exactly what I was buying here, based on the photos and description on the front of the box. But it said "chocolate" and "cookies," and I decided it was worth a go.

Imagine a small but otherwise ordinary chocolate chip cookie. Now imagine a second one. Now imagine putting them together, bottom to bottom, glued in place by a thin layer of chocolate. That's what we've got here.

Which could be great, if the cookies were great. But they're not. They're run-of-the-mill industrial cookies--lower quality than, say, Chips Ahoy. So the result is thoroughly mediocre. I'll finish off the box, no doubt, but with only modest enjoyment, not with any real enthusiasm.

Will I buy it again? 

Nope. With almost zero work, I can instead buy pre-made, refrigerated chocolate-chip cookie dough and wind up with cookies that are ten times better than these. When I'm lucky enough that somebody with actual baking skill makes me some, they're a hundred times better.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta

I find it difficult to distinguish any one wheat pasta from another, except on the basis of shape. If you lined this up with 10 other fusilli pastas, I would probably notice that it's somewhat darker, probably because of being from whole wheat rather than bleached wheat, but other than that, I'd have a hard time telling that there was anything different about it.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. I like fusilli better than spaghetti, just because it holds onto sauce better and it's physically easier to eat neatly. And this is as good as any.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Bruschetta Sauce

I bought this to use in a recipe that called for a few tablespoons of bruschetta sauce as a topping to homemade veggie burgers. The recipe was from page 82 of this book.

I liked the result a lot--except for this sauce on top.

In fact, it was so obvious to me that I would never use it again that I sent the rest of the tub home with Nina. What she might have done with it I do not know, because I forgot to ask.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, January 14, 2017


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

The 7 best Indian foods from Trader Joe's

5 healthy lunches from a $25 Trader Joe's shopping trip

New Trader Joe's products for January

Why I hate Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:



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

Trader Joe's Salsa Especial--Mild

When I tried the "medium" version of TJ's Salsa Especial, I wrote that it was "ruined for me by being hotter than I can tolerate for more than a few chips' worth at a sitting.... I did notice a "mild" version of the same product, and I'm eager to try that one."

Call me Goldilocks. I'm just as unhappy with this one, but for the opposite reason: It's too mild. It has no zestiness to it. It's lifeless and dull. It felt like I was just eating diced tomatoes on my tortilla chips.

So what I need Trader Joe's to do is produce a version that it about halfway in between the "mild" and "medium."

Will I buy it again? 


Friday, January 13, 2017

Velamints Coconut Lime Sugar Free Mints

These are very similar to the Blood Orange Velamints, except in flavor (obviously). Both the coconut and lime flavors are surprisingly strong and distinctive here, and they blend wonderfully together.

In the end, I didn't like them quite as much as the blood orange, but they're a close second. Both are excellent.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Black Diamond Vintage Reserve Cheddar Cheese

I was surprised when I found this at Trader Joe's last week. I think it must be new to them, because I surely would have noticed it long ago if it had been a regular item.

My history with Black Diamond white cheddar goes back many years. It was, in fact, the first white cheddar I ever tasted--and I fell in love with it. For years it was basically the only cheese I bought, though I would occasionally substitute some other white cheddar when I couldn't find BD.

But times change, preferences shift, eating habits drift from one thing to another. Last week when I spotted this, I realized that it has been at least four years since I had any Black Diamond, because the last time I bought it was when I was still living in Las Vegas. I was interested to see if my taste for it had changed.

It has. I now find it unpleasantly sharp, bordering on harsh and bitter. It also doesn't slice neatly--too crumbly.

Even if I limit the field of options to just white cheddars from Trader Joe's, I'd rather have this one, or this one, or this one, or this one.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trader Joe's New Zealand Organic Cheddar Cheese

This is another in the seemingly endless lineup of cheddars that Trader Joe's will sell you. It's perfectly decent: flavorful, not too mild, not too sharp, slices well. It's basically a good, solid, middle-of-the-road white cheddar.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. I wouldn't call it a favorite, but I also have no objections to it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Ugly Sweater Cookie Kit

I've never before purchased any of Trader Joe's food-building kits: gingerbread house, haunted house, etc. This one, though, struck me as such a silly idea that it might be fun for Nina and me to tackle after dinner one night.

It wasn't.

The three bags of colored frosting included are damnably difficult to work with. If you cut the nozzle off close enough to the end to get a fine stream (as would be required to pull off any of the intricate designs so tantalizingly depicted on the box), the amount of pressure required to squeeze the stuff out literally blows a hole in the bag. How do we know this? Trust us--we know.

So instead you're forced to cut the nozzle with a much wider hole just to be able to get the frosting to come out, but the result is such a crudely broad tool that it's difficult to work with.

Here were my best--yet still pathetic--efforts:

And Nina's:

Now, I'll admit that since the day that we made these, I've seen maybe ten people post photos of their own creations on Twitter that were clearly superior to ours, though still nothing like the box shows. And, in the "YMMV" category, I'll note that many of these contributors expressed what fun they had making them. Us, not so much.

If the resulting cookies tasted good, all this could be forgiven. But they don't. They're sad, dreary, lifeless cookies. The white ones are below-mediocre sugar cookies. The chocolate ones are like eating Oreos without the cream filling.

And the packaging! Egads! I'm not usually too picky on this subject, but the amount of plastic that you have to throw away is unconscionable.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It's an utter failure.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Boffo Bar

This product was released at the same time as the Quasar bar, and there can be no doubt that they are intended as a competitive pair to Snickers and Milky Way, respectively.

Strangely, though, the TJ's offerings are not nearly as similar to each other as their more famous rivals. Snickers is just a Milky Way with peanuts added. But the Boffo and Quasar are really quite different. The Boffo uses milk chocolate instead of dark chocolate. And the nougat portions are not at all the same. In the Boffo, the nougat is light and fluffy, full of air--it's almost like not being there. But in the Quasar, it's dense and chewy. I suspect they come from different suppliers.

Compared to Snickers, the Boffo is unforgivably lacking in both caramel and peanuts.

Will I buy it again? 

No. This was a serious failure to make a competitor to one of the most popular candy bars of all time.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Quasar Bar

Usually when Trader Joe's makes an obvious knockoff of a well-known brand-name product, it calls it by the most generic possible name: Toaster Pastries, or Baked Cheese Crunchies, or Nacho Cheese Tortilla Chips, for example. Not this time. If you can't catch the wink-wink astronomical parallel between Quasar and Milky Way, then Trader Joe's marketing department has failed in what it set out to do.

TJ's uses dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. The nougat portion is substantially different, with the TJ's being substantially denser and chewier. The caramel layer seems skimpier.

The overall result is quite good, though a little short of the standard-bearer.

Will I buy it again? 

I've already had three, because I had an unusually difficult time settling on a conclusion about it. But I've decided to go back to Milky Way.

Saturday, January 7, 2017


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

20 hilariously accurate tweets about Trader Joe's

The Trader Joe's Whole 30 shopping list

Unexpected and awesome things in Trader Joe's pantry aisle

Best tweets of the week:





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

Trader Joe's Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer

This is, obviously, much like the blackberry spritzer reviewed yesterday, except raspberry-cranberry.

I was very surprised to find that I didn't like it as much. Normally, either straight raspberry or a cran/rasp anything will be my hands-down preference over a blackberry anything. Not so here. It doesn't taste as genuinely fruity. It seems more like soda, with fruit flavors instead of real juice, even though the label says otherwise. I have no idea why this might be so. And, of course, YMMV.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm on my second bottle, because this outcome was so atypical for me that I wanted a second shot at seeing whether it was real. It is. So no, I don't think I will buy it again.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Blackberry Spritzer

I suppose this qualifies as a "spritzer" and not a "soda" by virtue of being made with actual fruit juices rather than just sugar and flavorings. But a soda by any other name would taste as sweet. It does still have added sugar, after all. I'm not complaining, because the result is quite tasty. It does genuinely taste of blackberries, and there's a little residue left in one's glass and in the bottle that appears to be fruit puree.

Grumble: They really need to make this with a screw top or some other kind of reclosable cap.

Will I buy it again? 

I already have; I just finished my second delicious bottle.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Roasted Cauliflower & Cheese Mezzelune

This is ravioli, despite the fancy "half-moon" shape and name.

It's excellent--loved it. I think it's my second-favorite TJ's ravioli, after the Goat Cheese & Sun Dried Tomato version. (Well, I think I actually liked the Chicken Pot Pie version best of all, but I haven't bought that again, as part of my general reduction in use of meat-containing things.)

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Crunchy Curls

I have no idea how long these have been lurking on the Trader Joe's shelves, but I first noticed them a couple of months ago.

They're a little bland on their own; a little more salt would do them good. I couldn't discern a distinctly lentil flavor, and I had to use a bit of imagination to notice potato. I can't describe the taste, because it's pretty much unlike anything I've had before. But it's pleasant enough.

They're sturdy enough to be reasonably useful for scooping up salsa or hummus.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, as an occasional break from my usual tortilla and potato chip staples.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Super Soft Bath Tissue

Trader Joe's regular "bath tissue" (they can't say "toilet paper"?) is one of the rare items that is both a staple that I buy all the time, and a Top Ten list member. This version is supposed to be even better.

It's not, at least not as far as I can tell. I discerned no meaningful difference in softness.

Because it's more expensive, but not better, I reject it.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, January 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Asian Style Spicy Peanut Vinaigrette

I passed on this many, many times. Then one day I stopped to think about it more. I like salads and salad dressing. I like peanuts. I like several other vinaigrettes. I don't mind spiciness. So why have I kept rejecting this? I guess the answer was that it was just too far outside my mental image of what a proper salad dressing should be.

I liked the flavoring more than I expected to. But it had two fatal flaws. (1) Too sweet. (2) Too thick and gloppy; it doesn't spread nicely throughout the salad with a little stirring/tossing.

Will I buy it again? 

No. There is definitely promise here, and I eventually finished off the whole bottle, but the formula needs tweaking before I would buy another.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Butter Cookie Wreaths

These are OK, but it seems a stretch to call them "butter cookies," as there's not much buttery about them. More like "flour cookies."

When the best part of the cookie is the colored sugar granules sprinkled on top, you've done something wrong.

Will I buy it again?