Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Le Gruyere Switzerland Cheese

To be honest, I'm not sure whether I've had this before. As I looked at it in the store, I thought that I had tried TJ's Gruyere, but also that I had not tried any cheese wrapped in paper, as this one is.

When I got home, I looked in my archives and found a 2015 review of a very similarly named cheese: "Raw Milk Le Gruyere Switzerland Cheese." The newer one says "raw milk" on the label, but not in the name of the product, though looking back at the older one, it's not entirely clear whether "raw milk" is intended to be part of the product name as I interpreted it to be at the time. The new one says "cave aged," while the older one said, "aged over 120 days." And, as mentioned, this one is wrapped in paper, not plastic. I suspect it ships packaged as you see it here, while I suspect that the older one was sliced, wrapped, and labeled at the store.

So, are they the same product, just with a different label now? I'm still not sure. What I am sure about is that I didn't like this one as much as I did the one two years ago. But I can't be confident whether that is because it's a different product (perhaps a different supplier to TJ's), or because it's genuinely the same product but with substantial batch-to-batch variation, or because it's really virtually identical to what I ate before, but my tastes have changed.

Compared to my previous description, this one was much harder, drier, harder to slice, with more of a rind at both long sides. And its flavor was less mild and pleasant--stronger and earthier. I didn't mind it (I worked my way through the whole chunk in just four evenings of snacking), but it didn't jump into my list of favorite cheeses.

Will I buy it again? 

Maybe. I'm curious to try another sample some day to gauge my reaction to it, and hope it's more like it was in 2015.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Raspberry Dried Fruit Bar

This is just like the apple-strawberry version, but with raspberry.

Because of that, I should like it better; raspberry beats strawberry as a general rule. But for reasons I can't articulate, I thought it wasn't quite as good. Close, though.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I'll be happy to keep both on hand.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Refresh Citrus Body Wash

I'm not a body-wash kind of guy. Gimme a bar of soap, like a real man. There was only one body wash I ever liked, and they stopped making it about 15 years ago, so I gave up on the whole genre. When I noticed this one at Trader Joe's, I decided I would (1) try it just to fill up a space in the blog, (2) hate it, and (3) pass it on to Nina to try.

Surprise! I like it. It smells of lemon, orange, and grapefruit--all of which are actual ingredients. But it's lightly fragrant enough that I don't feel bowled over by it. It's just...pleasant. It rinses off easily, leaving no discernible residue.

Will I buy it again? 

In advance of trying it, I would have bet 10:1 against this outcome, but yes. I think I'll mostly stick to my favorite two soaps (Dove and this lavender soap sold at TJ's), but bring this in once in a while for a little something different.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


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

New products spotted at Trader Joe's

8 unhealthy Trader Joe's snacks, and 8 great alternatives

4 things to buy at Trader Joe's instead of at Costco

5 ways to use Trader Joe's new coffee syrup

The untold truth of Trader Joe's

How to save money on groceries at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week--and for some reason, it's a BUMPER CROP of good ones (or maybe I was just in a weird mood, finding everything interesting or amusing this week):

A post shared by danicatrebelworldwide (@danicatrebelworldwide) on

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

Friday, May 26, 2017

Trader Joe's Girasoli Ricotta & Lemon Zest

I've had this twice now. Nina and I each bought it separately. She served it with a tomato sauce and fake ground beef. I served it with just butter.

Surprisingly, the latter worked better. Somehow, the lemon clashed with the tomato/meat sauce. It seemed too strongly lemony. But with just butter, it seemed toned down, in a better ratio with the cheese.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. I like the arugula, the cauliflower, and the goat cheese/tomato versions better than this one, so I think I would always pick one of those over this.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Strawberry Dried Fruit Bar

This is like "fruit leather," but made only from dried fruit--nothing added except ascorbic acid (vitamin C). No extra sugar, gums, etc.

And it's delicious.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. This is going to become a staple that I keep around all the time for snacking.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Corn Flakes

There's only one question here: How do these compare to Kellogg's?

Answer: They're pretty close. It's been a few years since I had any Kellogg's Corn Flakes, but I spent many years devouring them regularly, so I feel like I retain a good sense memory of the product. The Trader Joe's version seems a little less sweet. The flakes are a little smaller and thicker. But they're, like, 80% similar--close enough that you probably wouldn't notice if you weren't intentionally looking for differences. And nothing about the differences is a demerit to the TJ's; if anything, having less sugar added to the formula is probably a good thing.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Hatch Valley Salsa

I freely admit my prejudice: I have a strong preference for tomato-based salsas over non-tomato-based salsas. This selection is, obviously, the latter, so it comes to me with two strikes against it.

Its third strike is that its flavor is one-note, essentially just the Hatch chiles, as if there were nothing else in the jar. It's a little hotter than my ideal, but I'd be willing to forgive that if the flavors were richer and more interesting.

I didn't hate it; I finished it off in a few sittings. But I felt myself looking forward to getting back to my favorite, TJ's Fire Roasted Tomato Salsa.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, May 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Dishwasher Detergent Gel

In order not to use a detergent in the wrong machine again, I double-checked and then triple-checked this bottle. Yep, it definitely says "dishwasher" there. And those are clearly pictures of dishes on the front, not clothes. Then, just to be sure, I had Nina verify my impression. Being thus reasonably assured that I was doing it right, I squirted some into my dishwasher.

And the dishes came out clean!

As I've said many times, I prefer cleaning products not to be scented. This one is lemon, but very mildly so--pretty inoffensive. It didn't fill my apartment with sickening fake lemon while the machine was running, nor leave the dishes reeking of it.

Will I buy it again? 

Undecided. Though it has handled several ordinary loads of dishes just fine, I have not yet tried it with pots and pans with tough, cooked-on food remnants. I also had a hard time calculating its per-load price against my usual product, Trader Joe's Monodose Packs; because the amount to be used varies with the instructions for your particular model of dishwasher, there's no easy way to tell how many uses you can get from one container. I'm also not thrilled with the idea of adding more plastic jugs to the waste stream. So I'm leaning against ongoing use for now. But if it does a great job on pots and pans, and I can figure out a good cost estimate, that turns out to be competitive with the packs, I might buy it again.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


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

My Trader Joe's victory

Trader Joe's secrets

New Trader Joe's products for May

10 Trader Joe's meal hacks to make dinner easy

10 best buys at Trader Joe's

Favorite Trader Joe's items for easy, healthy eating

Trader Joe's makes its first entry into social media with an official Instagram account

Easy recipe for Thai coconut curry chicken from Trader Joe's ingredients

16 best weight-loss foods at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, it's not quite a cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, but it's a cute cat in a Trader Joe's potato chip bag. Close enough!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Trader Joe's Quiche Lorraine--Uncured Ham & Cheese

I found this to be surprisingly good. I had anticipated that any decent flavor and texture of the egg and cheese would be spoiled by freezing followed by microwaving. But in reality, judging just by the filling, I doubt that I would have been able to tell that it had undergone either process.

The crust was another matter, however. About half of it was fine, but the other half was soggy. This was likely due to uneven cooking in my microwave oven. I think you'd get a better result using the conventional-oven set of instructions, if you can take the extra time. (I usually do that on these products, but was feeling more impatient than usual today.)

There is very little ham--so little that almost nothing would be lost by leaving it out completely.

The portion size is listed as 1/4 quiche, with the whole thing making four servings. Yeah, no. That's absurd. Share it with one friend, and I think you'll still each be left wanting a little more.

Will I buy it again? 

No, because ham.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Sponge Candy


Look, I'm incredibly tolerant of sweets--even some things that are, by any reasonable measure, too sweet, such as TJ's English Butter Fudge. But there's got to be something to them other than just sugar (like, y'know, butter), and here there isn't. This is chocolate-coated sugar, period. If you like that, more power to you, but I don't.

I think I ate three pieces before deciding that the rest was going back to the store for a refund.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Arugula & Parmigiano Reggiano Ravioli

This was much better than I expected it to be. I'll tolerate arugula in a good salad, but I don't like it being the dominant flavor in anything. I thought that would be the case here, but it wasn't. Instead, it played nicely with the cheeses and pasta shells.

In fact, if I exclude the meat-containing ones (which I'm not going to be buying again), this ranks near the top of Trader Joe's raviolis that I've tried. It's a notch below my two favorites--the Roasted Cauliflower & Cheese, and the Goat Cheese & Sundried Tomato--but still excellent.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Birthday Cake Bar

Honestly, I thought this was going to be pretty terrible--all gimmick, no quality. I was mightily surprised to find, instead, that it was the best rendition of white chocolate I can remember ever eating.

What the label calls "cookies crumbs" are something crunchy, though I kind of doubt they're literally what's claimed. They add a wonderful contrasting texture, while the "sprinkles" add whimsical color.

I've never been much of a fan of white chocolate, but this was good enough to win me over to the non-dark side.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, May 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Campfire S'Mores Bar

Gimmicky? Sure. But it also turns out to be pretty good. I think the thing that really makes it work is the crunch from the graham "nuggets" that are embedded in the chocolate. There's also a little salt, which isn't exactly in the campfire tradition, but adds a nice touch of flavor contrast.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. Interesting and enjoyable to try once as a novelty, but there are so many chocolate things that I try, mainly for purposes of writing about them, that one has to really stand out as extra-special to make it a repeat purchase for me.

Saturday, May 13, 2017


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

Controversy when shopper is filmed making anti-Muslim comments in line at Trader Joe's

Snacks nutritionists buy at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's employee loses battle with bird

My favorite Trader Joe's finds

8 standout grocery stores with respect to price

Trader Joe's announces recall of Chocolate Mochi Ice Cream due to undeclared peanuts

19 Trader Joe's foods we keep our freezer stocked with

15 Trader Joe's recipes you should try

17 impossibly accurate Trader Joe's tweets

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Purple Carrot Juice

I knew that purple carrots existed. I did not know that anybody had used them to make juice. But leave it to Trader Joe's!

Even stranger than the color of this juice is its taste. If you had given me a glass of this stuff to drink with no hint about what it was, "carrot" would not have been in my first ten guesses. With almost every swallow I've taken of it, I've tried hard to match the flavor to my lifetime experience of what a carrot tastes like. No success at all. It's much sweeter than I would have imagined carrot juice could be--to the point that on my first sample of it, I walked back to the refrigerator to check the list of ingredients to see whether they had added sugar. Nope.

My best shot at a description is that it's like a beet juice base combined with either cherry or maybe grape. It's not exactly that, but that's what I would end up as my top guess in the blind taste test (with a lot of uncertainty).

Independent of my inability to recognize it, I didn't care for it much.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Chocolate Cara Cara Caramels

I get the feeling that somebody, somewhere, decided to make a candy combining caramel and a particular variety of orange as soon as they realized the name could be "Cara Cara Caramels." Kind of surprisingly, the combination works as well in terms of taste as it does in the name. Tasty, bite-sized morsels of goodness with an intriguing, well-calibrated blend of three dominant flavors.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, unless maybe as a gift to a chocolate lover. It was interesting and delightful to try once, but didn't endear me enough to keep going back for more.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Toscano Cheese With Black Pepper

Trader Joe's has kind of a fetish about adding stuff to Toscano cheese. I tried the version with cinnamon, and didn't care for it. I tried the version with Syrah, and thought it was OK.

And now for the black pepper. I'm generally not a fan of black pepper. I keep some on hand for guests and to add to recipes when called for, but I never put black pepper on food at the table. The traditional salt and pepper shakers are baffling to me, because I would never use the latter.

But I'm surprised to discover that here it makes for a truly excellent addition to the cheese. It's distinct enough to catch my attention, but still sitting in the background, rather than transforming this into a truly peppery cheese. Even more surprising was that the cheese wasn't nearly as crumbly as the other two versions were; I had no difficulty making thin slices to put on my crackers.

Going into this taste test, I really expected that this would either be so-so (try it once for the experience, but never again), or pretty bad (TOO MUCH PEPPER!). Nope. Instead, it shoots to near the top of my favorite Trader Joe's cheese varieties. It's not quite worthy of being on my all-time Top Ten list, but if I kept a separate list of my top ten TJ's cheeses, it would definitely be included.

Will I buy it again? 


Addendum, January 11, 2018: 

I tried this again this week for the first time since writing the above--and I liked it even more. Creamy and flavorful and interesting. It's a great way to break up my usual pattern of cheddar cheddar cheddar. I'm retroactively adding it to my Top Ten list.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Beef Bolognese Ravioli

Once in a while, I forget to take a picture of something new I bring home from Trader Joe's. This was one such time. I had to fish the container out of the trash when I sat down to write this and realized I didn't have a photo.

The center of this ravioli is stuffed with a mixture of ground beef and what is effectively a pasta sauce--tomato paste and seasonings. Kind of oddly, it's as if the marinara is on the inside, instead of needing to add it to the outside.

Will I buy it again? 

No, even though I liked it a lot. This joins a line of TJ's products that I will buy once to try, but not again, because of wanting to minimize the amount of meat--especially beef and pork--in my diet.

But there's another reason here. Look closely at the list of ingredients as shown above (which I did not do until I had already finished eating). This is the second time that TJ's has slipped veal into one of its products and disclosed it only in the fine print, not prominently. My tolerance for beef and pork is low, but not zero. My tolerance for veal is zero. If you told me that this is an indefensibly arbitrary ethical line of demarcation on my part, I wouldn't argue with you. It probably is. But it's what I choose anyway. As a result, I would not have bought this if I had noticed that ingredient.

Oops: This was supposed to publish Tuesday, May 9, but I messed up the settings and it ran early. Oh well. Now that it's out in the world, I won't try to call it back.

Trader Joe's Raspberry Tart

I'm not sure what makes this a "tart" instead of a "tarte," or even just a "pie." But it's raspberry, so it must be good, right?

I admit my bias: I love raspberries. So I was predisposed to like this--and I did. I ate a third of it on each of three consecutive evenings. Nina didn't even get a bite.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. Next time I'll give Nina a little itty-bitty sliver before I devour the rest, because I'm generous like that.

Saturday, May 6, 2017


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

Trader Joe's mannequin challenge

Trader Joe's ranked #2 in Consumer Reports survey of grocery store customers

10 Trader Joe's products never to leave off of your grocery list

5 Trader Joe's hummus flavors ranked

Things I wish I could find at Trader Joe's

Lawsuit says Trader Joe's truffle oil isn't truffle oil

12 simple Trader Joe's meal hacks for new parents

15 Trader Joe's secrets shoppers need to know

Best tweets of the week:

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

A post shared by Revi Mendelsohn 310-838-3056 (@mendelsohngroup) on

Friday, May 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Canneles De Bordeaux

I've procrastinated writing about this product for more than a month after having eaten it, because I couldn't figure out what to say about it. I liked the taste, but the texture was off--more chewy than crispy on the outside.

But I'm not sure I can blame the product, because it may have been a victim of what was then my failing freezer. I suspect it went through several freeze-thaw cycles, and spent at least a week at just-barely-below-freezing-point temperatures. So maybe it would have been better without all of that happening.

To be fair, I should buy it again now that I have a new freezer, and see if the texture problem is resolved. But I didn't really like it enough to bother buying it again. But maybe I would like it more if it weren't damaged by a wonky freezer. You see my dilemma in knowing what to say about it?

Will I buy it again? 

No, I'm afraid you'll just have to try it for yourself.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini 70% Cacao Dark Chocolate Bars

There's nothing special about these bars. But I would readily take them over the one I tried for yesterday's post. I had both in the house at the same time, and for several evenings I had a few bites of each side by side. This one is smoother, milder, and sweeter. Plus, it comes in individually wrapped small bars--which, while causing a bit of concern on the excessive packaging front, does neatly solve the problems of deciding how much to eat at one sitting and what to do with the leftover portion.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I just don't like eating plain dark chocolate enough to keep it around.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Fair Trade Organic 72% Cacao Belgian Dark Chocolate Bar

What, no "gluten-free" in the name?

This tasted to me like pretty standard--though unquestionably high-quality--dark chocolate. It wasn't nearly as surprising or interesting as the Dark Chocolate Lover's Chocolate Bar.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl

There are a lot of inventions that seem so obvious, as soon as you've seen or heard of them, that you can't believe the world was ever without them. The wheel. The abacus. The printing press. A mashup of pepperoni pizza and macaroni and cheese.

What--you've never heard of the last one? Well, now you have. And your life will never be the same. Not only will you eat this and like it, you'll spend the remainder of your mortal years kicking yourself for not being the one to think of it first.

Look, this isn't complicated. Do you like mac & cheese? Do you like pepperoni pizza? If the answer to both of those is "yes," then you'll like this. Period.

My only quibble is, once again, with TJ's claimed portion size. Two servings? Puh-LEEZ! If you can't snarf down this whole thing yourself, then you don't like it enough to bother buying it. And, frankly, I'd have to question whether you deserve to be eating it.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, but with the giant caveat that you can see coming from a mile away if you're a regular reader. I don't want beef and pork in my diet, at least not in more than tiny quantities. I would be even more enthusiastic about this product, and would buy it ten times as often, if they made it (or a second, alternative version) with a fake-meat pepperoni. As it is, it's so tasty that I'm compelled to add it to my Top Ten list, but actual purchases are going to be rare.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Cantal Cheese

I had never heard of Cantal cheese until it showed up as Trader Joe's feature cheese of the month.

Wikipedia says it's like cheddar. I disagree completely; it tastes nothing like cheddar to me. I didn't like it at first--too pungent and earthy. But it grew on me with time. I'm not sure if these adjectives are really appropriate, but it feels like a cheese that's not easily likable, and is, well, challenging.

Will I buy it again? 

I don't think so. I'm happy to have another different and previously unknown variety of cheese in my "tried it" folder, but I can't put it on my list of favorites.