Friday, June 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Ranch Seasoned Crispy Chickpeas



These have a delightfully crunchy texture. Just don't expect much of the claimed ranch seasoning to make an appearance. You get mostly salt, not much of anything else in terms of flavoring. I don't think that's bad, since I'm not a big fan of ranch dressing, but it will probably be disappointing to those who are.


Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. Nice to try once, but I think that's it.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Peaches & Cream Tarte


This appears to be the same basic product as the Pear & Persimmon Tarte, but with different filling. I think it's much better. Both main components of the filling--peaches and cream--are rich and prominent. The peach slices, however, were kind of tough, as if they weren't ripe. This marred an otherwise excellent pastry.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I liked it, and, besides, I want to see if the seemingly unripe peaches were a one-off flaw.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Trader Joe's Original Savory Thin Mini Crackers


I think these are made with the same recipe as the Original Savory Thins. But they have little of the unpleasant, bitter taste I detected in those. They're OK, but too small. I still managed to use them for scooping up some thick hummus and Chipotle Black Bean Dip. They were, surprisingly, strong enough for this without much breakage. One advantage is that they hold so little at a time that it feels like you've eaten a lot when you really haven't.


Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. The mini size is the main impediment to most uses.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Shaved Cheese Blend



This is a superb cheese blend. All three components are strong and flavorful, without clashing. It tastes great.

There are, however, some practical problems with its use. First, though I can't be absolutely sure of this, it seems that the three cheeses are shaved differently. I think all the smallest bits are Parmesan (and they're all on the bottom), and the largest are cheddar (and they're all on the top). It's hard to grab some and get a good mix of all three parts. Second, it started going moldy faster than bags of shredded cheese usually do. I don't know if that was an anomaly in my one sample, or if it's an intrinsic risk of the product. Third, it's expensive.

But if you can tolerate or work around those issues, you'll have a fine blend to work with.


Will I buy it again? 

Not regularly, but I expect there will be times that it will prove useful.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Trader Joe's Queso Cheese Dip



Good queso. Just the right amount of spiciness and chunkiness. Of course it's loaded with everything that's terrible for your diet, but you don't exactly buy queso because of its medicinal qualities, do you?


Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's too fat-laden to become a staple, but I think I'll indulge as an occasional treat.



Saturday, June 24, 2017

Roundup

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


12 of the best dips from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's beauty products

The best vegan products at Trader Joe's

10 things I buy from Trader Joe's for no-cook dinners

20+ summery snacks from Trader Joe's

Best frozen entrees from Trader Joe's

Make jalapeno margaritas with this Trader Joe's mixer

New products spotted on Trader Joe's shelves

Best frozen treats at Trader Joe's

Brits can't believe Trader Joe's is taking credit for inventing the sausage roll



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 Tracy Yndestad (@yndetr) on

Friday, June 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Gnocchi Alla Sorrentina


Pasta, tomato sauce, and cheese. Entirely serviceable, but also entirely boring.

Maybe it's just me, but the oddly ridged shape of these nuggets made me think of inset pupae:


(Photo from here.)




Will I buy it again? 

No.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Savory Thin Mini Rice Crackers--Multiseed With Tamari Soy Sauce


Here's a quick primer on tamari soy sauce, in case, like me, you don't know what it is. Turns out I like it, at least as it is embodied in these little crackers. They're crisp and savory, full of flavor. I used them to scoop up some Chipotle Black Bean Dip, and it was a better pairing than I imagined--the only problem being that the crackers are too tiny for effective scooping.


Will I buy it again? 

Tough call. I like the taste, but the size makes them impractical. If they came out with a version that was more standard cracker size, then definitely.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Marinara Sauce


I first learned of the existence of this sauce when in January my daily Google news dump for anything with "Trader Joe's" in it brought me this odd article about a man upset with Trader Joe's for discontinuing his favorite marinara sauce. I next heard about it in May, when the same man wrote about his "victory" in getting TJ's to bring it back.

Now, I don't know if his blog post caught TJ's corporate attention and made them reverse course. Given my experience with TJ's products randomly disappearing for a time and then reappearing, it seems to me more likely that whatever happened had nothing at all to do with his writing. They changed to a different supplier, or the supplier had a fire at the factory and took a while to get production ramped up again, or TJ's and the supplier had a dispute about pricing that took time to resolve. Who knows?

Anyway, when I first noticed it at my local TJ's recently, I naturally had to try it to see if it was as good as Joseph Farah claimed.

I'm here to tell you that it is.

I served it with spaghetti and a fake ground beef for a dinner with Nina. She was all "meh" about it, but I immediately took to it. I finished off the can over the next two days with the leftover pasta, and liked it more with each serving.

It tastes simple and pure. The ingredients list bears this out: tomatoes, tomato puree, olive oil, onions, herbs, garlic, salt. This is probably the first commercial pasta sauce without sugar added that I've really liked. It shares a tomato-y acidity with another TJ's marinara that I like.

The container is a bit odd. TJ's choice of a can instead of a traditional jar precludes the usual easy way of putting leftover sauce away. But I can just dump what's left into a reusable plastic tub. No big deal.

I'm sorely tempted to plop this right onto my Top Ten list. I'm going to resist, at least until I've had a chance to try it again after waiting a bit, to see if I still feel it's worthy. Whether or not it ever makes that list, it's definitely not only one of my favorite TJ's pasta sauces, but one of the best commercial pasta sauces I've ever had from any source.


Will I buy it again? 

Of course. I'm confident that it will become a staple.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Agua Fresca--Hibiscus Flavor


The only time I've knowingly had hibiscus was in one of the first products I reviewed when I started this blog in the summer of 2014. It was, to be precise, the fifth review I published here, and the first time I excoriated a TJ's product--Hibiscus Cranberry Juice Blend. That post was also the first time Nina used the term "melted lollipops." Sadly, it was not the last. The Hibiscus Cranberry proved to the first in a long line of awful TJ's juice blends.

Upon tasting this new TJ's product, I was surprised to find a sense memory to the Hibiscus Cranberry. I guess there really was some hibiscus hiding in it underneath all the cranberry, apple, and grape, because I recognized a similar flavor here--but much stronger and more pleasant.

I liked this, but did not love it. I almost always serve a small glass of some variety of TJ's juice with my weekly dinner with Nina. This bottle stretched for three consecutive weeks, because I never felt like drinking any at other times.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Trader Joe's California Persimmons


Yuck. These are dried, tough, cardboard disks, sprayed with the lightest, vaguest hint of essence of persimmon. Or at least that's how they seem. A major disservice to persimmons.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Roundup

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


Trader Joe's announces recall of Matcha Green Tea Ice Cream 

Trader Joe's announces recall of Grainless Granola

7 things you didn't know about Two-Buck Chuck

5 reasons Trader Joe's potato chips are the best

21 versatile Trader Joe's products and easy ways to use them

The 17 best Trader Joe's products, according to Today Show fans

New Trader Joe's products for June

12 of the best dips at Trader Joe's

Two things never to buy at Trader Joe's

Three ways to use Trader Joe's cauliflower pizza crust

10 weight-loss steals at Trader Joe's

Zero-waste grocery shopping at Trader Joe's



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 Christi Carter (@christiccarter) on

Friday, June 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Spinach Tortellini


Considering that this stuff is stuffed with stuff that should be flavorful foodstuff, it's not very stuffed with flavor. In fact, it's kind of stuffy.

Seriously, I was hard-pressed to distinguish either spinach or cheese in the filling. This should not be difficult. But the generic taste of pasta was easier to notice than either of what should be dominant flavors. This was more mysterious than disturbing, but it was kind of a turn-off. What's the point of having pasta stuffed with cheese and spinach if stuffing it with sawdust would give the same effect?


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Monterey Jack Cheese



Dull, boring, cheese, free of any discernible character. It will do if all you need is "some cheese"--because it is--but there's nothing here to enjoy, to savor, or to remember.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Strawberry Rhubarb Pie


When I was maybe 12, I tried strawberry-rhubarb pie for the first time, and decided that I didn't like rhubarb. I stuck to that conviction and never ate it again for the next 40+ years. But then my next-door neighbor shared with me some strawberry-rhubarb stuff (crisp? strudel? cobbler?) she had made, so I decided to try it--and it was fine. So on my next run to Trader Joe's, I bought this pie.

If you were eating it blindfolded, you probably wouldn't know there was any rhubarb in it. I found none of the promised tartness. The filling really just tasted like overly sweetened strawberry. The crust was better than average for a store-bought pie, though a little soggy on the bottom.


Will I buy it again? 

No. I ate it all (except for the one piece that Nina had), but nothing about it excited me.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Carrot Turmeric Juice Blend


This looks like regular ol' carrot juice, and the first one or two seconds that it's in your mouth, it tastes like regular ol' carrot juice. But then you get socked by the other stuff: black pepper, turmeric, and chili pepper. It's not bowl-you-over peppery, but it's definitely more than I expected.

I liked it at first. Then I set it aside for a week or so before I came back to finish it off, and I didn't like it much. My first sample seemed pleasantly bracing; the second was just jarring. The difference surely has much more to do with me being in some sort of different frame of mind the second time than any intrinsic change in the juice. But the result was that I couldn't bring myself to finish it, quite, and poured the last few ounces down the drain before chucking the bottle into the recycling bag.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Pollo Asado Burrito



This is one of the weirdest burritos I've ever had. The ingredients aren't too unconventional, but the overall flavor profile is. I taste basically two things: corn and sugar. If I pay attention, I can notice the presence of beans and rice, too. But while I can see the chicken and cheese, I sure can't taste them, even with effort. Really, what I kept thinking with every bite was, "Why is this so sweet? Burritos aren't supposed to be sweet."


Will I buy it again? 

No. It's weird, off-putting, and slightly disturbing. Plus there's the chicken thing.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Roundup

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


How to shop at Trader Joe's while traveling

18 Trader Joe's beers ranked

New Trader Joe's products for June

4 favorite affordable wines from Trader Joe's

Canadian TJ's reseller "Pirate Joe's" closes




Best tweets of the week:





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


Friday, June 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Camembert Cheese And Cranberry Sauce Fillo Bites


I once again either lost or somehow forgot to ever take a picture of this product when I brought it home, so I'm borrowing this one from Trader Joe's description of it, here.

I didn't treat this well. It sat in my freezer for way too many months before I got around to trying it. During that time I had a freezer failure, which probably subjected it to multiple freeze-thaw cycles and temperatures generally too warm for optimal preservation. Despite that abuse, these tiny pastries baked up with amazingly perfect, flaky texture.

There's not a lot here, volume-wise. Nina and I easily polished off all eight as a dessert.

I wished that the cranberry sauce were not as sweetened as it was; I wanted more tartness in the cranberry. Nina wanted a higher fruit:cheese ratio. But we both enjoyed them overall.


Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. But if I lost my mind and did something crazy like host a party, they'd make a nice little thing to pass around.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Japanese Style Fried Rice With Edamame, Tofu And Hijiki Seaweed


Well, this is unlike anything I've eaten before. I've never knowingly had anything with seaweed in it, and my experiences with tofu can be counted on one hand. The third accent ingredient, edamame, was completely unknown to me until I started writing this blog, though I now eat it regularly in TJ's Soycutash, which is one of my favorite frozen veggies combos.

I'm not in love with the combination, but I didn't object to it nearly as much as I might have. Nina and I ate about half the bag as part of dinner, and I finished the rest with lunches over the next two days. There's a whole bunch of different flavors going on here, and since some of them are outside my little zone of familiarity--soy sauce, rice wine--I don't know how to unpack or analyze them.


Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, but Nina liked it, so I won't be surprised if I encounter it again at her house--and that will be OK.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar Corn, Black Bean & Pepper Salsa


I probably shouldn't have purchased this, because I knew that the chances of me liking it were slim to none. Salsa made primarily of corn and beans? Ridiculous.

I was so sure I would hate it that even after bringing it home, it sat on my pantry shelf for months before I decided that it was finally time to force myself to try it. It sat so long that I somehow misplaced the photo I had taken of it, and had to filch the one you see above from Trader Joe's web site. (In case you're interested, here's the company's own description of the product.)

And then, like Mikey in the old Life cereal commercial, I surprised everybody--myself not least--by actually liking it. "He likes it! Hey, Mikey!"

Nina and I ate maybe a third of the jar with tortilla chips as an appetizer before dinner a few days ago. Then last night I polished off the rest of the jar on my own, in one sitting, and I was liking it more and more with every bite--this in spite of the fact that it's hotter than my ideal salsa. It's sweeter than most salsas, which probably plays no small part in my fondness for it. I dig its complex mix of textures and flavors.


Will I buy it again? 

It's already on my shopping list for the next TJ's run. I think it's effectively tied for second place in my list of favorite TJ's salsas with the Fall Harvest (though those two products could not be more different), with the Fire-Roasted Tomato still champion.


Addendum, June 29, 2017: 

I bought another jar. I sat down to eat some with tortilla chips, and couldn't stop. I went through the entire 13-ounce jar in one sitting, all by my lonesome. I really love this stuff. I think I like it even better than my previous favorite. So, it's time to add this to my Top Ten list.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Cage-Free Fresh Hard-Cooked Peeled Eggs


What you see (through the back of the package, which is clear) is what you get: hard-boiled eggs, cooked and peeled for you, ready to eat, slice, make into deviled eggs, or whatever.

They tasted fine, and they were perfectly cooked. No icky green tinge around the edge of the yolk.

How much do you pay for this luxury? $2.69 for six eggs. That's $5.38 per dozen. One dozen of TJ's organic, cage-free eggs cost $4.39 (or at least they did when I priced them two years ago). So it's costing you an extra dollar to have the cooking and peeling done on 12 eggs.

When I bought these, I thought that the whole idea of buying pre-cooked eggs was a ridiculously lazy indulgence. But now that I do the math, it seems less ridiculous. Of course, you're stuck with hard-boiled eggs, instead of all the other things you might want to do with eggs. But if you're OK with that limitation, I don't think that spending 50 cents to save the time and trouble of cooking and peeling six eggs is crazy.


Will I buy it again? 

I served these as part of dinner with Nina last night. She said, "You're never going to buy these again, are you?" I said no. But I've changed my mind. I don't eat hard-boiled eggs often--but one of the reasons is that it seems like a lot of fuss to make them (especially the peeling part, which never seems to go quite right). Buying six already prepared, I could eat two at a time three times over the course of, say, a week, and that would probably satisfy my interest in hard-boiled eggs for a few months. I'm thinking now that this is a thing that I just might do. (Shhhh--don't tell Nina.)


Monday, June 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Mango Dried Fruit Bar



This is the last of the four versions of this product. Sadly, it's also the least enjoyable. As with the apricot, the balance is off--but even more so. I had to concentrate hard to find any mango here. It was just apple apple apple. This isn't an intrinsically terrible thing; I'd buy a "dried apple bar." But it's not what the wrapper promises.


Will I buy it again? 

In spite of my griping, yes. I don't like this or the apricot varieties as much as the strawberry and raspberry, but I'll keep them all coming home with me.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Roundup

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


Aldi vs. Trader Joe's Hatch chile salsas

Pirate Joe's trademark infringement case prepares for trial

6 best frozen TJ's meals to bring to work

Try these 7 Trader Joe's cauliflower products

The one thing you have to try at Trader Joe's

The 8 best things to buy at Trader Joe's that aren't food

10 fancy party foods from Trader Joe's



Best tweets of the week:





And finally, in lieu of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, here's a cute kid in a Trader Joe's grocery bag:


Friday, June 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Apricot Dried Fruit Bar



I adore apricots, so I had predicted that this would be my favorite of the four versions of Trader Joe's Dried Fruit Bars.

It wasn't. I like it just fine, but didn't love it. There's just too much apple and not enough apricot.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I think I'll still get all four of them in equal numbers, for the sake of variety.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Brownie Mix



My experience with Trader Joe's gluten-free products has been a decidedly mixed bag. Some have been perfectly normal products that you wouldn't know or care are gluten-free--like this. Some have been a little less desirable than the regular products for which they substitute, but would be only a modest compromise if one needed to avoid gluten--like this. And some have been just awful, completely inedible--like this.

So I had no way to predict where this brownie mix would fall on that spectrum. Trader Joe's, predictably, touts the resultant brownies as "Thick and rich, a little chewy, and wonderfully chocoately [sic]." Are they?

Yes, they really are. They have an admirable texture, marred only by being a little granular. I've now eaten enough products made from rice flour that I recognized its flavor, even before checking the list of ingredients to confirm my suspicion that that was the main constituent--but that was only a minor detraction. I think they're a little sweeter than I consider ideal, but, again, that's a small demerit.

All in all, I would deem these a perfectly acceptable substitute for a regular brownie mix. I'd even call them surprisingly good.


Will I buy it again? 

No. I won't be buying this mix again because I think several regular products are better. But if I needed a gluten-free diet, I would be ever so grateful to have this option available. It's possible that this is as good as a gluten-free brownie mix can get.