Monday, July 31, 2017

"The Loving Dead" by Amelia Beamer

You visit this site for Trader Joe's product reviews, and end up with a post about a sexy zombie novel. What has gone wrong?

Well, nothing, really. Today you just get a different kind of Trader Joe's post. You see, the characters in this novel are Trader Joe's employees, and one of the major scenes takes place at their store.

Look, this isn't high art. But it's better-written than you'd expect from the genre. It's a fun, fast read. And it's the first novel I've ever read where Trader Joe's features prominently.

Here's the summary from Amazon, where you can buy it in various formats:
Kate and Michael are roommates living in the Oakland hills, working at the same Trader Joes supermarket. A night of drunken revelry changes their lives forever, but not in the way that anyone would expect. A slow-spreading plague of zombie-ism breaks out at their house party, spreading amongst their circle of friends, and simultaneously through the Bay Area. This zombie plague — an STD of sorts — is spread through sex and kissing, turning its victims into mindless, horny, voracious killers. Thrust into extremes by this slow- motion tragedy, Kate and Michael are forced to confront the choices they've made in their lives, and their fears of commitment, while trying to stay alive and reunite in the one place in the Bay Area that's likely to be safe and secure from the zombie hoards: Alcatraz.

Saturday, July 29, 2017


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

12 best vegan finds at Trader Joe's

New Trader Joe's products for July

Best and worst Trader Joe's cookies

15 Trader Joe's breakfast staples

10 Trader Joe's beauty buys

What to buy at Trader Joe's

10 delicious dairy-free snacks from Trader Joe's

13 things that prove Trader Joe's is the greatest grocery store

10 best Trader Joe's snacks for under $5

7 Trader Joe's foods pretty enough for Instagram

12 back-to-school essentials

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 Στεφανία Αναστασία (@steph.maks) on

Friday, July 28, 2017

Lenny & Larry's The Complete Cookie--Double Chocolate

The first of this line that I tried, the plain chocolate chip, was bad enough that I probably would not have bought its companion here had I known. But I bought them both at the same time, so I guess fate had ordained that I try them both.

This one is marginally better, but not enough to actually be good. It, too, lacks the sweetness one expects from a cookie. Nina had half of it, and said it seemed to be just a single note throughout.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Ricotta & Spinach Filled Ravioli With Tomato Basil Sauce

Unlike most of the many refrigerated variations on the ravioli theme we've tried from Trader Joe's, this one is frozen. That means that it's not suitable for the familiar boiling-water method of preparation. Instead, TJ's offers you either microwave or stove-top directions. I chose the latter, which involves adding water and olive oil.

It came out great, in terms of texture and temperature. I liked the flavor of the ravioli itself--cheese and spinach both discernible, without either one dominating too much.

But the tomato sauce in which they're bathed is a disappointment. Nina characterized it as "Literally no flavor."

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trader Joe's White Pine Moisturizing Hand Soap and Lotion

This pair comes as you see it, including the little wire rack to keep them together. I bought it in December, so it's possible that it's a seasonal item. I haven't checked to see if it's available all year.

It's a reasonably attractive set, I'll give it that. But otherwise, I do not like. The soap is way too heavily scented for my taste. And pine? Well, if I close my eyes and try to force myself to interpret what I'm smelling as "pine," maybe. But it's sure not anything like a close match to my sense-memory of how a pine tree smells.

The lotion is light, yet takes forever to absorb. By about three minutes into trying to get it to be finished with the absorption process, I began to feel that I might still be rubbing my lotioned-up hands together as the heat death of the universe approached.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Four Cheese Jumbo Ravioli

Trader Joe's has produced a whole lot of different raviolis. This one isn't as interesting as some of the more oddball varieties, but it's high-quality and tastes great. And unlike virtually every other ravioli variant I've had from TJ's, none of them broke open while tumbling about in the boiling water.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. There are some of the more unconventional kinds that I've liked better, but if I wanted a straightforward cheese ravioli, this would be my first choice.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Lemon Ginger Herbal Flavored Water

See here for my comments on this product's shelfmate, the lemongrass-spearmint version.

I like this one less. It has both lemon and ginger flavors readily apparent, and the ginger certainly kicks it up a notch over ordinary lemon water. But it still lacks the interesting little zing that the spearmint delivers in the other one.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I drink a lot of water, but--heathen that I am--I'm content to get it from the kitchen faucet. No lemon, no ginger, no "organic." Just wet.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


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

Trader Joe's has better prices than the new

Shopping tips from Trader Joe's employees

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Jalapeno Limeade

Trader Joe's is making a big sales push on this; I've heard promos for it several times on the radio. Apparently its main intended use is as a margarita mixer. Well, I don't make margaritas, so I'm stuck with just drinking it straight.

Which turns out to be a pretty good thing to do. It's completely different from anything else I've ever had. The jalapeno is much stronger than I anticipated, and it's great--bracing, without getting into the "painful" zone. Its pairing with the lime is perfect.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's not going to be an every day sort of thing, but I'd like to revisit it now and then.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Caramel Ginger Popcorn

And yet again I seem to have misplaced the photo I took of this. I don't know why this is happening so often lately. But the one above is swiped from Trader Joe's own introduction to the product, here.

It's pretty good stuff. The caramel is lighter than it is in my favorite commercial caramel popcorn, which is TJ's own--one of the first members of my Top Ten list. But in compensation, you get the lovely bits of crystallized ginger clinging to some of the popped kernels. This adds a surprising snappiness to the flavor profile.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. If you have any inclination to try it, I'd encourage you to do so. It's an interesting variation on a traditional idea. But I think I'd always choose my long-time favorite over this.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Lenny & Larry's The Complete Cookie--Chocolate Chip

I gather that this is suppose to be a more healthful alternative to standard cookies. And I assume that it achieves that goal. But it does so at the cost of tasting good. It's just not as sweet as a cookie should be. It's probably not quite into the cardboard/sawdust zone, but it's much closer to that territory than a cookie should be.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Spinach Lasagna

Easy to prepare. Decent flavors in the noodles, cheese, and tomato sauce. But way, way too much spinach. It's like stacks of spinach, interspersed with the occasional layer of pasta or cheese.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, July 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Blueberry Vanilla Chevre

I had seen this in the Trader Joe's cheese section many times, but I always passed it by. I thought it looked too weird to enjoy. Even after I bought it, it sat uneaten in my refrigerator for about three weeks, because I was so leery of its strangeness that night after night I saw it sitting there, but picked something else for my nighttime snack, telling myself that I'd get to the weird cheese "tomorrow."

Now, this isn't an entirely rational attitude. After all, I've tried cheese with cinnamonsriracha sauceblack pepperpaprikaSyrahpestobaconapricotsapple pie ingredientssmoked chilesrosemary and olive oil, and apple and cinnamon, and I liked most of them, so I shouldn't perceive this stuff as too far outside my experience. And yet I did.

But I had to try it because of having made a promise. I recently gained two new neighbors in the apartment next to mine. When they learned of my odd TJ's blogging hobby, one of them, Kendra Warren, told me this was her favorite TJ's thing, and said I had to try it, and I promised that I would. That's why I bought it, and that's why backing out on the taste test wasn't an option, despite my trepidations. Besides, how bad could it be? I like cheese, I like vanilla, and I like blueberries.

So I finally got to it. Verdict: It's just as peculiar as I had anticipated. Vanilla and blueberry are not flavors that my tongue expects when I tell it that a piece of cheese is incoming.

The main problem I have with this product is that it's hard to tell it's cheese. The blueberries so dominate the flavor that it's hard for me to tell that anything else is there. Even when I carefully cut around them to try some blueberry-free cheese, I tasted mostly vanilla (which seems to be blended into the cheese, not just added to the surface). If Clara Peller were doing a TV commercial, she'd bark, "Where's the cheese?"

Also, this is the messiest cheese I think I've ever tried. I found no way to attack it that didn't involve getting most of my fingers sticky and stained blue. It's about as soft as cheese can be without actually flowing, so it's hard to slice.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I enjoyed eating it--much more than I had thought I would, in fact. But that's because I like blueberries (in this case, with a little vanilla added in), not because I like it as cheese.  So if I want blueberries, I'll eat some blueberries. If I want cheese, I'll select something else. Sorry, Kendra! De gustibus non est disputandum. 

Speaking of my friend Kendra, a little plugging is in order. She is a fine musician and model, and you should seek out/listen to/hire her as appropriate. Here's a fun music video she did, singing the true story of her dad burning down the mountain on which the family home sat:

Saturday, July 15, 2017


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

History of Trader Joe's

The 7 healthiest frozen foods at Trader Joe's

Best Indian foods from Trader Joe's

15 Trader Joe's desserts for when you're feeling something sweet

The best and worst of Trader Joe's granola bars

6 Trader Joe's products that are meal-prepping game-changers

Best French foods at Trader Joe's

The 12 best Trader Joe's macarons

Price comparison of 5 discount grocers

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Lemongrass Spearmint Herbal Flavored Water

I would never have purchased this if not for this blog and my attempt to try every new TJ's product that I think won't be completely terrible.

I know I've had lemongrass before, because I recognize it as an ingredient from the menus of Asian restaurants. But I don't have any sense of what it is supposed to taste like on its own. Or at least I didn't until now.

I didn't mind it, but I'm not wowed by it, either. The more interesting part is the little aftertaste and tingle that comes from the touch of spearmint thrown in.

Will I buy it again? 

No. This belongs in the big category of "things I'm glad I tried once, but don't need in my life in the future."

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Calamansi Cooler

Try to read about calamansi and you'll end up more confused than before you started. It seems to also be called calamondin, golden lime, Panama orange, and several other names. It is thought to be a hybrid of mandarin orange and kumquat.

Anyway, its juice, as presented here by Trader Joe's, is pleasant enough. This is not, however, anything like a pure fruit juice, as the "beverage" wording on the can sort of warns you. Water is the first ingredient, followed by sugar, and only then we get to the calamansi puree.

Fortunately, it doesn't taste like overly sweetened glop. It's light, citrusy, refreshing. Both Nina and I thought that it would be improved by light carbonation, though. She said it reminded her most of kumquat, but I don't have enough sense memory of kumquat to have an opinion on that. (In fact, I don't even remember ever having eaten kumquats, but Nina insists that she has seen me do so.)

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Mashed Cauliflower

I lost the picture I took of this, so the one above is stolen from Trader Joe's introduction to the product, here. This accident conveys the additional advantage that you can see the form the stuff takes--those frozen pellets in the background. That should make it easy to dispense and prepare a consistent amount when you don't want the whole bag at once.

But for me, that convenience is about all this item has going for it. Sure, it's cauliflower, and tastes as cauliflower should. But I eat plenty of cauliflower as it is; I don't need more in my diet. And sure, it has fewer carbohydrates than an equivalent amount of mashed potatoes, but I don't feel any need to avoid carbs by such substitutions. Worse, it came out watery and soupy, despite my having followed the cooking directions. And vegans, take note: This is not for you, as it is made with milk and cream.

Will I buy it again? 

No. This is just not a thing I need in my life. I'll continue to eat my broccoli/cauliflower mix in native form several times a week. And on the occasions that I want mashed potatoes, I'll have mashed potatoes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Mango & Cream Ice Cream

I remember in the 1980s when the first Macintosh computers hit the market, it was amazing that the font of text you saw on the screen was the same as would come out of the printer. This phenomenon was so out of step with the PCs that had gone before that it quickly developed a semi-pronounceable acronym: WYSIWYG--"what you see is what you get." Nobody uses that anymore because it has now been established as the norm for so long that it doesn't need to be specified or talked about.

Well, I'd resurrect WYSIWYG for this ice cream. Both the name of the product and the photo on the carton perfectly capture what you can expect from it. It's a swirled blend of mango ice cream and unflavored--i.e., "cream"--ice cream.

It's quite good. The mango is neither overpowering nor overly sweetened, but just right. The cream portion tastes like real cream--presumably because it is.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'm happy to have tried it once, and it's probably as good as a product of this general description can be, but it didn't wow me enough to want more.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Sourdough Boule

I had never heard of a boule before spotting this new sourdough on the shelves at Trader Joe's. Here's Wikipedia's helpful information:
Boule, from the French for "ball", is a traditional shape of French bread, resembling a squashed ball. It is a rustic loaf shape that can be made of any type of flour. A boule can be leavened with commercial yeast, chemical leavening, or even wild yeast sourdough. The name of this bread is the reason a bread baker is referred to as a "boulanger" in French, and a bread bakery a "boulangerie."
This is decent sourdough bread. It's perhaps somewhat lacking in the distinctive sourdough bite, but, as if in compensation, it has a superior crust--thick and chewy, with an attractive glaze.

Its main downside for me is the shape of the slices. They just vary too much from one end of the loaf to the middle and then to the other end. Two slices of toast from the middle can be twice as much bread as two slices from near an end. I consider this unacceptable.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, July 8, 2017


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

Trader Joe's vs. Whole Foods, state by state

9 Trader Joe's products you need for the 4th of July

Best new products from Trader Joe's

The best and worst of Trader Joe's pasta

Trader Joe's announces recall of CLIF brand bars 

Best knockoff products 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:

A post shared by Margaret Mae (@xfilesmaven) on

Friday, July 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Sweet Corn, Burrata & Basil Ravioli

Yet another in Trader Joe's seemingly endless line of ravioli variants.

I like the appearance, with that unusual orange stripe. But that's about it for the enjoyment. One of them fell apart in the boiling pot of water, leaving a mess of corn kernels and granular cheese floating around. And they're just not that pleasurable to eat. The corn is an odd match with the pasta shell and the cheese, and the basil seems to be completely missing in action.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Driscoll's Sunshine Raspberries

Just like regular red raspberries, except kind of yellowish in color. Nothing wrong with them, but I have a hard time seeing the point, unless it's just to add some variety to the appearance of a fruit plate.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Sriracha English Cheddar Cheese

I expected this to be pretty bad, but I tried it anyway and got a pleasant surprise. I actually like it a lot. The heat is just about right to form a pleasant and interesting contrast with the mildness of the cheese, without becoming just a mouthful of solidified hot sauce.

There is, however, a problem with texture. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see that there are little clumps of white and orange cheese. I don't know what process they use to add the sriracha, but it's obviously the cause of this clumpiness. They don't stick together well. Try to slice the cheese, and it tends to crumble--not because it's hard and dry, but because it's literally incoherent. This is an annoyance to an eater who likes nice, clean, uniform cheese slices.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's not an all-time favorite, but it's good enough and unusual enough to make for a nice break from the cheese routine once in a while.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

This is the third in the "gluten-free, crispy-crunchy cookie" product line, following the Ginger Chunk and Chocolate Chip versions. My feeling about them is about the same as for those varieties: They're OK, and perhaps a godsend if you really need to avoid gluten, but not as good as standard cookies. On my personal preference scale, they're roughly tied with the chocolate chip, not as nice as the ginger chunk.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, July 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Agua Fresca--Pineapple Mango With Natural Mint Flavor

For the most part, this is what you'd expect--good but unremarkable pineapple-mango juice. The surprise comes mostly in the aftertaste, when the shot of mint kicks in, and it works nicely. I don't think I've ever had juice with mint in it before. It's a different experience, well worth trying.

Will I buy it again? 

No. You should definitely try it once, though.

Saturday, July 1, 2017


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

10 best new Trader Joe's products of 2017

Costco versus Trader Joe's wine

The 16 best Italian foods at Trader Joe's

Vegan shopping list for Trader Joe's

13 paleo snacks from Trader Joe's

17 Trader Joe's essentials for easy summer sides

What a nutritionist buys at Trader Joe's

Guide to Trader Joe's Greek yogurt

Best and worst Trader Joe's ice cream flavors

Best tweets of the week:

Sadly, I don't have a new photo of a cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag to share.