Monday, December 31, 2018

Trader Joe's Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips--Chili & Lime Flavored



I started seeing notes on Twitter about this product a couple of weeks ago, every one of which was along the lines of, "OMG! Trader Joe's has its own Takis now and they're fabulous!"

I could tell just from the name of the product that I would surely like it. But I had never heard of Takis. I looked it up and learned that they make a bunch of different flavors of rolled tortilla chips, and that this new TJ's item is a close match to the most popular one, called "Fuego."

Sadly for me, a couple more trips to my local TJ's failed to turn up this hot (in more ways than one) new thing. But last night, Nina presented me with a bag. Lately it seems that her TJ's runs are more fortuitously timed than mine.

They are fabulous, just as everyone was saying. They're powerfully flavored, with both the chili and the lime being ramped up to 11. They're perfectly fried, making them super crunchy without being at all brittle, with that unpleasant sensation of pieces flying off everywhere. Even if they were unflavored, they would be extremely satisfying to bite into.

Nina was offering me some new dip to go along with these chips. I never even tried it. First, the shape of these makes them less than ideal vehicles for scooping up dip. But more importantly, they were just so damn good by themselves that I didn't want to alter the experience.

Sitting down to write this review, I wondered if there were any dissenting voices. I found three other reviews online so far--here, here, and here. No dissenters; they are all enthusiastically cheering the arrival.

I agree. This is a sure-fire hit, and so good it's being inducted into my Top Ten list.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes yes yes yes yes. It's one of the rare items that's going on all three of the lists that I keep in the upper-right corner: buy again, staples, and top ten. I think it's going to be one of the handful of TJ's snacks that I keep on hand nearly all the time.

Now place your bets on which other flavors in the Takis lineup TJ's will rip off next. Maybe the chili and cheese?

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Roundup

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


The "meatballs" that fooled my meat-loving husband




Best tweets of the week:












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

Friday, December 28, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Green Vegetable Foursome


We need to finish out Christmas week with...something really boring and non-Christmasy, like frozen vegetables.

I was not expecting this to be seasoned, as there is no such indication on the front of the package. But it is, and I didn't much like it. I would have been fine with the broccoli, peas, beans, and zucchini by themselves. I didn't pull the bag out of the garbage, so I can't tell you what herbs and spices they use for the seasoning. All I can say is that I found them a detriment rather than a complement to the veggies.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Trader Joe's Spanish Cheese Tapas Sampler



I first (and last) tried Iberico cheese just short of four years ago; see here. I liked this new one more than that old review says, though I don't know if my tastes have shifted (they definitely have on many other things), or if this is a different variety/manufacturer. It seems more rich, flavorful, and distinctive than I recorded previously.

With Manchego, I again had my first experience via Trader Joe's, and because of writing this blog; see here. Strangely, though I was enthusiastic about it, I never went back for more. Maybe they stopped selling it, or maybe I didn't remember how much I liked it. I'm not sure. (EDIT: They did not stop selling it. I bought a block of it last night.) That's one of the hazards of trying to review a new thing every day for years--some excellent items get forgotten. Anyway, I liked these little Manchego wedges just as much as I did the one back in 2016. I'll have to look for blocks of it at the store and try to get acquainted again.

The Cabra Al Vino (a.k.a. "Drunken Goat") was the new one for me, and the only one of the three that I didn't care for. I couldn't detect the wine-infused flavor that I expected, and it had a slightly bitter edge to it. It wasn't terrible, and I ate it along with the others, but it didn't make me a fan the way its partners did. As regular reader/commenter T.T. Rockwood said of goat cheeses generally, "They ALL have that goat-y funk and taste vaguely like wet barn." This one wasn't as bad in that way as some others, but even a little goat funk it too much for me, apparently.


Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. I would rather buy blocks of the Iberico and Manchego by themselves. But this sampler would make an excellent addition to a cheese tray for a party. The wedges even come pre-sliced for your convenience.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Soup


I bought this in October, during the relatively brief time that it was available, but didn't get around to trying it until two weeks ago.

I liked it more than I anticipated, seeing as I'm almost never thrilled with pumpkin/squash stuff. But it's much more tomato and carrot than pumpkin and squash. It's thick, creamy, chunky, and slightly sweet.


Will I buy it again? 

Maybe next year, if they bring it back. It was a nice side dish for a dinner with Nina, and she liked it even more than I did.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Trader Joe's Mini Peppermint Meringues


These are little bomblets of sugar, held together by some egg white, flavored with peppermint. There's nothing wrong with that formula--but by the same token, there can't be that much great about it. They're plenty tasty, but your mouth and brain will be left with no doubt that all you're eating is fluffed-up minty sugar.

Can we talk about the serving size here? Take a look at this:



11 cookies? First, they're not "cookies." Call them "pieces," or "meringues." But 11? ELEVEN? Eating 11 of these would be like one of those stupid "challenge" fads that kids these days like to film themselves doing, like eating cinnamon or an ultra-hot pepper. I'm convinced that eating 11 of these would put you in the hospital, needing an IV insulin drip. I had four, and even though I liked them, that was plenty, and probably one more than the optimal serving size. The thought of tripling that makes me ill.


Will I buy it again? 

No. Nice, but solidly in the once-was-enough category.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Trader Joe's Mint Flavored Fudge Brownie Bar



Well, as you can see from the photo and the description on the package, you've got a brownie base, then a layer of minty-creamy stuff, then a layer of chocolate stuff with green sprinkles. It all works surprisingly well for store-bought brownies, which have a long track record of being disappointing. The mint portion brings a nice complementary flavor, without being overpowering or toothpasty.

It's sold frozen, but I assume that's only so they don't have the fast turnaround problem that fresh baked goods necessarily carry; it's not to be served that way.


Will I buy it again? 

No. It was pleasant, but once was enough. I have my favorite brownies, and it ain't these.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Roundup

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

6 desserts from Trader Joe's perfect for holiday parties

Woman sues Trader Joe's, claiming not enough honey in cereal

Preview of new Trader Joe's products coming in 2019

Recall of RXBARs sold at Trader Joe's

Building a grocery store with cult-like fans

Why I go to Trader Joe's three times a day



Best tweets of the week:











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



Friday, December 21, 2018

Trader Joe's Mini Stroopwafel Ice Cream Sandwiches


Yes, they're good. But no, they're not as amazing as people on social media seem to think.

You have to look closely to see, but the waffles are each filled with caramel, in addition to the ice cream being caramel-flavored. I thought that was the best part, but Nina thought it was too much.

The "salted" portion of the "salted caramel" is pretty understated, and they might have been even better if it were more prominent.


Will I buy it again? 

No. Enjoyable, but there are many other desserts and ice creams that I like better. Well worth trying at least once, though, for the novelty.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Herbaceous Cheesy Bites


OK, after three not-very-good products leading out this week, now we're getting to the good stuff. These make an excellent appetizer, just bursting with cheesy goodness. The breaded coating is lovely, with a nice blend of seasonings--not too garlicky at all, despite garlic being called out on the front of the box. Nina and I eagerly gobbled down the entire box of them before we had even started on dinner.

As with nearly all TJ's frozen products, you would be well advised to give them several minutes in the oven beyond what the package recommends.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes, for sure. Not quite a Top Ten, but really enjoyable.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Trader Joe's Lightly Breaded Fish Sticks--Reduced Fat


This is the third post in a row featuring new (or at least new to us) items that Nina served me at a recent dinner at her house.

After trying some of these, I suggested that a more accurate product name would be "Vaguely Fish-Flavored Breaded Protein Sticks." They have clearly been run through the full thrashings of the Trader Joe's Blandification Committee.


Will I buy it again? 

No. But that's not saying much, because I never buy fish, except for canned tuna. I didn't mind eating these, but that was mostly because the breading was kinda nice, not because of what was inside.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Riced Cauliflower Stuffing


I would never have purchased this for myself, due to the prominent warning about leeks and onions on the package. But Nina bought it and served it with dinner recently, so I tried it.

It's just way too oniony for me. This is not news. After all, even having an onion in the same room with me is "too oniony" for me. The news is that it was also too oniony for Nina. That takes some doing.

She also wished to register a complaint that despite preparing it exactly as per the directions for the stovetop, it came out too wet and mushy.


Will I buy it again? 

Not a chance.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Dried Sweetened Hibiscus Flowers



This is a new and unusual Trader Joe's product. I've never seen any kind of flowers for sale as a foodstuff, as far as I can recall.

You can see what they look like in the second photo above. Nina combined some of them with fresh raspberries and some of TJ's excellent Classic Lemon Bars. They look distinctly...alien.

The little bit I know about what hibiscus tastes like I learned from a few previous Trader Joe's products. Even after eating a few of these dried hibiscus flowers last night, I still can't call to mind what they taste like, in the same way I can with the raspberries or the lemon bar. But at least now I recognize it, and when I was chewing on the flowers, I thought, "Oh yeah, I do remember having that before."

They're overly sweetened, so my impression was simultaneously the memory of hibiscus and a rather overwhelming amount of sugar. It would have been a better and more interesting experience if they had cut that back by half.

They have a pleasantly chewy texture, similar to that of several other dried fruits.


Will I buy it again? 

No. I had been looking for this on the shelves since learning of its existence several weeks ago, but Nina spotted it before I did. I'm glad I tried it, and I'd probably finish off the bag if it were in my house, but I didn't like these dried flowers enough to get a second bag.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Roundup

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


30 holiday treats from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's is getting a bad rap for its plastic packaging

Never wear yoga pants to Trader Joe's

The 16 wildest Trader Joe's snacks of 2018

Trader Joe's pulls takeout containers over chemical concerns

8 best pre-made appetizers from Trader Joe's

Working at Trader Joe's has set me up for success

The best stocking stuffers to get at Trader Joe's

9 popular meat-substitute products

14 new things to try at Trader Joe's in December

Trader Joe's gift ideas



Best tweets of the week:

















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


Friday, December 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic French Rolls


Good dinner rolls. I'm not sure there's anything particularly French about them, but so what?


Will I buy it again? 

Maybe once in a while. But on the rare occasions that I have dinner rolls, I really prefer them somewhat smaller. I think I would usually pick TJ's Pain Au Lait or crescent rolls.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels




I think this is the first Trader Joe's-branded product I've seen that doesn't say "Trader Joe's" on the front. That's why I'm including a picture of the side of the box, where one finds the brand name. Odd.

This is obviously meant as a stocking-stuffer kind of gift. That dark brown insert in the front is a removable gift card.

There's only four chocolates inside. They're nice--rich and flavorful. The chocolate, caramel, and salt work together as well as we've come to expect, given that this combination has been used by TJ's many times before.


Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. But it's possible I could purchase another to be used as intended--as a small gift in an appropriate circumstance.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Trader Joe's Aloo Chaat Kati Pouches


This is one of what must be many, many items at Trader Joe's that have been around for a long time (this one at least since 2013, I've discovered) but that have somehow escaped my attention over dozens of shopping trips. Nina had had them before and was surprised that I had not.

I didn't know what "aloo chaat" meant. (Answer: "savory potato snack," roughly.) I didn't know what "kati" meant. (Answer: "mostly any wrap containing a filling enfolded in an Indian flatbread (roti) is called a kati roll.") But I thought they looked pretty good, so I bought a box.

I liked them even more than I thought I would. First, the kati wrap came out pleasantly crisp. I was simultaneously heating up two other things that called for a 375-degree oven--the same as the directions for these pouches--so it was convenient to use the oven method. People who have tried the microwave alternative have had disappointing results, even with the use of the "crisping sleeves" that TJ's provides.

The filling was surprisingly tasty, having somehow evaded the evil workings of the Trader Joe's Blandification Committee. You get a pleasingly complex panoply of tastes and textures, with some actual kick of a seemingly authentic Indian variety. I was relieved to discover that the included onions were so few and muted as to be ignorable. One pouch was a sufficient main course for dinner.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It immediately became one of my favorite TJ's Indian selections.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Trader Joe's Scalloped Cracker Trio


Nina bought these crackers. I had not noticed them in the store. Apparently it's a seasonal item, though it's not obvious why it should be. Poking around the web, I also discovered that it was sold late last year, too, though it escaped my attention then. Trader Joe's description of it from the Fearless Flyer is here.

The garlic one had no chance of meeting my approval. I just don't care for garlic, and these crackers are fairly loaded with it.

The rosemary one tasted most likely onion powder to me. That is one of its ingredients, but I don't know why it would stand out more than the rosemary itself. Maybe it's just my intense hatred of onion that makes it seem more prominent in the flavor profile than it actually is.

Then we come to the star of the show: the red chili. I loved this one. It had just enough chili flavor to be interesting. It tasted exactly like chili powder smells. I don't think I've ever had chili-flavored crackers before, so there was a definite novelty factor at work, in addition to the flavor just working really well with the mild cheese I had with it.


Will I buy it again? 

No. I didn't like two out of the three. But I sure wish TJ's would package the chili crackers as a stand-alone item. I'd buy those on the regular.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Trader Joe's Decorate Your Own Tree



I had not noticed this for sale at Trader Joe's, but Nina bought it for me. It's a very cute little pine tree--an Italian Stone Pine, to be exact. I taped it down so that my cats don't topple it over. Its needles are so sharp that I think they won't otherwise molest it the way they do other plants.

The ornaments clip on easily, and are light enough that they won't Charlie-Brown the poor little tree.


Mine has no detectable pine scent, which is both surprising and a little disappointing.


Will I buy it again? 

I'm not very festive about Christmas, but this is a nice little touch to have around the house, for almost zero effort. I like it. I might get another one next year, or occasionally make a gift of one.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Roundup

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


14 amazing Trader Joe's holiday treats and desserts

40 festive holiday gifts from Trader Joe's for under $10

10 Trader Joe's holiday items you need to try



Best tweets of the week:










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


Friday, December 7, 2018

Trader Joe's Sourdough Batard



"In France, not all long loaves are baguettes; for example, a short, almost rugby ball-shaped loaf is a bΓ’tard (literally, bastard), or a "torpedo loaf" in English; its origin is variously explained, but undocumented." So explains Wikipedia

I think this is unusually good for store-bought sourdough. Nice flavor, nice crust. For eating straight up with butter, or for making some toast, it does great. Its shape, however, prevents it from being useful as a sandwich bread--unless you happen to like short, wide sandwiches. 


Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. I'll still buy my sourdough loaves from a nearby Atlanta Bread Company. 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Trader Joe's Cranberry Persimmon Relish


This is Trader Joe's newest version of cranberry sauce, so of course I had to try it for Thanksgiving.

I liked it, didn't love it. It's overly sweetened, so the tartness from the cranberries is completely overwhelmed. I couldn't detect any persimmon flavor, but the orange definitely comes through, as does the distinctive taste of the cloves.


Will I buy it again? 

No. It's a mildly interesting variation on the traditional theme, but I much prefer TJ's famous Fresh Cranberry Sauce.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Trader Joe's Mystery Pack 2018



Nina bought this for me. You get three randomly selected reusable grocery bags. 

I got this one from Missouri (maybe specifically Branson?):




And this one from New Jersey: 



And this lovely one called "Nocturne," without a geographical specification: 



Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself; I have plenty of bags now. But it would make an easy, inexpensive gift for all sorts of people.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Trader Joe's Cinnamon Raisin Bagels


I loves me a good cinnamon-raisin bagel.

What is in this bag is not a good cinnamon-raisin bagel, but a disappointingly mediocre one. (Or six disappointingly mediocre ones, if you're counting.) Sure, there's a limit to how good a mass-produced bagel can be, but my feeling is that Trader Joe's isn't even trying to bump up against that ceiling. The flavors are dull, and the texture is too soft and thoroughly unbagelly.

I suppose they'll do in a pinch, when every bakery in town is closed for a holiday or something, and yet you desperately need a cinnamon-raisin bagel. But if you have just about any other choice, take it.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Thai-Style Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup


I was looking for a Thanksgiving side dish that would be some sort of unusual twist on the traditional holiday fare. When I noticed this, it seemed like exactly the thing. Carrots and sweet potatoes, but "Thai-style"--perfect!

Well, it's a fine idea, but poorly executed. As Nina noted, there's nothing distinctly Thai about it. Which is kind of surprising, after realizing that the list of ingredients seems to hit all the right notes: coconut milk, onions, red curry paste, chili peppers, red bell peppers, lemongrass powder, turmeric, lime juice, ginger, etc. But it all somehow gets badly muted and ends up just conveying a vague sense of mild spiciness.

It's not bad. We both ate our share, and I finished up the rest with lunch a few days later. But it feels like a letdown, as if a really creative idea had been ruined somewhere between conception and production. I blame that infamous Trader Joe's Blandification Committee.


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Roundup

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


Judge dismisses lawsuit over Trader Joe's electrolyte water claims

7 reasons why Trader Joe's is so cheap

Should America be run by Trader Joe's? (Freakonomics podcast, 47 minutes)

9 things you need from Trader Joe's for your holiday party

How to host a wine and cheese night on a budget



Best tweets of the week:










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


Friday, November 30, 2018

Trader Joe's French Apple Tart


I was at TJ's doing my Thanksgiving shopping, planning to pick up a more ordinary pie, when I spotted this--and that was all it took to settle on it as our dessert.

The apples are nice--a variety I had never heard of before, Northern Spy. The list of ingredients says that there are also sliced apricots here. I couldn't physically locate any for sure, but I could definitely taste them as a complement to the apples. You've also got a generous helping of cinnamon and vanilla.

The result was nice, though not wonderful. I thought it was a little too sweet, with not enough tartness from the apples. Nina thought the texture was a tad "gummy."


Will I buy it again? 

No.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Trader Joe's Ciabatta Demi-Baguette


Loved it. Nice contrast between a dense, chewy crust and soft, light center. Works well either cold or toasted.


Will I buy it again? 

Yes.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Chimay Autumn Limited Edition Washed Rind Cheese


So there I was, at the Asheville Trader Joe's cheese display, two days before Thanksgiving, trying to find a couple of new kinds of cheese to try with Nina. One of them was the Beemster Royaal Grand Cru discussed yesterday. The other one was this. I had a vague recollection of trying a Chimay cheese before, so I found an out-of-the-way spot to stand and check this blog on my phone to see if I had reviewed it before.

I pulled up this review, and noticed that it was the "Spring" variety, and now the store was offering the "Autumn" version. They're different! Great! That was all the excuse I needed to buy it. But I was feeling pressured by the crush of shoppers, so I didn't scroll down to read what I had written about it.

So I was surprised when I took my first bite of it and almost gagged at the awfulness. (Nina had wisely chosen the other one for our T-day appetizer; this one was left for me to try alone a few days later.) I grabbed my Kindle tablet and looked up my review of the other Chimay. I read it, then remembered: I hated it. Just like I hate this one.

I'm not sure which one is worse, because of course I'm not trying them simultaneously (and never will), but my reaction to this one is ever more intensely negative than what I wrote before. After one chunk on a cracker, I was done--and it even ruined my appetite for any further snacking that evening. (Maybe I've discovered a revolutionary new weight-loss scheme.) The rest will go back to the store for a refund.

Well, at least I'm consistent in my hatred.



Will I buy it again? 

Good lord, I hope not. I can be a slow learner sometimes, but I'm optimistic that in the future I will remember not to make the same purchasing mistake a third time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Beemster Royaal Grand Cru Cheese



I had never heard of, much less tasted, Grand Cru cheese, so I was happy to find such an unusual new cheese adventure waiting for me at Trader Joe's.

Here's the producer's description: https://www.beemstercheese.com/assortment/royaal-grand-cru/

I was not disappointed. This is an incredibly flavorful cheese: strong but not at all harsh, a little earthy. It's quite hard and takes some force to cut. But it takes only a very thin slice to deliver its wallop. It was nice on my usual Triscuits, but outstanding when paired with TJ's seasonal Pumpkin Cranberry Crisps.


Will I buy it again? 

Eagerly. It will likely be available at TJ's for only a short time (they do this thing of bringing in interesting cheeses for a while, then whisking them away; my guess is that they're buying surpluses  cheap when they occur), so don't delay.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Blueberry Bagels


Is it possible that I've never had Trader Joe's bagels before? Apparently so. I can't remember any, and a text search of this blog's archives finds none.

Too bad, then, that my first venture into the field is so disappointing. These taste reasonably like the many other conventional blueberry bagels I've had from bakeries, but the texture is all wrong. There's no chew; they just kind of fall apart in your mouth, as if made of dust. Why, it's almost as if they contained no long-chain proteins holding them together!


Will I buy it again? 

No. I ate one, but the rest will go back to the store for a refund.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Roundup

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


Trader Joe's best Thanksgiving foods for lazy people

Comparison test of cookie butters

Your Trader Joe's Thanksgiving shopping list

11 Trader Joe's buys for the best vegan Thanksgiving feast

We aged Two Buck Chuck; here's how it tasted




Best tweets of the week:








And finally, there's no cute Trader Joe's cat this week. Social media has failed us all.