Monday, April 30, 2018

Trader Joe's Serrano Salsa Fresca

This is pretty heavy on the onions, which is usually a dealbreaker for me. But surprisingly, this time that wasn't what made me reject it--it was the cilantro. It's so loaded with the stuff that I think they ought to just call it "Cilantro Salsa" as a warning to all those who, like me, find it unpleasant.

I also thought it was mislabeled in terms of the heat quotient. The TJ's chili thermometer is shown at the halfway point, but I thought this warranted more than that--like maybe 3/4 of the way up.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I had maybe 10 corn chips' worth, and couldn't take any more. I gave the rest to Nina; she thought it was pretty good.

Saturday, April 28, 2018


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

Healthy Trader Joe's products nutritionists swear by

9 discontinued Trader Joe's products we wish would come back

What to buy in the Trader Joe's freezer aisle

5 wellness pros' must-buys at Trader Joe's

My Trader Joe's top 5

LAPD investigates string of armed robberies 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:

Friday, April 27, 2018

Trader Joe's Banana Bonanza Bread

I love this! Admittedly, the reason is primarily that I'm a sucker for banana, and this is so loaded with banana flavor that I can actually start tasting it before a forkful is in my mouth. Nina thought the texture was too "gummy," but I didn't. I ate half of the loaf by myself in one evening.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, April 26, 2018

Trader Joe's Seed & Bean Medley

This absolutely lives up to its claim of being crunchy and salty. In fact, if the crunchiness and saltiness here are not enough for you, I don't think you have anywhere left to turn short of going down into a rock-salt mine and gnawing on the walls.

The corn is huge, just like the Giant Peruvian Inca Corn. I also loved the chickpeas and fava beans. The edamame was OK. I thought the dried peas were an inspired addition, but there were very, very few of them to be found, sadly.

The biggest weakness is the pumpkin seeds. Subjectively, I just don't care much for them. Objectively, they're vastly overrepresented here--like nearly half of the volume.

Will I buy it again? 

Undecided. If it weren't for those darn pumpkin seeds, it would be a definite yes. I'll have to ponder whether the good half of the bag is worth putting up with--or wasting--the half I didn't like.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Trader Joe's Korean Style BBQ Sauce

I think calling this barbecue sauce is a misnomer, if not outright fraud.

After water and sugar, the main ingredient is soy sauce. This is followed by something called gochujang sauce, consisting mainly of sugar and miso. Bringing up the rear are sake, garlic, ginger, cornstarch, lemon juice concentrate, and red pepper. There's almost nothing traditionally barbecuish in the bottle.

From the product name, I expected a mainstream BBQ sauce with a soy-sauce accent--which I think would be interesting and potentially a winner--but frankly I found it hard to taste anything here except the soy sauce. A spiced-up soy sauce is really not what I want on my (fake/vegetarian) pulled pork.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Milk Chocolate Bar

This is basically an ordinary milk chocolate bar with a layer of cinnamon stuck to the bottom. The label says it's "bits of crunchy cinnamon squares cereal." I didn't find that. If there's any cereal, it's crushed to a power and mixed with the cinnamon.

I think chocolate and cinnamon is a new flavor combination for me. At least I can't think of anything else I've ever eaten that features it. I don't think it works well. It gave me a weird sensation of not being able to process both dominant flavors at once. I felt like, "There's the chocolate...oh, and there's the cinnamon. And some chocolate. And some cinnamon." This could easily be some strange brain wiring or sensory problem in me, rather than anything intrinsic to the candy bar.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 23, 2018

Trader Joe's Creamy Danish Havarti Cheese

This is, I think, only my second time tasting Havarti cheese, at least by itself. The first was this.

Its texture is OK, but really too soft and rubbery for my taste. The flavor is just too mild for me to really enjoy. Based on my two samples, I'd say this is a characteristic of Havarti cheese generally, not something peculiar to be faulted in this particular product. And I'm sure that what I see as a fault, others will see as a virtue. YMMV.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, April 21, 2018


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

10 best Trader Joe's wines for spring

11 things Trader Joe's employees want you to know

10 signs you're a Trader Joe's mom

My 15 favorite items from Trader Joe's

The thing about Trader Joe's...

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, a reader has sent me four pictures of her cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, so I'm covered for a while, even though I have seen no new ones posted on social media in a few weeks:

Friday, April 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Banana Bread Mix

On the plus side, this is easy to make: blend the mix, eggs, oil, and water, and let it bake 40 minutes. Also, it comes out with a nice, moist texture.

On the minus side--and here we get into the unforgivable territory--it barely tastes like bananas at all. It's more vanilla than banana. Maybe this is the inevitable result of using banana powder instead of mashed-up real bananas, as in traditional recipes, but I find it unacceptable. I felt like doing my best Clara Peller imitation and shouting at the box, "Where's the banana?"

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, April 19, 2018

Trader Joe's Raises The Bar Chewy Granola Bar With Maple Flavor, Oats, Millet, Quinoa, Amaranth, Buckwheat & Pumpkin Seeds

I had to include the super-long name here in order to distinguish this product from a similar one that is the same up through the "chewy granola bar" part.

These are OK, with a nicely chewy texture, but they have way too much maple flavor for my taste. Of course, if you're a bigger fan of maple than I am, this will be a feature, not a bug.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Mini Cannoli

Did not like. The texture of the pastry shell was wrong, and the chocolate didn't seem to blend well with the cheese filling.

Will I buy it again? 

No. With all due respect to "The Godfather," I'd have to advise my readers to take the gun, leave the cannoli.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Pecorino Romano Raw Sheep's Milk Cheese

This is, to me, indistinguishable from any other Romano cheese I've had. It's salty, and hard to the point of brittleness. It's not very well suited to eating sliced on crackers, which is what I want from a block of cheese. I'm sure it would do well grated on pasta, but I'm lazy enough that I buy pre-shredded cheeses when I want to do that.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 16, 2018

Trader Joe's Ricotta & Spinach Tortelloni With Red Pesto

Unlike most such boasts, the "ready in 5 minutes" here is pretty close to true. Just peel back a corner of the lid and zap it for five minutes.

However, the result is a pretty uninteresting mess of filled pasta and diced veggies. It has been terribly thrashed by the Trader Joe's Blandification Committee.

I fixed this, and simultaneously added a lot of protein to the meal, by separately cooking some thin-sliced fake sausage (this one, which is one of the best you can buy) and adding it to the dish. That made it about 10 times better than it was on its own.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I think it's one that Nina would like, so I'll get it at least once more for a dinner with her--appropriately improved by the sausage, of course.

Saturday, April 14, 2018


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

Vegan items that Trader Joe's needs to develop

The 3 best French foods from Trader Joe's

5 simple date-night recipes from Trader Joe's

5 best grocery stores to go to if you have to drag your kids along

Best Trader Joe's beach snacks

Lawsuit alleges Trader Joe's mislabels kombucha

Best tweets of the week:

And finally... nope, I got nothin'. Still no pictures of cute cats in Trader Joe's grocery bags. It's been quite a dry spell on the interwebz.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Jasper Hill Vault No. 5 Cave Aged Cheese

See this item on the producer's web site here.

It's not called a cheddar, but it tastes pretty cheddary--like one of the longest-aged cheddars, in fact, with that characteristic "bite" that develops with time. Very flavorful.

I liked it just fine, but it doesn't rise into my list of favorites.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, April 12, 2018

Trader Joe's Dutch Smoked Cheese

I don't know why this isn't called a smoked Gouda; Gouda appears not to be one of those protected variety names. But it sure tastes like a smoked Gouda--a good one at that.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I love me a good smoked (non-) Gouda.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Trader Joe's Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

When I noticed the new sprouted-grain pizza crusts and decided to make some pizzas, I just grabbed the first shredded mozzarella package I saw. I couldn't remember whether I had had either it or some other version from Trader Joe's before. (That's not quite true; I did remember the disgusting vegan version, and knew to steer clear of it.)

This one tasted quite good, and I was happy with how it melted on the pizzas. But looking back through my archives, I see that I raved about the organic version. Without trying both at the same time, it's really hard for me to know how they actually compare. But my inclination is to trust my first impression of the excellence of the organic one. Besides, organic in milk products means the cows are not treated with antibiotics, which I think is a worthwhile thing to support.

Will I buy it again? 

No, because I'll choose the organic one instead.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Trader Joe's Fat Free Pizza Sauce

This was perfectly decent pizza sauce--right up the middle of what you'd expect, with no surprises. Not too sweet, not too salty, not too spicy, not too chunky. It's been a couple of years since I had Trader Joe's refrigerated pizza sauce, but my memory of it is about the same this stuff, and this has the added advantage of shelf stability. I'd kind of like to try them side by side, but I never make enough pizza to justify having both open at one, as about half of each would end up wasted.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 9, 2018

Trader Joe's Sprouted Whole Grain Pizza Crust

I've never before encountered pre-made pizza crusts for sale without being frozen or refrigerated. It seems...odd.

The package contains two crusts. I've made pizzas with both of them now. The first time, I used the minimum bake time recommended on the wrapper: 10 minutes. That had the cheese topping done just right. But the crust was underdone, good around the edges, but the center still too soft. The second time, I went for the maximum time recommended: 15 minutes. (I was using a genuine pizza stone in the oven both times.) That did better for the crust, but now the cheese was overcooked.

These crusts had a pleasant flavor, but that was outweighed by two fatal flaws. First, there is no raised edge, so you have to be super careful about keeping the sauce and other toppings away from the edge to avoid spillover. Second, the "sprouted whole grains" include wheat berries and rye berries. (See the full ingredients list and other info in the Trader Joe's introduction to this new product here.) These are hard kernels, and I found it majorly unpleasant to encounter those unyielding nuggets between my teeth.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, April 7, 2018


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

Trader Joe's lack of name-brand products is appalling

The branding genius of Trader Joe's

Why your business should be more like Trader Joe's

Our go-to Trader Joe's shopping list

15 Trader Joe's items that everyone should obsess over

Dead lizard found in bag of Trader Joe's kale

Best cheeses at Trader Joe's

15 Trader Joe's foods you should not have in your kitchen

Best tweets of the week:

And finally--nope, still no new cats in Trader Joe's grocery bags. You people are failing me.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Truffles

These are a huge disappointment. The chocolate feels and tastes like the cheapest stuff Trader Joe's could find. (And they had to go all the way to Germany to get it?!) The center is just a dab of some kind of not-nice, vanilla-flavored cream. Eating them is an unpleasant experience in both flavor and texture.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Nina and I each had two, the second being to be sure that the ickiness of the first was not an anomaly. The rest are to be returned for refund.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce

I've never swallowed any bourbon, but now I have a pretty good idea of what it tastes like. This sauce is loaded with an unfamiliar (to me) flavor that just has to be the bourbon. It's a burned, slightly bitter flavor--and I don't like it at all. I've tried it three times now, and though my dislike on the third tasting wasn't as intense as on the first, it's still a net negative. On all three occasions, I was comparing it directly with Trader Joe's Carolina Gold, with half of the plate using each, and I strongly preferred the latter each time, with every forkful.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I don't want to eat any more of it, so it's going back to the store for a refund.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I've still never bought Trader Joe's cookie butter, in any of its many varieties. The reason is simple: I'm pretty sure I would love it, and one jar after another would vanish from my cupboard, only to reappear on my abdomen.

This ice cream confirms my impression. The substrate is just your everyday vanilla ice cream. But swirled throughout is delicious cookie butter. I quickly found myself enjoying each bite in direct proportion to how much cookie butter any particular spoonful contained.

Will I buy it again? 

No. The only thing I liked about it was the stuff swirled in. The only thing worse than sitting down and eating a jar of cookie butter is eating a quart of mediocre ice cream to get at the swirls of cookie butter it contains.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Trader Joe's Mini Triple Chocolate Bundt Cakes

These are over-the-top rich--so much chocolate, sugar, and fat that I could barely finish one of the four. The rest went back to the store for a refund. I love chocolate and I love cake, but here it's all just way, way too much.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, April 2, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Spinach & Ricotta Pizza

The thin crust on this pizza was quite nice--crisp and tasty. But the toppings were a disappointment. The spinach was tough and the ricotta cheese basically tasteless lumps of fat.

Will I buy it again?