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? 


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? 


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:

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


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.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Trader Joe's Alfredo Pasta Sauce

When I saw this among the pasta sauces on a recent TJ's run, I thought it must be a new product, because I surely would have noticed it before now. But no--a little Googling reveals that it's been around at least since 2011. I don't know how I overlooked it for so long.

For coming in a jar, it's a very good Alfredo sauce. Nice, mild flavor. Perhaps a tad thicker than would be optimal, but that's not a fatal flaw. Not quite up to what one can get in a good restaurant, but how could it be? Though I admit that I haven't tried a lot of them, I'd venture a guess that this is about as good as heat-and-serve Alfredo sauce can be.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It won't replace marinaras as my go-to pasta sauces, but I think it will be nice as an occasional change of pace.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Trader Joe's Tortilla Chips Seasoned With Brussels Sprouts, Garlic, Onion & Parsley

I saw somebody tweeting about this new product (see Trader Joe's introduction to it here), and emailed an alert to Nina. I knew that I would never buy it, but thought that she might want to give it a try. She did. And then I sampled some of the chips at her house, served with Pepita Salsa. (I failed to take a picture, which is why the one you see here is stolen from TJ's.)

By the time I realized what chips I was eating, my taste buds were pretty saturated with the hot salsa, so it was harder to get a bead on the chips by themselves. But given that limitation, I really couldn't tell that they were anything other than mildly seasoned ordinary tortilla chips. Specifically, I was unable to discern any flavor identifiable as Brussels sprouts, garlic, onion, or parsley. Nina agreed with that finding.

She was generally far more enthusiastic about them than I was, primarily because of an enjoyable texture--crunchy and able to stand up to salsa.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I see no reason to choose these over traditional tortilla chips. But I'll say this for them: It's the first use of Brussels sprouts that I've actually enjoyed, rather than just tolerated.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Brown Rice Penne Pasta

This is the latest in a long line of Trader Joe's gluten-free dry pasta varieties. (For a list of the others, see here.) It is closest to the TJ's Organic Brown Rice Pasta Fusilli, apparently differing only in shape.

Like most of the others, it's less satisfying than traditional wheat-based pasta (Nina called it "gloppy"), but if one needs to live a gluten-free life, it makes an adequate substitute.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, November 17, 2018


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

Great wines at Trader Joe's for under $20

What to buy at Trader Joe's for Thanksgiving cooking

9 budget-breakers to avoid at Trader Joe's

Cheap wines from Trader Joe's for Thanksgiving

7 ways to use Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi

Favorite vegan foods shopping list

2 new festive holiday drinks from Trader Joe's for vegans

11 Trader Joe's dishes to bring to Friendsgiving

5-way grocery store price comparison for Thanksgiving

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat with a Trader Joe's grocery bag. Nobody has posted one on social media recently (at least not that I have seen), so here's an old one of my own kitty, Lucy:

Friday, November 16, 2018

Trader Joe's Pepita Salsa

This is a new Trader Joe's item, likely seasonal (and maybe even gone by now). It's basically an unremarkable salsa list of ingredients--tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper puree--until you get to the "dry roasted pepitas," i.e., pumpkin seeds. They are finely chopped, so don't expect to find any pepitas identifiable as such. I honestly couldn't detect any flavor contribution from them. Nor could Nina.

The jar lacks the usual TJ's thermometer indicating the degree of heat, but it's up there--maybe the hottest salsa I've had from them. I ate half of the jar one evening around 7 p.m., and by midnight I was having trouble sleeping because my stomach was still gassy in reaction. No other salsa has ever done that to me before.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I liked it OK, but not a new favorite.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Waxed Cotton Food Wraps

Feel a twinge of guilt every time you use some Saran Wrap to cover your leftovers? Well, here's one alternative, new from Trader Joe's.

They're like dish cloths that have been massively starched--thickened and stiff. So much so, in fact, that they're difficult to unfold and put in place. But it's not starch; it's wax.

Here's the largest one in use over some leftover brownies in an 8" x 8" glass baking dish:

I could and should have used the medium-sized one, but I didn't notice the dimensions on the wrapper until it was too late, and I guessed wrong as to which one would fit best. Still, you can see that the cloth does mold around the edges of the dish.

But it takes work. It took me about three minutes of stretching and shaping the waxed cloth to get it to adhere this well. The wax takes that time to respond to the heat of your hands in order to conform to the contours it's meant to cover. And it's still not airtight. In this case it doesn't really need to be, and my brownies were adequately prevented from drying out for the four days it took me to finish them off. But if, e.g., you had an ant problem and needed to keep all food items securely covered, this would not do; there's plenty of small gaps through which air and ants can move. With clingy plastic wrap, you can eliminate such openings in just a few seconds.

The directions on the back of the wrapper say that these can be hand-washed and re-used. I have not tried that yet. And frankly, I probably won't. Maybe it says something terrible about me as a person, but spending three minutes molding a stiff, heavy, waxed cloth over leftovers in order to prevent adding a couple of grams of plastic to a landfill just doesn't feel like a good use of my time.

Will I buy it again? 

No. In fact, I'm pretty likely to take these back for a refund. They're expensive, and I can't imagine continuing to use them, when I have alternatives. Plastic wrap and aluminum foil both work better and faster, for very little money. I use a lot of plastic containers; the cheap ones that are called "disposable" can actually be used many, many times before they wear out. (I bought my current ones five years ago, and have used them dozens of times each.) I also often just leave leftovers in the Corelle bowls and cover the bowls with a matching plate for the refrigerator, creating zero waste, and at zero cost. I think all of these options are better than waxed cloth, at least for my personal needs and circumstances.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Trader Joe's Calcium Magnesium & Zinc

My father had fairly severe osteoporosis starting around age 70. I want to avoid the same fate if I can, so years ago I started taking daily calcium supplements. More recently, I also began reading about the benefits of magnesium supplementation (for issues unrelated to bone strength), and decided to add that to my regimen.

Then I noticed this product at Trader Joe's, blending the two (with some zinc thrown in, which I don't care about). Seems like a good idea!

And it would be--except for how they have formulated it: The pills are enormous.

Here's a comparison photo. From the left you see a baby aspirin, another brand of magnesium, an antihistamine tablet, a generic multivitamin, a fiber supplement, the TJ's calcium/magnesium/zinc, and finally an omega-3 supplement that I'm experimenting with--the only one that's bigger than the TJ's calcium.

They're not impossible to swallow, but they're uncomfortable. I'd much rather take four that are half the size than the recommended two as they are. The large tablets can be broken in half; they're scored for that purpose and they break quite cleanly, but the result leaves somewhat sharp edges that I found mildly unpleasant to swallow, and some mineral dust on the counter that has to be brushed away.

Will I buy it again? 

No. After this bottle is used up, I'll either go back to separate calcium and magnesium, or find another brand that combines them into smaller physical form. I would also prefer a calcium citrate formulation. (TJ's uses calcium carbonate, which I think is inferior for a variety of reasons that I won't bore you with.)

Saturday, November 10, 2018


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

Taste test of cauliflower foods

10 secretly vegan foods at Trader Joe's this fall

Trader Joe's holiday desserts for 2018

Trader Joe's favorites

12 vegan Thanksgiving items at Trader Joe's

19 Trader Joe's products we can't live without

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

Cal-Organic Farms Certified Organic Rainbow Cut & Peeled Baby Carrots

Nina bought these; I had not noticed them at our local Trader Joe's.

They're tasty and flavorful--just like the non-rainbow organic baby carrots.

Will I buy it again? 

Possibly if I need something a little fancier than usual for guests. But I don't really see any reason to choose these over the plain (organic) orange ones. They're also skinnier, on average, than the organic orange ones. I like my baby carrots to be fat.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Trader Joe's Big Soft Pretzels

I'm not sure if the name of this product is supposed to be "Big Soft Pretzels" or "Soft Big Pretzels." Either way, the name is not a lie; they're both big and soft. And they taste good.

They're prepared with just a few minutes in the oven. Alternatively, you can just let them thaw, but getting them hot out of the oven is so obviously superior that I can't recommend that choice.

The big problem, as I see it, comes in the application of the salt. There is a packet of large-grained salt included, but I found it impossible to get the right amount on. Getting the salt to stick requires spritzing the pretzel with water, which I just could not get applied evenly. Every time I prepared one, it ended up with either too much or too little salt--and sometimes both, with sections of too much and too little. All three outcomes were annoying and disappointing.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, November 5, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Taza Blues

This is a brand-new item at Trader Joe's. In fact, I haven't been to the store since they appeared. But Nina has, and bought this bag. We tried them with TJ's Queso Cheese Dip before dinner at her house last night.

"Taza," I learned, is Spanish for cup or mug. As you can see from the picture of the package, these chips are shaped like a 5-pointed cup. (Let us pass over, without further comment, the fact that "taza" can also mean "toilet bowl.")

The ingredient list is admirably short: corn, sunflower oil, salt, and a touch of lime (the last of which is undetectable to me). The flavor is nice, but not discernibly different from any other blue-corn tortilla chips I've had.

The shape is efficient at scooping up the queso. However: (1) their volume is much larger than one needs; if you filled it up, the ratio of dip to chip would be way too high. And (2) I found the shape rather difficult to fit in my mouth, but I also couldn't really bite them in half, because they would break apart.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I find no meaningful differences among blue, white, or yellow corn tortilla chips. But I do find functional differences in the shape of the chips, and these just don't work for me, for the way I like to eat my dips (queso, hummus, salsa, or bean dip). My standard purchase among tortilla chips is TJ's yellow corn rounds, and these don't give me reason to change that choice.

Saturday, November 3, 2018


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

Trader Joe's best fall items

Must-have snacks 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 cute dog with his Trader Joe's biscuits.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Trader Joe's Wisconsin Sharp Cheddar Cheese

Trader Joe's has discontinued three of my all-time favorite white cheddars: Canadian Extra Sharp, Mull of Kintyre Scottish, and Lite Sharp Celtic. This is extremely annoying, but there's not much I can do about it other than keep looking for a new favorite.

I think I've found it. Maybe not quite a favorite in the same way as the others, but at least a new default choice--one that's good enough that I'm not constantly reminded of its inferiority. This is a straightforward, high-quality, no-surprises, no-disappointment white cheddar. It doesn't make me crave more and more of it the way my former three favorites could, but I'm sufficiently content eating it.

This realization gave me a dilemma. You see, a year ago I had rated the seemingly very similar Wisconsin Extra Sharp as just so-so. How could I explain this discrepancy?

So I bought a block of each and tried them side by side. I concluded that my original rating of the Wisconsin Extra Sharp was unfair. Maybe I was in a bad mood that week, or maybe it suffered somewhat by comparison to a recent memory of one of my favorites, and I was overly dismissive as a result of that. But I now find it so close to the Wisconsin Sharp that I would never be able to distinguish them if not for simultaneous tasting. The Wisconsin Extra Sharp has just a tad more edge to it than the Wisconsin Sharp, and I have a slight preference for the latter. But if you put one of them in front of me with no label and without the other for comparison, I could do no more than randomly guess which it was.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It has become my mainstay cheddar. Now I need to try it side-by-side with my other second-tier choice, the New Zealand Grass-Fed Sharp. If I get around to that test, I'll append a note here about it.

I guess I'm still technically rating the Wisconsin Extra Sharp as a "no," because now I'll choose this one in preference to it--but it's very close, and if I ever go for this one and find that it's out of stock, I'll take its near relative instead and not feel cheated.