Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Creamy Cashew Fiesta Dip

Nina bought this and served it to me with some chips as a pre-dinner appetizer. She removed the lid and carefully arranged the container so that I couldn't see the name of the product, lest I be negatively prejudiced by my general dislike of nuts.

But here's the weird thing: I liked it, and she didn't. I couldn't really tell much about it at first, because the chips she had were too flavorful on their own. But I brought home the remaining portion, and subsequently tried it with the more neutral Organic Corn Chip Dippers (which I always have on hand), Pretzel Thins, and some non-TJ's tortilla chips. It worked well with all three, but especially with the Dippers.

I suppose it's fair to call it a "cheese dip alternative," but only in the general sense that any dip one chooses other than a cheese dip is a "cheese dip alternative." It doesn't remind me of cheese at all, except with a mighty effort of my imagination. But that's OK; I don't need it to be cheesy.

I don't know how to describe the flavor, because it's unlike anything I can remember. Oddly, there's a fair amount of sweetness to it, despite the ingredients list disclosing no obvious source of sugar. Cashews, potatoes, carrots, onions, green chile peppers, tomato paste, salt, vinegar, plus a few other flavorings--nothing sweet. It's a mystery.

It the "Fiesta" part of the product name is intended to convey something spicy or vaguely Mexican, well, it's false advertising.

Note that this stuff is quite stiff, and will break any wimpy chips you use to scoop it up. You may need to let it sit long enough to attain room temperature before attacking it with something delicate.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. Though I like it enough to finish off the tub, I can't imagine picking it over any of my snacking dip staples of hummus and salsas.

Addendum, 2/11/19: 

We tried it heated in the microwave, as suggested by the comment below, and it definitely improved it. It became more flavorful and much easier, physically, to wrangle with chips.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Trader Joe's Brownie + Cookie = Brookie

The idea is simple and seemingly brilliant: bake brownie dough and chocolate-chip cookie dough together, with the latter spread on top of the former.

The execution, however, is terribly disappointing. Neither component is up to snuff--bland and not very sweet. Worst of all, the brookie I had was way too dry, though of course I don't know whether that's a systemic problem or just the odd bad sample.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I wouldn't purchase either part of this if offered alone, and the combination doesn't make things any better.

Saturday, January 26, 2019


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

Dietitians reveal their favorite Trader Joe's products

Top 25 items to buy at Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, January 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Peel Away Fruit Leather Buttons

OK, "fruit leather buttons" is definitely a thing I had never heard of or imagined before spotting this trio on the new-products shelf at the Asheville TJ's.

Here's what you get:

I'm not sure why they chose to package these in a manner awkwardly reminiscent of strips of cheap condoms, but nobody asked me.

Once you get past that, you have thin, chewy disks of fruit leather. Other than the unusual shape, the substance is like any other fruit leather.

I liked both the plain mango and the mango-strawberry. But the mango-grape was off; there was surprisingly little grape flavor, and what there was seemed to clash with the mango.

Will I buy it again? 

No. On the rare occasions that I feel like getting something in this general category, it would be one of TJ's several flavors of dried fruit bars. I have a few in my cupboard right now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Trader Joe's Curry Cauliflower Quinoa Salad

You can figure out just about everything you need to know here from the name, ingredients, and photos. Nina and I both liked it--lots of flavors, lots of textures, moderately spicy, and overall quite different from anything we've had before. Serving size seems accurate; it fed both of us (as a side) for dinner, with leftover for my lunch the next day.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I eat lots of cauliflower plain, and don't feel a need to gussy it up like this. But if I ran into this at somebody else's house or at a potluck or something, I'd happily have more of it.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Imagine how good you think the world's best banana-chocolate-chip muffin can be. Get it firmly in mind--the flavors, the textures. Got it?

Bingo! Now you know what this product is.

Yeah, they're that good.

But let us not pretend that this is some sort of health food. Each muffin has 410 calories, 18 grams of fat, and 35 grams of sugar. They're perfect for a nation with the motto, "Make America Fat Again."

Will I buy it again? 

I wish I could. But in reality, if I do, it will only be because of a massive failure of every one of my self-control mechanisms.

Saturday, January 19, 2019


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

7 Trader Joe's lunch ideas

Cute boy wants to work at Trader Joe's when he grows up

A definitive ranking of Trader Joe's seasonal cookies

Trader Joe's expands recall of RxBars

Trader Joe's announces 10th annual customer choice awards

3-ingredient Trader Joe's dinners

Make smoothies with these 32 Trader Joe's ingredients

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, January 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Cultivated Wild Rice

Here's an oxymoron with which to start your Friday: Cultivated wild rice.


I gather that "wild" rice doesn't actually mean "found growing spontaneously in nature" as one might think, but a group of four species--whether actually wild or cultivated--in different genera than standard rice. See Wikipedia here and here.

This stuff is a bear to cook. I was about to throw it in my rice cooker, unaware that wild rice needs much more cook time than regular rice. Nina stopped me before I found out the hard way. I looked at the directions on the back of the bag, and aborted the plan, instead opting for the regular rice that evening. Before Nina's next weekly dinner here, I did as the package suggests, and put some of the wild rice in a bowl to soak overnight.

Even after that, I kept the rice boiling for nearly 15 minutes longer than the directions suggest, because as I was sampling it, it never seemed done. I ended up keeping it on the stove until all the water had boiled off--and it still wasn't really done, even though it had some burst kernels, which this page says is an indicator that it has cooked enough. Though the process was long and frustrating, it does produce a lovely aroma that makes the kitchen smell great.

So we ate not-quite-cooked-enough rice last night, topped with some of TJ's excellent Chicken-Less Orange Mandarin Morsels. The flavor matches the adjectives that seem to be universal in describing wild rice: nutty and earthy.

Will I buy it again? 

Very unlikely, unless at some point I am determined to make a special recipe that absolutely, positively must use wild rice instead of standard rice. I don't really see that happening, but ya never know. Otherwise, it's just too much bother. Plus it's way too expensive; this little bag cost $5.49!

When I feel like something a little different from plain white or brown rice, I would instead choose this or this or this.

I took the other roughly half of the bag back to the store for a refund.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Montezuma's Chocolate Truffle Collection

These are excellent-quality chocolates that Trader Joe's has carried during the Christmas season for the last couple of years.

The box contains 16 chocolates, in seven varieties--three each of two of the flavors, and two each of the rest, which is kind of a peculiar packaging strategy.

Most of them were rather difficult to identify, even with the key on the box, because, with a couple of exceptions, the pictures don't match the chocolates at all. One is reduced to a process of elimination, eventually settling on the photo that is the least unlike the chocolate one is trying to identify.

Two of them I didn't try, because I could be pretty sure in advance that I wouldn't like them: coffee and hazelnut. Nina ate those. I tried and liked all of the other five varieties. We both thought they were uniformly superior truffles.

Will I buy it again? 

I might buy it as a gift, but it's just too expensive per piece (and with too much packaging!) to buy it for myself.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Manchego cheeses revisited

I first tried Trader Joe's "Spanish Manchego" cheese in 2015, though I didn't get around to publishing my review until August 2016. I loved it, but then kind of forgot about it.

I then tried TJ's "Manchego Anejo" (i.e., "aged") cheese in 2017, and loved it, too. I wrote, "Perhaps I would be able to tell some difference between them if I tasted them side by side, but this one exactly matches my memory of the regular Manchego. It's just as tasty and interesting as the one I had before.... I might buy another chunk of both of them just so I can try them together and see if I can detect what difference the extra aging makes." But then I didn't follow through with that.

Chapter Three of the story came last month, when I tried the new TJ's sampler pack of three Spanish cheeses, including a Manchego (which may or may not be exactly the same as either of the ones above). That reminded me that I had effused about my fondness for both of the other Manchegos but had never bought them again.

So recently I bought another block of both at the same time and did the side-by-side comparison. They are most definitely not the same. Though they are similar, with a unmistakable family resemblance, the anejo's flavor is decidedly stronger, with a slightly harsh edge to it. I usually like cheeses with more oomph in their flavors, but this time I found myself with a rather strong preference for the plain, non-aged Manchego. The quality that develops with aging I found to be a detraction--not a major one, but one that I'd prefer to do without. And the non-aged version is cheaper, too!

Will I buy it again? 

Manchego sรญ; Manchego anejo no.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


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

50 tweets that sum up shopping at Trader Joe's

8 foods you should always buy at Trader Joe's

11 healthy snacks from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's top-ranked grocery store chain

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Trader Joe's Mini Blueberry Tea Scones

I have virtually no experience with scones generally, or with "tea scones" specifically, if those are something different. But whatever these are, and however they may or may not match up to their platonic ideal, I like them. They're sweet, soft, and flavorful--in every way pleasant to eat. I'm a sucker for that large-grained sugar they sprinkle on top.

Will I buy it again? 

To my surprise, yes. I did not expect that a plastic bag of mass-produced baked goods would be this tasty.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Trader Joe's Banana Cake With Cream Cheese Frosting

Pros: Strong banana flavor. Moist.

Cons: Too much frosting. Dense. Occasional weird blobs of something (not banana) scattered here and there.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, January 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Cake

Nina bought this; I had not noticed it in the store.

(Side note: The new-items shelf at Trader Joe's is great--but it's incomplete, because they obviously can't put refrigerated and frozen things there, which is about half of the store. I have several times suggested to employees at the Asheville TJ's that they post photographs of the new refrigerated and frozen products on the new-items shelf. Every time, the employee tells me what a great idea that is, and they'll take it to the manager right away. And yet it never happens. Sigh.)

I liked it. Its flavor is reminiscent of Triple Ginger Snaps. (Notice how they plant that connection in your brain with a few of the cookies snuck into the picture on the front of the box.) Nice, moist texture, with little bits of crystallized ginger as contrast.

Nina was even more enthusiastic than I was. It's rare for her to get excited about a frozen baked good.

Will I buy it again? 

Not often, but once in a while as a special treat.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


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

We compared Trader Joe's in the city and in the suburbs

Everything you need to know about shopping at Trader Joe's in 2019

The 25 best frozen foods from Trader Joe's

Is he flirting with you, or does he just work at Trader Joe's?

Trader Joe's announces new policy on plastic and packaging

The worst things I've tried from Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's announces annual customer choice awards voting

On Aldi and Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

A special shoutout to this whole Twitter thread--you have to click on it and go read the whole story:

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

Friday, January 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Peppermint Bark Popcorn

This is some weird stuff. Mixing chocolate and peppermint is perfectly standard, of course. But adding caramel to that is unusual. And it takes a mad food scientist to decide to throw all of that on top of popcorn.

It's not bad, but it's strange. I don't think the flavors and textures work well together; I find the whole experience kind of jarring and dissonant. But Nina loves it, even though she's not usually big on chocolate and peppermint. Go figure.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Except maybe as a stocking stuffer for Nina next year.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Trader Joe's Marinara Sauce Made With Crushed Tomatoes, Garlic & Basil

I thought this was above average in flavor, with a nice acidic bite to the tomato sauce, the way I like. But I wasn't keen on how easily it separated, leaving chunks on top of the pasta, and watery runoff underneath. I also just generally prefer more thoroughly pureed spaghetti sauce over chunky ones like this.

Nina paid it the ultimate compliment in saying that it was very much like she would make for herself--simple and with few ingredients. But that would also prevent her from buying it, because she would just, y'know, make it herself.

Will I buy it again?