Friday, March 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Cara Cara Navel Oranges

I picked this up because I was intrigued by the teaser on the bag: "I'm an orange, but I'm pink."

And they kinda are, on the inside. Not as pink as pink grapefruit, not as dark red as blood oranges, but definitely pinker than standard oranges.

Incidentally, "Cara Cara" is a variety name, not a Trader Joe's thing. See Wikipedia, here.

I've had four of these now. In terms of flavor, one was outstanding. One was quite poor. Two were pretty average. All were admirably juicy.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was an interesting experiment, but other than the novelty of the color, I'm not seeing any compelling reason to choose these over more typical varieties.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream Super Premium

I'm used to store-brand chocolate ice creams being mediocre, despite their packages' dubious claims of being "premium." In fact, just before buying this from Trader Joe's, my previous purchase had been my first try with "Laura Lynn," which is the store brand of Ingles, the dominant supermarket chain in North Carolina. It was the typical disappointing stuff I had expected.

I thought, sadly, that TJ's would likely be pretty much the same. But I figured that I had to get it out of the way sooner or later (I've been procrastinating this purchase for a couple of years already), and might as well make it now, so I can get back to the Breyer's and Edy's that I prefer.

Well, blow me down and shiver me timbers--this stuff is actually wonderful! I like my ice cream on the softer side, and this is perfect. It's smooth and creamy, and just the right amount of chocolate. (I quibble with the moniker "ultra chocolate." It's just right, not "ultra.")

This is the equal of the best store-bought chocolate ice cream I've ever had--so good that after just two servings of it, I'm ready to declare it my new default ice cream choice. I see no need to go back to the brands I have been buying for several decades.

The ability to change a lifelong purchasing habit also means that it deserves a place in my Top Ten List (which is now up to 57 members; don't judge me).

Will I buy it again? 

Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream, I am coming for you!

Addendum, 4/19/17 

Correction to the above. It turns out that the soft consistency I liked was not an intrinsic part of this product, but rather an early sign (unknown to me at the time) that my freezer was failing. Now that I have a new one, and I can verify that it's at the proper temperature with a thermometer, this ice cream is actually quite hard, difficult to penetrate even with a great ice cream scoop. That is less than ideal, but I still like it a lot.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Mull of Kintyre Scottish Cheddar Cheese

I might as well just be honest with you: I don't recall ever having heard of the Mull of Kintyre prior to last week, when I noticed this cheese at Trader Joe's. I know now that a song by that name was a huge hit for Paul McCartney & Wings, but it somehow escaped my attention for the last 40 years. What's more, I now realize that I've actually seen the Mull of Kintyre--the southernmost tip of the Kintyre peninsula--though I didn't know it at the time. During a tour of the British Isles in 2014, my ferry from Scotland to Northern Ireland passed by it.

But none of that had anything to do with this purchase. I just wanted some cheese, and my eye fell on this as one that I had not tried before. Frankly, I expected another in a long line of virtually indistinguishable white cheddars. It was not to be so.

This one is truly superior. It is as rich and sweet and smooth and creamy and buttery as any cheddar cheese I've ever eaten. Full-flavored without being the least bit sharp or harsh. Absolutely first rate. I quickly learned that I have difficulty stopping once I start eating it, even after I'm past being full.

This is a new product for TJ's. It apparently rolled out in February. I'm not clear on whether it's to be a perennial or is just a feature cheese, destined to disappear soon. Oh, please let it be the former! It would be a shame if the newest member of my Top Ten List were no longer available.

Will I buy it again? 

Every chance I get.

Bonus: Here's Paul McCartney and Wings playing "Mull of Kintyre":

Paul McCartney & Wings - Mull Of Kintyre (1977) by DemonPreyer1

McCartney bought a farm in Kintyre in 1966, about 20 miles from the mull, and spent a lot of time there in the 1970s. Apparently he has been functionally withdrawing from it in recent years, though.


I went back to the store to buy another chunk of this, and asked one of the employees to look up on the computer whether this was a permanent or temporary product. He found that what they had on the shelf was the last they were going to get--at least for this season. Will it come back next year? I guess we'll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I bought four of them, and put three in the freezer. I know that freezing is not good for cheese, but I couldn't just let it go away without trying something. Get it while you can!

Addendum #2 

Last night I tried it side by side with some Lite Sharp Celtic Cheddar, effectively pitting Scotland against Ireland in an epic cheese contest. I like both of them a lot, but Scotland won.

Addendum #3 

I suspect that TJ's is repackaging one of the award winners from the Mull of Kintyre cheese company.

Addendum #4 

After posting my usual daily notice on Twitter of a new review here, I got this reply and retweet from an account I did not previous know existed:

Here's the account information:

From that, I think it's pretty safe to conclude that my speculation in Addendum #3 above was correct! And another TJ's supplier has outed itself on Twitter!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Trader Joe's Marbled Mint Crunch Chocolate Bar

When you mix chocolate and mint, you're going to get something good. The only question is whether it will be just mediocre-like-a-thousand-others good or really-special good.

This TJ's product, from Ireland, falls in the latter category. For one thing, it's beautiful. (The package says that it's a "strikingly visual bar." I wonder how many people saw and approved that copy, without thinking that it made no sense, and that "visually striking" would be better.) For another, the mint is subdued, like a good back-up singer, not trying to steal the spotlight. And finally, the little bits of cookie add some delightfully crunchy texture variation.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I hope they keep this one around for a long time.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Living Butter Lettuce

I buy a lot of butter lettuce from TJ's, either by itself or in a blend with raddichio. But until last week, when I saw this new version, it never occurred to me that someday I might buy a head of it still in it own little piece of the earth.

This was a surprising find among the usual assortment of bagged, pre-made salads. After having recently also seen the hydroponically grown watercress, I wonder if this is the beginning of a whole line of food-still-in-dirt products from Trader Joe's.

Anyway, I cut the stem and cup of dirt and roots off, and chopped and washed the leaves. Then I mixed it with a bag of TJ's Spicy Spinach Blend and shredded carrots.

The result was, for me, indistinguishable from using the bagged, pre-cut, pre-washed butter lettuce. If I single out a lettuce leaf and eat it on its own, it does taste fresher and livelier. But (1) this could be a trick of the imagination, because that's what I'm expecting, and (2) since I never use it that way, I'm not sure that it matters.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It doesn't add enough value in terms of enjoyment to be worth the extra work.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A note about coffee

Everything is coffee right now at Trader Joe's. Coffee ice cream, coffee cookies, coffee body butter, etc. They're doing with coffee this year what they did with mango last year.

I'm having none of it.

I've literally never had a cup of coffee in my life, and I'm not about to start. The few times I've tried coffee- or mocha-flavored things, I've found them foul and revolting.

Coffee. Ick. I do not like it in a boat. I do not like it with a goat.

I will not be trying any of these dozens of new products. And you should be glad that I'm not, because the reviews would all just be, "Yuck, that's disgusting."

I hope this TJ's coffee craze will soon pass, so they can get back to making stuff that I want to try--both for myself and for my readers.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


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

9 Trader Joe's products for easy dinners

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

7 tips to help you survive rush hour at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's karaoke

Trader Joe's foods for kids

Why I buy all my airplane snacks from Trader Joe's

22 Trader Joe's products we're totally obsessed with

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, in lieu of the usual cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag, we have a cute cat on a Trader Joe's catnip-infused scratching pad.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend

This is an unusual admixture of things from different categories of foodstuffs that aren't normally found together. Oddly, only the last ingredient--red quinoa--can reasonably be classified as a "grain," despite the product name. Couscous and orzo are simply forms of pasta (though made from wheat, of course), and baby garbanzo beans are not grains, either.

I screwed up the cooking the first time, leaving it underdone. But for the second half of the bag, I followed the package directions meticulously, and it came out as I think is intended. The pasta components were al dente. However, this still left the garbanzos a little tough. Maybe perfect cooking of everything at once is possible with some other technique, but I suspect that getting the beans cooked right would mean mushy couscous and orzo.

In any event, the most favorable quality of the cooked product is visual appeal; it makes for a very pretty plate. But the taste is nothing special--just ordinary pasta, really.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not. If on some occasion I want visually appealing pasta, I'd be more likely to go for TJ's Organic Pasta--Vegetable Radiatore, or Trofie Colore.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Fior Delle Alpi Raw Milk Cheese

This is a limited-time-only, feature cheese of the month for March, says Trader Joe's.

They also assert, rightly, that it is "no mild cheese," but "intense." This is true. I wish I had the right word to describe it, but its most prominent note is one I don't recall from any previous cheese. "Nutty" comes closest, but isn't quite right. I also toyed with "bitter," but that isn't it, either. Nor is it the standard "sharpness" of some cheddars. Whatever the correct word, I found it moderately unpleasant. Not bad enough to put me off of eating it, but enough that I'm going to put this particular variety down as one that I'm happy to add to my gustatory experiences but need not try again.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Grapefruit & Ginger Splash

I continue to mourn the loss of Trader Joe's Grapefruit Sunset juice every time I think about it. It was the Platonic ideal of grapefruit juice.

As if to offer a balm to my aching heart, TJ's has recently come up with this blend, combining grapefruit juice, ginger puree, and lime juice. The feeling is a lot like that created by the cute new puppy that can't ever really replace the beloved old mutt, but nevertheless makes you happy in his own way. I'll never like this as much as the Sunset (which, by the way, was always a strange name; wouldn't "Sunrise" have been more fitting?), but it's pretty darn good.

Grapefruit is the heavy hitter here. At first it seemed as if I were tasting just plain grapefruit juice. But then I noticed the pleasant little mouth burn from the ginger. Even after polishing off the bottle, my impression was that the ginger makes itself known more from that physical sensation than from flavor. TJ's swears there's lime in there, too, but I could not detect it. (Nina's experience on all of this was way different, but I'll leave that for her to explain, if she chooses to do so.)

Overall, this is one of the best juice blends TJ's has on offer.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Breaded Chicken Breast Nuggets

These are as good as any frozen chicken nuggets I've ever tried, and better than most. Plump, tender, all white meat, tasty. If it matters to you that they're gluten-free, well, that's an added bonus, but it's not an important feature to me.

Will I buy it again? 

If I were going to make chicken nuggets a regular part of my diet, I would. But I'm perfectly content with some of the plant-based substitutes now available. So I'll spare a few birds' lives by sticking with those.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Farfalle Pasta

In terms of flavor, this is indistinguishable from any other pasta, as far as I can tell. But I liked the configuration. I've never bought bow-tie (or, to use the translation from the Italian, "butterfly") pasta before. I found that I like it. It holds sauce well and it's easy to pick up with a fork.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I think this will be among my first choices for pasta.

Saturday, March 18, 2017


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

Trader Joe's announces recall of frozen burritos

New Trader Joe's products for March

Best tweets of the week--LOTS of them!

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

Friday, March 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites

I have found Nirvana, and it's been in the snack aisle of Trader Joe's.

You know how when you bake a casserole with cheese on top, and the cheese at the edges gets baked hard and crunchy and it turns out to be the best part of the whole dish? Well, some culinary genius in Italy has figured out how to manufacture just those crunchy cheese bits without bothering with the whole casserole. And they've sold the result to Trader Joe's.

Hear me well: This is the best snack food I've ever had from TJ's. Perfect flavor. Perfect texture. Perfect saltiness.

It's so damn good that after eating one bag, I never want to be without it in my life. It is simultaneously going on my "buy again" list, my "staples" list, and my "Top Ten" list.

If this product were a dog, it would get a 14/10 from We Rate Dogs. H*ckin cheesy af. Would eat endlessly. They're good snacks, Brent.

My cat usually likes sharing bits of cheese that I'm eating. Oddly, she sniffed at but would not eat a small piece of one of these Cheese Bites that I broke off for her. But, y'know, she's a cat--what the hell does she know?

I am going to eat these until I have a heart attack, and then when I'm in the hospital, I'm going to demand that they grind more of them up into a powder and put them in my IV line.

Now that I know how good a snack can be, if this item is ever discontinued, I shall lose the will to live, and be obliged to find the highest tower in the land from which to hurl my miserable self.

Will I buy it again? 

Away with such foolish questions.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Red Lentil Sedanini

I like this. It's not quite as good as regular pasta, because the texture is a little odd. You need to cook it in as much water as you can get into the pot, or it turns out sort of gummy. There's a mild lentil flavor to it, but I find nothing objectionable about that.

Will I buy it again? 

Probably not, because I like and have no problem with regular wheat-based pasta, which is also cheaper. But I think this is important to say: This is far and away the best gluten-free pasta I've ever encountered. It's maybe 90% as good as regular pasta. If I developed celiac disease and had to avoid gluten, this would immediately become a staple, and I'd feel very little loss for having to make the change.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Sliced Lite Provolone Cheese

I bought this at the same time as the regular sliced provolone so that I could compare them side by side. I did so over the course of about six evening snacks.

Which is better? It's a close call. The regular has a slightly nicer, softer texture. It definitely has more flavor, but, as an accompanying down side, has a lot more of that bitter edge that I found unpleasant. The light version doesn't have that problem, but its down side is that it possesses so little flavor that I ended up doubling up the slices on my crackers just to get any meaningful cheese taste at all. That more than offsets any dietary advantage of the lower fat content.

The fact is, neither is good enough to join the ranks of my favorites. They're not even serious contenders for that class.

Will I buy it again? 


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Sliced Provolone Cheese

On the rare occasions that I go to a submarine sandwich shop, provolone is among my favorite cheeses to accompany slices of turkey on my sub. These days, I never make meat sandwiches for myself at home, but I do eat cheese pretty regularly on crackers as a late-night snack. I had never tried provolone for this purpose.

These slices are not especially convenient used this way, since they're sandwich-sized. That's not the fault of the product, obviously, but in retrospect I would have been better off buying a block of provolone instead of slices.

Nothing on the label identifies which sub-type of provolone this is, but it struck me as high in sharpness--a little too high, in fact, edging into bitterness. I was not a fan. I prefer milder forms.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Farfalle With 4 Cheeses & Spinach lists 33 synonyms of mediocre. I went down that list, and for each one thought, "Yep, that's this stuff."

It's filling, but bland and completely unexciting. It's quick and easy to prepare in the microwave, but if I found another package of it in my freezer, I'd keep looking for what else I might choose instead, even if I were in a hurry to eat.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, March 11, 2017


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

7 healthy food finds from Trader Joe's

35 items from Trader Joe's that will change your life

11 cheap Trader Joe's breakfasts

8 things you should always buy at Trader Joe's

The best frozen Italian foods from Trader Joe's

6 easy dinners to make with Trader Joe's ingredients

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, we have a new cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag!

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Tomato Feta Soup

I was kinda hoping that this soup would be so bad I could make a "tomato fetid" pun. But it's not. I didn't hate it, though I didn't love it, either. I would eat it again, but I wouldn't buy it again.

The reason for that is easy to explain. Compare this to another tomato soup you might choose when you're at Trader Joe's--either this one or this one. The tomato-feta soup requires refrigeration and must be consumed soon. It's more expensive per ounce. It's not as good. And for those who like to avoid dairy, the "feta" part of the program is a problem.

There's just no reason for this product to exist, the way I see things.

Will I buy it again? 


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Way More Chocolate Chips Cookies

I'll give this much to Trader Joe's: They do manage to put into these cookies about as many chocolate chips as I think could be done. Or at least as many as could reasonably be done. I suppose you could have basically a lump of chocolate chips just barely held together by bits of cookie dough--but that's getting into the realm of the unreasonable.

I wish, though, that they had invested as much effort in making the cookie part good as they did in maximizing the chip count. It's dull, bordering on flavorless, and dry, bordering on crumbly.

Such a good idea, ruined by poor execution.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Pink Grapefruit Marmalade

Once in a while, I spot something on the new-products shelf at Trader Joe's, and know in about one millisecond that I'm going to love it. This was one such item. Pink grapefruit marmalade is something I've never even imagined before, but my instant soul-deep reaction was, "Yes, this is a thing that needs to exist in the world."

I was not wrong. The pink-grapefruit force is strong with this one. It's sweetened enough that it can serve the same functions as more traditional fruit jams, but not so much that you lose the tart essence of the base fruit (as happens often with, say, many cranberry derivatives). TJ's got this one just right.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. I'm not ready to change my lifelong habit of strawberry or raspberry jam as the thing that belongs on morning toast, but this will make for a nice change of pace occasionally.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Milk Chocolate Bars

Perhaps I'm just lacking discernment in my chocolates, but without trying them side by side, I am unable to figure out what is so special about these little bars. If they are meaningfully different from a cheap milk chocolate, like Hershey's, the difference escapes me.

Will I buy it again? 

No. One's necessarily limited chocolate allotment should not be wasted on boring chocolate. And these are boring.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Roasted & Salted Valencia Peanuts

My first impression was that these tasted sweeter than most peanuts I've had. So I fired up Google, and learned that I was not just imagining things: "the Valencia has a sweet flavor...."

But I think I'll still stick with my favorite, which is TJ's plain Roasted & Salted Peanuts. This is mainly because I prefer them without the little skins, which are just kind of annoying to deal with.

Will I buy it again? 

Not unless they're out of my regulars.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Another TJ's supplier identified via Twitter

I had never heard of "coffee flour" before, nor had I seen this product at Trader Joe's, but this tweet from the manufacturer is about as explicit as one could ever expect about being the supplier to TJ's:

Here's the manufacturer's web site:

It seems that identifying TJ's suppliers from the products they promote on Twitter is becoming a thing that I do.

Note that we also learned this week from a national recall that Manzana Products supplies the wonderful Gravenstein applesauce and the second-best Organic Unsweetened Applesauce for TJ's. You can see their own brands of the same items here.

Saturday, March 4, 2017


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

Trader Joe's announces recall of applesauce

6 must-haves from Trader Joe's

24 of the best healthy Trader Joe's snacks

Power rankings: Trader Joe's frozen foods

5 amazing Trader Joe's products that happen to be kosher

Trader Joe's offers lots of bang for your wine buck

Trader Joe's employee killed in parking lot accident. More here.

Amazon and Trader Joe's named America's favorite retailers

10 best Trader Joe's snacks for travelers

The sadness of shopping at Trader Joe's while single

10 healthy Trader Joe's snacks you should keep in your dorm room

The best new Trader Joe's products of 2017--so far

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, I still don't have any more pictures of cute cats in Trader Joe's grocery bags, but here's a cute dog about to enjoy a cat-shaped Trader Joe's treat:

Friday, March 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Trader Joe's only sourdough bread has long been this one, with a loaf shape that, while perhaps traditional, isn't really good for sandwich making, because of the extreme variation in slice sizes. So I was pleased to discover this new version on the shelf recently, and instantly popped one into my basket.

It's still far from perfect--but it's an improvement. The slices are more consistent, but still kind of flattened compared to conventional sandwich breads. And, like the older version, it's only mediocre in the distinctive sourdough biting flavor.

Will I buy it again? 

I still prefer sourdough over most white and wheat breads. So yes, I'll buy this when I need some bread and don't feel like making another grocery stop somewhere else. But I'm still waiting for TJ's to make a sourdough loaf just the way I like it.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Trader Joe's Ridge Cut Sweet Potato Chips

I didn't much care for these. I'd eat them in a pinch, but they seem to be an odd chimera that I don't need in my life. If I wanted ridged potato chips, I'd rather have, well, ridged potato chips, not ridged sweet potato chips. If I wanted sweet potato chips, I'd rather have Trader Joe's sweet potato tortilla chips (since I can't have the wonderful but discontinued sweet potato tortilla chip rounds).

Also: The bag I brought home had very few intact chips. It was mostly full of sad, broken pieces, too small to scoop up the hummus with which I was serving them. I have no way of knowing if this is representative of the product or an unfortunate anomaly.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Ginger Zinger

New product--and I like it a lot. For once, the copy on the label is being accurate: "The perfect level of ginger spice and lemon zing." It's enough to be pleasant and attention-grabbing, but nothing like the nearly overwhelming bite from the Triple Ginger Brew.

Will I buy it again? 

Definitely. It's a welcome relief from the endless parade of melted-lollipop fruity glop that Trader Joe's sells as "juice."