Friday, August 31, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Vanilla Fudge Chip Ice Cream

This is basically your standard vanilla/chocolate-chip ice cream, except that the chips are bits of fudge. Even in frozen ice cream, they stay softer than traditional chocolate chips, which is a nice textural surprise.

Will I buy it again? 

I doubt it. I liked it just fine, but not enough to be a top choice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Trader Joe's Milk & Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Bits Bar

This is a novel candy bar. As the name implies, it swirls together milk and dark chocolate, and has crunchy nuggets of butterscotch scattered throughout. The form factor is also unusual, coming in segments as shown above--sort of like Toblerone, except flat-topped instead of pointy.

Will I buy it again? 

No. It was interesting to try once, but it didn't rise to the level of a new favorite.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Trader Joe's Black Licorice Treads

This licorice comes in long, corrugated strips that you can peel apart like string cheese. I guess they do sort of look like tire treads, if you squint and tilt your head just right and apply a generous amount of imagination.

It's pretty good licorice. It might even be identical in composition with the Soft Black Licorice Twists that I liked a lot, though I'd have to try them together to be sure.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I found the physical form awkward. I would always choose the soft twists over the treads.

Saturday, August 25, 2018


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

11 Trader Joe's hacks you need to know

Cult favorite items from Trader Joe's

New summer stuff from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

And finally, here's this week's cute cat in a Trader Joe's grocery bag on a Trader Joe's scratching pad.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Trader Joe's Cracker Assortment

This was the second part of the cheese and cracker variety combo that I bought to serve to Nina's birthday party guests.

I wish I could say that it makes a perfect complement to the other half, the Cheese Party Tray. After all, four kinds of cheese and four kinds of crackers make 16 possible combinations, which is nice.

But I didn't like the crackers. The plain water crackers are pretty bad; they taste like cardboard. The wheat "entertainer" cracker is perfectly decent, though unexciting. There's a pepper/poppy seed cracker that's pretty good, but a lot of them were broken. Finally, there's a vegetable cracker. It's the largest of the four and the only one that's rectangular rather than round. It's admittedly got a lot of interesting flavor. For most people, it might be the best of the batch. But for me, I immediately detected onion in it, which is a dealbreaker. So I deemed two of the four acceptable, two unacceptable.

The plastic wrapper sleeves that the four varieties come in are impossible to open without ripping in random directions, and impossible to re-close. Annoying.

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Trader Joe's Cheese Party Tray

Nina's 60th birthday was a few days ago, so I had a little party for her at my house to celebrate. When planning refreshments for the guests, I remembered that I had recently seen this announcement from Trader Joe's about a new tray of cheese slices intended specifically for parties. It seemed like it would be a fine choice.

And it was! None of the four cheeses is spectacularly great, but they're all perfectly adequate, and exactly what you'd expect from the varieties selected. That is, they're all right up the middle, with no surprises. The Swiss was a little on the flavorless side, but other than that, each of the four varieties is distinct and easy to like.

The slices are uniform, and separate reasonably easily. They seem to be sized so that two of them side by side will cover a slice of bread for sandwich purposes. That makes them much too big for loading onto crackers, but they're easy to fold/break into halves or thirds for that.

Will I buy it again? 

I would never buy this for my own use, because I much prefer buying blocks of more distinct cheeses and slicing my own. But for the particular purpose of assembling a small selection of pre-sliced cheeses for party guests, this product is very close to ideal--so yes, I would buy it again for another such gathering.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Miso Ramen Soup

I was strangely torn while eating this and trying to decide whether I liked it more or less than its chicken-flavored shelfmate. I don't love miso generally; in fact, I find it a little off-putting. And the miso is quite strong here.

But it was at least interesting, unlike any soup I've had before, whereas the chicken one was just another in a long line of mediocre chicken-noodle soups. So it's got that going for it, which is nice.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, August 18, 2018


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

Trader Joe's appetizers that come to the rescue at every party

Top 10 most intriguing Trader Joe's stores

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, August 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Chicken Ramen Soup

Pretty clever of Trader Joe's to release two new flavors of ramen soup in the week before the college kids are heading back to the dorms, eh? (Say, did you know that the University of Southern California has student housing with a Trader Joe's right in the same building? It's almost enough to makes me want to go back and do college all over again. Almost.)

Preparation was easy, following the microwave directions: Open the two little packets inside (one powdered flavoring, one oil), add water, zap for 90 seconds, stir, and let sit for six minutes. The noodles came out cooked just right.

But I can't say I'm excited about the result. Nothing terrible, but it's pretty generic chicken-noodle soup, with a heavy emphasis on the "noodle" part, and only hints and whiffs of the "chicken" part. You could buy any number of similar but better products in a can (and have a recyclable container, rather than one in the trash, as this cup will be).

Will I buy it again? 


Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Yellow Lentil & Brown Rice Pasta--Spaghetti

This is Trader Joe's latest attempt at a gluten-free pasta; see the company's introduction to the product here. The others have included Organic Brown Rice Pasta FusilliOrganic Brown Rice & Quinoa Pasta, Organic Black Bean Rotini, Gluten Free Egg Fettuccine Pasta, and Organic Red Lentil Sedanini. I thought the last two of that list were the most successful. This one joins them in being a passable substitute for real pasta.

The color isn't a giveaway, as it resembles whole-wheat pasta. The texture was a little stiffer than regular spaghetti, but not a dealbreaker. (Nina would beg to differ. She found it both gummy and gritty.) I thought it had just a faint lentil flavor, but it's basically a bland, neutral canvas on which to place your favorite protein and sauce.

Will I buy it again? 

No. But it's another decent option for those who need or want to live gluten-free.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trader Joe's Macaron Aux Framboises--Raspberry Macaron Cake

Nina spotted and purchased this recently, and served it for our dessert last night when I was at her house for dinner. I had never noticed it before.

It is quite excellent.

No preparation is required, except to thaw it for 45 minutes. With that much time, ours was still very cold, and the cream filling still had the texture of ice cream. Nina and I both liked that, but it seems not to be what the manufacture intends. Maybe next time we'll experiment with leaving it longer before eating.

I'm not a big fan of almonds or almond flavor, but despite the "almond 'biscuit'" language on the box, I didn't find it objectionable at all.

The raspberries were perfect--plump and flavorful and sweet. The cream filling was appropriately decadent.

The package says it serves three. That's true, as long as you're willing to leave those three people wanting more.

As Nina pointed out, you could serve this to guests, claim that you made it yourself, and nobody would be the wiser. I probably can't pull that off with her now, but you could fool your friends into thinking you've become a fine pastry chef.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. It's thoroughly delicious.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


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

11 Trader Joe's items even picky eaters need to try

How Trader Joe's got its name

Designing the grocery shopping experience--a look at Trader Joe's

6 Trader Joe's items that all ranch lovers need to try

9 easy meal hacks with cheap basics from Trader Joe's

11 new Trader Joe's items to try in August

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, August 10, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Kosher Hot & Spicy Dill Pickle Chips

I didn't think I'd like these, so they sat in my refrigerator for several months before I finally worked up the will to try them.

I could not have been more wrong in my prediction. Not only did I like them, but I liked them so much that they immediately became my first choice in this product category. They are not so hot as to dominate the flavors from a burger; rather, they add a perfect amount of accent flavor and heat. Just as important, they're wonderfully crunchy and thick, unlike many pickle chips that are thin and limp and just kind of sad.

Will I buy them again? 

Yes. What's more, they will be a staple that I'll always keep on hand. I suspect I'll still occasionally buy plain ones, and go back and forth between them. But the best burgers I've ever made since giving up ground beef have been the three I made over the last week with these pickles and the new TJ's Brioche Buns. It's a combination that has changed veggie burgers from occasional use and "also ran" status to among my favorite things to cook for myself. My enthusiasm even extends to adding them to my Top Ten list. (That list now has 76 items in it. It's a paradox. Deal with it.)

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Trader Joe's Brioche Buns

I loved these. They're my new favorite burger buns, and will become my staple in that category. They're large both in diameter and in thickness. They're buttery and just a little bit sweet (the latter trait being a turn-off for Nina, but I liked it). They are, as Mary Poppins described herself, practically perfect.

"It's a very big fluffy bun."

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. In fact, I don't know what would get me to buy any other burger buns.

This is one of the rare items that is going on all three of my lists (linked in the upper right corner): will buy again, a staple that I buy frequently, and a Top Ten.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Waffle Cones

These are very nearly perfect. They taste as good as most of the ones you'll get at an ice-cream shop. They're reasonably sturdy--almost no premature breaking or crumbling, and they don't get soggy from contact with the ice cream. They're not strong enough that you can shove whole scoops of ice cream down into them and expect them to hold up. But with just a little care--dropping small dabs of ice cream in first, then gradually increasing, until you're ready to top the whole thing with a big round scoop on top--you can end up with the satisfaction of a genuinely filled cone, with no significant voids inside.

The packaging is a problem; they come nestled in a big polystyrene clamshell. But I suppose if they didn't, I'd be complaining that several of the cones were broken when I opened the box. As it is, they were perfectly protected.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes, at least once in a while. It's been years, maybe decades, since I bought ice-cream cones at a store. I suppose that's because I had found them disappointing. I just got used to eating my ice cream from a bowl. Now that I've had half of a box of these new ones from TJ's, I'm reminded how both the flavor and the form factor of a good cone enhance my enjoyment of ice cream. On the other hand, 12 is a lot of cones for a guy living alone to get through before they go stale, so I don't think I'll be keeping a supply on hand all the time. But I'll say this: I see no reason to buy any other cones now. These are the best you'll find in any store. They are Top Ten List material, even if the number in a package means they'll be a rare purchase for this single dude.

Saturday, August 4, 2018


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

Trader Joe's issues "health alert" (not recall) on three salads and wraps

18 gluten-free Trader Joe's products to try

Amazing inside account of the Trader Joe's shooting/hostage situation

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, August 3, 2018

Trader Joe's Mini Dark Chocolate Mint Coins

These are, in essence, Trader Joe's version of Girl Scouts Thin Mints--and they want you to know that, without quite saying it. Notice the camping theme of the artwork on the box. Notice the hibiscus symbol bringing to mind the Girl Scouts logo of the faces in profile. Notice the reference to "merit badge" in the wording around that.

So, do they measure up? Close.

First, they're tiny, probably only half the diameter of GSTMs. Second, there's a bit of an off note in the background, kind of like unbaked flour. I don't know what's up with that.

But other than that, they're a pretty good imitation--certainly good enough to carry an addict through the 11 long, dark months when the little girls in green aren't peddling their crack cocaine cookies.

Will I buy it again? 

Yes. They're not quite as good as the originals, but (1) they're a lot cheaper, (2) you don't have to deal with pushy parents and order sheets, and (3) no waiting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Lightlife Smart Tenders Meatless Savory Chicken

This is the latest fake-meat product Trader Joe's has started carrying. You can see the manufacturer's information about it here. It's mostly a blend of wheat and soy protein.

I like these just fine. They rank right up there with my current favorite similar product, this one from Beyond Meat, made from soy and pea protein.

Nina thought they were OK in flavor, but deficient in texture, being too homogeneous.

My biggest complaint is that there's only six in a box. That was enough for two servings, as the label indicates--but just barely. I think both of us would have been happier with one more each.

Will I buy it again? 

Sure. It's been a while since I tried Trader Joe's own Chickenless Tenders, but I think I like these even better.