Saturday, March 30, 2019


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

Trader Joe's top 5

5 ways to use Trader Joe's "Everything But the Bagel" seasoning

How a brief Trader Joe's interaction turned into Gary Gulman's magnum opus

The 50 essential Trader Joe's foods

Toddler snacks from Trader Joe's

30 favorite vegan Trader Joe's products

Trader Joe's employee does a Reddit "Ask Me Anything"

Healthy new items from Trader Joe's

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, March 29, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis

I had a weird experience with these candies. I first tried them after dinner with Nina, and felt thoroughly meh about them. A week passed, and I ate the last three as part of a late-night snack alone, and quite liked them. I have some theories about these two different reactions, but they're all about my internal state of mind and have nothing to do with the product, so I'll spare you.

I've never cared for anything combining chocolate and peanut butter. And on first tasting, I thought, "Yep, more of that wrongness." But on second trial, I instead got a stronger sense of the raspberry filling, which oddly seemed to sort of buffer the clash between the chocolate and peanut butter--like The Dude's rug tying the room together in "The Big Lebowski." This completely surprised me.

Nina didn't like these. She thought the components weren't well-balanced, and the chocolate tasted cheap. She also noticed the strange portion numbers in the labeling: 3 pieces to a portion, 8 in the bag, contents "about 2 1/2" servings. So why not put 9 in the bag to make a whole number of servings? Well, Trader Joe's, what have you got to say for yourself on this excellent question?

Will I buy it again? 

No. Even on my more favorable second impression, they don't rise anywhere close to the level of favorite chocolates.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Trader Joe's Creamy Polenta With Spinach & Carrots

This had been languishing in my freezer for a long, long time before I rediscovered it recently and cooked it up as a side dish for a dinner with Nina. (Nothing but the best for my honey!) How long? I looked for a "best by" date on the package, but couldn't find one. However, the metadata on this photo says August 6, 2017, so about 19 months. This undoubtedly explains why it came out of the bag in a big block of ice. It was...not ideal.

It was still decent, but I just didn't love the heavy spinach component. And the carrot portion of the program seemed nearly missing in action. It created a weird imbalance, at least compared to the expectations I had in mind from the product name and package photo.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 25, 2019

Trader Joe's Rainbow Pears

These are ordinary pears, distinguished only by having a variety of colors. As far as I could tell, the color of the skin was unconnected with any distinguishing flavor of the underlying fruit.

Most were good; none were excellent. Only one was mealy in texture. A couple ended up going overripe and mushy before I could get around to eating them. (A man can eat only so many pears.)

Will I buy it again? 

No. It's just too many for me. A few at a time is better than a big bag.

Saturday, March 23, 2019


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

11 chefs share the one thing they always buy at Trader Joe's

10 Trader Joe's vegetarian dinners

Taste test of frozen chicken nuggets

Vegan shopping at Trader Joe's on a budget

Price comparison: Aldi, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, March 22, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Elote Corn Chip Dippers

When I saw these bags on the new-products display at Trader Joe's, I couldn't understand why they were promoting one of their most stalwart old items as new. I had to look more closely to notice that these were not the usual Dippers.

I loves me my Dippers. You could send a SWAT team to break in and do a random surprise inspection of my kitchen any day, any time, and you'll always find at least one bag of them in my cupboard, and usually two or three so that I'm never at risk of running out of them. So of course it was an instant "yes" to try this new version. Heck, I love the original so much that I would have bought any new variation on them that TJ's cared to offer, short of "Super Onion Flavored Onion Corn Chip Dippers, Now With Extra Onion."

I confess that I had never heard of "elote" before. Relying on the first result in a Google search, I learn: "Elote corn is Mexican street corn roasted over an open grill and coated with salt, chile powder, butter, cotija, lime juice, and mayonnaise or crema fresca." That sounds delicious!

Compare that with the seasonings added to these new TJ's chips: maltodextrin, sugar, salt, chipotle peppers, nonfat dry milk, lowfat buttermilk, "spice," corn flour, "natural flavor," citric acid, sunflower oil, habanero pepper powder, "natural smoke flavor," turmeric extract, and "trace of lime."

I'd say those lists are only vaguely similar.

So how do they taste? Not so great, if you ask me--and nothing like what my brain conjures up from the quoted description of elote. There's definitely some mild heat from the peppers (though this is quite variable from one chip to another, I found). Then there's a fairly complex mix of other tastes that I can't put my finger on--presumably the sum of the turmeric, "smoke" and other unspecified "flavors."

This is one of those times when I can't explain exactly what I don't like--but I don't like. Maybe it's the turmeric, which I haven't liked in any of the TJ's products in which it has appeared.

Nina and I were eating them with the last of my stockpiled jars of Fall Harvest Salsa. I objected to the chips clashing with and even dominating the lovely flavors of the mild salsa. Nina, conversely, thought it was a fabulous combo. In fact, after a dozen or so salsa-laden chips, she declared these to be her favorite corn chips of all time. This is not the kind of announcement she drops casually or thoughtlessly.

So you've got a very, very mixed review here.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Well, not unless I accidentally grab the wrong bag, once these migrate to the regular snack shelf of the store.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Vegan Jackfruit Cakes

Nina bought and served these recently. They're supposed to resemble crabcakes. I wouldn't know, since I've never eaten crabcakes. But I got no sense of anything seafoodish about them.

We each had two. I finished one, started on the second, but just couldn't. For some reason, the second one gave me a much bigger jolt of onion than the first one had. I don't think Nina even finished her first one.

Will I buy it again? 

No. Complete fail.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Trader Joe's White Leicester Handmade Hard Cheese

This is currently Trader Joe's "spotlight" cheese of the month, so it will likely be available for a very limited time.

That's a shame. I'd like to see it become a permanent addition to the lineup. It's among my favorites. It's not labeled "cheddar," probably for some technical reason that I don't understand, but it sure tastes like cheddar to me--and a very, very good one.

I love the Mull of Kintyre Scottish Cheddar Cheese. It, too, was a spotlight cheese, available only briefly from TJ's. Fortunately, however, I've recently found it under its own label at another local store. So I tried this Leicester cheese side by side with the Kintyre. The former is not quite as sweet and creamy as the latter, but it comes closer than most white cheddars.

If this became regularly available from TJ's, it would be one of my most frequent cheese purchases--a staple that I would return to again and again. I think it's not quite Top Ten List material. Sadly, however, all of my very favorite TJ's cheddars that made that list are no longer available, so almost-as-good will have to be good enough.

Will I buy it again? 

I'm already on my second block of it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus

This was OK, but I thought it was (1) too hot, (2) hot without being especially flavorful, and (3) a little too mushy/soupy for my taste. Nina disagreed; she liked this a lot. I should also note that if you read the list of ingredients, you'll find that it contains no actual buffaloes.

IMHO, the platonic ideal of hot hummus is the hot chipotle variety from Asheville-based Roots. It is superior to this TJ's one in every way.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Outside-In Stuffed Gnocchi

Nina found this and cooked it up for our dinner last night. Sorry for the dodgy pictures; she forgot to give me a chance to photograph the package before ripping it open.

This is a new product. TJ's introduction to it is here.

The basic idea is gnocchi filled with the two things that you might most commonly put on top of them: pasta sauce and cheese. It's a great idea. As soon as I saw the wrapper, I thought I was going to love them. Nope. I found them disappointingly bland. Unremarkable gnocchi shells with a vague smear of tomato and cheese inside. Dull as all get-out. I think they should make the sauce zestier, like TJ's own arrabiata sauce. Anything with a little more zing to it. And more cheese.

So: Excellent concept, poor execution.

Nina, conversely, didn't have a lot of hope for them, but felt pleasantly surprised. Go figure.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, March 16, 2019


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

Trader Joe's favorites

How Trader Joe's makes customer experience its competitive advantage

Healthy and tasty Trader Joe's snacks

Favorites from Trader Joe's

The ultimate vegan guide to Trader Joe's

26 healthy kids' snacks 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 with his Trader Joe's cereal.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Trader Joe's 3 Cheese Vegetable Ravioli

Trader Joe's just keeps churning out new variations on a familiar theme. This time, they've stuck mushrooms, Swiss chard, kale, and three Italian cheeses inside the ravioli.

There were 12 pieces in the plastic container. One of them tore open partially during cooking, as I tried to separate two that were stuck together, but it didn't spill out all of its contents as I've seen happen before.

The texture was fine, as always. The contents left something to be desired, though. I tasted almost nothing but cheese. Now, for me this is kind of a good thing, because I tolerate but do not love mushrooms. For Nina, though, it was a letdown. She wondered what's the point of featuring mushrooms if they're not going to be prominent and really wonderful. And, she added, kale does not belong in ravioli. This is a scientific fact.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I'd stick with this one, or this one, or this one.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Avocado Hummus

Nina bought this.

It's a little too spicy for my taste--and kind of one-note-heat-spicy, not complex, interesting spicy. The avocado is not nearly as prominent as you'd expect, given that it's the feature that's really unusual and unexpected in hummus.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 11, 2019

Another Trader Joe's supplier self-outs on Twitter

This is an occasionally recurring phenomenon that I will always find interesting and worth documenting. Trader Joe's is famous for locking its suppliers into iron-clad secrecy contracts. Yet in spite of that, once in a while one of them just can't resist the temptation to boast that they're the company behind a TJ's product. I always wonder what the reaction is at TJ's headquarters.

Here's the latest, with the newest "spotlight" cheese of the month (which I have purchased but haven't tried yet):

I replied to the tweet with a question. If they answer, I'll update this post.

Trader Joe's Blushing Apple Tart

I had never heard of "blushing apples" before encountering this new Trader Joe's dessert.

Nina prepared this. Unlike most TJ's frozen products, the recommended bake time on this one proved to be a little long, as you can see from the slightly overdone edge. (That second photo is half of what's in the box, by the way. It's supposed to make three servings, but Nina and I just split it between us, and had no difficulty putting it away.)

I thought the almond paste might be a deterrent, as I don't love almonds. But it turned out to be just a pleasant background sweetness, with little actual almond flavor. Somehow, the combination of the paste and the apples combined to remind me of maraschino cherries. I asked Nina if I was crazy for thinking that, and she instantly answered, "Yes." So it may not be a universal impression.

The crust was somewhat dry. It's not clear whether that's an intrinsic property, or due to the slight overbaking. Tasty, though.

The apples are excellent.

The thing looks like a pepperoni pizza. Even after you realize that, yes, the flesh of these apples is pink and those aren't slices of meat, it looks like an apple pizza. OK, a square apple pizza.

Will I buy it again? 

Close call. I don't think I loved it enough to bring home again for myself. But if it showed up again at Nina's, I'd happily eat my half again. And it would make a nice contribution to a potluck dinner.

Saturday, March 9, 2019


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

Trader Joe's paper products get A rating for sustainability from Natural Resources Defense Council

Best new Trader Joe's products of 2019

11 Trader Joe's hacks you need to know

10 Trader Joe's beauty products to snag with your salad kit

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, March 8, 2019

Trader Joe's Chocolate Bar Quintet

I bought this in December, but didn't finish it until last night. And even then, I had only four of the five bars; I knew that I wouldn't like the Dark Chocolate Hazelnut, so Nina took that one home with her.

For each of the other four varieties, the added flavor comes in the form of tiny crunchy bits--e.g., candied orange peel, or honey "pieces" made with honey, corn starch, and sugar.

They were all good. I liked the Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Crisp the best, perhaps just because the combination of chocolate and cinnamon was so unexpected.

Will I buy it again? 

Not for myself. But it would make a nice gift for children, or to take to the hosts of a holiday party, etc.--assuming that Trader Joe's brings it back next year (which is far from certain with any of their copious Christmastime offerings).

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Trader Joe's Wisconsin Mild Cheddar Cheese

Well, it has taken me 57 years on this planet, but I've finally done it: I have found the world's most boring cheese.

It's not bad in the sense of being inedible or anything. But it's so dull and lifeless (with an oddly rubbery texture) that I can't imagine why anybody would choose this over the dozens of better cheeses you'd find on the TJ's shelves. This is like the surplus cheese that our stupid federal government buys in order to keep dairy prices up, and then gives away for free. Marie Kondo would say that it doesn't spark joy.

What makes me most sad is knowing that this is pretty typical of the cheese that I used to pick--for many years--before I wised up to the fact that there's a whole universe of far better ones. It's what I was raised on, and for way too long I let familiarity and fear of the unknown keep me from exploring anything else. I'm glad those days are behind me.

Will I buy it again? 


Monday, March 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Asiago Cheese

I don't think I've ever bought or eaten straight Asiago cheese before this, though I've had Trader Joe's version with rosemary and olive oil. I've also had it in blends, like in TJ's Quattro Formaggio.

I like it by itself. It's mild but distinctive, quite hard but not crumbly.

Will I buy it again? 


Saturday, March 2, 2019


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

Trader Joe's wins taste test of boxed brownie mixes

Best new Trader Joe's product you need to try

16 Trader Joe's food hacks

Do Whole Foods' new prices beat Trader Joe's?

What a keto expert buys at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's tops survey of America's best grocery stores

Trader Joe's best kid-friendly snacks

10 incredible foods you can only get at Trader Joe's

Recipes for using Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi

My ten favorite products at Trader Joe's

The 15 best frozen food items at Trader Joe's

Trader Joe's announces reductions in plastic usage

10 dietitian-approved snacks to buy at Trader Joe's

How Joe Coulombe built the culture behind Trader Joe's cult status

Best tweets of the week:

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

Friday, March 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Gochujang Chop Salad Kit

You can easily see what you're getting by the prominent list of ingredients on the front of the bag.

The three things that make this somewhat unusual are the puffed brown rice bits (crunchy, like Rice Krispies), the sesame seeds, and the "Gochujang vinaigrette."

About the first two: They come in separate pouches. I dumped them into my big salad bowl with the main ingredients. This was a mistake. They're so small that they all plummet right to the bottom and stay there. The more you try to toss the salad, the more they tumble down to the bottom. If you were to add the salad dressing to the entire mixture, that would probably add enough stickiness to solve this problem, but then that creates problems of its own. I think the best solution is to keep those two ingredients in their separate pouches and add them to individual servings at the table.

About the dressing: It's soy sauce. OK, maybe it's technically not actually entirely soy sauce, but that was sure my general impression from tasting it. It's pretty potent.

I did finish off this bag, using the included dressing--but I can't say I enjoyed it much.

Will I buy it again? 

No. I will stick to my routine: One bag of either butter lettuce and radicchio or just plain butter lettuce, plus one bag of either Power to the Greens or  Herb Salad Mix (I wish I could still get the Spicy Spinach Blend or the Lemony Greens Blend or the Heirloom Red Spinach for this portion of the salad formula, but they all made brief appearances on TJ's shelves, then disappeared), plus half of a bag of shredded carrots