Hello. My name's Nathan, and I love Trader Joe's. My wife Sonia does too. She's a great shopper, has excellent taste and knows good value when she comes across it. As many of you know, Trader Joe's is unsurpassed in the world of good-value grocery stores, so we spend a lot of our time and money there. Although the store fairly consistently delivers great taste with its own unique line of food products, there are definitely some big-hits, and unfortunately, there are some misses...

After doing a couple of internet searches for reviews of TJ's food items, Sonia discerned an apparent dearth of good, quality reviews for the store's offerings. So, at her suggestion, we decided to embark on a journey of systematically reviewing every Trader Joe's product, resulting in the blog you are about to read...

A couple of months into our Trader Joe's rating adventure, an old college friend, Russ, who unbeknownst to me had been following our TJ's blog, decided that I had been slacking in my blogging duties (which, of course, I was) so he decided to contribute his own original TJ's reviews to the blog, thus enhancing it, making it more complete and adding to it a flavor of his own. He and his wife Sandy are also avid TJ's fans and, as you will soon discover, he is an excellent writer and is nearly as clever, witty and humble as I am.

Seriously though, Russ: You go, boy!

So here it is: "What's Good at Trader Joe's?"

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Friday, January 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Greek Spirals with Leeks and Feta Cheese

Many of you have probably heard of the Norway Spiral. In the minds of the very sober and scientific-minded, it was obviously an interdimensional portal of some kind, ushering otherworldly beings onto our planet to initiate the apocalypse. That point isn't really up for debate. The apocalypse is just a bit behind schedule due to some unforeseen political circumstances and a few mathematical errors and omissions in the Mayan calendar. 

Then several years later, we learned of a Greek Spiral, whose purpose was quite obviously to usher five different cheeses into our reality, and to disappoint Russ and Sandy, thus temporarily distracting them from their true purpose and role in saving humanity from the aforementioned apocalypse.

Similarly, Sonia and I have recently been made aware of a swarm of smaller Greek spirals featuring only two cheeses, but containing leeks as well. These leaky leek spirals leaked Greek grease cheekily onto streaky sheets in our oven, but the final product was not particularly greasy in my opinion—at least not when compared to other similar Greek phyllo dough-based products.

The true purpose of this miniature Greek spiral swarm has not yet been uncovered as of the date of this food review's publication. 

It may have something to do with the leek's "unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients" healing this food reviewer from his current ailment, which may, in turn, be fueling some more-imaginitive-than-usual musings about this fairly run-of-the-mill Trader Joe's pastry.

The dough is somewhat flaky and soft. The filling isn't particularly cheesy, but there's a mild feta-esque flavor present. And the onion-ish hints of the leek are most definitely in there, too. It's not an overbearing flavor—it's subtle, like all the truly great powers in the universe tend to be.

Three and a half interdimensional portals out of five from me. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar

"Candy World! Dada, let's go play Candy World!"

Every night, right before bedtime, that's about all I hear from my four year old. She means CandyLand, of course. But Candy World sounds much more fun, doesn't it?

I think so. I think I'd like to live in an actual Candy World, like some Wonkified version of reality where everything, on a whim, could be candy. Sounds great. Love candy. Love chocolate. Love Trader Joe's, too. So if TJ's comes out with a chocolate bar, no matter how large, goofy, imitative of a classic, or potentially combustible, I gotta try it.

All that does not mean I have to love the new Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar.

This is not my first go-around with a TJ's spiced chocolate product. Admittedly, this new particular bar is a fair amount more successful than those caramels. But it shares some of the same pitfalls. Namely, ginger and chocolate are two flavors that need to be carefully combined for optimization. With this bar, toss in a healthy dose of cardamom, too. And I mean healthy. It's the first thing I smelled when I opened the wrapper, like Hershey-fied potpurri.

And honestly, it's kinda how it tasted, too.

The ginger and cardamom weren't overpowering per se, as I could still taste the milk chocolate enough to determine it was of fairly good quality. But the other spices - curry? Pepper? Heck, even the coconut? Nope, nada, none, except for a small bite I had that seemed particularly salty. None of that "warming" that the label speaks of on the front. The crisped quinoa did add a nice little gritty bite, a la crisped rice but a bit smaller, but in the end, I wasn't that happy with the bar.

Honestly, this chocolate bar may have been trying to do a little bit too much, but ended up not really excelling at anything in particular. It's okay, not great...perhaps I lack the proper sophistication to truly appreciate it and should stick to my Butterfingers like the plebe I am. Sandy enjoyed more than I did, noting her affinity for anything with cardamom. Still, even she could offer it only a lackluster three.

Eh well, just as I remind my four year old when we play Candy World, you can't win them all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Korma Fish Curry

A handful of you might remember that not all that long ago, Sonia and I had been living without a microwave. We purposely neglected to replace it mainly to see how we’d do without it. But now that we’re living in our RV and traveling, we are now, once again, endowed with the ability to irradiate our foods from frozen to ready-to-eat in a matter of minutes—when we’re hooked up to shore power, at least. Oh, how I’ve missed you, nuked foods. May our romance blossom once again. For our reunion date, you prepared a delish fish dish for me. How sweet of you, Samsung MC1015BB.

This blog has explored quite a few different frozen, microwavable Indian products over the years. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most consistent line of products Trader Joe’s has to offer. No, they can’t compete with a really good, authentic Indian restaurant, but considering the price and convenience, I’ve never found anything that compares.

This dish was no different. It’s the same basmati rice we’ve been seeing with most of these Indian meals. And of course, TJ’s curry is pretty consistently good. And the fish? Well, that was the wild card. Some TJ’s fish is spot on, and some…not so much.

But here we had a delicious white fish with a great taste and texture. Swai? It was soft, but not mushy, and it blended quite well with the thick, spicy curry. The packaging made the fish look like two or three “sticks,” for lack of a better term, but we got a large, triangular filet instead. If anything, it was more fish than I expected, just based on the picture on the box.



There’s a surprising amount of heat here, too, which Sonia and I both appreciated. The curry is potent, yet sweet, smooth, and coconutty. All three elements worked beautifully together, and we devoured our entrees quickly, wishing we had purchased another box or two to enjoy another day.

At $3.49 per single-serving package, it’s one of the pricier microwaveable Indian products at TJ’s, but it’s worth it if you ask Sonia or I. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.