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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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

Let's see...Blueberry. Cranberry. Cinnamon. Cheddar. Asiago. Jalapeno. Pretzel. French toast. Maple. Chocolate chip. And that's just real quick, off the top of my head, bagel varieties I personally enjoy, that are not represented in those self-important "everything" bagels.

That said, everything bagels rule. There's just something about all that taste - the salty, the garlic-y, the onion-y, with the extra little crunch from seedss - that make them my go-to bagels more times than not. Unless I'm too tempted by that asiago...I'm always tempted by asiago.

Now, imagine if you could make literally anything taste like an everything bagel.

While others dream, TJ's does. Introducing Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. It has everything an everything bagels has....except, namely, the bagel. That's a big something to miss from something calling itself everything, isn't it?

Use it on everything. Well okay, maybe not everything everything. I can't imagine it working well on, say, fruit or chocolate cake or in milk or, well, lots of other things. But imagine what it could be good on: eggs, quiche, various meats, steamed veggies, potatoes, in soups...that list also goes on. By itself, the salt seems very strong, but really it's the garlic and onion that really drive the flavor. It's potent and pungent and will last and last. Yes, you can get that distinctive "everything bagel breath" without stopping by your local Einstein Brothers, Bruegger's, or bagel shop of choice. As of time of writing, I re-sampled some getting close to an hour ago, and I can still taste it, and I had better do one heckuva good brushing job if I want a smooch from the Mrs anytime soon.

Good stuff. I've heard some folks toss around the words "breakfast game changer" when sprinkled on eggs. A coworker of mine marveled about the everything roasted chicken she made with this spice blend. Sandy loved it on some butternut squash soup, and for me, a light sprinkle on some roasted pork made for a good mix up from my usual spice choice. "Light" is the operative word, as it's very salty. I like how the seeds, garlic and onion retain a lot of their crunch, as one would expect from a freshly toasted everything bagel, so it seems a very accurate representation. A nice bonus is, it won't cost you everything either...it's just $1.99! A little goes a long way, so enjoy.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, March 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Joe's Dark Coffee Squares

Yes, there are two "Joe's" in the title of this blog post because there are two "Joe's" in the title of the product being reviewed. Seems redundant to me. But then again, my last review had the name "Joe" in it three times. 

And as Russ pointed out in his last review, there has most definitely been a caffeine-laden incursion of coffee-themed commodities at Trader Joe's lately. After 2016's moderately-fruitful mango endeavor, TJ's decided to follow it up with a cascade of coffee—an even more universally-appreciated flavor. In fact, coffee is the second most traded asset in the world. In order to top that, for 2018, Trader Joe's will have to introduce a line of crude oil flavored food products. Good luck with that, Big Joe.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Because there are plenty more coffee items to examine right now in 2017, like these fascinating coffee squares.

Like the Mocha Joe-Joe's, they feature chocolate elements as well as real ground coffee beans. And to me, once again, the taste heavily favors coffee. The texture is not unlike a typical chocolate bar. It's a smooth, creamy effect, with a bit of that "melts-in-your-mouth" kind of vibe. 

Lacking a candy shell, these squares would easily melt in your hand if not for the convenient, if perhaps a bit wasteful, individual packaging. The bag itself is resealable, with a ziplock at the top—so there's no way you'll find these squares going stale...or doing whatever chocolate does when it's exposed to the air. Speaking of packaging, Sonia noticed that the bag has the same fonts, color schemes, and art work as Trader Joe's Dark Roast Coffee. Interesting. She's got a great eye for design like that.

The squares are fairly filling. One piece at a time is probably enough for the average Trader Joe's shopper. They make a nice after-meal treat. Or I suppose you could even have a couple for breakfast if you're running low on actual java (or Rockstar or black tea or whatever your preferred vehicle of caffeine ingestion may be). 

In the end, I didn't like these as much as the Joe-Joe's, probably because they're so rich, with the coffee flavor coming through a little too much for my personal taste. It makes me want to chug a big glass of water just thinking about the richness of them. But for people with a taste for true coffee flavor, these would be perfect. $2.99 for fourteen squares. 

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee

In case you haven't noticed, it's absolutely coffee season at Trader Joe's. Just in the past couple weeks, we've hit up amazing coffee brownies, coffee cookies, heck, even coffee flavored cased meats. And there's a lot more we haven't officially gotten to yet - but just you wait. Coffee is 2017's answer to 2016's mango, apparently.

And yes....I just realize now this will post on March 17th. St. Patty's Day. If you were hoping for something a little more Irish, check out this or this - or for the imposter green, this. My bad.

Anyways, in this coffee season, and on a day we all could use an extra cup...how about an actual coffee?

Introducing Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee. Doesn't that sound fancy and exotic? Um, I guess. There's some huge ol' write up on the back about the history of coffee being transported on ships and being exposed to the elements and how that affected the coffee and how this can of java purports to mimic all that. Well, alright, I'll take their word for it. How's it taste?

Not amazing. Not bad. As an avid black coffee drinker, I like to think I can taste the nuances of different beans and roasts and whatnot. I'm just not picking up much here. But that's not a complaint. I like my coffee to taste, first and foremost, like coffee. That's how this brew is. Medium roast, fairly even and smooth for the whole sip. The can states there's a "woodsy aromatic" which I'm not completely buying but it smells like good coffee.

That's my take. But for a better one, take Sandy's. Up until the past few weeks, her coffee cup consisted of 10 parts creamer and sugar to 1 part coffee. Now, she drinks it plain and straight too. Obligatory Airplane! reference. She adjusted rather quickly, actually, and for all the coffees we've tried at home over the past few weeks, this may have been her favorite thus far. She stated it's because the Monsooned Malabar tries to be a good coffee on its own merits, instead of relying on additives to even it all out, if that makes sense.

And yes, in the spirit of St Patty's Day, you could probably "Irish it up" a bit and it'd work  quite well.

Worth a shot. We're both pretty happy and most likely will buy again, especially with how the two of us drink coffee almost nonstop on the weekends here. Decent stuff at a decent price - $6? $7? Typical price range for TJ's coffee, so we're going with a typical TJ's coffee score.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons