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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Sunday, January 2, 2011

Trader Joe's Whole Grain Hard Pretzel Sticks

Okay, let me cut to the chase here:

These SUCK. Do NOT, under circumstance, get these. Whole grain pretzel sticks look like they might be a good premise, a good healthy snack. Well, they might be healthy, but they are horrible, horrendous, and just plain disgusting.

How bad are they? If pretzels were Willie Mays, these would be wearing a Mets uniform. If they were Sly Stallone, these guys would be "starring" alongside Dolly Parton in "Rhinestone." If they were the Beatles, ... well, let's just say Yoko Ono would be involved. These pretzels take something so good, so pure and enjoyable, and turn it into crap.

I mean, I love pretzels. Any kind of pretzel - sticks, rods, nuggets, those little grid-like guys, soft, extra dark, splits, sourdough, honey wheat, soft pretzels, flavored bits and pieces, pretzel buns, anything remotely pretzel-like. I went through high school eating two soft pretzels for lunch everyday (well, except taco day, okay). Sandy made awesome homemade soft pretzels a few days ago that once I polished them off I was begging for more. They are definitely one of my favorite snack food groups, partly because they're healthy compared to chips and cheesy doodles, and also because they're just good.

And these guys ... blah. I tried to like them. I really did. I wanted to like them. But there's nothing redeeming about them. They're bland, tasteless sticks of particle board. They're sparingly salted, which is okay, but there's no flavor to them otherwise, except burned. I took a look inside a stick I halfway crunched, and there's an orange-brownish ring surrounding a teeny white core. So they are just overbaked - I guess maybe that's to help them boast about their claim to be "hard", but they're really not - they're really not any more crunchy than any other pretzel stick. But they are much drier, which makes all the saw dust they leave in your mouth much trickier to swallow. After only two or three I needed a drink to literally wash them down.

I guess it's part of the whole grain curse. Whole grain foods, when made right, taste wonderful and nutty and delicious and help fill you up healthfully. But when made wrong ... man, I don't care how good they might be for you if they don't taste good. The marginal health benefits don't outweigh the taste experience for me. And these pretzels are about the best example I can think of for this.

I had Sandy try one. She munched down half a stick, made a face, went to the fridge and got out a jar of peanut butter to dip the other half in. That sounds like an epoxy recipe to me. "They're better with something," she said. I can buy that, but then that pretty much defeats the whole purpose of having a healthy snack. It's like making broccoli to eat healthy but dumping molten Velveeta on it - having to add something unhealthy to make an otherwise good-for-you food edible seems counterproductive and deceptive.

Anyways, I cannot find anything good about them. I considered returning them to the store, but maybe I'll save them for our dog when we run out of his treats. He wouldn't know the difference. Sandy is a little more forgiving than me, and she said she'd give them a two, "maybe a three," so that sounds like a two-and-a-half to me. Well, that's all they're gonna get. Absolute zero from me.

Bottom line: 2.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

8 comments:

  1. I like them ... sometimes alone and sometimes with hummus... not as yummy as the rye crackers, but they have not been stocking the rye crackers for a while.

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  2. Worst pretzel ever!

    I really wish I read this before I bought a bag. I was torn between these Whole Wheat and the Honey Wheat varieties. I sadly went with the WW and immediately regret it after one bite.

    The first thing I did was look for a 'Satisfaction Guranteed' stamp on the bag because it was horrible. Jut as the original post said, the only way to make this palatable would be to dip it in hummus.

    Right now I am cringing with with each bite while my girlfriend is just using each mini rod as a spoon for the hummus.

    Summary: Epic Fail TJs :(

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  3. Scott - TJ's has a great return policy. Just bring 'em back and they'll give you your money.

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  4. Maybe it's an acquired taste. I have actually grown to like their crunchiness and plain, wheaty taste!

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    1. It's not the taste as much as the sheer dryness. Although to me they definitely lack taste too. Eh, to each their own :).

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  5. The pumpernickel ones are great!

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  6. I always assumed that taste buds could sense flavors only so bad. In other words, if something could taste worse than battery acid or snail poop, humans couldn't tell. I was wrong. I'd never had a Trader Joe's Whole Grain Hard Pretzel Sticks until recently. Now I know how somebody can rave about how great lima beans taste. They've been eating only Trader Joe's Whole Grain Hard Pretzel Sticks.
    Unlike most people, I actually have tasted a dog biscuit before. Way way better than these pretzels. I can't imagine a group of Trader Joe's executives sitting around a table thinking these pretzels tasted good enough to sell.
    Another interesting fact: These pretzels suck every microgram of spit out of your mouth. Dentists take note.

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    Replies
    1. Man, you said it even better than I did.

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