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, April 13, 2011

Trader Joe's Organic Mango Passion Granola Cereal

So last Thursday, Sandy and I both took off from work for the day to go to the Pittsburgh Pirates' home opener. The two of us are both pretty hardcore baseball fans, especially when going to see games in person. Our friend Ryan, however, is probably the biggest, most hardcore Pirates aficionado in the entire metro area, and he organized a pregame tailgate for the game where Sandy and I, some of our mutual friends, and some of his coworkers were invited. Beautiful day, so Sandy and I decided to add to the fun by biking down to the game as we live only a handful of miles down a rec path from the stadium. Also, to make sure we had something we could eat while tailgating (keeping true to the meat-free Lent kick we've been on), we brought some veggie burgers along to grill up. When we got there, I immediately and self-consciously came to the realization that we were making an interesting first impression to Ryan's coworkers, who are mostly relatively straight-laced accountant-types. First, the bikes. Then, the vegetarian fare (aside from the burgers, I continually quality-checked the hummus). Add in my fairly bushy beard, and that's three major hippie/hipster* stereotypes we fit. If we only wore skinny jeans, had some Pabst in my pack and started gushing about the Avett Brothers the same way that a fifth grade girl would openly worship Justin Bieber ... anyways, I made the joke that we're not hipsters or hippies, I showered that morning, so on and so forth. It ended up being a pretty great time, though the Pirates' highlight was when the drunk college kid ran on the field in the ninth inning. Typical Pirates.

Anyways, to keep the notion of our non-hipster/hippie ways in play, it was probably best I didn't mention that earlier in the week I fell back in love with granola.

Seriously, Trader Joe's Mango Passion granola is really stupendously good, with the caveat that to enjoy it, you really have to like mangoes. I wouldn't say a fullout passion for them would be a prerequisite like the name suggests, but it definitely helps to have a good, healthy respect and affinity for mango goodness. I personally love mangoes and pretty much anything mango-flavored. This is one power-packed bowl of goodness. The granola itself is my picture of perfection - not too dry or hard, and the rolled oats are perfect in taste and texture. They're nutty, oatty, kinda earthy, wholesome-tasting, a little chewy like granola should be, with some bite to it. They're neither too sweet nor too plain - just the right balance. In the past I've bought granola from the bulk foods section at Whole Foods, and while some were pretty good, others were just too wrong. Not this stuff. The freeze-dried mango bits are pretty tasty too. I kinda wish there were more of them, but if you enjoy them in the fashion I prefer and pour some milk over it, I guess some of the sugars dissolve into the cow juice and spread out the sweetness so it permeates every crunch, while not overbearing the granola bits at all. I haven't read the ingredients list, so not sure what kind of extra stuff may have been put in, but the natural mango taste really seems to come through. The taste in each bite is just so consistently good. If you're a yogurt and granola type person, I'd imagine it'd be just as good, though not sure how the mango taste would spread out if at all. A dry handful was pretty satisfactory as well.

This stuff is filling as all heck too. You know that 10 a.m. test I described a few posts back? This granola completely wrecked the curve for that. Both days I had it last week, I felt a slight grumble in my gut maybe around 11 a.m. but even by my lunch break around noon or 12:30, I wasn't as hungry as all get out. Sure, I was glad when it was lunch (even gladder on the day I enjoyed one of my new lunchtime favorites) but I could've waited longer and been okay. That's a rare event for me, and for the granola to ace it two days in a row ... amazing.

Sandy loves it too. She packed some up for a morning snack. That night, we began talking about it. "It just tasted so ... so ... I don't know," she said, her face scrunching up in thought.

"Happy," I chimed in. "It tastes happy."

A light turned on. "Yes! Happy! That's it! I love it!"

This notion was reinforced tonight when I asked her to take the artful pic you see above. She was legitimately happy to snap the photo of "the box of sunshine and rainbows." I asked her if puppies belonged in there too. "Ooooh, yes, puppies too! And unicorns." So yes, if I had to choose one adjective to describe this product, I'd go with happy, and apparently Sandy agrees. This stuff is like the Michael Franti** of cereal ... Satisfyingly good, good for you, and keeps you full and energized, and definitely positive and happy. Sandy gives it a perfect five, and was pretty shocked when I mentioned I was considering scoring it just a slight notch below that. My only complaint is, as is about anything good, was that there wasn't more of it. The two of us got two breakfasts each out of the box, so four total ... then again, you shouldn't have to eat as much granola as you do regular cereal because it's that much more filling, and I got myself two large bowls of it, so that's more on me than the granola. I find myself agreeing with the wifey. Perfect five from me. In retrospect ... why the heck didn't we get this last night on our shopping trip? Hmmm ....

Bottom line: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Though I'm sure they're technically different, I use the terms hipster and hippie interchangeably. I just call it as I see it.
** Sandy and I saw him in concert a few months back ... amazing show. One of the best concerts I've ever been to ... the only one that tops it in my mind was when I saw George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic back in college. Dang ... maybe I really am a hippie/hipster at heart.


  1. I must respectfully disagree. The cereal was good (and I love mango), but I thought it had an overwhelmingly artificial over-tone. Almost like perfume. That kind of turned me off. Still, I would give it a 4/5.

  2. I tried this at the sample table and liked it, but it couldn't take the place of the Ginger Almond Cashew granola, which is a staple for me. To save the calories, I get the Wheetabix which TJs has for the amazing price of 2.70, and add the granola. It also goes on top of yogurt, fruit...

  3. Alison - I just picked up my first box of that this past week. Haven't tried it yet but looking forward to it even more now!

  4. Being both granola and mango fans, we bought a box. Alas, it was disgusting. The initial taste was on the artificial/soy side, but it was the chalky, mouth-dehydrating aftertaste (think Tums) that was the real turn-off. And that was just dry, none of us have worked up the courage to try it with milk. So far, it has been sampled and rejected by everyone in the family, plus the neighbor! I'd give a 1/5 so far.

  5. I'm trusting you on this one. I've eyed it plenty of times, but it never makes it into the basket. I'll report back.

  6. I love this stuff! My favorite breakfast is this granola topped with any of the TJ's frozen berries and finally topped with TJ's honey flavored Greek yogurt! After eating this---I'm good til 1:00 or 2:00!

  7. I like this one but I so, so prefer the Granny's Apple granola in a similar but green box!

  8. Part of the reason you feel full for so long is because you just ate a whole lot of oats. That's the main non-sugar ingredient - there is rice flour and brown rice further down the list, but those aren't very nutrient-dense. The rest of the ingredients are mainly various types of sugars plus the fruit. If you each ate 1/4 of the package (4oz), that's about two 2/3 cup servings or 12 grams of protein plus 540 calories (I think) before you add anything else to the meal. For comparison, this is equivalent to four packets of instant oatmeal. Protein and fiber tend to be quite filling and oats especially have that kind of reputation even when eaten in more normal amounts. Also a big breakfast will keep you going longer unless it's twinkies and root beer. So just having more real food and a decent shot of protein and fiber would fill you up for quite a while. You might compare the nutritional info with your usual breakfast to see what the differences are, looking at total calories, fiber, and protein especially.