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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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Trader Joe's Spiced Cranberry Cider

As a young boy, my parents would regularly take me to visit my grandparents and various elderly friends of the family. During these visits I noted that older folks, for some reason, were quite fond of putting out candy, often unwrapped, in little dishes on endtables and coffee tables throughout their homes. That didn't bother me one bit. A source of free, quickly-replenished, easy-access candy was the stuff that my young dreams were made of. Before my parents could call me off, I would easily down a third of the dish. Then, inevitably, they'd yell something about spoiling my dinner, and I'd stomp off reluctantly with bits of chocolate smeared on my face and shirt.

One of the types of confections I'd frequently discover in such a candy dish were multi-colored, fruit-flavored gumdrops. I loved trying each flavor to see which was the best, and then I'd attempt to eat every gumdrop of that flavor in the entire dish. Or, I'd take one yellow gumdrop and one green gumdrop and try to create my own flavor combination: lemon-lime. In short, I loved gumdrops.

However, I can distinctly recall on one occasion stuffing my face with what I assumed were sweet, delicious gumdrops, only to be shocked by a biting, unpleasant flavor. I grimaced and choked back my gag reflex. The aged owner of the candy dish, taking note of my sufferings, said, "Aw! You don't like the spice drops, hmm?"

I thought to myself, "What on earth are spice drops?" For a moment, I thought I had eaten something that was intended for decorative or aromatic purposes only. Had I inadvertently eaten some bizarre form of potpourri?

Drinking this cider was a similarly disappointing experience. Maybe I should have taken the word "spiced" in the title as a warning sign. But I thought they meant they put a dash of cinnamon in it or something...

Typical spice drop flavors include: cardamom, clove, allspice, pimeneta, spearmint, anise, and licorice. This drink tastes like a base of cranberry juice with each and every one of those spices dumped in it. It's like drinking a glass of liquid potpourri. We finished the bottle, but it took some effort. Honestly, I'd rather down a bottle of Nyquil than drink this stuff again. Not a fan.

Sonia gives it a 2. I give it a 1. Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

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