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, July 7, 2011

Trader Joe's Wild Blueberry Vanilla Chèvre

This past Saturday night, Sandy and I had an absolute blast while meeting up with Nathan and Sonia for hopefully the first out of many more "blog summits" (i.e., excuse to get together, eat way too much good food and drink some good drink). Nathan and I are old college buddies and it was probably something close to 10 years since we'd last seen each other, and of course we didn't know each other's spouse. Aside from some great catching up, we talked a little shop and discussed some ideas for this blog which we hope to implement soon, and a fun upcoming reader contest, so be sure to keep tuned. And did I mention the food?!?!? Oh man. We met up at the Media, PA Trader Joe's (inside an old historical train station building, how cool is that?) and went up and down the aisles and snatched a whole array of goodies, went back to their apartment, and had a tremendous feast worthy of our success (except no Two-Buck Chuck involved).

You see, this is what I love about food. Not only does a lot of it taste good, but also it's great excuse for people to come together and spend some time at the table like we did. Think of some of your fondest memories, and there's a good chance food is involved somehow. It draws people together. There's something unique and powerful and fun about sharing a meal with family and friends that honestly makes me hate eating alone. Plus, it's fun to share about stuff that tastes good and even more fun to mock things that don't. It's with this passion for food and sharing that the four of us create this blog, and we're glad you're stopping by for a glance over.

This doesn't mean we're experts or anything, for sure. Nathan refers to us as "foodie-hack bloggers" which is about as accurate a statement as possible (just ask our readers and some of our commenters! You know we love you). Take the Trader Joe's Wild Blueberry Vanilla Chèvre for example. I don't even know how to pronounce it right, that tricky word chèvre. Is it like "chiv-ray" or "cheev-ray" or even like "cherve" (you know, kinda like you'd pronounce "Brett Favre")? I couldn't tell you. What I can tell you is this: Sandy's been itchin' to try it for a while, apparently Sonia has too, I'm willing to try most anything (apparently), and Nathan, well...he's a good man, but he's on record as saying this is the one thing he's most scared to try (I'm glad that, unlike me, he didn't think turn-around was fair play and insist on buying sushi). So, we decided, what the heck, let's get it for our summit for one of our multiple appetizer/side dish treats.

Also, I tell you, it's pretty good stuff. I kinda found myself wandering back to it over and over again over the course of our meal. It's good, solid and thick yet creamy and very rich. I'd relate it to a cross between cream cheese and cheese cake, except thicker and kinda tart (no, not tarty, Sonia. Tart). I think the cheese cake-esque qualities come in from the light vanilla flavoring and, of course, the blueberry glaze around the outside consisting of dozens if not hundreds of small berries and some pleasantly sweet but not sugary goop. Probably because we didn't know much better, we picked up an assortment of regular crackers to go with it, which made an alright taste pairing though it was so dessert-like I'm wondering if perhaps something like some graham crackers would have been a better match. Regardless, it was so thick that often just trying to swipe some off the knife blade onto the cracker broke the cracker. Perhaps we just weren't handling it with the proper delicacy one needs with handling goat cheese, I don't know. All I can say is, it made for tasty bite after tasty bite.

I'm going to break this down into couples for our rating. First, our wonderful hosts from the evening. Sonia seemed to really enjoy it and finally having the chance to try it. Despite our best efforts, there was about half of it left when we packed up for the night, and she smiled a big ol' Latina smile when Sandy and I said she could hold on to it (much easier than transporting across the state). She said she'd give it a four, with the only thing missing was just a little more vanilla flavor. Nathan? Well, he manned up and tried it, took a bite, grimaced a little bit, and said "It...still tastes like goat cheese. No thanks." Eh, more for us, goat cheese-hater*. That's apparently enough for a two in his book. So, for Nathan and Sonia...Bottom line: 6 out of 10

Sandy and I? We both sided with Sonia and really liked it. Sandy wavered between giving it a 4.5 and a perfect 5 but seemed to settle on the lower of the two, which is not anything to be ashamed of by any means. Just means it was pretty darn good but lacked a certain je ne sais pas to get a full pass. I agree. While I certainly enjoyed it (and by that I mean a lot), I don't see myself getting it too often. I'm guessing that's because in my book it's more of a "fancy get-together" -type treat than an every day one. Still, very good and I'd highly recommend it for a party or something of the sort, or if you're the type who likes munching some on chèvre without any special occasion involved, well, go at it. Like Sandy, I'm deciding between two scores...I think I'll go high and say 4.5 as well.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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*Nate's notes - Nathan would like you all to know that he is not a goat cheese-hater, and that he does, in fact, enjoy goat cheese in its "proper" context as a savory sandwich and salad food, rather than as a dessert-ish food.

8 comments:

  1. I have to say that the great thing about chevre is that it can be in savory salads (although I enjoy it with dried cherries and pumpkin seeds in a salad) OR spread on some crusty pumpernickel bread with some jam (especially good when pressed like panini)! I will definitely try this TJ's variety. Thanks for another thorough review. :)

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  2. Since the two store are owned by the same people, I've always thought it would be interesting for someone to compare items at TJ's with items at Aldi's to see any are the same. After all, if you already make a perfectly good item for one store why would need to make another similar item for the other. Just a thought.

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  3. I really love goat cheese so this would be right up my alley. Having a "fancy get together" myself this weekend. This may just make an appearance :)

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  4. Mia - You're welcome! And thanks for the serving recommendations. Sandy and I will be getting this again, no doubt.
    Gmcneil - Yeah, that's an interesting tidbit about TJ's and Aldi's. There's none that's all that close to us, though, but maybe one day we'll see. I'm not all that familiar with the Aldi's chain.
    Elina - it'll be a hit! Have fun!

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  5. Again, another favorite. Always goes quick. Try serving them on TJ's Raisen Rosemary Crackers. Seriously amazing.

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  6. I am an event planner and the caterer bought this cheese in for the event. Luckily I knew the hosts of the party because I KEPT GOING BACK for more of this deliciousness! I never saw the package.... and did not get the chance to ask the caterer where this came from. Today at Trader Joe's I scoured the cheeses and BOOM there is was. I have already eaten too much today.
    - ESC

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  7. After seeing Throw Down With Bobby Flay go up against the Vermont Brownie Company's Dark Chocolate Chevre brownies, I had been dying to try recreating their recipe. When I stumbled upon this fabulous Blueberry Chevre at TJ's, I knew it was finally time. This is an AMAZING chevre to re-create their recipe with. We used one of the Trader Joe's packaged brownie mixes (the lower fat one you mix with yogurt), softened the blueberry chevre to room tempurature and mixed it with an egg and marbled it on top of the brownie batter. The result was to DIE for. The vanilla+blueberry flavor blends perfectly with the brownie. If you aren't sure what to use with this cheese, try adding it to your brownies!

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  8. I bought some in June after tasting a sample at TJ's. They were serving it on a lemon cookie. Delish. Unfortunately, I cut the large log in half and then "lost" the second half of the log at the back of the cheese drawer for a month. It KILLS me to throw this out, because it was so incredible when fresh and still looks fine. I admit I tasted it. If I die from this it may have been worth it.

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