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, January 12, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Bites

Because I'm a lazy fool, for one third of this review, I'm simply going to refer you to this link. It's our review of the Raspberry "Macaron aux Framboises" Cake, one of the constituent parts of this Sweet Bites product. I like how TJ's uses the words "raspberry" and "cake" in the title of the product on this Sweet Bites box. Framboises means raspberries, and I'm pretty sure Macaron is a type of cake, so for those of you who are bilingual, speaking both French and English, you're probably reading that product name as "Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake" or some other such redundant nonsense.

I'm sure there aren't that many bilingual French/English speakers reading this. I just wanted to write "Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake" because it makes me giggle. For those of you who are as lazy as I am, I know you aren't going to click that other link, so I'll just go ahead and let you know that we gave that cake by itself a bottom line of 9 out of 10. Not too shabby.

Next: the tiramisu. Er, no wait. They call it "Chocolate and Coffee Opéra Cake." But it might as well be tiramisu. I'm not a huge fan of tiramisu. It's overrated. So's this stuff. Pffh, "Opéra Cake," how arrogant. Maybe my tastebuds just aren't refined enough to appreciate it fully. Don't get me wrong, it's not awful. But when it's up against two big winners, its flavor is a bit too subtle—a bit too understated. And I'm not terribly into coffee-flavored desserts, anyway. Sonia gives the "tiramisu" 2.5 for being too soft. I'm not sure what she means by that, but I give it a 3 for being...not as good as the other two. Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Finally, we come to the Caramel and Chocolate Cake. Sonia says she didn't taste the caramel, and that apparently made her angry. I guess she feels that TJ's jilted her out of some tasty caramel. I agree. I didn't taste the caramel, but I don't really care because the cake was freaking awesome. It was soft and sweet and full of some kind of yummy, creamy something. It wasn't quite a tres leches cake, but it was reminiscent of that level of deliciousness. Certainly, it was drier than a tres leches. By the way, tres leches is my favorite kind of cake. If you've never had a real tres leches cake, drive to the nearest Mexican bakery and buy one...even if it's in another state. Go! Seriously, it's worth it. You won't regret it. Sonia actually made a really good one this past week for Three Kings' Day. Sonia's cake actually overshadows all three of these Sweet Bites (I am writing that right now for the brownie points I'll get with my wife, but it really is true). So all of our scores may be a little low. But anyway, Sonia gives this one a 3.5. She says it would have been higher if she could taste the caramel. I give it a 4.5. I liked it just as much as the Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake. Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

And for our final score, I just average out all three of the sub-scores.

Trader Joe's Sweet Bites bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.


  1. So hungry. I always read your reviews early in the morning, long before TJ's is open. The wait is torture. I can't eat most of the stuff you review, but I buy it for friends and family, if it's good.

  2. Have been experimenting with TJ products every week and I'm glad to stumble on your site so I can avoid the not-so-good products. Thanks!

  3. I'd be mad too if I couldn't taste the caramel in the caramel cake!

  4. Nellie, we have some celiac-friendly stuff comin' down the pipeline...Anon, thanks for the comment...hope we're helpful!..and Emily, you and my wife should be friends...

  5. I have a major Sweet tooth. These sound really good dispute the lack of carmel taste. Thanks for sharing. :), Susan

  6. I'll have to try the TJ's cakes. You are right about the Tres Leches cake. My wife makes it occasionally, just made one for the holidays. Possibly my favorite cake rich,creamy, and delicious.

  7. Nathan, I just had the most AMAZING frozen food seafood entree from Traders tonight. It was, in my opinion, to die for delcious like a yummy dish at a restaurant. So good for a frozen entree'. My only complaint is the portion needs to be bigger! You might want to review it (if you have not already). To top it all off it is a 190 calorie entree and only has 2 grams of fat. It is called Trader Joes Reduced Guilt Filet of Sole with Rich Butter Beans and Seasoned Fresh Spinch Leaves. If you do not like fish please try anyway because it is not a fishy dish at all.If you don't like spinch still try it because the sauce makes the spinch not taste like spinch. The ingredients are really good too. Happy Tasting! If anyone else trys it let me know if you like it! Here's my email anne4567@gmail.com Anne

  8. I've been reading your blog for a little while - it helps me decide what to buy (or not buy!) on my several-times-per-year trip down to the closest TJ's across the border. (I live in Canada). Just wanted to let you know that Opera cake is actually a real cake - and not the same as tiramisu. (I'm a pastry chef, and we made Opera cake waaay back in the day when I was in pastry school - it's one of those old school cakes you never really see anymore though). It's basically layers of thin cake brushed with rum and coffee buttercream....and chocolate on top. I'm personally not a huge fan of it (the real thing, that is. I haven't tried TJ's). But it's definitely not the same as Tiramisu, which is ladyfingers brushed with espresso and some sort of booze (usually marsala wine), then whipped mascarpone and cocoa. Kind of the same, but way different. Still doesn't sound very good anyways, does it?

  9. I love your blog. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a little note to tell you, good job! Best wishes!!!
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  10. A macaron is a cookie, not a cake