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, March 28, 2012

Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds

It's hard to really, truly, live up to the hype sometimes. Take, for instance, the new Hunger Games movie. Pretty much everyone I know has seen it and I've heard it talked about so much, including by our most recent TJ's cashier who was gushing over it. General consensus: OMG!!! Now, Sandy and I have both read the whole trilogy, and had plans for a Sunday afternoon matinee with some good friends of ours, who've also read all three books. I tell ya what: it wasn't bad. I actually thoroughly enjoyed it, although the scene with the trackerjackers made me wince. I'd actually say it's the rare movie that, to me, can make the claim that it's better than the book*, mostly because I don't have to wade through all of Katniss' teenage girly emotional junk. I hated that part of the books. But yeah, the movie...pretty darn good. I wouldn't go say it's my favorite, or the best one ever, or even give it a thought come awards season time, but in the end, I got my money's worth and I liked it. Not bad for the first movie I've seen on opening weekend since Snakes on a Plane**.

In the end, that's kinda how I feel about the Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds. These have been so highly recommended over and over and over again by so many of our readers. Truthfully, I've never seen them before our aforementioned most recent trip, and so have never had them before Sunday. These have been so hyped up, and so highly recommended, that Sandy and I are the last people on earth to try these, probably.

Don't get me wrong, I like them. There's absolutely nothing in the world wrong with a big tasty roasted almond coated in smooth, rich, dark chocolate. Nothing at all. Add in a good healthy pinch of sea salt to punctuate each bite, and that makes them even better. I'll admit that before these, I've never heard of "turbinado sugar", which in case you're as uncool as I was, is natural brown sugar partially refined right from sugar cane. Look close enough at these nuts and you'll see the big ol' crystals of it, which do add a little extra sweetness here and there, but overall I don't see anythng too special about the sugar - it's like, hey, let's make up a fancy name for it. Really, though, I like these choco-almonds, especially the ones with just a bit more salt than the others.

In the end, though, they just don't blow me away. I mean, TJ's makes them sound all super-fancy, and these nuts apparently have a huge following, but to me, they're better than the the typical chocolate covered nut but not by all that much. I can happily just eat a couple of these and be done with them, which my wife is proud of me for. Maybe. As for her, well, let's use her own words here. As you can see on the picture there, we ripped these open before getting one of the necessary shots. "Just tell them that the pregnant lady couldn't wait long enough for you to fiddle with your camera to start munching on them," Sandy said. She's so cute when she's impatient. Yet she's not so up on them either. When I asked her what she thought about them, she gave me a "meh" while admitting she wanted to sneak some when she got home from work on Monday but didn't with it being Lent and all still. I'm thinking that between the two of us we'd give them a 3.5 or a 4 each, so let's go with one of each. Now may the odds be ever in your favor.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sea Salt & Turbinado Sugar Dark Chocolate Almonds: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* The only slam dunk "movie that was better than the book" has to be The Princess Bride.
Not my all-time favorite movie, but it was my all-time favorite "time going to a movie." It was a late night showing, with the theater maybe about half-full, but with everyone openly mocking it throughout the whole movie...man, it was awesome.


  1. No way! The Princess Bride book was pure genius! Movie was darn good, too.

  2. I'm with you halcyon! The book is wonderful as are most of William Goldman's books.

  3. I think these are fantastic! They nip the chocolate craving!

  4. I loved them. I am distraught that they've discontinued them. I love the combination of sea salt, dark chocolate, Turbinado sugar and dry roasted almonds. Both my partner and I were crazy for them, and we don't understand your not being so. I guess it's a matter of taste. A huge contradiction in your blog's reviews for this product, which was wholesome and out delicious, v TJ's dark chocolate bar--caramel with black sea salt, which you or one of your colleagues on this blog raved over. That choice has caramel, which is not a healthy choice and not something I buy for my family.

    1. They are not discontinued. I bought some today.