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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Monday, May 21, 2012

Trader Joe's Habenero Hot Sauce

The following is a true story: I was probably somewhere around 4, maybe 5 years old one night as my family had a movie night. It probably wasn't the best choice of movies - I don't recall if it was something like King Kong, Godzilla, or maybe Jaws - I truly don't remember - but there was some type of monster in it. I'm naturally a little squeamish about such things, and I'm guessing perhaps a little more so when I was so young, but there was some type of scene with a fair amount of blood in it. As it was a black and white film, it wasn't particularly gruesome, but it was enough for to get pretty darn scared and upset, and so I collapsed into my mother's arms. It was then, in an effort to comfort me, that she uttered the seven words that have helped shape my life to this very day: "It's only ketchup, Rusty. It's only ketchup."

Yup, to this day, that's the reason why I don't like ketchup. At least, it's the reason I tell myself why. It's convenient enough and makes a neat little story. It's kind of ironic, seeing that I live in Pittsburgh literally just a few miles upriver from the original Heinz factory. But the truth is, I don't like most condiments. Not ketchup. Not mayo. Mustard, only occasionally. I don't even like most salad dressings. I think some of it has to do with the farty sounds they sometimes make when squeezed out of the bottle. But, mostly, I just flat out don't like them.

Except hot sauce. I will always make an exception for hot sauce. As evidence, you could see my recently polished off glass gallon jug of Trappey's Red Devil. Or instead of traipsing all the way over to my house (the last thing I need right now is a stalker or two), you can see the picture above of my recent purchase, Trader Joe's Habenero Hot Sauce. This is a serious hot sauce. As a lover of many hot 'n spicy things, I have a natural inclination to discount most things that say they're hot - I figure most products manufactured for mass distribution will not be enough to satisfy my capsaicin cravings, and so I severely underestimated this when dousing some chicken breasts with this sauce as I was about to sample it for the first time. That was an awful, awful mistake. "Liquid fire" isn't adequate enough description. Nor is David Letterman's old saying of "Hotter than a dancing bobcat with its ass on fire," whatever that means. It's freakin' hot. Sandy was in the kitchen with me, and I think gasped out something along the lines of "Close your eyes!" - not because I didn't want her to see me tear up (which I was), but for a moment or two I wasn't sure if the Ark of the Covenant somehow got cracked open in our kitchen. The hot sauce was so hot, and my mouth in so much pain, that if it were a reasonable solution to remove my head and put it in the freezer for a while, I would have. As you can tell by perusing the ingredients list, it's water and some habeneros that have had the heck Slapchopped out of them, and that's about it. It's thick, a little gloppy, orangish, and flat out hot. Respect it.

And you know what? I genuinely like it. Just trust me when I say a little bit goes a long way. I've dripped some a couple times since while making myself a quick quesadilla, and it's much more tolerable then. One thing I definitely like is, although it's face-meltingly hot, it doesn't cover up the flavor of food as the heat builds and builds in the back of your throat. I know it'll take me a while to work through the bottle, and I'll probably dabble with some other hot sauce in the meantime, but the habenero hot sauce has itself a new fan. Sandy's not as crazy as I am, and seeing that she's had some heartburn, etc, recently, she hasn't given it a try and I kinda have some doubts that she ever will -truthfully, this is out of the league for most folks. Not me, though. Although it's almost enough to make me go all Homer Simpson on*, it's a winner in my book.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Habenero Hot Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
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*I'm completely divided as to whether or not the hot sauce making me having a hallucination that consists of Johnny Cash speaking in cartoon coyote form would make me like it more or less. On one hand, it's Johnny Cash as a cartoon coyote. On the other, well, I'd probably need to be checked out afterwards.

4 comments:

  1. LOVE this stuff. I just add a drop into my foods or mix with taco sauce/enchilada sauce to give it more heat. And to be clear, I can tolerate extremely spicy foods, and yet I still only use a drop of this stuff. Liquid fire for sure! But it burns so good!

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  2. If you want something really hot, try Dave's Insanity Hot Sauce. It comes with a warning that people with heart problems shouldn't even try the stuff. I thought it was just clever marketing, but it's true.

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  3. I bought this stuff just to 'try' it. I like hot stuff, but most of the time find that really hot stuff, is also lacking flavor. I now put this stuff on everything that I used to put regular hot sauce on. I think I'm getting a bit 'used' to it, but it is sooo good. Yeah, it's hot, but not ridiculously so. This is packed with flavor and it is hot, but you owe it to yourself to try some. Just another great product from Trader Joes!

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  4. This stuff is DYNAMITE!!!!! You won't find a better hot sauce on earth for $3.

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