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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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Trader Jacque's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce and Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream

I've been kinda waffling for the last little bit here, trying to decide if I should include the picture over to the right there. Between my complete and utter lack of any photographic talent whatsoever, and the fact that Sandy I own the world's worst ice cream scoop, and how inartfully I drizzle my ice cream toppings, and how I wanted to rave about my favorite summertime dessert ever just for it to turn out so...unPinteresty-looking, I kinda hate the picture. Perhaps it's just more evidence that I should let the wife make and photograph dessert more often. Since my photo leaves no great way to even guess what it is, it's grilled pineapple rings with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce - so easy I can make it, so tasty I highly recommend you all go make it right now. Your boss will understand, as long as you share.

We'll skip over the pineapple part here, mostly cuz we didn't get it at TJ's...I prefer fresh, wife prefers canned, TJ's was out, and it wasn't worth putting up an argument about (as my dad says, you can be happy or you can be right). As for what we did buy at TJ's..

First up, Trader Jacque's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce. Fleur de sel apparently literally translates as "flower of salt" which is some hoity-toity hand harvested sea salt from France. I read a Wikipedia article about it, and it really didn't shine any more light on the matter than that, so while this might be the Cadillac of sea salts, I wouldn't know any different. What I can tell you is, it makes one heckuva good caramel sauce. It's goopy and thick and rich and definitely full-flavored, while the sea salt just amps up the caramel flavor even more. I'm tempted to eat it by the spoonful, and in fact, I just might while the wifey isn't looking. I won't go out on much of a limb and say this is the some of (if not "the") best caramel sauce commercially available. Regular caramel sauce doesn't completely cut it (that squeeze bottle junk? Please.), and while there's always a place for dulce de leche, I just might have me a new favorite. Fantastic stuff, hands down.

Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream might be even better. I've always kinda regarded vanilla as a boring kind of flavor. I mean, it's just vanilla, right? For this ice cream, that's wrong. This is something tastier and fancier, like, I don't know, ~*VANILLA*~ or something. Except in a modest way, cuz vanilla still isn't all that flashy. Yet, I seriously do not know what it is, but like other Trader Joe's ice cream sent from above, we could nom all night on it just by itself, and it was even better for our pineapple/caramel dessert. It's just honest-to-good rich, creamy ice cream that for whatever reason struck my taste buds as being especially tasty and somehow more vibrant than any other vanilla ice cream that comes to mind. So good.

Sandy wasn't quite as enthusiastic going into dessert time as I was about this particular treat. She said some of it had to do with her having the caramel sauce before, and apparently it was a little too salty then for her taste. It wasn't this time around, she said, although the best she could muster up for the Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce was just a lowly, stinkin', miserly three. You better believe I'm upping that for my score. For our second French inspiration, Sandy (as usual) was much more enthusiastic about the ice cream, going with a four. I'm going a smidge higher than that. Regardless of final scores, this was one darn good summery dessert that certainly tastes a lot better than how my feeble attempt to assemble and photograph it looks.

Bottom lines: Trader Jacque's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's French Vanilla Ice Cream: 8.5 of 10 Golden Spoons

8 comments:

  1. Both of those are favorite in our house!!! ♥ We prefer Trader Joe's French vanilla (made with milk not treated with rBST hormone, I don't care if the FDA requires labeling that says the hormone won't show any difference, because it hasn't been used for that many year for them to claim so!!!) to any other ice cream! And their salted caramel sauce is great for dipping sliced apples, atop bread pudding, etc.

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  2. I usually hate vanilla ice cream, but TJ's really hit a home run with their French vanilla. I'm glad you guys got to try the Trader Jacque's Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce, it's seriously from the heavens and I want to eat it with a spoon. Don't judge me. I hope this sticks around after summer is long over. :)

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  3. Oh yes, this ice cream is sooo good, and I'm not usually excited about vanilla ice cream unless it has hot fudge and nuts on it. I heard that French vanilla means it's made with more eggs and heavy cream and such, and that's why it's so rich. And criminy, that caramel sauce is amazing. I ate about half the jar with a spoon and managed to get the other half onto the vanilla ice cream, along with some chopped almonds. Mmmm...

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  4. Amazing ice cream!!

    And the picture was good, too. It looks like dessert in our home, and not fake. Yum!!!

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  5. The vanilla is amazing -- I haven't tried the caramel sauce, but will definitely pick some up! I think they use the same vanilla in their mini ice cream cones, which are a favorite at our house!

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  6. Wait - what? I thought we were supPOSed to eat the caramel sauce by the spoonful, straight out of the jar! You mean there are other ways??

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  7. So happy to see you review the caramel sauce! It's my favorite thing, and I have been eating it out of the jar for the last two years.

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