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?"

Search This Blog

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trader Joe's Golden Caramel Swirl Ice Cream

Imagine you bought a pepperoni pizza, and when it came time to eat said pizza, you realized there was only one solitary slice of pepperoni on the whole pie. How would you feel? Would it matter how good the melty mozzarella, how perfectly zesty the sauce, how delectably delicious the crust? Would it matter that, technically speaking, your purchase is a pepperoni pizza, as it is a pizza with pepperoni on it, just not as much as expected? I mean, when I worked at various pizza shops, there were standards for a large pepperoni pizza, namely, four in the middle, nine in the middle ring, and sixteen on the outer. Hooray for progressions of squared numbers!  Going back to our thought exercise, how long would your battle with your buddy/spouse/significant other/dog/other personality be over who gets the pepperoni and who doesn't? Namely, how cheated would you feel, and ultimately, what would be your opinion of your purchase?

I bring this all up in relation to Trader Joe's Golden Caramel Swirl Ice Cream because it's very relevant. At the very least, in our own purchase, there was no golden caramel swirl in the Golden Caramel Swirl. None. No swirl. At all. Zip. Nada. And I refuse to believe that, against all odds, the one that I, one of the galaxy's foremost amateur hack reviewers of all things Trader Joe's, just so happened to snag would be the only carton in existence nearly completely devoid of any caramel.

Notice I said nearly completely devoid. To be fair, my taste buds sensed caramel while consuming this particular ice cream....on only about two or three of roughly 100 bites I spooned myself. That's maybe what Sandy got, too, out of the whole carton, so it's not like there's some hidden mega caramel vein just waiting to be tapped. There's only three logical explanations I can think of for this: 1. We're idiots and don't know what we're talking about. While always possible, I sincerely doubt it in this case, considering we've reviewed the Fleur de Sel Caramel Sauce this particular dessert claims to contain. Barely there. 2. Both the chocolate and French vanilla ice creams are way too rich and vibrant for a flavor like caramel to really shine through, so it's there but way too subtle. Eh, maybe, but then again, probably not. 3. It just ain't there. Now you're talking.

Anyways...aside from the whole "for all intents and purposes, there's really no caramel in the Golden Caramel Swirl ice cream" snafu, it's actually good ice cream. The French vanilla is impeccable, and darn if it isn't some good, rich, tasty chocolate. But that goes back to the opening pepperoni pizza analogy - doesn't matter how good the rest of it is if what's supposed to be there isn't. The little write-up on the side of the package prattles on about this being some sort of "gold medal candidate" or some silly Olympic-ish verbiage. Well, in my book the abject absence of the caramel is pretty much an automatic disqualifier, and let's not even get the East German judge started. Ice cream seems to be something that's a hit or miss for TJ's, and this is a definite miss. Sandy's gonna be nice and, while noting it could use something like some crunchy ice cream cone bits, give it a 2.5 despite its major fault. Me? Sorry. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Golden Caramel Swirl Ice Cream: 3.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I bought a pint of cookie dough ice cream one time that had one gob of cookie dough in the entire pint. So you never know, you could've purchased the one container with zero caramel.

  2. we just had their pumpkin ice cream and it was wonderful!

  3. Wow--this is my favorite ice cream of TJ's. I put spanish peanuts in it and it is heavenly. To be fair, I've never noticed a real *swirl* of caramel, but I definitely taste it here and there. I'm so sorry to hear you had a disappointing experience with it. For me, the only way it could get better is if it had, as you suggested, crunchy bits of waffle cone. Mmmm...

  4. On a side note, I wanted to mention that the use of "gyp" to mean "cheat" is an ethnic slur, as it comes from "gypsy." A lot of people don't realize this, and say it because they grew up hearing it said. I have to assume this is the case, because I know you wouldn't just go around slinging slurs.

    1. Thanks Justine. I honestly didn't know that, and one other reader just brought it to our attention via our Facebook page, so it'll be changed in just a moment.

  5. Was it made better by the addition of coconut chips? Because those things are delicious.

  6. I think the "Gold Medal" verbiage is a reference to the Baskin Robbins Flavor, Gold Medal Ribbon, which is vanilla and chocolate ice cream with a caramel swirl. BR was founded in Glendale, CA and TJ's was founded in the neighboring Pasadena, so they are in each other's frame of reference.

  7. This is my favorite ice cream any where!! In fact, it's loaded with gooey Carmel in the middle of the container and if you spoon it out into your dish the right way u are certain to get some Carmel swirl! Give it another try!!

  8. I just stumbled on your blog and this post caught my eye because my husband and I had the same reaction to this ice cream that you did. Where is the caramel swirl?! We didn't have any. It was pretty much vanilla ice cream with some chocolate ice cream swirled in. TJ fail!

  9. I'm surprised to hear you didn't find any caramel in your TJ's Golden Caramel Swirl because my carton was loaded with it. And the ice cream has such a great, subtle whipped cream taste to it. This stuff is the bomb, you should try again. Everyone knows one try of anything is not a reasonable sample on which to publicly pronounce judgment on something.
    Funny thing, we went back to our local TJ's in Beaverton Oregon for more Golden Caramel Swirl and they were completely out, it was the Grand Canyon in the otherwise we'll stocked cooler case.

  10. I've purchased this ice cream many times and am always pleased with the caramel content. I wouldn't say it's loaded, but the containers I've purchased have been heavy handed with the caramel. It's one of my favorites for sure!

  11. I think they got the formula and percentages just about right. I love the stuff.