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 31, 2013

Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions

If I were a better writer, I'd be able to write this review in such a way that you could imagine John Cleese of Monty Python fame narrating it. If I were oddly endearing and full of witty banter, and could make some cheesy special effects and have Sandy put on an alien costume, I'd make a video and add it to Nathan and Sonia's YouTube thing they have going, and it'd make you laugh and cry as from the David Tennant era of Dr. Who. And if I wanted to bore you to tears with stuffy British aristocratic handwringing, well, I could attempt to write something like another popular BBC show (I much prefer Downton Arby).*

Great, I think I just alienated half our audience with that last line.  And from what I understand from the last episode, it's poorly timed.

Moving along, for those of you who are left, I'm obviously none of those. I'm just a guy with a mouth who writes things about the stuff he shoves into it. In my world, that qualifies me to write about cheeses like Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions.

I've been hearing pretty much since the advent of this blog about how amazing this particular chunk o' cheddar is. I never once picked it up until my last stop. I've been burned by some cheesy choices in the past, so don't blame me for being a little shy. Anyways....it's interesting. I'm not sure in which way I mean that. Just....interesting. It was and was not what I expected. What I expected: Sweetness from the caramelized onions, with good mild cheddar flavor. What I didn't expect: That sweetness to permeate every little bit, with the cheese itself being so soft. Seriously, right out of the fridge, "cold and clammy" are the two words that come to mind (which is, incidentally, how I envision much of England to be). My tasters aren't sure what to think. It's good to warrant more bites, but in the end...I simply don't know. By the time we finish off our remaining cheese, we may decide this s worth a repeat purchase. Then again, maybe not.

Overall, being honest, the caramelized onions are the standout part of the cheddar. They're much like the ones Sandy and I had recently at the local Irish pub atop our bangers and mash before our night of Ceili dancing, so that's a good start. Maybe I'm just too acclimated to the cheddars from our side of the pond, but if the rest of the cheese were more like a good, firm sharp cheddar that didn't seem to get so sugary from the onions, I'd enjoy it more. Seriously, "cheese candy" is what comes to mind, and whether that's a good or bad thing, who knows.

"'Cheese candy?' I wouldn't phrase it like that," Sandy said, though she noted how much she liked the overall sweetness and cheesiness. She also liked how soft it was, too. For her grade, though, she seemed as much on the fence as I am. "Ehhhhhh....I'm not a really cheese connoisseur, so I don't know....let's say a three." Playing it down the middle always seems a safe bet, so likewise for me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* The only thing I can enjoy about "Downton Abbey" is trying to spot all the actors who've been in any of the Harry Potter movies or on "Dr. Who." In one episode, paying only half attention, I spotted five. Five!


  1. In what kind of preparation did you try this cheese? I loved it, but I'm not sure how tasty it is on its own/on a cracker. I used it to make pulled pork nachos and I thought it was incredibly delicious.

  2. I'm obsessed with this cheese! I think the softness is one of my favorite parts. Guess I could see how it might not be for everyone, though...

  3. Try it in a grilled cheese sandwich on good hearty bread like whole foods' prairie bread with some sweet hot or whole grain mustard and you may come to love it.

    Also, do try the February spotlight unripened Brie cheese. So. Freakin. Good. 2.99/4oz round.

    PS please lose that stupid human verification capture code. It may help you get more comments.

  4. I have had this before and it's sooo delicious! It's really good grated over TJ's Tomato and roasted red pepper soup!

  5. Thank you for the review... and for recipe ideas in the comment section! Very helpful!

  6. My favorite cheese... great on crackers, in omelettes, on sandwiches (grilled cheese or roast beef w/ horseradish). lovely with tomatoes. Yum!

    We usually cycle through and keep this cheese on hand during the winter months. Summer seems to be more Havarti w/ dill season.

  7. This stuff makes an AMAZING grilled cheese sandwich. It's a little odd with crackers, I agree with you there, but melted between bread it is glorious. I keep it on hand just for grilled cheese days, the kids get plain mild cheddar and mommy gets caramelized onions.

  8. Yes, I'm another one who adores this cheese. It's one of my special treats for myself as someone who can't eat grains, sugary foods or potatoes.

    If you were expecting a harder cheese with a stronger flavor, Trader Joe's also has the chive and onion one. That may be more down your alley.