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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Friday, June 13, 2014

Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce

Confession time: As much as I love grilling, last summer...I didn't grill once. Not a single time. My excuses for that are numerable, but basically boil down to: The grill we owned (ten years old, passed down from my older brother's college house) crapped out. Would be cheaper to replace than get all new parts. Was planning to move, and not only did I not want one more thing to move (and a pain in the butt one at that), but if there's anything more expensive than buying a house, it's trying to simultaneously sell a house and buy a house and not have any potential creditors either knock on your door or implode your finances (i.e., pay them bills and keep that money in the bank). And as much as patience is a virtue that I am so aware that I so sorely lack (and I so want, right now!)....I just don't have it for charcoal. Never have and never will, except for the occasional tailgate, of course.

So, I'm trying to make up for it this year. Got the new Brinkman on my grilling patio - nothing fancy, but can sizzle up 24 burgers at once, according to the specs, so it works. I still don't break it out as often as I'd like, but when I do, it's fantastic.

Wish I could say the same for Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce. It's alright, don't get me wrong, but it's not my bag. A previous confession a while back revelealed I'm not a fan of most condiments (especially ketchup) but I do like most barbeque sauces, and every once in a while, in moderation, some mustard isn't terrible. But it has to be used lightly.

Well, due to my complete lack of critical thought and basic color/potential flavor reasoning, it never occurred to me, pre-purchase, that this could be a mustard based barbeque sauce. Not familiar with that concept - that's what i get for never having barbeque on the two or three times I've been in the Carolinas, I guess. Is that a North/South Carolina thing? I just know what the bottle tells me.

Basically, think of mustard, add a bunch of sugar and molasses and some smokiness, and a good dash of black pepper, and that's more or less what this TJ bbq sauce tastes like. It's a little discombobulating, trying to balance out the sweet smokey of most barbeque sauces with the mildly innocent acrid taste of mustard, but it kinda works, and the spices (most noticeably the aforementioned black pepper) help by adding a decent wollop on the back end. The sauce is pretty sweet, though - sugar's the first ingredient, for goodness sake.

It works...but for me at least, only in moderation. When I glazed some over some chicken breasts a few minutes before dinner time a few nights back, both Sandy and I were pretty happy with results. When I thought I'd add some flavor to some leftover grilled potatoes and corn for lunch, I must have dumped in a little too much, because my stomach spent the rest of the afternoon quietly debating what to do before settling for nothing.

There ought to be some more ways to lightly slather this on my meals of choice, so I'll keep trying it, but I'm not exactly all gung-ho at this point, either. Sandy pretty much agrees. A pair of matching 3s seems more than reasonable.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Carolina Gold Barbeque Sauce: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons



  1. Disappointed you didn't love the mustard based! South Carolina tends to have more mustard based BBQ whereas North Carolina has a vinegar based BBQ.

  2. As far as your comment about putting it on other foods.. how about adding it to pulled pork or chicken? bet it would taste pretty good

  3. This sauce is a staple at our house. It's GREAT on any sort of white fish. Just slather it on, put it in the oven, and done. Super simple.

  4. Picked up a bottle (yes, WGaTJ's does affect my shopping habits!) and I like it. It's pretty sweet (as most non-vinegar-based bbq sauces are), with a mix of smoky/mustardy flavors, and a bit of spicy bite after the sweetness wears off. (Basically, Russ nailed the flavors!) I am down with mustards, so I'd rate this a bit higher than 6, personally. Will cook some TJ's turkey burgers in this, and also try baking it on fish.