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Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Trader Joe's Beef and Pork with Cracked Pepper Snack Stick

My toddler, 21 months old, is completely irrational and makes no sense. Surprise!

I mean, M (as I'll call her) will happily eat meat...as long as Sandy and I don't make it or give it to her. My dad makes her bacon? Right down the hatch. Go over to my brothers to grill some burgers or hot dogs? Yumz. Even the sketchy-lookin' chicken at her school? If given the opportunity, yes. Heck, she even happily munched on some Spam my folks gave her last summer on vacation as Sandy and I took off on a date night. We make her anything meatlike at all? With only one notable exception, she won't touch it and will make a grimacing, pouty "meat face" as she turns her head away and firmly says "NO!!!"

That's pretty unlike me. I'm casually working on a spreadsheet for all the different animals I've consumed, and part of me is jealous of Nathan's situation growing up. Give me meat whenever I can get it, and if it happens to be in some sort of snacky, shelf-stable form, I'm all for it as well. Kinda hard to grill a steak at the cubicle, y' know.

Enter Trader Joe's Beef and Pork with Cracked Pepper Snack Stick. Ay yi yi, that's a mouthful. Imagine, in another world, how different those old Randy Macho Man Savage commercials would be with this name. Seems like a brand new product, costs a buck, lacks the usual TJ ampersand, and looks like yummy snacky meat to try out at work, so made for a natural pick up.

Pretty good, if you ask me. It's more the "summer sausage" style of meat stick versus the beefy mush of a Slim Jim (not hatin', just sayin'). It looks like about the normal snack stick size of about 8 inches or so. And listen, I'm not gonna sit around and make the argument that this is a healthy snack, because it's not exactly. But, for the relative world of snack sticks, it does seem like a healthier pick up than the ol' gas station standby - less fat, less calories, less sodium.

And the taste doesn't suffer much for it, depending on how much cracked pepper is in your stick. I've had two - the first one I sampled, there wasn't a lot, so it seemed like an okay, not great, couple of bites. Stick No. 2 had much more pepper, which not only added a healthy amount of spice but kinda wakened the rest of the flavors too, like the salt and garlic. For a little satiety staying power, grab an apple or a cheese stick and some water - before consuming, I was pretty hungry, and this helped hold me over for a couple hours. Might be good to toss in a backpack for a light hiking trip.

Sandy's not big on these kinda snacks, so again I'm turning to my coworker Alan, who apparently is honing his TV pitchman skills when he stated this: "A meat stick overflowing with juiciness…this meat was good! The casing had sea salt brine that gave excellent flavor that one would seek from a meat stick, the cracked black pepper provided a nice subtle spice, add some garlic and you have one tasty piece of meat. I thoroughly enjoyed eating my meat as I am sure you will too!" He added more cracked pepper would be his only request. We're both wavering between a 4 and 4.5, so here's one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Beef and Pork with Cracked Pepper Snack Stick: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Southwest Salad

This is probably a little hypocritical for me to ask, living in the city that perfected the art of putting french fries on everything, but what's happened to a just a good, plain, healthy salad? You know what I mean. My goodness, I was making another sneaky salad trip to TJ's and was looking through the selections, trying to find something healthy-ish and appealing. Some of those salads, I may as well have just gone through a drive thru and stuffed my face with a couple McDoubles (800 calories and 50% of my fat from a salad!?!?). It's all the meats and dressings and thisses and thats that just pile up. Salad is supposed to be healthy and taste good.

That's why I picked up Trader Joe's Southwest Salad. Out of all the salads I haven't tried yet from TJ's, it seemed to potentially straddle the line between healthy and flavorful the best. Even with all the dressing, 200 calories and a couple grams of fat didn't seem to be too bad, and beans and corn with a little "southwestiness" tossed in are usually a winning combo.

Well, I said usually. Let's see, where to begin....When I opened the package, it immediately was apparent that this wasn't the freshest of salads I had selected. That's not necessarily a huge deal - it was about on par with other prepackaged salads I've had - but usually Trader Joe's has that ball knocked out of the park. Not this time around. It just all seemed kinda limp. The romaine, an okay mix of slightly-almost-wilty green leaves and white watery ribs, was okay but not great. Those little chunks of red and green pepper lacked any real flavor and were kinda unnoticeable. Never heard of Cotija cheese before, and after having some, not sure if I ever tasted it either - it's just kinda there taking up space. The corn and beans are pretty close to the canned variety, without any spices or anything to make them stand out. The onions lacked any semblance of commitment.

Did I just describe the salad or my teenaged years?

Anyways, lack of flavor on a sald is what the dressing is there for, right? Right. So....where's the dressing???

Oh, that's right, it's packed in there...underneath all the salad! That's right, you have to unearth it and hope to not knock any of your meal on the floor. The packaging genius who came up with that idea probably bags his milk on top of his bread.

And there's no other way to say it - the dressing sucks. The weird capitalization of "tangy Ranch Dressing" should have keyed me into the fact this is probably from someone who has no idea what ranch dressing is supposed to be like. Listen, I'm no dressing expert, but ranch means creamy. Instead, it's some weird vinegar-y stuff that's in the packet. I mean vinegar-y in both appearance and taste, although tastewise it's not overpowering. That's neither ranch nor "tangy Ranch" and it's just not very good.

I realize I'm going close to full Goldilocks here saying last week's salad had too much in it and this week I'm going to be saying this has too little. Here's some recommendations for addition: A little actual southwest-y kinda spice. Some lime. Some avocado or guacamole (packaged in a little cup on the side, of course). A little salsa. Maybe some chicken, but not a deal breaker. Something, just anything, that would give it a chance of a date on Friday night instead of being holed up in a dim room playing video games while listening to Creed.

Okay, definitely talking about the teenaged years.

I don't hate the southwest salad, but I'm not impressed either (obviously). It just lacks in too many departments, and for the $4 I spent on it, it seemed a little overpriced for what it was. I guess it'd be okay for small side salad, but at least with my appetite, counting on it for a full meal was a bad decision. Maybe that's why I sound so grumpy. No salad for the wifey, so it's just me, and I'm going double 2's.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Southwest Salad: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons    

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Trader Joe's Sukiyaki

Although some might argue that it's not fair to compare a pre-packaged frozen dish purchased at a grocery store to similar food served in a restaurant, I think there comes a time when one should go ahead and make that comparison. In particular, when the price tag of a pre-packaged frozen food item starts getting up into the range of what you'd pay while dining out, then I say compare away. This bag of sukiyaki was $6.99, and the portion size was just about what one might expect from a restaurant. Sure, it was enough dinner for both Sonia and I, but most entrees we buy at restaurants turn into two meals for us as well. And while you might pay an extra dollar or two for this type of thing at a Japanese restaurant, you're also having it prepared and served by someone else, and there are usually some extra bells and whistles like rice or miso soup on the side.

So the question I'm asking myself is, "Was it restaurant quality?" 

Yes and no.

First, I'll start off with something positive: the sauce. The sauce was amazing. Excellent. Delicious. It was savory, thick, rich, and slightly sweet. Containing real sake rice wine and mirin, it was bursting with flavor. I've never had anything quite like it. The dish wasn't spicy at all, but I didn't find myself wanting to dump sriracha all over it like I usually do with non-spicy Asian foods. I don't think a bit of sriracha would have ruined it, but I didn't want to upset the flavor of this amazing sauce. It permeated all of the ingredients and added to their natural tastes. The veggies were plentiful and had nice textures. There were big pieces of carrots, napa cabbage, shiitake mushrooms, and something called burdock. 

The noodles were made of mung bean flour. They were flat, long, and clear. I've had similar noodles in Asian dishes before, and each time I have them, I'm surprised how chewy they are. I usually wind up gnawing on them for a bit before I get so frustrated that I simply swallow and wind up taking down a much longer strand of noodle than I intended to. Surprisingly, there wasn't a lack of meat—one of the more common problems we've found with TJ's frozen food bags. The worst part was that the beef was much more chewy than the noodles. It was fatty, too. There were big chunks of white fat all through the meat, and it was quite rubbery. In this case, I would have preferred tofu chunks—or at least very lean beef. The meat tasted fine, especially once it soaked up all that yummy sauce. It was just too chewy. I ate the food with chopsticks, and I found myself attempting to bite a piece of meat in half with my teeth while yanking on one end with the sticks a couple times. As I stretched and pulled on the beef, sauce dribbled down my chin, and I even lost my grip on the chopsticks at one point—allowing the slab of meat to dangle from my lips like a dog running off with a piece of raw bacon. It almost ruined the experience for me. Almost.

But I'll be danged if that's not some deeeelicious sauce. I give this product 3 stars. It would have been much higher had the meat and noodles not been so rubbery. Sonia gives it 3 stars as well for the same reasons. She also thinks there are too many onions in the mixture. I guess I'm just a bit more into onions than she is, because I disagree on that point. But double 3's it is.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Trader Giotto's Ricotta & Spinach Cannelloni

As Russ noted some time ago, you never want to be the guy who heats up a fish dish in the microwave at work. No matter how tasty it might be, it puts a weird smell in the air. Always. Your co-workers will hate you. I learned that the hard way. 

But have you ever noticed that the exact opposite happens when you heat up Italian? Suddenly, you become uber-popular and everyone's interested in what you're eating. And it doesn't have to be something from a fancy restaurant or homemade. I mean you could nuke a bowl of Chef Boyardee, and if it weren't for people recognizing the classic shape of spaghetti-o's, you could probably get the whole lunch room fascinated with your meal. Sprinkle some parmesan cheese on top, and your associates might start asking you to cater their weddings and bar mitzvahs. Sterile office environments and the mundanity of the workaday world somehow enhance people's interest in food. Fragrances seem so much stronger when smelled from a cubicle.

And this cannelloni smells delicious. Even when heated in the microwave. To the best of my knowledge, I've never had cannelloni before in my life. But in this instance at least, it's basically lasagna. There are flat sheets of egg pasta with ricotta cheese and tomato sauce—oh, and bechamel sauce. Where have I heard that before? Hmmm...oh yeah! Our very first review, nearly four years ago. My first experience with bechamel left a bad taste in my mouth, and I wasn't quite sure if I'd ever be re-acquainted with the stuff. Well here we are, bechamel, face to face again. 

And on this serendipitous encounter, the bechamel is part of a similarly-packaged lasagna-esque dish just like last time, but now it's got better taste. I mean, I can't quite distinguish the bechamel from the pasta, ricotta, spinach, and tomato sauce. So I still couldn't tell you what it tastes like. But now I won't associate the word "bechamel" with nastiness.

The flavors that I could taste were very well balanced, and I never found myself wishing the cannelloni had any kind of meat or meat sauce, as I often do with vegetarian Italian. There was plenty of pasta and ricotta. If anything was slightly lacking, it was the spinach. The dish required an extra minute of heating, bringing the total time in the microwave up to eight minutes. That's not unreasonable, considering what you're getting.

I'm sure it would have turned out differently with a more traditional heating method, but the product was fairly soupy when it emerged from my electromagnetic particle disruptor oven. All of the sauces and cheeses created a wet conglomeration in the bottom of the microwave-safe heating carton. It was messy but tasty, easy, cheap ($2.49), and fast. Oh—and it smells really good, too. Heating it up at work just might make you the most popular guy in the lunch room. Sonia sat this one out, so I'll score it on her behalf. I'm torn between a 3.5 and a 4, so I'll give it one of each.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad

Okay, confession time: For the longest time, I, Russ, was a serial fast food sneaker. Especially at breakfast time, especially on the way to work. Or late at night, while running out for the random errand. Ever want a quick way to gain 40 pounds? There you go, right there.

I'm changing my ways, though. These days, I'm a semi-regular salad sneaker. If there's not enough leftovers for lunch and I have the time in the morning, it's not uncommon for me to run over to TJ's to see what's there. I've had some decent ones, and while I still miss my favorite of all time, the $4 or so I drop on them are very rarely ill spent.  Want a good way to help drop 40 pounds? That won't do it all, but it'll point you in the right direction.

I found myself in that kinda situation on Friday morning, and since it's Lent and I'm respectful of Sandy's Catholic upbringing (although we're both Protestants, she strictly adheres to "no meat Fridays"...eh...happy wife means happy life), that means had to find a good, filling-looking salad without any meat. I saw Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad and figured this would be quite the mouthful to both say and eat.

Well, it sure is. There's a lot that goes into this particular salad. There's squash. And quinoa. And wheatberries. And arugula. And cranberries. And toasted almonds. And goat cheese. And a host of other stuff, all topped with honey sesame vinaigrette. It's everything except the ampersand. I'd think it'd be hard to pull off a cohesive-tasting salad with all of that in there, but in actuality, almost all of it tastes like it belongs. This was my first experience with wheatberries, which kinda taste how they look (like soft, chewy popcorn kernels, except wheat-y), which I took a few bites to warm up to, but by the end was pretty happy with them. Between those and the quinoa, there's a lot to help fill you up, and the almonds add a great little occasional crunch to the mix. All ingredients were pretty fresh, which isn't always the case with prepackaged salads, of course. Also, not all of the dressing is really needed - I put maybe half on and was pretty happy with the coverage,


I only have a few minor knocks here and there. First, the squash had just a little too much bite to it. Coulda been "roasted" a few minutes longer for my taste. Also, there were a few bites I came across that were ultra-rosemary-laced that were a bit much. It was an herbal blindside backhanded smack to the taste buds each time. And that helps point out another quasi-issue - why the rosemary? There's enough other things in here for taste, that honestly if TJ's were to adopt a "less is more" approach, it would have worked out great. Sometimes, they need to learn that lesson. I would have voted out the rosemary and cranberries, but asked for a little more sesame in the dressing.  

Regardless, while I may dabble in some other salads before hitting up this particular jumble again, I am almost certain to make it a repeat buy, despite the ribbing from the guys at my lunch table. At least we started a scintillating conversation about ancient grains that lasted like 30 seconds before going back to sportssportssports as usual. Though I'm not exactly sure if anything here really is an ancient grain...meh. Since I snuck this without the wife's knowledge, we're going strictly on my score here. All in all, not a bad pick-up.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Roasted Butternut Squash, Red Quinoa and Wheatberry Salad: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds

I'm usually not a fan at all of those stupid e-card meme things that float all around Facebook all too often, but I saw one the other day I actually kinda marginally liked. In case you didn't feel like clicking the link, it's no-nose business lady in a power suit saying "Chocolate comes from cocoa, which is a tree. That makes it a plant. Chocolate is salad." Actually, now that I've been forced to look at it again, I kinda hate it. But I guess I can appreciate the sentiment, because as much as I like veggies, I no doubtedly like chocolate even better.

Well, if chocolate isn't really salad, maybe the next best thing is chocolate covered fruit? That's a good way to justify a lot of cocoa-consumption, right?

If that's your train of thought, you can do better than Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds.

There's just something off about them. It's not the chocolate, which is, as usual, pretty good dark chocolate unto itself. Sandy said the bite feels a little off - the seeds don't exactly crunch nor are they particularly juicy like regular pomegranate seeds. It makes sense to me for them to not be all soft and squishy, so I'd side with them being a little drier and crispier/crunchier. The taste is a little funky, though - it's not a smooth flavor but more discombobulating between the rich dark chocolate and sharply tart/sweet pomegranate. It might even get accented a little further by added pomegranate powder, I don't know. But kinda ends up as a sickly sweet muddied flavor, which at least keeps me from eating too many at once. I think the only reason I've eaten the two midsized handfuls I have is because of the complete lack of chocolate in my diet recently, and out of obligation for you, our faithful reader.

It's a little disappointing, because I thought at time of purchase the choco-covered seeds would be a nifty little snack. At least I'll know next time to skip on by them. Sandy agreed, mainly for the texture related issue, giving them a measly two. Maybe I'm still just a little bitter over the soy chorizo fiasco, because a two is all this'll get from me as well.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Pomegranate Seeds: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Trader Joe's Watermelon Cucumber Cooler

Back in the days when this old blog was not so very old, and there were only 340 or so TJ's locations nationwide, people knew me as "the sweet beverage fiend," or "the hummingbird." I grew up on full-calorie sodas and sticky sweet, high fructose corn syrup-laden "juice" drinks. And while I've basically sworn off HFCS altogether at this point—and love Trader Joe's because they very infrequently, if ever, use it in their products—I still love me some sweetness. So when this product tasted just as much like cucumber as watermelon, I was a little disappointed.

I mean I know it says "cucumber" in the title of the product, but I thought that was just to make it sound healthier than it actually is—in the manner of TJ's Tropical Carrot Juice Blend or Omega Orange Carrot Juice. I'm not saying those carrot drinks aren't healthy, I'm simply pointing out that the carrot flavor is cleverly blended in with a multitude of other sweeter essences. But this actually tastes like cucumber. And while my instinct is to simply complain about tasting cucumber juice for the next couple paragraphs, I really can't think of anything else to say about it, and I know my negativity would attract a plethora of negative comments, and I'm sure there are plenty of you, like Sonia, that will actually enjoy drinking cucumber juice.

Surprisingly, however, both organic sugar and watermelon juice outrank "cucumber juice" on the ingredients list. And even more surprisingly, the cucumbery taste is growing on me—ever so slightly. Sonia pointed out that this beverage will be perfect come summertime. It's meant to be a "cooler," just like the title says, and I must admit that it's a great thirst quencher. It was a little better with a ton of ice. It definitely does taste like watermelon, too, but the watermelon to cucumber ratio favors the "cuke" a good bit more than I was expecting. It's a light flavor. And...it just tastes a lot like cucumber. I'm sorry I keep saying that. It's just...you don't drink cucumbers. I'm open to new things, but...cucumber juice? It's weird, but I guess it's not necessarily bad. Always good to expand your horizons, right?

I think I'll be generous and give it 2.5 stars for its thirst-quenching properties and uniqueness. But be warned: if the idea of cucumber juice turns your stomach, you probably won't like this product. Sonia gives it 4 stars. She's down with the cucumberiness.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo 2.0

You just don't mess with some classics.

Like, seriously, no, don't.

Like Jennifer Gray's nose. Like Charlie and Chocolate Factory, despite your fancy squirrels. Like about 2/3rds of the songs on this list (beware, some NSFW language). Seriously, not like I was ever a Madonna fan, but when she ripped off "American Pie"....there are no words.

I guess if any of those can be messed with, though, so can Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo.

Listen: I'm a guy who, despite dabbling in pseudo-vegeterian ways about a year ago, keeps a spreadsheet of every type of animal I've ever eaten (up to 23!), and yet, I love, love, love TJ's soy chorizo. Loved it enough for it to be my first review for this site back in the day. Loved it enough for it to be a continual staple for tasty, healthy, easy dinners - chorizo, black beans, rice, salsa and cheese all mixed together (as pictured) - for years to follow. Darn good stuff.

And then...it got taken away.

The official word I heard: Needed to change supplier, pricing changed, TJ's wanted to keep quality product at low price. Alright, well, I get that. Bizness is bizness. Huzzah. Still, it's a popular enough product that a) Seems like there should be no shortage of suppliers willing to make a deal 2) A small price increase (let's say 50 cents) wouldn't dampen sales too much (wouldn't stop me) and d) Discontinuation of a popular product should be foreseeable enough to start making alternate plans to avoid months of a product not being in stock. Of course, we're talking about the same place that still can't figure out how to bring back the best peanut butter ever, so maybe this shouldn't have been a total surprise.

So now, finally, it's back in stock, after something like six long months of it being gone. If you're familiar with the old version, this is just about a spittin' image, with just a few discernible changes. First, it seems a little spicier, with a little more bite to it. That part is good.

The other change: It's no longer vegan. There's "milk powder for freshness." Some one please explain how that works.  

And someone please explain how someone thought that was a good idea. I'm not vegan, but I can see such a change being pretty upsetting for those who are. It's alienating a segment of the customer base. It's not right.

And apparently I'm not alone in thinking this. This is not official word, but I heard this from two separate store employees in person: It's being discontinued...again...to be reformulated back to being vegan based on the outcry from customers about the switch from vegan to vegetarian. Heard nothing about time frame. Maybe one of you reading this is more in the know than I am. This complete lack of foresight is pretty frustrating.

Anyways, to help hold us over, I picked up three packs the other night. Still $1.99 each, which is a darn good price. Since we ate one already, that means I have two left in the freezer (these freeze great!), and after we eat the second package, we'll have an interesting dilemma for third: eat it or keep it? I mean, within a few years, as the world's last Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo vegetarian version, it might be worth enough to send my kids through college. One can hope.

Sorry for the "more rant than review." Just irritating. And I'm taking it on our score, marking it down a couple full spoons off of the original. You just don't mess with the classics.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 4, 2014

Trader Joe's Effervescent Orange Vitamin C Drink Mix

Of the 500+ reviews on this blog, the vast majority have been Trader Joe's brand foods or beverages fit for human consumption. However, there have been one or two that we've deemed "not fit for human consumption." There have been one or two that haven't actually been Trader Joe's brand. There's been food fit for animals—and of course animal food fit for humans. We've entirely avoided reviewing Trader Joe's fine line of household cleaners, flowers, hygiene and beauty products. Yes, you can find all of those things at TJ's, and the few that we've tried we've been fairly impressed with.

But now this product is walking that fine line between "beverage" and "medicine." And while one might argue that TJ's beers and wines can be used for "self-medicating" purposes, this is fairly new territory for us. So really, we're not going to be able to tell you much about the immune system-bolstering properties of this product. Although I'm perfectly willing to eat out of a dog bowl, I'm not willing to subject myself to a scientific scenario that would expose me to real cold germs.

I must say, though, that I often get sick this time of year. I've noticed a lot of people get sick this time of year actually. There seems to be a round of colds whenever the weather changes, even if it's getting warmer instead of cooler. I'm not going to research that claim at all for fear that I will find information that contradicts my hypothesis. But Sonia agrees that people get sick just as the spring arrives, and that's good enough for me. Despite that fact, neither of us has gotten sick this year. Could that be evidence that this product actually works to strengthen your body's natural defenses? I say...maybe.

So anyway, as you've probably already figured out, this product is a store-brand version of Emergen-C. We've always been fans of Emergen-C, and we usually have some on hand here in our household. Not only do we like its nutritional properties, but we love the taste as well. Sonia got in the habit of mixing herself a glass to have with dinner if we ever ran out of juice and iced tea, since it's sweet and tastes good enough to drink just for the flavor. That's our biggest complaint about TJ's version. It simply doesn't taste that good. It's not bad...but it's less sweet and orangey than the name brand product that we're used to. It's less pungent—less flavorful all around.

The nutrition information is similar to Emergen-C, and includes 1667% RDA of your vitamin C and 500% of vitamins B-6 and B-12. Both products give me a little energy rush when I drink them, particularly when I'm not sick. TJ's version is a little less expensive than Emergen-C at $7.99 for a box of 30 packets. Overall, it's a decent product, but we think we'll stick to Emergen-C for now since it tastes significantly better. 3 stars from Sonia, 3.5 stars from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People

You ever look at Fluffy or Rex, happily chomping away at whatever's in their bowl for the 3000th time, and wonder how a creature can so happily eat the same thing over and over again? Or, even better, think it'd be so great to just be able to buy a 20-lb sack of chow for like $10 like you do for the dog, and just have that be your food for a month? You think, hey, it works for them, something like that should be able to work for me. Then you remember, yes, there was once upon a time that you could do that, but college has forever ruined you on ramen noodles, so you just can't do that again.

Me? I think about that stuff often. I sure know my bank account appreciates the sentiment. Then it laughs because it hurts too much to cry.

Fortunately, we're in luck! Similar to what happened around this time last year, the WGATJ quartet has been hand-selected by Big Joe to try out a brand new product, Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People. This one actually has a significant chance to hit the market - although testing very well with us, those nitro-foam-erated salmon muffins apparently increased one's chance of spontaneous human combustion to a level that the FDA just wasn't comfortable with. Stupid regulations...

Much like the cats cookies for people, Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People is an animal-esque product clearly meant for human consumption. Don't get them confused - though Fido probably won't mind, actual dog food tastes too much like a nasty Triscuit for most people to enjoy, which Russ learned firsthand thanks to his seventh-grade science teacher. The concept itself is so straightforward yet so brilliant - it's just a sack of food pellets designed for human consumption, brimming with all sorts of nutrients and hey, some flavor, too, that makes a good, sustainable food source that's worthy of everyday eating.



Wait, you say. How can someone be happy eating the same thing every day? Doesn't that get old?
At least ramen has different colored salt packages, right? As usual, Big Joe's a step ahead. From what we've been told, there are a few varieties in the works. The one we got to sample was chicken, quinoa, apples, and Brussel sprouts, with a maple-y finish. Granted, it didn't really look like any of that, because it was just dark brown and tan crunchy pellets...but it's all there. Every bit. And to help change things up every so often, there's little "additional flavor" packets on the side to mix in - like hot sauce, bacon grease, cheddar - it's all in powdered form, but if you can overcome that, it's incredibly satiating. If that's not enough variety, there's vegan as well as seasonal varieties in the works (Thanksgiving: turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, gravy, pecan pie, and TUMS, for example). Just like real pet food, it comes in a 20 pound bag, so it lasts a while. Savor it in.

But...this is where it gets little weird. Might be a deal breaker for some, but trust us, it helps, we're experts. Historians have recently discovered that our primitive ancestors may have eaten on all fours before the invention of the table. They saw the animals around them doing it, so they simply copied what they saw wolves and bears doing and ate off the floor of their caves. Eating in this posture may have increased the metabolism and aided digestion. Similar to the popular "caveman diet," TJ's has latched on to this idea and thus formulated this product to be consumed like a dog or a primitive human. Nathan was kind enough to make an instructional video to demonstrate the suggested eating technique for the Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People. It's strictly educational, of course.


In all, this is a legitimate game-changer. I (Russ) have eaten nothing except this for about three or four days straight, and not only have been happy and felt great, but I've noticed some pleasant, well, not "side effects" but perhaps "unexpected bonuses." First, I'm sleeping better, in nearly any position. My senses of smell and hearing have greatly improved, and my "fur coat" (for lack of better term) has been become fuller and stronger, which was wonderful for dealing with the last of the wintry throes. I'm also feeling a lot happier, especially when seeing fire hydrants, although my wife and boss say I seem more distrac-SQUIRREL!!!!...Um, where was I?

A twenty pound bag costs only $11.99 and lasts for a few weeks, depending on how many cups I eat a day. The side panel says for an active male about my size I should eat three or four servings daily, which seems right. Really, just this, some water, and whatever scraps my toddler sneaks me are all I need. That and a little scratch behind my ears from time to time, and for that mailman to stop coming around. If there's one chow that can make my tail wag, this would be it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People: 

10 out of 10 Golden Retrievers