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, June 26, 2014

Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney

There's been a lot of back-and-forth out there in the wild webby west the past few weeks about the merits of a gluten-free diet for those who are not diagnosed celiac sufferers. I'm...not going to add much to that discussion, other to say that I know enough good, honest folks who go to great lengths to avoid gluten because of how they believe gluten affects them, so there's probably something to it that science (and the rest of us who don't deal with what those others do) may not fully understand as of yet. Can't find the link, but there was an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal last week that detailed how, in response to increased consumer demand over the past few years, many food manufacturers are now either focused on making gluten-free versions of products, while openly admitting they sacrifice nutritional quality for taste and texture. Yummm those extra calories!

Another tactic, and more pertinent to Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney, is many food that never contained gluten to begin with are now slapped with or marketed under being gluten free. For example, read this about Heinz Ketchup. Now, an average consumer may not know what an "uttapam" is (I sure didn't) but once the first two words of the little subheaded description are read ("rice breads")...well, that's a pretty significant hint it's gluten free. Rice is a pretty common substitute grain (with varying results), so unless so gluten would reach its wheaty tentacles in through some ultra-nefarious means, the "gluten free" at the top of the box is really as useful as a "cholesterol free" label on a box of Cheerios.

Enough about all that, let's talk uttapams. They're fun. They're funky. And Trader Joe's may have helped Columbus them, because I've never heard of them or had one, but now I'm kinda intrigued. If made from an authentic Indian recipe, as the box claims, that means the lentil/rice mixture that makes up these pancake-like yum-yums was fermented for a while. That's probably the case, as there's this lingering kinda sour/kinda sweet/kinda sharp/kinda acidic taste to the batter that's the base flavor. Not sure of the best words to adequately describe, but it sure was unexpected upon first bite. Texturally these uttapam seem to be a cross between mashed potatoes and pancakes, while the undersides of these cakes crisp up nicely when made in the frying pan. Can't imagine microwaving them as alternate directions suggest...ugh. The taste of the batter is balanced out nicely by a certain spiciness - it's not spicy in a hot, peppery way, but in a more herbaceous sense from the abundance of onion tidbits and cilantro choppings. And for a little added subtle sweetness, the coconut chutney up top helps bind the whole dish together. There's no taste that's too scarce or too prevalent - it's perfectly harmonious.

And for those out there who may want to try these out but no desire or capacity to have them four at a time - no fear! Not only do the uttapam (uttapams?) come in a resealable plastic baggie, but also the chutney comes frozen in two separate packets. Making two one night and the other two another night, like Sandy and I did, was a cinch, no creative repackaging needed. That's a nice touch.

If memory serves me right, these "Indian pizzas" (as they're sometimes referred to, apparently) were in the neighborhood of $3 for the box, and honestly, if I were to go out to an Indian restaurant, order some uttapam, and get something approximately like these, I'd be pretty happy. Let's be positive and say that means more about the overall quality of this product versus anything else. Both Sandy and I thoroughly enjoyed them and can see them as a great appetizer for any Indian-themed meal. Nicely done.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Four Uttapam with Coconut Chutney: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons   

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Trader Joe's Yellow Cold Pressed Juice

During my seven years in Los Angeles, I lost a good bit of weight by drinking smoothies and juices. I frequented Jamba Juice, and when there wasn't one available, I settled for Robek'sSmoothie King, or Surf City Squeeze. Sure they have sugar. Sure they have fat. But with a vita-boost and a fiber-boost, they're more filling and more nutritious than most meals, and they completely curbed my appetite. And while we do have a JJ here in southeastern PA now at the King of Prussia Mall, it's just not really on my way to or from anything, and fighting my way through that mall parking lot every single day just to get a smoothie isn't really an option I'd put on the table. So I'm still searching for something to replace my old smoothie habit.

Unfortunately, this isn't it. This is just really expensive yellow juice. Don't get me wrong, it's natural, it's healthy, and it's 100% juice, but you've really gotta have a massive hankerin' for some yellow pepper juice to buy this product on a regular basis. And for me—this was about all the yellow pepper juice I'll ever need in my lifetime. I didn't just read about yellow pepper juice in the ingredients. I smelled it. I tasted it. It's there. It's there in a big way. It tastes like a juiced yellow bell pepper sweetened with pineapple juice. And that, my friends, is why I can't recommend this product to you wholeheartedly. That and the fact that 15oz. costs five bucks! Sure my Jamba smoothies were pricey, too—but those things were like a whole meal for me.

There's a bunch of pulp that settles on the bottom of each bottle. It's a "shake well" kinda situation. I guess that proves that an actual whole piece of fruit was used. I'm thinking that if you're really really into this type of product, that you should just buy your own fruits and veggies and juice them yourselves. Although, I must admit, I've tried juicing and I know it's a lot of work buying all that produce, cutting it, processing it, storing the unused portions properly, and then the worst part is cleaning the juicer—although I have heard many of the newer juicers magically clean themselves with the help of little elves that live inside the plastic base of the appliance. Plus, it's really not cheap buying boatloads of high-quality fresh fruit either. But I would think you'd get a bit more than 15 ounces for $5.

Whether Sonia was just caught up in all the Instagram hype over these juices or whether she really genuinely thought this thing was worth its price tag, I'm not entirely sure. She was happy with the taste—choosing to focus on the pineappliness instead of the pepperiness. She liked the pulpy texture, too, which I must admit wasn't bad. But you can get that texture in a traditional half gallon of country style OJ for a lot less money. 

There are also Red and Green versions of this pressed juice. We just might be crazy enough to try those, too, but feel free to leave your thoughts about them in the comment section below! 4 stars from Sonia. 2.5 from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.
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Friday, June 20, 2014

Trader Joe's Grand Slam

Veterans Stadium. Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Stade Olympique. (Old) Yankee Stadium. PNC Park. Jacobs/Progressive/whatever-its-called-these-days-in-Cleveland Field. Citizens Bank ParkFenway Park. Angel Stadium. Nationals Park. And, in a few weeks, Great American Ball Park.

Those, in rough chronological order, are the baseball stadiums I've been to. And yes, you're reading that right - I've been to a Montreal Expos home game. Can't do that anymore. No other place, except perhaps my grandparents' cabin, says summer to me like heading out to the ballpark to catch a game. Eventually I want to make my way to every park, except maybe that dreary prison (I didn't know you could move a stadium from Montreal to Tampa) or crazy neon funhouse down in Florida. I mean, seriously, ugh. Whatever. From catching the tail end of Mike Schmidt's career to seeing Mike Trout in the very early stages of his, all in person, there's little that beats a night at the ol' ballgame.

So, you need some snacks for that, right? Right. And if they not only keep kids happy but also go well with crappy, overpriced beer? Even better. That's why Cracker Jack is so popular. So, with venturing out with some Trader Joe's Grand Slam, TJ's is just maybe poking the bear a little. There's some classics, like Rollie Fingers' moustache, that you just don't mess with.

Let's see: a grand slam is the single best hit a baseball player can get, right? Well, this isn't Trader Joe's single best snack. It's okay - the popcorn itself is light and poofy with very little (if any) grungy kernal-ly undercarriage. I firmly appreciate all of that. The rest....ehhh. At least in our bag, the caramel seemed uneven from bite to bite - some bites seemed too overtly sweet while others were kinda bland. That leads me to believe it's either not very good caramel or there's something off in the production process.

And while the thought of adding almonds, cashews and pecans to the tried-and-true peanuts seem like a very intriguingly good idea, the byproduct is almost worthy of it's own blooper reel. Think about it. Of course all those nuts will be chopped up into little itty-bitty bits, then slatered in sticky caramel goop and hardened...so of course they're gonna form a nutty conglomeration worthy of only the sturdiest of molars to undertake. And of course based on weight and settling and shuffling and what not, the nut clusters will all sink to the bottom of the bag (you know, like, all four of them), so one must dig through all the poofy popcorn to get some nuts then risk an unscheduled dentist trip to enjoy them. Well, good thing they taste pretty good - it's caramel covered nuts, what did you expect?

I think the bag cost somewhere around $3, and while it's a tasty enough of snack...well, call me a traditionalist (I hate instant replay!!!!) but I gotta go for Cracker Jack instead - better caramel and no nutty nutbombs. Plus you get that awesome sticker or temporary tattoo inside. Not a bad attempt TJ's, but sometimes, less is more, and when you're going against a legend, you gotta bring your A game. It says something that Sandy, a much more fervent fan of caramel popcorn than I can ever aspire to be, was a little displeased as well, for much of the reasons above. This "grand slam" seems more of a fly out to the warning track - might still bring something home, but in the end, it's still a sacrifice.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Grand Slam: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Trader Giotto's Rigatoni alla Siciliana

Today's my 35th birthday. There's a famous quote about your parents ruining the first half of your life and your children ruining the second half. That's how I know I'll live beyond age 70. No kids yet, and my parents are still making bold attempts to ruin my life. Don't believe me? Just ask Sonia. She doesn't exaggerate like I've been known to on occasion.

Another reason I know I'll live past 70 is my phone number. You might think it strange, but when I was arbitrarily assigned my current cell phone number some 10 years ago, it struck me that the last four digits of it would be the year of my departure from this earth. 2060. When I was younger, I used to tell people that I was going to die when I was 60. But after I saw my phone number, I realized I had been mistaken. I'm not going to die at the age of 60. I'm going to die in the year 2060

So with that revelation, I began eating somewhat more healthily since I realized I had to account for an extra 21 years or so. That's one of the factors that led me to shop at places like Trader Joe's. Now there are those of you who will pipe up and say "But, but, but...Trader Joe's is just organic junkfood!" Maybe you'd be right. I don't know. But I currently believe it to be slightly healthier than most mainstream grocery stores like Ralph's or Giant. And remember, I'm aiming for 81. Not 91 or 101. I don't need to be that healthy. Pasta with eggplant sauce will suit me just fine over pasta with beef and pork or whatever. Don't get me wrong, I still eat meat. I just mix up my dead animal with eggplant from time to time.

And eggplant's tastyUsually. I'm down with stuff like baba ghanoush and Indian eggplant curry. This product was no exception. And even though the texture of eggplant is always a gamble, in this case it was pretty nice. Not rubbery. Not too chewy. I think our biggest complaint is that this dish was lacking a special zing. It wasn't super bland. You could taste pasta and tomato sauce and eggplant, and it was slightly savory. But with three and a half decades of memories to compete with, this product just ain't gonna stand the test of time. It's certainly not bad. If you're jonesin' for some eggplant, by all means, check it out. But both Sonia and I wanted a little something extra. Some magical spice harvested from the moons of Jupiter that makes eggplant taste like ostrich meat or something like that—that's what we were looking for and it just wasn't there. This dish was super not bad and super not memorable. When I'm 70 and my kids are busy ruining my life, this bag of rigatoni will have been forgotten many decades prior. 3 stars from both of us.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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
 

      

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's

It's really hard to look at Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's and not remember that old Saturday Night Live commercial for Colon Blow cereal. RIP Phil Hartman, you're one of the great ones. 

I guess this particular TJ cereal can be filed under "the epitome of adult cereals." It's boring. It's bland. There's no cartoon characters or prizes buried. And perhaps worst of all, it's healthy. 

See...I like cereal a lot. Sandy says I like it too much, but usually I can't hear her protests over my munching through a Jethro-sized mixing bowl. It's a replacement vice for too many other bad eating habits I have, like greasy late night/mornings before work drive thru cravings, or all-out fridge foraging. A good bowl of cereal either late at night or first thing in the morning is tough to beat, and if I can find one I like that's undoubtedly healthy, I'm all for it.

Listen: I tried to like these high fiber O's. Really, I did. But after giving them a good honest try and crunching thru the whole box over the past week or so, I can clearly state that these aren't for me. There's many reasons. First, the texture. Don't think these are just light, little crispy Cheerio knockoffs with some extra fiber magically infused, like I somehow thought they were pre-purchase. Nope, they're heavy, dense concrete doughnuts that give your molars a run for it. Seriously, if a mouse were to train for the discus toss for the Mouse Olympics, one of these O's would be a great choice. Even the last few bites are almost as equally crunchy as the first. 

Also, tastewise, they don't offer much. I don't need a cereal to be all super sugary as long as it otherwise tastes good - I love just a bowl of Cheerios and milk, for instance. There's a slight sweetness to these, but it's all swamped by this taste of condensed sawdust that was strangely reminiscent of one of my least favorite TJ products ever. Must be all that fiber. It's not for me.

For a positive note, though, just a regular sized serving of these Fiberios is enough to satiate a rumbly belly all the way to midafternoon, when I take my usual lunch break. And they do pair well with some almond milk, and I suppose a handful of berries would make a good accompanient. Plus, fiber and protein are good for you, and there's plenty, without any of the side effects SNL alluded to. And the fact I ate the whole box in about a week means they can't have tasted that bad as I said they did....hey, me, stop sounding so responsible!

So Sandy didn't get around to trying these, so it's all me. I'll give a voice to my more juvenile and more adult side. Youth before beauty, so youngyin' first: Blahhh. No likey. One spoon, and that's because I'm being nice. Older me: They're not great, but they're not that bad, so suck it up and eat them, your body will be happier for it, and maybe you should start taking care of it. Four spoons. So I'm right down the middle, what's your take? Share in comments below.

 Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic High Fiber O's: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
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I accidentally threw out the box before snapping pictures. Box front picture borrowed from http://danicasdaily.com/a-new-way-to-get-dirty and nutritional info picture being borrowed from http://jensblogawog.blogspot.com/2013/02/review-trader-joes-organic-high-fiber.html. 


 


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trader Joe's Ginger, Almond & Cashew Granola Cereal

There are certain bites of this cereal that taste like delicious gingersnap cookies with a dusting of cinnamon and spices and a few choice cashews. Other bites taste like pungent, raw ginger root and not much else. The discrepancy between those two types of bites is harsh, and it grates on your taste buds the same way a glob of horseradish might after a few pleasant sips of root beer

I'm guessing the bites are inconsistent because there are chunks of actual ginger floating throughout the cereal, but not enough that you get one in every bite. Or, perhaps, certain bites contain only small bits of ginger and others contain large chunks. Whatever the reason, it's difficult to
avoid while eating the cereal since each ingredient is more or less the same beige-ish color. I suppose one could inspect each spoonful meticulously before shoveling it down, but it would take a great deal of time, care, and effort to do so. It's much easier to make the following generalization: The only people who should consider buying this cereal are people who are madly in love with the taste of raw ginger.

I was skeptical when I saw this box on the shelf. Could ginger really work as the centerpiece in a breakfast cereal? The Ardmore, PA Trader Joe's was a madhouse on my last TJ's run, and it provided the kind of full-contact shopping experience I hadn't seen since I braved the hordes of colorful characters at 3rd and La Brea in L.A. There wasn't much time to linger there in the aisle staring up at the cereals, and much like my last review, I made a hasty decision. I'm a fan of certain ginger products: ginger beergingersnapsginger ice creamand even ginger wontons. But when it comes to ginger candy or raw ginger root, that's where I draw the line. As a spice, ginger should be used sparingly. It's simply too pungent when it shows up in abundance.

Sonia liked this cereal even less than I did, pointing out that the bites with excessive ginger kind of ruin all the other bites. That stuff lingers. She only gives this breakfast cereal two and a half stars. I think I'll be slightly more lenient and go with three since there's definitely some potential here. I think this could be a really decent cereal if they toned the ginger down a couple notches.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Trader Joe's Chocolate Raspberry Sticks

This was a silly purchase. I was stuck in line at TJ's, and the lady in front of me had an enormous cartload of groceries—a fact I didn't notice until after it was too late to switch lines. I was in the queue for a good three or four minutes just staring at the little table full of goodies next to the checkout. The stuff they have sitting there is pretty slick when it comes to ensnaring unsuspecting victims. My usual strategy involves picking a line with little or no wait and just breezing past them without a glance. But I was stuck. And sure enough, these little guys got me.

Sonia and I rarely eat chocolate, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not really a huge fan of dark chocolate. Plus, in the summertime, you have to keep chocolate in the fridge or it gets melty and messy just sitting on the counter. Our AC units hit the bedroom and living room pretty well, but the kitchen tends to be steamy. Furthermore, for some reason I was thinking these were like crunchy sticks somehow. When I hear the word "stick," I think "crunchy." You know, like a stick from a branch on a tree. But these sticks are gummy, which of course makes them even more slimy, gooey, and sticky in this June heat. I could have just gone ahead and read the label on the product I was buying, but well...woulda, coulda, shoulda. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I wasn't really thinking when I bought these and they were kind of doomed from the start. Popsicles would have been a much wiser purchase.

There's a ridiculous amount of raspberry goo on the inside of these things. And I personally don't feel like this particular dark chocolate blends very well with the sweet raspberry jelly nonsense within it. But on the flip side, I must admit that it does taste like raspberry. Not like super sweet fake Jolly Rancher blue raspberry, and not like actual raspberries fresh off the vine, but maybe exactly halfway between the two. Something like a Chambord-flavored jelly candy if you will, but not as rich. It's not bad, it's just not my thing—though I've had higher quality raspberry cordials that I did enjoy significantly more than these candies. 

Sonia does like dark chocolate, although it's a very infrequent indulgence for her, and when she does eat it, it's in very small amounts. She's less than enthused about these candies as well. She's also not a huge fan of raspberry flavored candy. This is one of those instances where our take on a product might be completely different from someone who loves dark chocolate and raspberry candy, so we invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. I give these "sticks" two and a half stars. Sonia's gonna go with three on this one.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars II

Wait....there's the Roman numeral two? As in, like, Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars...the sequel? More fruit, more frenzy, more bars, or what? I've been a fairly observant Trader Joe's shopper over the past few years, but either I've been extremely sheltered in these Pittsburgh area stores (it happens!) or I've been completely oblivious (also very possible, ask my wife!), but I've never even heard of or seen the original Fruit Frenzy Bars that the existence of this product implies also existed. I was very excited to try these, even though, let's face it, the sequels almost always suck compared to the original. Prime example: any Matrix movie after the first (I'd be much happier never seeing Keanu Reeves pulling a Kevin Bacon and showing us his butt ever again). Although, sometimes the sequels are good, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If only the ending of Return of the King didn't end six times before it actually did, finally, end. This scene was officially where the the climax jumped the shark.

Yes, I went to college in the early 2000s, how can you tell? Also, do people still use the phrase "jump the shark"? Maybe I'll ask my years-younger-than-me coworkers when I'm not bothering them with computer questions because anything beyond Windows XP confounds the crud out of me.

Anyhow, once these frosty fruity frenzi-ful frisky frolics were found, I knew right where they truly belonged: in my belly.  Once summer begins roaring with heat rising and humidity spiking, any icy cool treat I can ingest to aid with chilling my body from the inside out, I'm down with.

To me, these are not disappointing in the least. As the picture suggests, there's three different flavor levels to work through. First up is grape. Starts off a little weak, if you ask me. I mean, it's not bad, but it doesn't taste overly grape-y. Granted, there's not a lot of added sugar (at least compared to the typical ice cream truck treat), so maybe that's why it tasted a little toned down. Sandy said the grape kinda reminded her of iced tea - in fact, she was a little surprised when I informed her it was, in fact, grape. Not that it really tastes like tea, just kinda like watered-down sweetness, which is what a lot of the local dairy swill masquerading as iced tea tastes like around these parts. Give me Rosenberger's over Turner's any day. Still, the Grape Level tasted alright, and not an awful way to start.

Next up: Tangerine. Light and citrusy. Otherwise, a little nondescript,but yummy nonetheless.A palate cleanser, almost, if you will, in order to make way for the truly great part: the blood orange. Oh man. This is where it got truly good, the flavorful finale, the citrusy climax, the orangey apex. Loved it. Powerfully sweet and a little tart, just like a truly great orange, delivering icy cool refreshment with a taste that pleasantly lingers. Loved it. 

Sandy actually liked the grape most of all, and didn't care for the tangerine or orange all that much; then again, she's not a citrus addict like me. Weirdo. Technically, I suppose we could share a popsicle and each get the parts we like without too much grumbling. After all, these are kinda mammoth. In case the picture doesn't give you a good sense of scale, they're about the exact same height as an iPhone, and while a couple smidges narrower on the width, the popsicles are much thicker on the depth. This wouldn't be a treat to give to a young kid and expect them to finish. Also, you'd have to have some OxyClean on stand by. I see what my toddler can do with a single M&M and am amazed. For something like $3 for the box of four, it's not a bad bargain at all. Sandy's lowballing with a two, so I'm overcompensating with my score, but only slightly.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars II: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa

That's my hand in the picture to the left. Don't you think it's attractive? I figure out of all the thousands of people who read this blog each day that at least one or two of you must know a good talent agent that represents specialty models. I don't have any experience, but I think I'm ready to start moonlighting as a hand model, a la George Costanza, Ray McKegney, or J.P. Prewitt. I currently live in the Philly metro area, but I'm willing to travel. Just click on my name in the "Contributors" section in the right side bar for my contact info. Thanks for your help, everyone. Maybe your talent agent friend will slip you a little finder's fee or something.

Actually, I was trying to make the jar look more full by holding it over my head and shuffling the little bit that was left toward the front of the jar. Sonia and I pretty much polished it off over the weekend and we forgot to take a pic of the jar until just now. But anyway, I figure it adds a bit of visual variety to our blog, right? I mean, we have great outdoor shots of TJ's foods, courtesy of Russ and Sandy. We have shots with cool tile backgrounds, and shots with hardwood backgrounds, but up to this point, I don't think we've had any featuring our hands. Now we do.

But anyway, moving along to the food review...

This is a great sweet salsa. I think the biggest problem I've seen with other sweet salsas is a tendency to either taste too much like fruit and neglect the salsa-y part of the product, or the exact opposite of that. I'm always looking for a balance. And while this product didn't taste super pineappley in my opinion, it did have a nice balance of traditional salsa flavor and sweetness. The spice-o-meter on the jar makes this salsa look medium, but it's most definitely mild. We ate it with the Longboard Chips, and they paired up quite nicely. This stuff would be great for a luau-themed pool party or some other such tropical-type gathering. Break out the leis and coconut bras!

My only complaints are: not enough heat and not enough actual pineapple flavor. Also, we went through this $1.99 jar really quickly. It would be great if there were a larger size. But in its favor: it's nice and sweet, yet it still tastes like salsa and it pairs up perfectly with white corn tortilla chips. Four stars from me. Same from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.