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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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread

Very controversial past couple days here in the Pittsburgh home base, and nothing to do with Starbucks cups. Nope, it's all about Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread.

Let's see: Sandy says I shouldn't have thawed it out by slightly preheating an oven, then turning it off, and trying to let the bread rise...even though that's exactly what I did last weekend while making homemade pizza dough and it worked like a champ. Instead, I should have just sat it on the counter. Directions stated to let rise in a warm place, and the heat ain't on yet (two things I don't allow on before Thanksgiving: furnace or Christmas music), so the counter in a cool kitchen didn't sound great, and it's not like I could tell a lump of frozen dough to put on a layer and run a lap to warm itself up. We've gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth....

...but not nearly as much as we have about the silly little flimsy plasticky bundt pan the monkey bread comes in: To bake the bread in it, or not to? Here's, TJ's really should have thrown us a clue and stated SOMETHING about it somewhere. Take out of box: Duh. Remove plastic film/baggie surrounding it: Check. Nothing about the pan. No "oven safe" label. No "Hey dummy, don't bake plastic" sticker. This is actually a legitimate TJ's question as evidenced by Nathan's Sad Pot Pie Fiasco of 2013. I say we should have baked in it, Sandy insisted we didn't, and we sided with the risk of slightly suboptimal chow versus poisoning ourselves, and went sans the pan. Was this the right call? I have no idea. But maybe you do. Help.

And no great way to really segue this in, but mid photo shoot, our subject box o' bread took a dive off the back deck, about 15 feet down and splat into the withered remains of our tomato plant in our garden below. I guess it just had enough of our shenanigans right then and there. 

Anyways, the outcome, perhaps not surprisingly after all that, was perhaps a little sub-optimal. But I'll do my best to be fair here. Let's see: The idea of a savory monkey bread was pretty intriguing. My only previous experiences have been of the sweet and cinnamony type, so a herbed garlic with cheese one sounded like a worthwhile try. Problem is, very heavy on the rosemary, not so much the garlic. I had to pick out the "weird little green things" for my normally carb-crammin' three year old to even think of touching these, which I don't blame her for (this was after her first bite). So. Much. Rosemary. But doable, especially with the dough, having been rolled in parmesan cheese, getting an outer, crispy, burnt-cheesy bite. Nice touch there.

But for the texture: I'll own whatever portion of the blame is for any of our potential missteps. But when I think "monkey bread" I think light and fluffy, only a little bready...not dense and chewy and grainy. But that's what we had here. Part of the blame has to go to the wheat flour, at least, though. Normally I'm not terribly opposed to it, but it just didn't work here. Another point: monkey bread to me is a bunch of little pull-apart bites all stuck together, not 10 or so dinner roll sized buns to break off one another. So "monkey bread" seems to be a bit of a misnomer.

I think we all, in the end, enjoyed it enough to warrant buying again with perhaps some clarification of the rules of engagement here. Sandy said she wished it came with a little dipping sauce, suggesting some marinara. For the $4.99 price point, I think a little pouch could be included. For all the clamor this product has caused - I doubt a single food item has ever caused as much ongoing debate as this silly thing - it's a sign of our overall union when we both gave it a matching 3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. Can't figure out about the plastic casing....HELP

  2. Can't figure out about the plastic casing....HELP

    1. Seems like some people have baked it in there, others haven't, with much of the same result :/

  3. Quick note, i baked it in the plastic. I also wondered about it, but sided on the Trust factor i have for TJ's.

    WAY too much rosemary, almost enough to turn me away from rosemary forever if I ate more than one or two biscuits. I once loved tarragon, until i misread a recipe and added 3x the amount. Still cant stand it, and always sub basil instead.

    TJ's monkey bread is an epic fail. 2 out of 10 for me.

  4. I love all of these ingredients typically, but somehow this bread managed to be horrible. So horrible in fact that I took one bite and threw it away. In the garbage can outside.

  5. I love all of these ingredients typically, but somehow this bread managed to be horrible. So horrible in fact that I took one bite and threw it away. In the garbage can outside.

  6. I agree...epic fail. Followed all directions. Too dense for our taste. It didn't cook well at all. Don't buy it.

  7. I really thought it was just me. I Didn't think the bread would ever rise 2 1/2 hours in a warm active kitchen. I baked it in the plastic thingy. Way too much Rosemary didn't taste garlic at all! Nasty dense dry bread! So mad I bought two! I want to give it away like fruitcake!