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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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Trader Joe's Winter Wassail

I don't think it's ever come up on this blog before, but I was a band geek back in the day—a proud band geek. I played sousaphone in marching band. In December 1995, our 125-piece unit, including color guard and drum majors, loaded onto a plane and flew to Orlando, FL for the band trip of a lifetime. We marched in the Citrus Bowl Parade and took part in a few festivities right in the Disney parks. 

One of the highlights: a meal at King Henry's Feast, a now-defunct Medieval Times ripoff featuring live jousting, whole turkey legs served right on the bone, and an open invitation to refer to your waitress as "wench." I don't recall the beverage we were wassailing with—it may very well have been Coca-cola or something lame like that—but part of the program involved our host, King Henry, shouting out, "All Hail!" and we'd respond in kind, our cheap tin goblets raised high above our heads, "Wassail!" and then we'd take a drink.

Our feast fell on one of the days immediately following Christmas, and the "banquet hall" there in Orlando was still decorated for the holidays, so I've always remembered the word "wassail" as something very Christmassy and medieval. Apparently, we had been wishing one another "good health" and imploring some Anglo-Saxon gods to give us another good apple harvest the following year—or Coke harvest, as the case may have been.

Whatever that beverage was I was wassailing with those 20 years ago, it wasn't anything like what TJ's has offered us in this Winter Wassail. Because if it had been anything like this, I most certainly would have remembered it more vividly. Not just because this Winter Wassail is delicious, but because it's so unique. It's everything that the Spiced Cranberry Cider should have been, and then some. Granted, there's no cranberry juice, but it's sweet, tart, spicy, and has three types of real fruit juices.

The finish still has the faintest whisper of potpourri and spice drops, but I imagine it's not quite the same as drinking a scented candle, unlike the above-mentioned cranberry cider. It's super versatile: it can be consumed hot or cold (I prefer it cold), with or without cinnamon, and I hear it mixes pretty well with various alcoholic additives, including most red wines. It just tastes like Christmas smells. The Shellys apparently liked it even more than we did, as I was instructed to give it a good score or else my privilege to review it would be revoked. Sonia and I are on the same page here. Are double fours high enough, Russ and Sandy? :-p

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

13 comments:

  1. Weirdly, this tasted like Hawaiian Punch to me. A more grown up, holiday version, of course but I couldn't shake the feeling that I should be drinking this out of a bright blue can.

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    1. Lol! Actually now that you mention it, it's not that far off from "Spiced Hawaiian Punch." Good thing I like Hawaiian Punch (minus the HFCS).

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  2. We'll accept an 8, Mr. Rodgers. It's Christmas (or soon to be), after all :)/ We prefer it warm (which is unusual for me) and have heard (but not verified) that a little Triple Ginger Brew mixed in is wondrous.

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    1. That Ginger Brew is awesome! Finally tried it...but now I'm wishing I hadn't downed the whole bottle in one sitting and had a bit left over to try with our last bit of Wassail...

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  3. Damn! I was literally holding this in the store and decided it was too heavy to schlep around nyc with what else i was buying....! Gotta go back, this sounds amazing.
    Ttrockwood
    Ps
    Triple ginger brew makes an amazing dark and stormy

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    1. It is well worth schlepping around NYC, IMO :)

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  4. I tried this and really enjoyed it. Have yet to warm it with some red wine but will do so before I finish off the bottle. Bummed to find out that the honey crisp apple cider was only a seasonal item =(

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    1. Yeah that cider is really amazing too. Oh well, there's always next year...

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  5. I liked this, but I try not to drink beverages with added sugar =(

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  6. Ugh I went to try this today and apparently they are already done selling it, as it's "seasonal". It's not even Christmas yet...lame.

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  7. Can't find it at any TJ in Los Angeles!

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  8. If you've ever enjoyed a baked ham seasoned with cloves, you'll be disappointed to discover that the bottle of Trader Joe's Winter Wassail does NOT include one. Indeed, I'm put off by the stuff because it's spiced so similarly to a delicious ham, but without the gratification of chomping into that delicious holiday meat.

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  9. I absolutely LOVED this intricate concoction. Each sip exploded my taste buds with something new and different - sometimes really picking up the Black Currant, or the cloves or the cinnamon and cardamom. The citrus notes of orange and lemon were there, but not overpowering. This is certainly like having Scentsy wax flavors in your mouth, but in a good and Christmassy way. It's so so rich, though, that I probably wouldn't want it more than once a year. Maybe next year, I'll try it with adding the adult beverages to it ...

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