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, February 2, 2016

Trader Joe's Sweetheart Bark of the Finest Collection

Following in the footsteps of the Valentine's favorite, TJ's Fireworks Chocolate Bar, and at least one other "Bark of the Finest Collection," this timely slab of candy will kick off the month of February here on our blog. If there's ever a time to eat a bunch of chocolate, it's Valentine's Day...and Easter...and Halloween...and Christmas. Okay. There are lots of excuses to eat tons of chocolate, and nobody really needs another reason to eat more of it. But if you're thinking about gifting this hunk of sweetness to your boo or your bae this V-Day, here's what you're getting into...

It's three kinds of chocolate, heavily dominated by the dark chocolate base. Then, of course, there are the "milk chocolate gems," not to be confused with the ubiquitous "milk chocolate buttons" we've seen in multiple Trader Joe's products, which in turn, should not be confused with M&M's (even though all three are essentially the same thing). And finally, they threw us white chocolate fans a bone and carelessly slathered the product with some seasonally-appropriate pink white chocolate. I mean, the box says they "recklessly drizzled" the bar with "rosy-hued" white chocolate, but what I said basically means the same thing, right?

Right. Back to the bar. That brings me to my next point: this is actually a bar. In the past, Trader Joe's barks have arrived all broken up in chunks. Either they're trying something new, or their former shipping and receiving crews have all been fired and replaced with much gentler, attentive back room clerks. Because you have to break this one up yourself. Or just eat it like a giant chocolate bar.

It's actually a very simple product, which in my opinion, is one of its biggest strengths. I think some of the selections we've seen in the past got a little too complicated for their own good—I'm thinking Cowboy Bark in particular, but also the Cowgirl Bark to some extent. This sweetheart bark is best suited for dark chocolate fans, although it does wind up on the sweeter end of that dark chocolate spectrum. The white chocolate is detectable, but only just barely. The gems add little more than prettiness and a bit of pleasant, crunchy texture, but they can be tasted, too, to some degree.

Being someone who enjoys dark chocolate, Sonia thought the product was tasty, simple, and festive. The nice packaging and visual presentation of the product makes it a pretty obvious gift idea for Valentine's Day. Just don't expect a reinvention of the wheel here. TJ's is just giving you a large, attractive bar of dark chocolate at a fairly reasonable price ($3.99). Double 3.5's it is.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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