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, October 19, 2016

Trader Joe's Maple Sugar Candy

"Ugh! Why does it have to be pumpkin spice everything!?!?!"

Believe it or not, that wasn't me who uttered that the other morning. No, it was M, my four year old, when I gave her the rundown of her breakfast options. Pumpkin O's. Pumpkin poptarts. Or a pumpkin muffin (not those, but close enough). Quite obviously, Sandy had done the last grocery shopping trip.

I have rarely been prouder as a papa.

Maple. It's one of the great flavors of fall, and it's so underrated. I think it's because all too many people equate "maple" as the "breakfast syrup" you see on shelves year round. Ummm....no. Real, authentic maple has a little of a premium attached to it because it's not the most efficient treat to make, but in my opinion, God and nature has made no finer natural, rich and sugary, divinely inspired nectar than unadulterated maple.

So it stands to reason that Trader Joe's Maple Sugar Candy ought to be knock-out-of-park good. In case you haven't read "Little House In the Big Woods" 37 times like my wife and don't have the maple sugaring chapter(s) memorized, maple sugar is derived from boiling sap past the syrup point to where nearly all the liquid is dried up, leaving clumps of natural sugar solids. It's firm enough to be able to mold into different shapes, in this case little cute leaves.

This small bites are pretty representative of the maple sugar candy genre. There's a slightly firm crystallized feel that quickly melts away into smooth-yet-granuley, buttery soft spread. Enjoy that. Let it linger for a while, and run your tongue all over and slather up every last bit...mmmm....maple....these are treats meant to be enjoyed and savored. As I am one prone to gulp down most anything without much thought, Sandy probably is going to check my temperature after that statement. But it's true.

These candies are deeply rich, superbly maple, and easily satisfy with just one or two, despite their small size. I mean, they're only seven grams each...but only five of those grams are sugar...what's the other two, tree magic? I don't know.

Pair with a hot beverage. Sneak some on an autumn treat tray. Hide some away for yourself when you need a "me" moment.

The small sleeve of four cost $1.99 near the checkouts, which, all things considered, isn't a horrible price to pay. We enjoyed them as a family after-dinner treat and no one had any complaints, and the only one of us to give a less than perfect score was B, my not-quite-two year old, who was probably only trying to be her characteristically silly, difficult self. Really, no complaints, Take a seat, pumpkin spice.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maple Sugar Candy: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. These were the highlight of any trip to a New England state when I was a kid.

  2. LOL I literally went to dictionary.com to look up the word "litle"

    1. Ha! Somebody just won Typo Spotter of the Day Award. Well done :)

  3. Or you could even chop up into shards and add to pancakes for that maple "pocket" of flavor! It doesn't have to be limited to just eating like candy. It can be used in baking maybe

  4. I grew up in Ohio's maple sugar country (and I will fight anyone who says it isn't the best America has to offer-- yes, better than Vermont)-- my high school even had a small maple syrup operation. It's the biggest food item I miss living in Texas-- no one down here has an appreciation for maple anything aside from the rare one person in a thousand who doesn't look at the maple donut as being something added to the box by mistake (typically a fellow northerner). I will be partaking in a lot of these over the next few weeks.

    1. No way! Vermont's is world-renowed. Real Vermonters make their own syrup as well. I did!

  5. I asked about this at my local TJ's and they said the Maple Sugar Candy is only available in the northwest region! I was so disappointed - this looks so yummy (plus, I really wanted what Laura had in Little House in the Big Woods!)!