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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Friday, April 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Island Salsa

Memorial Weekend is only about a month away! You know what that means - the unofficial start of summer and all that. And that means vacation time! For a lot of you out there, that means one big thing: the beach.

Listen: I'm not opposed to beaches. I can spend a day there and reasonably relax. But maybe it's my fair gingery complexion that causes sunburn too easily, or my general aversion to sand in uncomfortable places, but given the choice, send me off to the mountains (cannot wait for a weekend canyoneeering in Zion National Park in June). For the whole family, we have our sights set on a Pirates road trip which true to tradition will probably include a stop at TJ's and a zoo. We'll probably spend a day at Presque Isle (best lake beach!) but other than that, islands? Beaches? All that? not in our plans.

Buuuuuuut...if you want to send your tastebuds on an early tropical vacation, you can easily pick up a jar of Trader Joe's Island Salsa. $2.99 on your local TJ shelf.

Even for us admittedly nonbeachy folks, this is some good, good salsa. The mango and pineapple base offers a sweet citrusy opening flourish that, while a little cloyingly candylike, quickly resides. In the middling transition, there's a quick hit of the bell peppers and onions before ending up with a mostly subtly spicy bow. Now, I said mostly. Depending on perspective, if you get the right or wrong bite into one of the very ripe red jalapenos, the heat goes up quite noticeably. But if that happens, just pop in another bite real quick, and chances are, the smooth sweetness will soothe your burning buds.

Like most fruit salsas, it is kinda delicate in flavor. The salsa was a great accompaniment for some tortilla chips, and atop a mahi mahi burger....heaven. Grilled chicken would also be a great pairing, whereas things like beef tacos I wouldn't see as much, unless you're into that kinda thing. 

I'm not quite sold on the word "chunky" in the description, though. Really, the whole salsa flows fairly alike to crushed pineapple, so there are small little chunks, but no mega veggie or fruit boulders. I guess if pressed I could say chunky, but to me, it's much in the moderate middle between smooth and chunky.

Also, as a huge bonus for my beloved wife: no tomatoes. None. That's got to be the reason she gives it a perfect five. I'm not able to ask her, since she's not quite 18 months old yet, but I'd love to know what my younger daughter B thinks - she was eating this by the spoonful as happy as could be. Well, until she caught that one jalapeno...but even though, after making a face for a couple minutes, she went back for more. Regardless, Sandy in a rare flash of exuberance goes with an all-out perfect five for her score. I want to go there myself, but fruit salsa aren't my bag, but this is undoubtedly the best fruit salsa I've had that I can remember (at least in the jarred grocery category)...alright, alright, we'll Pantheon it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Island Salsa: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Trader Joe's Hot & Spicy Chicken Wings Sections


There's a few different ways to prepare wings. Grilling, smoking, deep frying...those are all valid methods. Baking though? And from frozen? Listen, if you're willing to sacrifice some quality on the altar of convenience...well, sure, I guess. After all, it is still a chicken wing, but you can expect a little soft mush instead of firm bite with crispy skin.

Such is the shortfall of Trader Joe's Hot & Spicy Chicken Wings Sections. Convenient? Heck yes. Just need a few minutes in the oven to warm up these fully-cooked frozen fowl fragments. But, if you desire the usual feel of a good wing, or need more spice than the usually toned down variety made for mass consumption, these won't quite hit the spot. Spend the little extra time to get some fresh wings, make your own hot sauce concoction, and go for it.


All that being said, for what they, these aren't a bad bunch of wings. There was about an even ration of wings to drumsticks, and all were meaty enough, with just enough heat to keep me interested but still well below my admittedly high threshhold. There were about 15 in there, and cost maybe $5 or $6, so a good value. Still, if you're hankering for some truly great wings, you're better off somewhere else.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hot & Spicy Chicken Wing Sections: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Trader Joe's Kettle Cooked Chicken Soup

I'd say "just like Mom used to make," except my mom never did much cooking due to chronic illness. Incidentally, the date I'm composing this blog post is the one year anniversary of my mother's memorial service. 

I don't mean to be a Debbie Downer, but the past couple weeks have been one of those stretches in life that calls for some home-cooked (or at least home-cooked-esque) chicken soup for the body as well as the kind for the soul—just in time for my annual spring cold, too. We bought this soup before my little bug set in, and it's almost like my body got sick on purpose just so it could be soothed by this kettle-cooked container of chicken cheer.

I'm not sure about the logic of using a plastic tub for this product, as opposed to a can or a glass jar of some kind. I'm not complaining. It just seems unusual to me, especially since they're going for that home-cooked angle. At any rate, it's unique. As you open the packaging, little globs of chicken stock stick to the plastic safety seal under the lid in a rather unappetizing way. But once you get past that, what lies beneath seems much more inviting.

At first glance, the soup looks nice and chunky. There are decent-sized pieces of both white and dark meat chicken—and not like weird disc-shaped pieces or perfect cubes either, as one may find in other "chunky" soups. These little angular pieces of chicken look like shapes that might have actually been carved by human hands. Or maybe TJ's is employing robots that can realistically imitate the beautifully imperfect slashes and slices you might find in a cauldron of homemade soup. Either way, I like it. Also, there are plenty of carrot, parsnip, celery, and onion bits, too—with an emphasis on the carrots.

The broth is nice and sea-salty, but not overly so. It's flavorful, and it blends well with the other ingredients, although it could almost stand alone as a soup just by itself. A delicate medley of herbs, including garlic, parsley, pepper, thyme, and bay leaves, rounds out the taste of this impressive down-home delicacy. I wouldn't have minded a little more chicken in the soup, but honestly, compared to any other chicken soup I've ever had, this product delivers at least as much of the palatable poultry. So no complaints here. Four and a half stars from me. Four and a half from Sonia, who adds, "This is like really good deli soup." She's not wrong.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits

Being an adult is great. I mean, aside from bills and responsibilities and stuff. But otherwise, it's a pretty good deal. You get to whatever you want whenever you want, and in a childhood dream come true for me, you can eat whatever you want when you want. Want to eat three breakfasts a day? Go for it. Pizza for breakfast, tacos for lunch, ice cream for dinner? Why not? I mean, your cardiologist may disagree, and it'd be prudent to mix in a salad, but that's not what I mean. I mean: you can do that if you want to. No one can stop you. That, to me, is awesome.

So, conceivably, you can have cookies for breakfast. But maybe to feel better about it, we can call them something else. The little lies we tell ourselves to get through, I guess, or maybe, if we're spotted crushing cookies down the cram hole by the stray child , we can say, "Oh these aren't cookies. These are Trader Joe's Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits."

Yup. "Biscuits" is what they're going with here. Bwahahaha. No way. These things are cookies through and through. I mean, they're even sold right alongside all the other cookies, and not in the energy/breakfast bar area.

These cookies biscuits  morning-minded munchers are pretty tasty, though. For its basic concept, think of a more granular oblong graham cracker, and thant's fairly close in both taste and texture. There's a little something extra, though, and it's not the blueberries. Vaguely familiar, tip of tongue, couldn't quite place it till scanning the ingredients - rye flakes. There's a pretty hefty dose - not enough to be offensive or anything, but it definitely adds a blueberr-rye dimension. The berries themselves are of the typical dried variety, and intermittently and unevenly sprinkled through out - some wafers were sans berries, others where blue enough from berries to look almost like a flattened Smurf.

As you can probably see, these are some fragile biscuits too. I did nothing to those pictured except the normal rigors of a morning commute to my desk, and I got left with a pile of pieces. So, they're probably not the best for on the go, like while driving, unless you don't mind brushing a dusting of vaguely greasy crumbs off your shirt.

And don't count on them for a full breakfast. A good morning snack, or part of a healthy breakfast, with some yogurt perhaps? Sure. The biscuits were a welcome addition to my usual apple and coffee workweek breakfast, but despite all that fiber, I was still hungry for lunch not all that much later than usual.

Anyways, the wife and both like them, as do our kiddos when we let them have a munch. Save the morning cookies for the adults, kids. For only about $3 or $4 for a fivepack each with four in there, it's not a bad deal, either. These aren't my favorite things ever, but they're good enough to warrant a repeat purchase already, and I'd love to see these expanded into different flavors..like, say, cherry? Sounds delish to me. Matching 3.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Blueberry Breakfast Biscuits: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 22, 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Moroccan Style Mint Tea

Pittsburgh: home of many great innovations. Jeeps. Implantable defibrillators. Alright, about to drop a big one: Polio vaccine. WHOOMP. I'm pretty sure that's exactly what Jonas Salk exclaimed right when he whipped that up at a University of Pittsburgh lab back in the '50s.

But there's another one, which I'm sure you've taken for granted, that if you have small kids and a kitchen/housecleaner supply you're almost sure to have, but have taken for granted. Failing that, you almost assuredly recognize it from your youth: the Mr. Yuk sticker. Alerting kids all over the nation about stuff you shouldn't drink/ingest since the 1970s.

At this point, with that build up, you're probably bracing for a blistering review of Trader Joe's Moroccan Style Mint Tea. Truth be told, after first sip, I was so so tempted to go there. I almost dug out a Mr Yuk from the depths of the sticker drawer just to place on the bottle for a photo op...

...but then I kept drinking it. First it was under the guise of "trying to understand the flavor." It's, well, somewhat foreign to my palette. This kettle-brewed concoction has a green tea base, with a little mint blended in, with an odd twist of citrusy lime. And, in a spirit of restraint I suppose, there's not a lot of extra sweetness, so it's all in this subdued, mellow blend, with each element seemingly in competition to be the least offensive.

Upon first sip, the tea tastes all discombobulated and not cohesive, without any dominat flavor taking the reins of tying the beverage all together. It's just too mellow, but without the potential "refreshing after mowing the lawn" vibe I desire out of a summery themed drink. But it began coming together a little more each sip, especially on a longer draw.

All that to say, the Moroccan mint tea remains a likely candidate for return. I like the idea behind this brew, but the execution is just a little too off. I can't see myself happily drinking a whole bottle anytime soon, especially when there's a plethora of other tasty drinks at TJ's right in the 3 dollar range. And Sandy? No, not at all. She outright deplores this, which is odd, because usually mint teas are right up her alley. "I think it's because of the lime," she said. "It throws it all off." I can buy that argument. Anyways, for the first time I can recall, she's going with a flat-out ZERO here. Wow. Zero. Nil. Nada. Mr Yuk. I'm going to compensate somewhat with my score, because I do not wish to condemn the tea to the realm of blahhh, so I'll give it a 2.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Moroccan Style Mint Tea: 2.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Chia Bar

Compacted trash? LOL. I can see where Marvo is coming from, but I don't think these look that bad. They're just a bunch of smooshed-together ingredients, crushed into a bar shape, similar to the fruit + fruit bars we've seen in the past—except these have lots of seeds and nuts, not just fruits.

Texture-wise, they're exactly what you'd expect: a granola-esque, chewy vibe, with a little extra grittiness from the chia seeds. They're not tough in any way, but neither are they smooth. The dried fruit serves as a virtual "glue" binding the other ingredients together with its natural stickiness. I mean, I guess the organic syrups help in that department, too. There's plenty of sticky stuff holding these bars together—they're definitely not going to fall apart in your hands, yet they're not super sticky to the touch, either. All in all, they feel pretty pleasant, particularly if you're into granola bars.

And they're shockingly tasty. I'm still not even sure where all that flavor's coming from. There are a lot of "healthy" sugars and sweeteners in there: organic brown rice syrup, organic agave syrup, and organic cane sugar. For someone with a sweet tooth like me, these bars hit the spot pretty well, despite having a bunch of hippie ingredients tossed into the mix. And don't get me wrong, I like most hippie ingredients just fine, but coming from a generation that grew up thinking of chia as nothing more than the "fur" on a weird, ceramic animal you'd put in your kitchen windowsill, it's still a bit strange to be eating snacks with chia seeds as the main attraction. But interestingly enough, the chia pet people have joined the club and are now marketing chia as something healthy to eat, as well as the head of spiky green hair on a ceramic SpongeBob SquarePants.

My main complaint about these is that they're a little on the small side. Granted, they're extraordinarily filling for their size, but I still wouldn't have minded a bit more material per bar. Four stars from me. Four from Sonia, who thinks that the texture is a little weird, but loved the flavor so much, she almost went with four and a half.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Sriracha Tuna Salad

After being traumatized by seeing an open jar of Bacon Jam and Sid Crosby's face in the same blog post on Wednesday, I decided to give myself a day off to recover. 

During my down time, I finished up our Sriracha Tuna Salad. It's not exactly comfort food, but tuna salad is nice and familiar, plus there's a bit of that international flair I love—in the form of tasty, Thai-inspired sriracha sauce. Although, both Sonia and I don't think it tasted a whole lot like sriracha. I mean, we could tell there was a tangy hot sauce up in the mix, but somehow it tasted a little different than the sriracha we've come to know and love.

And of course, there's mayo and some chopped up veggies. The whole thing was a tad on the liquidy side if you ask me, but it was still passably crunchy and full of good-quality tuna fish. And just as I expected, there was only a hint of heat—Sonia and I were both pining for more. We would have added some extra sriracha of our own, but we were fresh out. At 8 oz, the package is slightly less than the size of two cans of tuna. With a price point of $3.99 per tub, it's not outrageous, but we'll probably opt to make our own tuna salad and add our own customized amount of sriracha in the future, rather than make this a repeat purchase. Double threes here.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.
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(Nate's Notes: We would have had a brand new podcast episode up for you today, but I apparently blundered the mic settings during recording, thus rendering it unusable. So apologies to anyone who was looking forward to that. We'll hopefully have a new episode up in a week or so.)

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam

Meringue and hockey? That sounds soo...I don't know...sophisticated and international and all. That might be Nathan and Sonia, but that's not me at all. Meringue pies are okay and all, as is hockey...but they just don't get me going. I'll take their word that the lemon tart is as good as advertised, and you two enjoy your hockey, though them being Capitals fans, and me in Pittsburgh, I just have to ask those Ovechkin lovers a little question.

Here, in the city of Andrew McCutchen's sweet swing, Gregory Polanco's galloping strides, and the questionable locks of John Jaso...we're bacon people. Bacon and baseball. 'Murica. Land of the free and home of the brave (and heck with you, Braves fans).

Since its debut about a week or so ago, Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam is getting pretty Internet famous. I've seen the buzz at fever pitch on a lot of different social media pages all proclaiming love for these porky preserves, and as a bacon addict service to you all, I knew I had to try it for myself.

I'll admit, the visual introduction is kinda, well...take a look. It's bacon in spreadable form - what else can be expected? Good thing it can be easily concealed inside, say, a grilled cheese with smoked gouda, which is exactly how Sandy and I partook for the first time.

Imagine really good pulled pork. That's approximately how this jar o' jam tastes. Except..it's bacony bits instead of porky strands. The bacon chunks don't terribly stand out and instead get a little lost in the sauce, which is my only minor complaint. If I'm eating bacon, I want to know it's there. So, in short, it's heavy on the barbecue sauce aspects, which makes a nice change-up from other bacon jams I've had which were heavy on the bacon flavor. There's some tang and a small smidge of inoffensive heat, with a little smoke...and "vegetarian flavor."

Yes. You read that right. There's "vegetarian flavor" in this here bacon jam. I really have no idea what that means - I mean, like, flavored with/by vegetarians? Were the pigs fed an all-veggie diet? What if one of them ate a bug? Are there...*gasp*....vegetables  potentially diluting my perfectly good bacon?

Silliness aside, this made our grilled cheeses an extra-delish lunch, and I'd imagine this pairing well on a burger, or with chicken, or in other sandwiches...but not a PB&J. Sandy and I, umm, tried that as a joke, and it wasn't too great then.

It's $4.49 for the jar, so if this seems like it might be your kinda thing, trust me, it is. It's bacon. God bless America.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Jam: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Trader Jacques' Lemon Meringue Tarte

To me, few things in life are as exciting as the start of the NHL playoffs. (Go Caps!) But new lemon-flavored TJ's products just might be on that short list—because the store has an excellent track record in that department. And as is the case with professional ice hockey, you're bound to run into a French name or two in the world of TJ's fine desserts. Bonjour, Jacques!

There's a layer of sweet and sour lemony goodness right at the heart of this pastry. It's tart and tangy and has pretty much everything lemonophiles are looking for. The crust is buttery and thin and adds a bit of firmness to the otherwise airy dessert. It's so good, if anything, I wish there were more of it.

In the past, Sonia has complained about meringue getting in the way of her enjoyment of similar pies and tartes on the basis that it's "too eggy." Not here. The meringue is a very neutral, lightly-sweet whipped topping—the literal icing on the cake...er, pie...er, tarte. Also, it's lightly toasted around the edges, as seen in the photo to the right.

Sonia also raved about the presentation of this product, pointing out the perfect little peaks of meringue all evenly-spaced on the top of the pie. Although, in our box, about a third of the meringue came off of the pie and stuck to the plastic lid when we removed it. It was simple enough to scrape it off and re-apply it to the tarte, but still should be noted in case you're buying this for the dessert table at some uber-formal event or something.

All in all, this is another lemony win for TJ's. It's definitely something Sonia and I could see ourselves purchasing again. $5.49 for four servings. Not super cheap, but worth it. Four and a half stars from Sonia, four from me.


Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Cranberry Coconut Snacking Crackers

 Much like hockey, reggae, and amateur competitive facial hair cultivation, there's a lot that I *want* to like about Trader Joe's Cranberry Coconut Snacking Crackers....but I just can't. Sorry.

It's probably unfair, but the wheat snack crackers I compare all others to are Wheat thins - light, crispy, irresistibly munchy. That's kinda the standard. Well, these wheaty wafers are wanting in comparison. They're much denser, and heavier, without that nice requisite crunch, and they somehow dry up the entire inside of my digestive system. Literally, after just three or few, I'm coughing up crumbs everywhere.

 

These crackers do taste somewhat okay, though. Aside from the textural shortcomings, there's nothing all that wrong with the actual cracker itself. I can see but not taste the coconut flakes, mostly because it's too subtle a flavor compared to the wheaty base, the raisins and cranberries (nothing much to say about them)...or the sesame seeds. Umm, who invited those to the party? While not completely unwelcome, it's an odd add-on to say the least.


 I think it says something that in a household of three carb-crazed adults and two kiddos who will happily devour anything that can reasonably be called a "cracker" that we still have over half the modest sized  bag of them remaining after a few weeks now. I think there's potential - I bet a good piece of chevre could put in quite the assist - but neither Sandy nor I particularly enjoy them. We'd love to, but it just ain't there. Matching twos.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's  Cranberry Coconut Snacking Crackers: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 8, 2016

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cacao Nibs

Chocolate nerds.

That's a good way to describe these. But they're not sweet milk chocolate nerds. They're rich and dark. From the moment you open the bag, there's a heavy dark chocolatey, almost coffee-esque aroma that hits you. And they taste like that, too.

Sonia likes their crunchiness and is eager to try them in baked goods. She thinks they'd make a great additive to pancakes or muffins. I totally agree. They'd also make an excellent ice cream topping. I think they'd be perfect for making plain vanilla a little more exciting, but you chocoholics might want to try the whole chocolate on chocolate thing.


They're also good just straight out of the bag—maybe for a nice little shot of caffeine and sugar to top off your lunch. Resealable bag, $1.99. Many of you know I'm not really a dark chocolate guy, but I'll easily muster three and a half stars for this little novelty. Sonia will throw out four this time.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Seafood Paella

Sonia has a few quirky allergies that come and go mysteriously. One is to mushrooms. Although, that particular sensitivity didn't apply when it came to the Portobello Mushroom Fries. Another one of her fun "come and go" allergies involves certain kinds of shellfish. Maybe. We've figured out she's okay with crab and lobster. But she usually plays it safe with things like clams, oysters, and scallops...except when my dad orders the fried oysters and she takes a couple bites. Maybe she's grown out of the allergy and maybe she's not as sensitive when the food is prepared a certain way. Who knows? But it took some convincing to get her to try this paella. She finally agreed, but only on the condition that I take all the mussels out of her portion.

That was just fine by me, because I really liked these mussels. They came out nice and soft, but not too chewy. The "calamares" were by far the chewiest ingredient in our bag. I've had squid before that was not this chewy, but really, it wasn't horrendous—just a tad more rubbery than I would have preferred. The rest of the textures were wonderful and blended together seamlessly.

South Jersey is full of fresh seafood, but I haven't seen many places around here that offer any kind of paella. In fact, the only other time in my life that I've had proper paella was in Spain. There was a quaint sidewalk cafe in Madrid where I tried this "national dish" of EspaƱa. It was a while back, but honestly, I remember not being impressed. It was much soupier than Trader Joe's offering, the vegetables were stringy, and I felt it lacked flavor. They might have given me a bad batch on purpose, though. They didn't seem fond of non-Spanish speakers there. <Sigh.> Six and a half years into a marriage to someone whose first language is Spanish, and I'm still trying to learn it.

But back to the paella. It's good. It's complex, flavorful, and not-at-all-fishy. Seafoody? Yes. Fishy? No. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but I certainly prefer it to the only other paella I've ever had. Ironically, this selection is a "product of France," not Spain, according to the bag. Eh, close enough, I guess. Four stars from me. Three and a half from my better half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Trader Giotto's Brand Pizza Crust


Pizza night! It's definitely a thing at our house. Probably yours too. Used to order takeout/delivery...but after a while, paying a premium for waiting 45 minutes for someone to deliver a mediocre lukewarm pie when your stomach is growling and kiddos are howling gets old. Time to make your own.

Well, you could go the old TJ's doughball route (not a bad one, we've done it plenty)...or make it even easier and a lot less messy with Trader Giotto's Brand Pizza Crust. This is our new go-to. They're prebaked and ready to top with whatever you fancy, and just a few minutes in the oven - BOOM. Pizza.

Now, there's other premade pizza crusts out there  - but these are the best I've had yet. The outer edges and corners get all crispy and crackery-crunchy while the middles maintain a lot of chewy breadiness. There's that light, pleasant carby flavor that carries through as well, although it doesn't shine through as much with red sauce. Sandy and I have made a white pizza with a little extra olive oil and garlic, with chicken and veggies on it on a few occasions, and the outcome is legitimate restaurant quality for a fraction of the price.

The two pack runs maybe $3 at the most and is definitely worth trying out for your next pizza night. Thumbs up all around our family.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Brand Pizza Crust: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Cotton Kitchen Towels


Well, readers, gotta admit: all of us at WGaTJ's are a little disappointed. You see, in years past right around this time, we've been privileged to be part of the taste test process for new, interesting, exotic products before they hit store shelves. It's sorta like the once a year bone that Big Joe throws us for hosting one of the Internet's biggest rolling Trader Joe's lovefests.

But not this year. No particular reason why. Just...nothing. Maybe there's still some fallout from last year's sampling which just didn't quite meet final quality standards for some reason - what a crappy excuse. Eh well.

So, instead, we're going to branch out and give something a try that first came back to Trader Joe's shelves a few months back: Trader Joe's Cotton Kitchen Towels. They're sold in a three-pack for like $5.99, which seems to be a pretty decent value. But, really, we're confused here. Literally, there's no instructions or descriptions or anything, so it's like TJ's is selling these 100% cotton towels with the assumption that we're supposed to know exactly what to do with them.

I mean, how in the the heck are you supposed to eat them?

No preparation instructions at all, so we're just winging it here, trying to take some clues. Seeing that the towels are apparently shelf-stable and not frozen, refrigerated, canned, or packaged, we first tried them as is, just what I presume would be "raw." Bleh. Literally, no taste - with the red coloring I was hoping for at least a hint of strawberry or sriracha or bacon or something. Instead, it's just this bland, fibrous, tough cloth-type sheet that is impossible to bite through.

Giving TJ's the benefit of the doubt, we began thinking just maybe we're doing wrong here. So, with the lack of guidance, here began the experiments. We tried microwaving - just warmed it up, slightly, but otherwise identical to our first taste. We thought maybe boiling them would do the trick and soften them up - it certainly made the towels hot, wet and steamy, but the only thing that got any softer out of it was my beard. The smoke alarms made it unbearable to bake them for more than a couple minutes, and we had a nice little chat with the fire chief after trying to grill them...really, at a loss here.

I thought maybe we got a bad batch (it can happen) so on our next TJ's trip, I asked one of the crew members for a sample and some advice of how to properly prepare a kitchen towel. Much like the blank stare and head shake from the fire chief, the look we got was kinda discouraging and not entirely helpful.

Fortunately, these towels do seem to have a decent absorptive property to them. It's been a struggle over the years to scrape off every last bit of some tasty sauce or whatever from a bowl or plate - well, fortunately, these flat fiber sheets are flexible enough that I can wipe off most any dish and it'll pick up all those flavors. And apparently this is a process that can repeated over and over again, because these towels do so seem pretty durable, and there's just not any process we can find that make these towels digestible seem possible. So, there's that.

But, fortunately, I'm not alone. The Rodgers picked up this product about the same time we did. They went about the preparations a little differently, but found the towels similarly perplexing and disappointing. Here's a short video review chronicling their experience:



As you can see, we gotta go thumbs down across the board. From all of us here at What's Good At Trader Joe's: Zeroes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cotton Kitchen Towels: 0 out of 10 Golden Spoons

p.s. - Are these even gluten free?