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 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Joyous Joe

Let's do some quick analysis here: Thanksgiving is a four day weekend. That means four days off, with a couple small kids. That equates to a lot of coffee consumption for us adults. Conveniently, there's four mini-cans of coffee that come in Trader Joe's Joyous Joe, so there'd be like a new flavor every day, right? How can this go wrong? Heck, it might even made a great little holiday gift for a white elephant-type deal, right, so it'd double as review fodder. Really, can't go wrong here....

Wrong.

There's four flavors here: Peppermint Mocha, Wintry Blend, Pumpkin Spice Coffee, and Gingerbread Coffee. Each variety comes in a canister that holds enough pre-ground coffee to make a large 10 to 12 cup pot o' joe.  I'll go through them in order we tried them...

Gingerbread Coffee: Thanksgiving Day. There's an issue here. Usually, we're French press folks, which requires course ground coffee. It's the standard grind for these beans, which means a regular drip pot is required. No matter, we have one of those, with the right size paper filters, let's fire it up...Cue catastrophe. the gingerbread coffee has ground ginger in it which apparently "blooms" a bit when wet. Because of this, somehow, some of those ginger bits Houdini'ed themselves out of the paper filter and lodged themselves under the rubber gasket of the dispenser drip nozzle thing of our coffee pot. So, right after Sandy filled her first cup, the coffee just kept flowing - nonstop - all over the counter and floor and everywhere. I was in the other room and I hear her yell for help and in our pre-caffeined state we have to figure out what in the heck is going on. I have to take the reservoir off and carry to the sink while Sandy holds a cup underneath it to catch all the drips, which sounds easy enough to do until you remember: no caffeine yet. Not easy or fun. This happen to anyone else? Please tell me this happened to someone else.

Tasted decent enough, with a strong ginger flavor. A little robust, and I'm not sure I'd make it my usual cup, but it worked for the day. Probably my favorite out of the bunch.

Peppermint Mocha: Friday. With the Exxon Valdez-ian coffee catastrophe of the previous day behind us, and coffee pot fixed via thorough dislodging of ginger chunks with a toothpick (fun times!), it's minty mocha time. Not great, not awful. Chocolate and mint work well in tea form but never coffee for me - not sure why. Decent amount of mint, meager amounts of chocolate, tasted kinda watery and a little sad. Still better than the peppermint mocha Sandy picked me up from McD's the other day. I'd rank third out of the group.

Pumpkin Spice: Saturday. Enough said. You know what I am by now. Last in my book. Go away, pumpkin spice. Blecch. Go away.

Wintry Blend: Sunday. We are a house divided on this coffee. I think it tastes fine, with a little extra bite. Out of any of the varieties, I could see getting a full can of it. Sandy says it tastes like it was stirred with a burned stick. Hrmm, there are "spices" listed: cloves, nutmeg...and cracked pepper? Pepper, in coffee? Now that's a new thing to me at least, and it does add an extra little slap that I could see would be offputting - I do get the burned stick sensation, but I just so happen to like it. Not Sandy.

So, there you have it. I'd prefer a full bean version so I could use a French press; however I know not everyone has their own bean grinder so I get why it's pre-ground as a default. If you need an inexpensive (less than $10) gift for someone who likes flavored coffees, or if you just want a little seasonal variety pack, I could see it the Joyous Joe being a worthwhile pick up. But we'll probably pass going forward. Sandy's in the spirit with giving it a three, I'm bah-humbuggin' it with a two overall.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Joyous Joe: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Trader Joe's Chili Chocolate Collection


Ah, spicy chocolate. That concept was completely unfamiliar to me until I met Sonia. She and her friends introduced me to Abuelita our first Christmas season together, and I've been having it each December since. Turns out, Trader José has his own spicy hot chocolate, and it's worth a purchase as well. But here we have chocolate guajillo, jalapeno ganache, chili lime, and habanero chocolates—like actual candies with different kinds of chili in them, just in time for the holidays. Sounds pretty exotic...good thing I'm feeling adventurous today.

First up, Milk Chocolate Guajillo: Amazing. For a second, it just tastes like very sweet, ultra-smooth milk chocolate, but wow. Wow. A few moments in, there's this delightful warmth that skates across your tongue and glides down the back of your throat. It leaves your mouth tingling long after it's done. I loved it.


Next, Jalapeno Ganache: Where have I heard that word "ganache" before? Oh yeah. That bacon-infused nonsense. Apparently, it's like a chocolate cream sauce. Well, not only is this ganache pork-free, but it's also got a jalapeno-esque kick and happy little green jalapeno chilis printed right on the candy. If you ever wanted to know what a chocolate-covered jalapeno would taste like, this is probably pretty close. Not my favorite, but I feel just a bit more urbane and sophisticated for having tried it.

Then there's the Chili Lime chocolate: Outstanding. Never had a chocolate candy like this before. The "zesty lime oil" is tart, tangy, sweet, and simply awesome. Blended with chili, caramel, and chocolate, the lime flavor still stands out as dominant. It was an experience I won't soon forget.


Finally, there's Habanero Milk Chocolate: With an impressive amount of heat, this red chili-printed chocolate also features ganache. When I heard the phrase "chili chocolate," this is the flavor I imagined. It's sweet, it's chocolatey, and it's most definitely spicy. It's certainly not bad, but I think my favorite flavor was the chili lime, followed closely by the guajillo. Sonia wasn't as big on the chili lime, but she raved about the guajillo. This habanero flavor was her second favorite.

At $4.99 for 16 candies, they're not exactly giving them away, but this would make a great gift for any adventurous chocolate lover, and I can't emphasize the high quality of this product enough. And most other comparable chocolate collections are much pricier elsewhere. Four stars from me. Four and a half from the lovely Sonia.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Trader Joe's Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea

Finally, begrudgingly, reluctantly, and much to my chagrin, the heat is on my house for the fall/winter. It's not that I don't like being warm. Who doesn't? But what I don't like is paying a whole bunch extra on utility bills just so I can be comfy in a t shirt around the house. Plus: it's a 101-year old house I live in. Turning on the furnace does more than make it a little bit warmer; it also makes my dwelling's inherent draftiness all that much more palpable.

In my house, if you're cold: Put on another layer. Grab a hoodie. Lay on another blanket. Still cold? Go run a fast lap or two around the block then come back inside. Bet you're warmer then. There's other ways I occasionally recommend to my wife Sandy that we can keep each other warm, but she's not terribly amused by it. Fill in the blanks yourself. 

And of course: hot beverages. Coffee is nearly almost always welcome, but there are certain times and places a hot cuppa tea hits the warm beverage spot a little bit better. While in search of our favorite seasonal TJ tea, Sandy and I instead came across Trader Joe's Chocolate Mint Flavored Black tea, and were just intrigued enough we had to try.

Good stuff, this tea. Each tea bag comes individually sealed in a plastic wrapper that once cracked elicits a strong, fragrant mint scent that's fairly inviting. It's almost as strong as some mint gums, but in a more pure/less candified way. When brewing and sipping, it's still that same smell that carries through, so naturally, it's a pretty pepperminty tea. But that's not all there is. There's some coca shells in the tea bag, presumably crushed to itty bits, which add a definite chocolate flavor. The black tea itself, along with some chicory, make for a good tea base for the chocolate and mint to play off of one another. To me, sugar and cream aren't necessities, but I tried a sip of Sandy's, and with a little something added, the chocolate and mint seem to pop even more. I don't want to say it tastes like an Andes Candy in tea form, because that's not precisely it...but it's not terribly offbase either.

Gotta love the bear in an ugly Christmas tree sweater too, with the look in his eyes suggesting he just spilled some on his pant leg or bare bear feet. Would this bear wear pants? I'm thinking a nice pair of corduroy khakis.

Regardless, it's a fine tea, with just enough going on to suggest a dessert vibe. I could see getting some flavor fatigue if drinking this tea a few days in a row - admittedly, it does taste a little gimmicky. But I like it, as does the wife. She's going for a four, while I'm coming in a little lower - in the end, she's more of a tea person than me. No matter. Now pass me another blanket.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Mint Flavored Black Tea: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Trader Joe's Riced Broccoli

I don't really have a whole lot to say about this product, since it's nothing but broccoli—and my feelings about it are very similar to my feelings about traditional broccoli. I don't hate broccoli. Never did. But I've never loved it either. It needs a little "help," if you know what I'm saying. 

A little butter, salt, and pepper really add a lot to the flavor of this product. Or, if you're trying to avoid sodium, a few shakes of the 21 Seasoning Salute can also be a big help. On the other hand, if you're not really watching what you eat, but you still want some "greens" in your diet, this product is delectable when served with melted cheese, much like traditional broccoli.

You may remember the previously-reviewed Organic Riced Cauliflower. We tried it around the same time the Shelly family reviewed it, and it's become a repeat-purchase in our household ever since—whenever it's not sold out at the local Trader Joe's, that is. Cauliflower works shockingly well as a rice substitute. And it seems to work without adding much to it. We usually cook it up in a little olive oil, and that's really all that's needed to make it a very palatable side dish. For Sonia and I, this broccoli didn't work quite as well just by itself. Plus, it might just be some silly subliminal, psychological thing, but it's a lot easier to pass a vegetable off as "rice" when it's white, rather than green.

While chatting with Marvo from The Impulsive Buy one evening, he asked us, "What do you think Trader Joe's will 'rice' next? Beets?" He noted that TJ's likes to do interesting stuff with beets. (See: chips and juice). Sonia suggested something at the time, but she can't remember what she said. Jicama, maybe? Personally, my money is on parsnips or turnips. I'd like to see them rice up one of those. How about you guys? Let us know in the comments below.

Sonia gives this riced broccoli three stars. I give it three and a half. It could be a really slick way to sneak some extra veggies into that Thanksgiving meal you're about to have.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Trader Joe's Nutty Seedy Fruity Bars

Quite a while back, we made a big joke about there being a product called Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People. It's one of our finer works. Please, if you need a good laugh, take a peek, we'll be back.

I bring this up because there's now apparently a TJ's bird food...for people.

Yes, yes, I know, it's actually called Trader Joe's Nutty Seedy Fruity Bar, in yet another attempt on a grab 'n go snack/energy bar. It's not a bad concept, but the endless variations out there...and to my knowledge, none of them have tried to emulate bird suet anywhere as close to this one.

Yes, suet, like that stuff you put aside in the winter for the birds, only for it to be snatched up by some darn squirrels. Happens all the time.

At least "Nutty Seedy Fruity Bar" is an honest name. Let's see:

Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts
Seeds: Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds
Fruit: Date paste
All of the above: Coconuts, present in dried, oil and nectar form

Now, I've named each and every ingredient..but there's apparently 12% missing here. It says it's 88% nuts, seeds and fruit on the front. What's the rest? Tj's love and magic? Maybe.

Anyways, all these ingredients come to together to a dense, chewy, crispy bar. This thing got some girth to it. It's very dry yet oily at the same time - some hydration will probably be handy to have on hand. It's not something to be gnawed right down. Each respective ingredient is present, with the dates and coconut really holding it all together. The nuts are pleasantly earthy and roasty, as are the seeds, with the right amount of proper crunch and crisp for each. It's a nifty little feat.

But...I wish it played up the fruity element just a tad bit more. The dates are more adhesive than flavor additive, leaving mainly the coconut. Some dried blueberries would have a subtle little touch here, which would have also lightened it up a bit. There's a little too much earthiness, so as in life,  a little sweetness would go along a way.

Oh, if you haven't figured it out by now: There's nuts. And coconuts. Lots of fat. Lots and lots of good ol' natural fat of the saturated, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated varieties. Make of that what you will for you. It's not a huge deterrent for me - better this than a Big Mac, IMHO.


The bars in all do make a nice little treat that packs more stomach filling power than one would think. I was quite happy for several hours after munching away on one of them at work, to the point where I almost forgot to eat lunch, which just doesn't happen for a guy like me. I like them, and for what it is, the $2.29 price tag isn't an outright awful value. I'd love that blueberry variety. Just me judging here, as unfair as that is, but Sandy didn't get to hers in time. I'll wing it a three, so double that up. Stock up for those hard winter months ahead.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Nutty Seedy Fruity Bars: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Chicken Sausage & Cornbread Stuffing


Ah, this looks Thanksgivingy enough. Novembery enough, if you will. No Turkey Day dinner would be complete without some stuffing. And of course, since this has chicken in it, you could theoretically stick this inside the duck part of your turducken and still have turducken without an actual chicken as the inner layer. But I digress.

Overall, this stuff is bready and moist, the way stuffing should be, but I have some pretty big reservations about giving it a stellar score. Firstly, the whole Scarborough Fair thing is in full effect here. Yep. I checked the ingredients as I've done many times, and this product does indeed contain parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, although the front of the packaging only mentions sage and thyme. I think this is the first time I've consumed anything that contained all four. So yeah. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. Or maybe not. Because there's too much of it in here. I'm not sure whether it's the thyme or sage, but one of those herbs is a little overpowering to me. After Sonia's first couple bites, she grimaced and said, "This tastes like an old woman's house."


I was hoping to taste more chicken, cornbread, and cranberry flavors. There are plenty of cranberries in there, it's just that they don't do that much for the flavor. I wanted some of that sweet-tartness, but alas...The Scarborough Fair Effect.

Texture-wise, I already mentioned the pleasant amount of moisture—even after heating in the oven. If anything, the product came out a tad too mushy for us. Bits of celery add a nice delicate crunch. And the cranberry pieces feel pretty nice, even if their flavor isn't coming through in a big way. I was also hoping there would be large chunks of actual chicken sausage. There aren't. 


In the end, I'd probably turn to good old Stove Top over this dressing. It's not a complete abomination, and we won't be returning it for a no-hassle refund or anything like that. It's just a different, very herby take on classic filling, and a little disappointing to both of us. 

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee

Like most semi-functional adults I know, I need coffee every day. In multiple doses.

Preferred methods of intake primarily include: a relatively leisurely French press pot at home, plunged by either my four year old, my just-turned-two-year-old, or, when the girls ask just sweetly enough, the dog (all with my assistance, of course). Or when the chance allows, a cup from a good, local coffee shop.

Preferred methods of intake do not include the work coffee pot or vending machine, or a tepid tankard of brown water from the gas station on the way to work. Though that's what I settle for far too often.

So, Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee can be a nice little mix up. Someone please explain why TJ's is debuting this cold brew can-to-go in November, though. In my little world, there is an inverse relationship between coffee temperature and the five day forecast. Hot weather : cold coffee. Cold weather : hot coffee. Simple, right?

Speaking of simple...so's this slim can o' cold caffeine. Unlike most cold brew or iced coffees I have tasted, this TJ's one doesn't try to be extra dark or roasty or overly robust or anything. So many of them can be so bittersweet that the taste nearly veers towards offputting. Not this brew. It literally tastes like regular coffee....except purposefully cold. Which isn't that wonderful.

I've been a black coffee drinker for nealry two years now, which I like to think has helped cultivate a discerning coffee palate. Even after waiting for the can to warm up a smidge to see if the temperature had any flavor locked up, when I tasted again, still, not really anything there. Fans of this website may appreciate the flat earthiness of the taste...eh. Doesn't do much for me, but not that I minded

For the record, there is a vanilla flavored version of the cold brew coffee as well, which my wife Sandy tried, but I didn't. From what she said, it's not a creamy coffee, but rather like a flavored oil (or however one makes flavored coffee beans), so it wasn't what she hoped for or expected, but tasty enough.

A can runs $1.79 a pop, and it's one of those fashionable little slim dinky cans, too. The price stikes me as fair enough of a value, but not one I'll go for terribly often either. the eight ounces got me just enough caffeine to last for a few hours at work, and I enjoyed more than the work options, so it's not horrible either. Just all kinda meh. Like me without enough coffee.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Hat Trick Trio of Bitters

I've learned several things as a result of purchasing this product: (1) I missed my true calling in life as a bartender. (2) When they say "bitter," believe it. (3) It's nearly impossible to squeeze 1oz of juice from the average lime with your hands. (4) If Trader Joe's wants you to pay upwards of $15 for something, there's a reason for the premium.

We made all three drinks described on the packaging: Joe's Whiskey Sour, The New Daiquiri, and the Citrus Grove Gin Rickey. To be honest, I've never had a whiskey sour or a gin rickey ever before in my life. And the daiquiri in this case was nothing like the strawberry daiquiris I've tasted. Yes, I know. Haha. I've only tried the girliest drink out of the three. To be fair, though, I don't think I've ever actually ordered my own daiquiri. I've simply tasted my dates' daiquiris. Honestly. What? Don't believe me? Fine.

And I also poured the bitters right onto my tongue. Guess what? They're bitter. And potent. They cost so much because they'll last you five years longer than it takes for the earth to crash into the sun...or until you decide to move out of your house and into a new dwelling for the fourth time in seven years and you pass the little bottles along to friends as part of your downsizing efforts. But who would do a crazy thing like that?

The recipes call for five "dashes" of each bitter in its respective drink. How big is a "dash" exactly? I'm pretty sure that's not a universal unit of measure. But whatever. I think I erred on the side of "more than five dashes," because I genuinely appreciated the flavor they contributed, although I added a bit of extra syrup as well to balance out the bitterness. We used an agave syrup we had on hand rather than the called-for "simple syrup."

I think I liked the whiskey sour the best, mainly because I love lemon. But the other two beverages were nothing to sneeze at. Sonia liked the rickey drink the best. It really did have a nice citrusy vibe, and the grapefruit bitter probably had the most interesting flavor in and of itself. We both enjoyed the daiquiri, but to me, the spicy bitter/white rum combo was the weakest of the three concoctions.

If you're not into the whole drinking scene, the package gives a few other suggestions for enjoying these bitters. It mentions using them on fruit or ice cream. I must admit, we did NOT try them that way, and we couldn't really see how that could possibly work. If you have tried the bitters that way, please let us know in the comments whether you liked it or not. 

The box also mentions using the bitters in non-alcoholic beverages. That we did try. But after adding them to several different juices, fruit-infused sparkling waters, and sugar-free energy drinks (okay, that last one was just me) Sonia and I agreed that nothing worked quite as well as mixing them with good old-fashioned booze. Also, it's curious that they're 40% alcohol themselves. Yet they can be sold at TJ's that don't sell alcoholic beverages. I guess that's because nobody could ever drink enough of this stuff straight out of the bottle to get any kind of buzz without plastering a permanent pucker-face on his ugly mug. And in case some of you are wondering—no, I didn't try to do it myself. I only drank a dash or two straight from the bottle. I just look that way naturally.

Anyway, score-wise, we know this product won't be for everybody. It's a relatively small amount of liquid for a relatively high price. But if you look up comparable gift packs of three bitters, most other brands will run you in the ballpark of $50 instead of $16. For that reason and for the quality of the product, I give it four and a half stars. Sonia will go with four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie

"...with a touch of Maple Bourbon flavor."

SCREEEEEEEEEECHHHHH. Back up the truck! What's that again?

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie....with a touch of Maple Bourbon flavor.

Inconsistent capitalization aside, just how awesome does that look? If the words "sweet potato pie" didn't do it for you, I really hope that "maple bourbon" would.

Wednesday night was a perfect night for our family to gather 'round for a little warm comfort food dinner. Aside from a long day after a very short night's sleep, the cool, damp, chilly November air finally began sinking in around the 'burgh area. Sandy whipped up a fantastic homemade lasagna, which I probably (and unashamedly) ate four too many servings of, and would have had more if she didn't have this pie warming up in the oven in the meantime.

I love my wife.

I wouldn't say that I love this the TJ sweet potato pie - I'm too spoiled by generations of excellent bakers in my family, Sandy one of them - but for a simple, store bought pie with an autumnal slant, it's up there. Big time. You can keep your pumpkin pies to yourself. Although fairly similar, sweet potato pie is a tad different - more natural sugars, of course, but also a lighter, fluffier texture itself. The write up of this pie in the Fearless Flyer mentioned something or other about the taters being kettle cooked so as to more closely resemble whipped potatoes - presuming that's true, then it was very well done.

But of course the real star has to be that "Maple Bourbon" flavor, right? That comes in the form of an oatmeal-based crumble that was somewhat unevenly disbursed on top of the pie. The crumble did add a grainy feel, but with so much flavor - cinnamon, nutmeg, a lot of maple, and yes, even a little bourbon. I'm not sure if either of my grandmas ever made sweet potato pie for a holiday dinner, but if they did, this wouldn't be at the kid's table.

As for the crust, it fulfilled its duties admirably enough. It wasn't fancy, but not exactly nondescript - slightly buttery, a little flaky, definitely crispy, and held together. Made for a good bake.

It's $6.99 for the pie, and does require 25-30 minutes of oven baking as it's from the frozen section, so plan a pick up of the pie accordingly. For us, on a night a good family dinner without much fuss was needed, it worked great. Although I will say that our two kiddos opted for a popsicle after taking only a small bite - oh well - more for us then! Can't complain too much, although I would have preferred a little stronger bourbon presence. Then again, things are rarely perfect.


Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Trader Joe's Raspberry Cranberry Spritzer

There's something very festive about cranberries. I guess it all started with cranberry sauce, an integral part of the traditional Thanksgiving meal. I mean, they cram cranberry sauce into those ubiquitous Thanksgiving-themed wraps during the month of November. Cranberry is even part of most Christmas meals and many Christmas snacks these days. 

I'm sure there was some earlier version of the fruit that was consumed at the first Thanksgiving—something other than the shivering, gelatinous mass that slides out of a tin can and maintains the exact shape of the canister, right down to the ridges around the sides of the product. The Pilgrims and Native American Indians might have eaten, like, actual cranberries. Apparently, they're harvested up until the middle of November, so it makes sense they'd have a bunch of them on hand. Or, just as likely, they may have had cranberry juice to drink.

Raspberry is more of a summer fruit. But thanks to Ocean Spray, most of us know that raspberry and cranberry together is something pretty tasty and special. Add a little sparkliness...er, spritzeriness? And how could you go wrong?

The taste is lightly sweet, but very natural. It actually tastes like fruit juice and sparkling water. You can taste raspberry, cranberry, and even a dash of lemon flavor, but it's not as tart and intense as the aforementioned Ocean Spray offering. Both beverages are good, in my opinion, albeit in completely different ways. The sparkling water adds the perfect amount of fizz and dilutes the juiciness and syrupiness of the product, so it seems just a bit more sophisticated than typical Cran-Raz. Ever have Izze sparkling juice drinks? It's very similar to those.

Speaking of sophistication, how about the packaging? It's a very nice, classy bottle. To be honest, I'm not even sure if the cap was twist-off or not. In my zeal to open the product, I pried the metal cap off with a bottle opener without even testing my hand at the bottle top. Even though I managed to snap the only-slightly-mangled cap back in place, the spritzer will most likely lose its fizz pretty quickly. Oh well. Good excuse to chug a bunch of it today.

Because it's not super cheap ($3.49) I doubt I'll pick this up each time I swing by TJ's, but I would most definitely consider this as the non-alcoholic beverage to accompany my Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinners.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Traditional Pot Roast

Disclaimer: With everything I'm about to say here, keep in mind: I'm not a pot roast guy. Never have been. I was the kid growing up who would run back and forth between the kitchen table and bathroom, flushing one mouthful of pot roast at a time. And there's a good cahnce I never will be. Swampy, stringy, fatty meat? No thanks. I'll eat it, but it's not something I'll really enjoy.

But here goes....a microwave? For pot roast? That's how you're going to tell me to prep this, Trader Joe's, with your Traditional Pot Roast!?!?!? What??? No! Listen, I don't care that it's fully cooked so it just needs to be warmed up - that's wrong. Pot roast comes from the one kitchen appliance that's even easier than a microwave - a crock pot. There's nothing complicated about about a crockpot - only three settings, set it, forget it, almost impossible to screw up. Microwavable pot roast is just bizarre to me - there's nothing difficult or time consuming about crock pots - did we really need to take something simple like a pot roast and make it zap-able?

So, naturally, we made ours in the crock pot, for tradition's sake, and also because we apparently have a compulsion to freeze every piece of meat that comes into our house. Doesn't matter if we're going to eat it in three hours, three days, or three years - into the freezer for you! Ain't no nuking a frozen meat lump properly.

So, pot roast. There's...not much else to say about it. There's nothing flavor or texture or anything wise that sticks out. Imagine a pot roast, and this is almost exactly what you'd get. I will say that the meat itself seems a little less fatty and stringy than the pot roasts I recall from growing up (no offense, Mom, but I always wondered what sins I committed when you served up pot roast), and is properly soft and tender. There's not much in the way of flavor except the natural savoriness of the meat and salt and pepper...

...and corn syrup solids? What....I don't even know what to say here. Except there are corn syrup solids on the ingredients list. I didn't think corn syrup was a thing Trader Joe's was into - well, apparently not, and out of anything, it's on pot roast? Can someone explain this? If some sort of sweetner is needed for whatever reason (you know, sugar and pot roast, BFFs), why not just do some honey or something along those lines? Corn syrup? I'm amazed.

Anyways, we have a split household on the TJ's Traditional Pot Roast. Sandy and B, our youngest daughter (almost 2!) really enjoy it. In fact, it was B's enthusiasm at the TJ sample counter that led Sandy to drop the $8.99 the pound package in the first place. I'm completely indifferent to it (which is actually a compliment from me to pot roast) while M, our four year old, went to bed hungry over the whole thing and ate it for breakfast the next day very begrudgingly. That's my girl. Take from all that what you will.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Traditional Pot Roast: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Trader Joe's Apple Caramel Greek Yogurt

Of the Greek yogurts we've tried from Trader Joe's, this one's the best. It's a lot more caramelly than I expected. The apple flavor is there, but subtle. It's tangy and tart, too, like you'd predict from a typical Greek yogurt. The wife was kind enough to head up a mini video review shoot in the backyard, which captured our candid first impressions of the product. It's only a minute and sixteen seconds, so give it a watch! Click here to see the nutrition info.



Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trader Joe's Harissa Salsa

"Hey! Stop eating all the kids' Halloween candy!"

That wasn't exactly what Sandy exclaimed while sitting down to watch Game 6 of the World Series, but her eyes, staring at the Reeses' and Butterfingers I had stockpiled on the couch, pretty much said that, with the heavy suggestion to find something else to snack on while trying to relax after a long, stressful day.

So, chips and salsa? That was never part of the trick-or-treat strategic reserves, so fair game. And with a new treat, Trader Joe's Harissa Salsa, in our possession, I could bear the thought of putting down the fun sized kiddie candies for at least a few minutes.

Not familiar with harissa? You're in good company. Neither was I. Kinda like the Korean barbeque sauce I reviewed last week, this is my first go-around. Tunisian and Moroccan inspired? Yes please.

First thing to notice: the aroma. This isn't a typical tomato-based salsa. Instead, the harissa literally reeks of paprika. That's meant as a compliment - because it smells FANTASTIC. It's an authentically deep aroma, a fragrant offering with some layers to it. With a little care, the bell peppers are also detectable, as well as jalapenos, but overwhelmingly, it's the paprika.

And, naturally, the taste carries through on all those premises. The milder elements are more upfront but quickly give way to that heavy, smoky paprika dose. It doesn't fool around or play games, but instead delivers the burn, and not like one I can recall from any other jarred salsa. If you can't stand spicy, stay the heck away...but if heat draws you in, you'll want to stand next to this fire.

The salsa is also smoother than it appears at first - it almost resembles a veggie salsa at first, with lots of pepper chunks - but they're all soft with no bite to them. There's no textural challenge presented by them, which I appreciate.

Sandy and I can't wait to try on more than just tortilla chips. Eggs, chicken, fish....yes to all that. There's a suggestion on the jar to pair with hummus, which would be fantastic. Because of the heat, uniqueness and presumed versatility, it's tough for either one of us to go with a score lower than four.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Harissa Salso: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Cookie Sticks

Happy All Saints' Day, everybody. Now that the Halloween season is over, it's time for something new. 

I must admit, I do think of gingerbread as a Christmassy kind of treat, but considering the decided lack of new turkey-related items at TJ's, as well as the fact that my last post made Sonia and I sound like ginger-haters, I feel this product is an appropriate follow-up, since we've got nothing to share but ginger-love in this case.

There's "ground ginger" in the ingredients here. And the product smells and tastes a lot like ginger. But in this case, the ginger is balanced out with other spices and plenty of sweetness, including molasses and big, square, crunchy sugar granules. It's almost a homemade gingerbread cookie kind of vibe. Maybe not just like mom used to make, but certainly better than any run-of-the-mill grocery store bakery offering.

And the cookie sticks are soft! Both Sonia and I assumed they'd be crunchy for some reason. But they're as moist and soft as you'd want them to be.

Despite an overall positive impression, we do have a few negatives to point out. First, the packaging: Not a huge fan of cookies in cellophane bags—especially when they're not resealable. The product comes with a red ribbon that must be untied and re-tied each time you open the bag—otherwise the cookies are just left in the open air. Obviously, you could solve the problem by putting the cookies in some kind of tupperware, or if you've got a five-year-old handy, you could have him practice doing his shoelaces by tying the red ribbon in a bow each time the package is opened.

Also, the spices are kind of potent. It's not so much the ginger this time, but the clove and nutmeg do build up on your palate, making it difficult to eat more than one cookie at a time. I guess that's not really a bad thing, since I shouldn't be eating more than one cookie at a time anyway.

Sonia is anxious to try these cookies dunked in coffee. She'll throw out four stars this time. That sounds about right to me, too.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.