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Friday, April 21, 2017

Trader Joe's Matcha White Chocolate Bar

The topic of "punishment meals" have been brought up before on this blog. The short version: days that us kids were being brats, my mom would make us a dinner we'd be sure to hate just to get back at us. usually it was tuna fish casserole. Blecccccccch.

Well, a punishment meal can have a punishment dessert, right?

Unfortunately, that pretty much exactly sums up how both Sandy and I feel about Trader Joe's Matcha White Chocolate Bar with Matcha Green Tea Filling. Sounded intriguing enough to plunk down $1.99. I really wish we hadn't.

First off, look at our product shot inside the wrapper. There's so much wrong with that picture. First off, it looks like that bar got runover by a dump truck. I get that shipping and transit is what it is, and stuff happens, but seriously? That's a bit much. Then the colors...ugh. Maybe I'm jsut much too basic, but chocolate is not supposed to be that color. It doesn't even look appetizing. Then there's that filling, oozing out everywhere, looking like little puddles of melted green Army guys. Appeal factor definitely went down a few notches there.

A lot of that can be forgiven if tasted No. No. Look, kudos for effort, I guess, but swing a miss here. The chocolate portion is actually decent enough, decidedly on the sweeter side, with a hint or two of green tea mixed in. Or maybe that's its that greenness playing tricks on me. Regardless, it's not the problem. It's the filling. Very strong green tea flavor. Very herbaceous. You could have told me it was spinach jelly and I would have believed you. And it alternately doesn't jive that well with the rest of the chocolate casing while also in conjunction with that chocolate tasting like way too much green tea.

Dark chocolate with the green tea filling might have worked. Green tea white chocolate with a regular chocolate filling would have worked. Or heck, even like a berry filling of some type with that green cocoa concoction. But as is? Too much...and I like green tea. So does Sandy.

Check here for the nutritional stats and ingredients...we neglected to get a pic before trashing the box. "Good," Sandy said. "It's awful and no one should eat it anyways." She's going with a 1 for the inspiration, but, man, that execution...ugh. I gave it a second try right before writing it and really could not think of anything all that positive to say. Candy so bad it gets thrown out in my house? Must be pretty awful.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Matcha White Chocolate Bar: 2 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Vienna Coffee Meringues

These things are cavities just waiting to happen. 

There's something chalky about the texture that makes biting into these meringues like the dental equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for me. Due to their brittleness, many of the cookies were broken before we even opened the tub. They generally disintegrate into a chunky tan powder upon first bite, and they leave behind a tacky residue on fingers and lips. 

The parts of the meringues that do make it into your mouth are somewhat crunchy, but since they consist of mostly sugar and egg whites, they have a melt-in-your-mouth quality that's fairly pleasant. Their flavor is that of a sugar-sweetened sweetness with a bit more candied sugary sugar on top. There's a hint of coffee in there somewhere, too. And normally, I think we'd want the coffee flavor to come through a tad more, except that we're a bit coffee'd out right now.

We're well aware of Trader Joe's Vanilla Meringue Cookies, the predecessor to this coffee variety—one product that's been in that "After Heating Up These Dinners You'll Need To Gorge Yourself On Lots Of Candy And Cookies" aisle for years, and yet somehow has eluded our sights on this blog. A reader mentioned that these are very much like those, except for the faint coffee flavor, of course.

Sonia appreciates their visual appeal more than their flavor or texture. She says, "They're pretty, but they're not very tasty." She also likes the label on the packaging. How very graphic designery of her.

For that reason, they would be nice for a party or something like that where a bunch of people would just have one or two and then move along to graze on another snack. I can't see these being gobbled down by the dozen by very many people, but usually when I make claims like that, I turn out to be wrong. So who knows? These weren't Sonia's favorite, and they're definitely not mine, but if you want to sing their praises in the comments below, be our guest.

Two stars from me. Two and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Southwestern Chopped Salad

It wasn't until sitting down right now to type this review that I realized that the little "look in window" on the salad bag was shaped like a cowboy boot.

Cowboys. Eating salad. Mmmmkay. Not exactly what comes to mind.

But I guess if cowboys can eat chunky salsa and even chunkier chocolate bars, well, there may be room for salad. After all, they may have a soft spot for veggie burgers, of all things.

On to the salad. It's a darn good one. With one major caveat: You gotta like cilantro - a lot. Because that's really what every single bite tasted like - sharp, biting cilantro, accentuated even a bit further by green onion. I happen to enjoy cilantro to a moderate degree, and I was beginning to get close to a breaking point. Really, a fleshy, sweet addition - think grape tomato or even roasted corn - would have helped keep it all in check.

But everything else is pretty spot on. Good, crisp greens. Mild cotija cheese. The little baggie of mix-in tortilla strips and pumpkin seeds (I hate the word pepitas, call them what they are) added good texture and crunch with a little saltiness in there. And of course, the dressing. I'm not a huge salad dressing guy, Sandy's not all that into avocados, but we both loved it. There's a slight heat to it, so it's a bit like a soupier medium guacamole, which works really well with the rest of the salad components.

If only so much of the sald weren't drowned out by those ubiquitous cilantro sprigs.

We ate our salad with some grilled chicken strips, which made a pretty fulfilling meal. Some beef or grilled steak strips would another great addition, or even some tofu or black beans for a little protein. Would also recommend tomatoes and/or corn depending on your tastes. So it's not quite a "complete salad" kit in my estimation, but it'll get you most of the way there with a little room for customization to boot. Not bad for $3.99.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Southwestern Chopped Salad: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Coffee Toffee Shortbread Cookies

There's something very Girl Scout-esque about these cookies. At least part of it is the box and packaging—a long rectangular cuboid with a cellophane sleeve and plastic carton thing. And although I've never tried them, I know the Girl Scouts offered a toffee shortbread cookie not long ago called "Toffee-tastic." By some miracles of science and Girl Scout magic, those were rice-based and gluten free. Here's one entertaining look at them in case you're eager to learn more like I was.

This Trader Joe's selection is wheat-based, glutenful, chocolatey, and vaguely coffee-ish. If I use my imagination, I can detect some toffee candy sweetness, too. But mostly, I'd say it's a dark chocolate and shortbread kind of vibe here.

They're crispy and crumbly, and the chocolate coating and drizzle acts as a waxy covering to these otherwise grainy morsels. The texture isn't entirely unpleasant, but the chocolate coating insulates these cookies a little too well from the sometimes-welcome wetness that stems from a brief dip in your hot beverage of choice. In other words, these don't make great dunkables in my opinion, because they're simply too "weather-proof," for lack of a better term.

The flavor isn't bad, but it's not particularly memorable, either—especially after a month or so of gorging myself on boatloads of coffee and mocha flavored products for the sake of this daring TJ's blog. I should probably break up this java jones nonsense with bread that isn't coffee-flavored once in a while.

But at any rate, I'm not alone. Sonia was underwhelmed as well. She doesn't even think the shortbread is very tasty. We're not hatin'. We're just not going to buy these cookies again, because there's nothing that we really want to hang on to here. If they had slurped up our hot coffee the way those Joe-Joe's did, these cookies might have been well-worth their $2.99 price tag—which really isn't unreasonable if these are your thing. We're just gonna bet that for most people...this isn't gonna be your least not in any meaningful way.

Three stars a piece.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Trader Joe's California Style Sprouted Wheat Bread

Happy Pesach!

Yes, yes...there is a certain irony to starting a review about bread, presumably leavened, with Passover greetings. I mean no disrespect. Originally, I had in mind to review chocolate coconut macaroons until at the last minute I realized I had already reviewed them two years ago. Those are Kosher for Passover, and having been more exposed to Jewish tradition and cuisine over the past two years through my daughters' preschool, I have a little more respect for them...not like they could beat homemade from Bubbi or Zaida but they're better than I gave them credit for previously.

That and Nathan snagged the other review item I had in mind this week already, so by default, here's Trader Joe's California Style Sprouted Wheat Bread.

At least I can make a tenuous tie to JudeoChristian sensibilities with this loaf of bread by saying it's similar to Food for Life's Ezekiel 4:9 bread. At least, that's like, the common healthy bread standard, right? Except for the fact it tastes like a cross between bird suet and 40 grit sandpaper, but man oh man, is it healthy.

TJ's take is better. Much better, in my opinion. It's softer, for one, with a still grainy texture not unlike most multigrain breads. Which is pretty awesome, for everything that got stuck in there: wheat, barley, millet, oats, soybeans, lentils, corn. I mean, that sounds like a mouthful, and it is, but it's really a pleasant texture, especially when toasted with a little butter melted on it. If you're used to just plain old white bread, it might be a rough adjustment, but if that's your thing, you'd never pick this up anyways. There's a slight fibery chewiness, with a little crispiness mixed in from presumably the millet bits. It's like it actually has to be chewed a bit, which is fantastic to me. I'm a white bread convert from my youth.

As for taste, I have no real complaints either. It's wheaty and grainy with a lot of nutty and earthy in there too. Between that and the aforementioned mouthfeel, there's nothing for me to really bristle at.

Couple extra benefits: It's filling. Quite filling. A piece or two of the sprouted wheat bread toasted and buttered, with a couple eggs with kale, and man, I'm stuffed til lunch. And, well, my digestive system seems happier too. I'll leave it at that.

Sandy has no real complaints either, and in fact I'm pretty sure this will become a regular staple in our house, especially at it's fairly reasonable price point of maybe $4. That Ezekiel bread? More pricey. We're both huge fans, with no real suggestions for improvement, and hope this is one deal you won't pass over.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's California Style Sprouted White Bread: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, April 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Mocha Crunch Cremes

Leading up to these mocha-fied treats, six out of our last seven posts contained the word "coffee." I'm not sure if the Trader Joe's packaging people just got tired of typing the word "coffee" (I think all of us at WG@TJ's have), but they certainly could have slipped it into the title of this product if they had wanted to since there are actual ground coffee beans within each candy—in fact, most, if not all, of these coffee-laden commodities we've been looking at recently have contained actual ground coffee beans. 

Another fun fact: eleven of our last thirteen posts have been coffee or mocha-themed. So we're getting to be old pros at analyzing, assessing, and taste-testing coffee-infused snacks and desserts. I can bust out a three or four paragraph review after just a single bite of a Trader Joe's coffee product, because A) the caffeine makes my brain speedier, and B) I'm good at pulling useless fun facts out of my backside to use as filler. (See: this post up to this point).

But without further ado, I promise to start talking about these crunch cremes. Ready? Here we go. To the melody of the Tiny Toon Adventures theme:

They're crunchy, they're creamy, they're just a little dreamy.
They're not like sashimi, but they're totally gourmet.

That's all I got. If you want a complete review that's written as song lyrics or poetry, we've got a few of those. Try the Five Cheese FrustaPanettone Classico, or Nduja Spread. Word.

As for this review, you'll have to settle for my substandard prose.

The crunch cremes are appropriately both crunchy and creamy, with an emphasis on the cream side of the equation. The crunch is understated, for sure. It comes from the coffee beans which are most definitely already ground. There are no actual beans or even partial beans—just tiny granules of the aforementioned ground up substance. Flavor-wise, they're a pleasant mix of chocolate and coffee, with hints of caramel, vanilla, and coconut. The whole thing melts in the mouth easily, leaving just a few bits of ground coffee on the tongue. The texture is complex and hard to describe, flaunting everything from silkiness to grittiness, yet still somehow providing a cohesive snacking experience.

Sonia wishes there were more coffee in them. She thinks they taste too much like plain chocolate. I'm fine with the amount of coffee here, but maybe that's because I don't like coffee as much as she does. Three and a half stars from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Cookie Mocha Swirl Ice Cream

Somehow, some day, this whole TJ's coffee deal will blow over.

I'm weary of it. So are you, I bet. it's okay, we're in this together...I mean, nobody wants to end up like poor old Nathan anyways. If you haven't seen, you must. I haven't seen him so wired since the one time he shotgunned six Red Bulls before busting out the out the most energetic, rousing rendition of "It's The End of the World As We Know It." Ah, college days.

But as (hopefully) close to the end of the coffee era as we are, we can't let it pass without trying Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Cookie Mocha Swirl Ice Cream. C'mon, that sounds awesome, gotta try it. the only question is, will this join one of all time TJ's ice cream greats, or be a massive disappointment?

As is the usual, the truth is somewhere in between, but decidedly much towards the optimal end of the spectrum. Twist off the lid and there it is - tannish brown coffee ice cream base, with dark swirls of mocha fudge. The cookie portion isn't all that visually apparent, but is more than abundant in nearly every spoonful in a soft, crumbly way that's somehow deeply embedded into the cream. The kona mocha ice cream hits almost every important taste touchpoint - rich, creamy, with good strong coffee depth more than tempered by sugary goodness, and that mocha fudge - oh my - great touch.

But...I'm on the fence. Somewhat. As much as I enjoy the ice cream, I can't help but think of maybe two little tweaks, and if it'd make it better or not. First: maybe, just maybe, either a vanilla or sweet cream base would be better instead of coffee ice cream. As is, it's tough to tell if the kona tastiness is derived mainly from the ice cream or the cookies mixed in. I kinda want the cookies to stand out a bit more. That brings me to the second point: the cookie texture. As a shortbread cookie, it's not much surprise about their softness and crumbliness, but something firmer, with a little more snap, perhaps. Just a little more rigid, you know?

Eh well. Really darn good ice cream as is, shouldn't quibble too much. Sandy was happy enough with it to forego her customary Halo Top for a night or two. She added that she'd really like to see this sold by the the pint and not just quart - as a non-kid friendly bucket, this will last us a while. That's enough to knock it down to a four for her? Me? That four sounds just about right. Hopefully this is giving the whole coffee craze its just desserts.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kona Coffee Mocha Swirl Ice Cream: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Coffee Glazed Almonds

Like their nutty cashew cousins, these almonds are covered in coffee...and sugar. They're more candied than coffee'd, but that's just fine by me. There's enough ground roasted espresso coffee matter present to taste distinctly like coffee, yet they're palatable to someone who's not really into the flavor of black coffee. The taste is more like a nutty cuppa with four or five sugar packets dumped in.

And of course, they still taste like almonds. If you hate almonds, you're not gonna like these. If you love almonds, it's not a given, but there's a darn good chance these will make it on your grocery list more than once. Even someone with a sweet tooth like me can appreciate that the sweetness is balanced out by the rich, earthy coffee essence. Sometimes traditional candied nuts can be...well, a bit too candied. The flavor of these nuts is significantly more balanced.

And since you don't get "sweeted-out" immediately, the addiction-factor rises. The natural goodness of almonds combined with the caffeination of espresso can make these crunchy morsels a potent afternoon pick-me-up snack, so long as you have the willpower to stop after a handful or two. Eating and drinking too much coffee can result physiological and psychological ailments, as we've all witnessed recently.

Sonia raved about these almonds. She used to snack on almonds all the time, and her beverage of choice was! So these are right up her alley. She enjoys the convenience of having the two flavors combined and appreciates the subtle balance of sweetness and savoriness. At $3.69 for the bag, they're significantly cheaper than the cashews and a decent price for a bag of plain almonds of comparable size.

Four and a half stars from her. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Coffeepalooza


Normally, we take the weekends off here at What's Good at Trader Joe's....but not today. We can't. Not when we have breaking news like, it's not Dog Food for People or oddly sourced cookie butter treats that somehow never came to Trader Joe's shelves. This time it's real.

You know all those coffee products at TJ's recently? Kinda fun, right? I mean, as long as you can stomach the idea of a coffee-flavored sausage, I guess (strangely, it works). Apparently, this is just the first wave. The beginning. The dawn of new  at Trader Joe's. It's going to be the Espresso Era. The Mocha Epoch-a. The Americano Age. The Period of Percolation aka the Dawn of the Drip. 

Namely, everything (and we do mean everything) at Trader Joe's is going to be coffee-fied. And there's nothing we can do about it.

How did we find out? With the aid of an internal informant, we have knowledge of a memo from Big Joe. In it, it's detailed that, much like how Big Joe corners the market on cheap California wine to sell as two-buck Chuck, he decided to branch out to a new venue: Arabica beans.

And they're going to be in everything. Literally. Everything. Soon, you will not be able to go Trader Joe's and not buy a product not laced with roasted, caffeinated, high energy Arabica beans. Not just in your coffee. Not just as a gimmicky flavor trend for a few months. In literally everything...forever.

This will bring coffee to a place it's never been before. Just imagine your favorite Trader Joe's products....but all coffeefied. Man, coffeefied is a fun word....COFFEEFIED. Woo! Sorry, had to get that out. But we're talking...Coffee Cookie Butter. Crunchy Coffee Cookie Butter. Coffee cheddar cheese...oh wait, that exists already. Coffee chips. More coffee chocolate bars...

But no, even more! Coffee where coffee has never been! We're talking...Orange Arabica Chicken! Coffee Crusted Brussel Sprouts! Coffee tortillas! Asian Stir Fry - where the beans are coffee beans! Kona crusted salmon jerky! Coffuu toffee...I mean coffee tofu, I know what I mean! Mocha mac and cheese! Coffee garlic barbecue rub - oh wait, that exists already. Coffee coffee coffee everything....even coffee two buck Chuck! That'll be probably popular amongst today's kids.

Coming soon for'll be mango coffee twists on everything. In the fall, pumpkin spice latte everything! C'mon now, who wouldn't that as a marinated pork product? In the winter, holiday spice!  Sprinkled in here and there and everywhere will be all different coffees and roasts and sources...but all coffee, all the time.

We're getting all jittery here in anticpation, Narthan and preparation for this I've ingested nothing without coffee for about the past 48 hours so pleas excuse any typocs cuz right now i can barely keep my fingaers stedy ima doing what i can Please do not judge. this is what i get for for dmpign coffee ont op of my spaghetti and going all at it Elf style at dinner tonight. it's okay my kids loved it too. Dont judge they do not sleep evar anyways. We will all cope.

But everything, coming to a TJ's near you soon. You cannot escape nor will you be able to survive the withdrawal.

To get you even more primed here's a video from Nathan and Sonia, giving you a glimpse into all our futures:

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Trader Joe's Cannelés De Bordeaux

Let's take a coffee break, shall we?

No, not more coffee, as inviting as that sounds. If you haven't been paying attention to the blog recently, it's been all on up on coffee products. I'd mention them, but there's too many....just take a look over on the right sidebar under posts from this month going back.

I mean, an actual break from anything coffee related. It's a good thing, and we're all gonna need it. More on that...later.

Although, let's be honest, taking a look at the picture on the box of Trader Joe's Cannelés De Bordeaux, that'd go well with a cup of coffee, right? Imagine that served alongside a steamy cafe au lait or cappucino or whatever at some sidewalk café. Looks fancy. Has a fancy name. Has gots to be fancy, right?


So boxed fourpack come with the little French delights already fully baked, just frozen. To prepare, either thaw for 20 minutes (who's got time for that?) or nuke in the microwave for 20 seconds. We went the nuclear option. Twenty seconds didn't seem enough, the pastries were still cool to the touch. So another 20 seconds, and then, you know, 20 more just for the heck of it. Even after all that, the cannelés were still cool and clammy to the touch. Oh well. Time for a bite...

"Carmelized on the outside" is one way of putting it. Hard and dense with a suggestion of crispy carmelization is another. It was definitely tougher and chewier than anticipated. And the insides weren't much better. Sandy and I have a disagreement over what the word "custardy" should imply. She thinks it ought to mean creamy, like custard cream/creme. I stick more to the true meaning of custard, meaning a dish with eggs, milk, flavoring and sugar, baked until set, so cakelike except spongey. But we both agreed that the innards didn't match our hopes. Cool, dense, but fairly pleasantly (if unevenly) vanilla-esque. Think more my interpretation of custardy for sure.

Sandy disliked hers to a great degree. She plots and plans her treats all day long, and had sacrificed some ice cream so she could eat one cannelé in all of its 120-calorie glory. Very pouty afterwards. She gave it a two. I'll go a little higher, but not much.....but I'll be willing to be wrong here. If you like them, and have a recommended suggestion on how to optimize the thawout process to ensure its utmost tastiness, I'm all ears. We have two cannelés left, and I (at least) will try your recommended method and report back. Until then, as is (and keep in mind this is following the box's suggestion for preparation, so don't hate on me too much) it's just a middlin' 2.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cannelés De Bordeaux: 4.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Trader Joe's Caramel Flavored Coffee Granola

I've always preferred the smell of coffee to its taste. The smell is rich and earthy—the taste often is, too, but there's usually a bitterness that accompanies it that I find unpleasant in most cases. With this product, when you open the bag, you might as well be opening a big bag of dark roast coffee beans. The smell alone can wake a drowsy person from their dreamy slumber. It's a deeply pleasant experience, worth the $2.99 for just the first whiff of the bag alone. But not only that, the taste is just like coffee, too—but there's little to no bitterness here. It's sweet, but not overly so, nutty, crunchy, and full of real ground coffee.

And like real coffee, it goes great with milk. It stays nice and crunchy. The texture of whole grain oat clusters pairs so beautifully with the flavor of sweet, creamy coffee, it's a wonder this isn't a staple in every household. Like most of their products, I'm sure Trader Joe's didn't invent this stuff—apparently coffee cereal has been a thing for a while, although I can't imagine flakes working quite as well as granola—but TJ's is the first store that's brought this phenomenon to my attention. They get most of the credit in my book, because they're the ones making this mainstream. And after this fun little coffee extravaganza is over, if only one product becomes a mainstay at Trader Joe's, I hope it's this one. Caffeinated cereal is something we need in our lives.

Sonia raved about this caramel coffee granola. She pointed out that the flavors are exceptionally well-balanced: the nuttiness and graininess of the granola, the earthiness of the coffee, and the sweetness of the caramel. She thought it tasted just like actual caramel. While there was definitely a nice sweet element to the cereal, I personally didn't detect anything as specific as caramel per se, but you still won't hear me complaining, because the sweetness level was just about perfect.

As far as weaknesses go, I could complain about the clusters of granola being inconsistent. Some were enormous and inedible in their initial rock-like state, but with a few jabs of a spoon, they typically would crumble into something more manageable. Not a big deal. And not that it's a weakness, but tons of black flecks fall off the granola chunks and float around in the milk. It almost looks like pepper. But it makes the residual milk taste like a diluted frappucino.

This is a must-purchase for fans of coffee and granola. It might even come in handy if you're trying to wean yourself off of eight cups of coffee a day. Having a little caffeine in your snack could help "take the edge off." Or that might just be an excuse to feed your nasty habit even more. 

But it's a darn good excuse.

Four stars from me. Perfect five from the coffee-loving Sonia

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Coffee Glazed Cashews

There are two constants in my life, as contradictory as they should be: Caffeine and being tired. Just earlier today, at 9 a.m., I felt ready for a nap. And this was after my second cup of coffee. Probably has something to do with the pace of life I live: work on average six days a week, for about 50ish hours, and chase around my two young daughters all weekend long while trying to do things like "laundry" and "housework" to give my wife a breather. She does most of the at-home heavy lifting all week long, with a pace that keeps up with if not exceeds mine at work. The private life of one of the nation's foremost amateur-hack foodie bloggers is not nearly as glamorous as one may think.

Coffee is my companion, coffee is my friend. I've tried doing less coffee, the whole "get your body into a natural rhythm"-type deal....nah, need coffee. Maybe one day. But not today, and the tomorrows for the next five to ten years (at least) look not so promising.

Trader Joe's Coffee Glazed Cashews give yet another way to ingest coffee. Coffee + snackable nuts = caffeination and snackination in one. Time efficiency. I like that the idea.

I also really liked the cashews the first few times I had them. There's a very strong coffee aromatic that hits right when the seal is cracked. The word "glazed" is a bit of a misnomer - the ground coffee is practically caked and/or crusted on. "Coffee caked cashews" would probably give the wrong impression, though, so I understand the word choice. The crunch and feel is not too much unlike other candied nuts. Decent quality cashews.

But after a few tries, I've liked them a bit less each time. As a black coffee aficionado, the added sugar makes it too sweetly-tinged for me. I don't mind nut flavored coffees black, so I don't think it was that. And as one may imagine, like eating coffee beans, the flavor is a bit strong, to the point that only a few will easily do.  I'll still munch on them, but the strong sugary coffee taste, without much of an accompanying buzz, gets to be a bit much. As a plus, that means the bag will last us quite a while.

Sandy appreciates the fact that she can open the bag and get a strong whiff of coffee at any time. I'm not sure if that means she's huffing them when I'm not around, but even if she were, I wouldn't judge. Our kids are crazy. She hasn't munched on more than a small handful or two, which is typical for her and anything she considers a treat - she still has candy from two Christmases ago. But she's going with a four for them, while I'm coming in a little lower. "Meh" worthy at best in my opinion.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Coffee Glazed Cashews: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 24, 2017

Trader Joe's Coffee Cocoa Batons

Trader Joe's is infusing everything with coffee these days. Once upon a time, they made just regular cocoa batons. Then they offered Petite Cocoa Batons. We missed last spring's mango batons as well as the pumpkin batons the previous fall. So we'll be darned if we miss out on these coffee cocoa batons.

But really, now that we've had them, I can't say you'd be missing out on a whole lot if you don't get a chance to try them. It might not really be a fair comparison, but Sonia and I would both recommend the Organic Fair Trade Espresso Dark Chocolate Batons over these crispy critters.

However, I'm sure some of you will like them. After all, like the majority of these newfangled coffee products, they do indeed taste like coffee. And dark chocolate, as well.

But as I mention in the video, eating one of them is a bit like eating a cigar.

Well, I mean, that's just silly. They're much thinner than cigars. Okay, well, then they're a bit like eating cigarillos—cigars for people who don't really want to commit to a real cigar and say "Hey everybody, I'm a cigar guy (or gal)." You know, people who just dabble in the cigar world.

But all of this rambling about cigars is pointless. I should just let our short video do the talking. It's our dumbest video yet, full of shots of us playing with our food like naughty children.

Three and a half stars from Sonia. Two and a half from me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

Let's see...Blueberry. Cranberry. Cinnamon. Cheddar. Asiago. Jalapeno. Pretzel. French toast. Maple. Chocolate chip. And that's just real quick, off the top of my head, bagel varieties I personally enjoy, that are not represented in those self-important "everything" bagels.

That said, everything bagels rule. There's just something about all that taste - the salty, the garlic-y, the onion-y, with the extra little crunch from seedss - that make them my go-to bagels more times than not. Unless I'm too tempted by that asiago...I'm always tempted by asiago.

Now, imagine if you could make literally anything taste like an everything bagel.

While others dream, TJ's does. Introducing Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend. It has everything an everything bagels has....except, namely, the bagel. That's a big something to miss from something calling itself everything, isn't it?

Use it on everything. Well okay, maybe not everything everything. I can't imagine it working well on, say, fruit or chocolate cake or in milk or, well, lots of other things. But imagine what it could be good on: eggs, quiche, various meats, steamed veggies, potatoes, in soups...that list also goes on. By itself, the salt seems very strong, but really it's the garlic and onion that really drive the flavor. It's potent and pungent and will last and last. Yes, you can get that distinctive "everything bagel breath" without stopping by your local Einstein Brothers, Bruegger's, or bagel shop of choice. As of time of writing, I re-sampled some getting close to an hour ago, and I can still taste it, and I had better do one heckuva good brushing job if I want a smooch from the Mrs anytime soon.

Good stuff. I've heard some folks toss around the words "breakfast game changer" when sprinkled on eggs. A coworker of mine marveled about the everything roasted chicken she made with this spice blend. Sandy loved it on some butternut squash soup, and for me, a light sprinkle on some roasted pork made for a good mix up from my usual spice choice. "Light" is the operative word, as it's very salty. I like how the seeds, garlic and onion retain a lot of their crunch, as one would expect from a freshly toasted everything bagel, so it seems a very accurate representation. A nice bonus is, it won't cost you everything's just $1.99! A little goes a long way, so enjoy.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, March 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Joe's Dark Coffee Squares

Yes, there are two "Joe's" in the title of this blog post because there are two "Joe's" in the title of the product being reviewed. Seems redundant to me. But then again, my last review had the name "Joe" in it three times. 

And as Russ pointed out in his last review, there has most definitely been a caffeine-laden incursion of coffee-themed commodities at Trader Joe's lately. After 2016's moderately-fruitful mango endeavor, TJ's decided to follow it up with a cascade of coffee—an even more universally-appreciated flavor. In fact, coffee is the second most traded asset in the world. In order to top that, for 2018, Trader Joe's will have to introduce a line of crude oil flavored food products. Good luck with that, Big Joe.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here. Because there are plenty more coffee items to examine right now in 2017, like these fascinating coffee squares.

Like the Mocha Joe-Joe's, they feature chocolate elements as well as real ground coffee beans. And to me, once again, the taste heavily favors coffee. The texture is not unlike a typical chocolate bar. It's a smooth, creamy effect, with a bit of that "melts-in-your-mouth" kind of vibe. 

Lacking a candy shell, these squares would easily melt in your hand if not for the convenient, if perhaps a bit wasteful, individual packaging. The bag itself is resealable, with a ziplock at the top—so there's no way you'll find these squares going stale...or doing whatever chocolate does when it's exposed to the air. Speaking of packaging, Sonia noticed that the bag has the same fonts, color schemes, and art work as Trader Joe's Dark Roast Coffee. Interesting. She's got a great eye for design like that.

The squares are fairly filling. One piece at a time is probably enough for the average Trader Joe's shopper. They make a nice after-meal treat. Or I suppose you could even have a couple for breakfast if you're running low on actual java (or Rockstar or black tea or whatever your preferred vehicle of caffeine ingestion may be). 

In the end, I didn't like these as much as the Joe-Joe's, probably because they're so rich, with the coffee flavor coming through a little too much for my personal taste. It makes me want to chug a big glass of water just thinking about the richness of them. But for people with a taste for true coffee flavor, these would be perfect. $2.99 for fourteen squares. 

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee

In case you haven't noticed, it's absolutely coffee season at Trader Joe's. Just in the past couple weeks, we've hit up amazing coffee brownies, coffee cookies, heck, even coffee flavored cased meats. And there's a lot more we haven't officially gotten to yet - but just you wait. Coffee is 2017's answer to 2016's mango, apparently.

And yes....I just realize now this will post on March 17th. St. Patty's Day. If you were hoping for something a little more Irish, check out this or this - or for the imposter green, this. My bad.

Anyways, in this coffee season, and on a day we all could use an extra about an actual coffee?

Introducing Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee. Doesn't that sound fancy and exotic? Um, I guess. There's some huge ol' write up on the back about the history of coffee being transported on ships and being exposed to the elements and how that affected the coffee and how this can of java purports to mimic all that. Well, alright, I'll take their word for it. How's it taste?

Not amazing. Not bad. As an avid black coffee drinker, I like to think I can taste the nuances of different beans and roasts and whatnot. I'm just not picking up much here. But that's not a complaint. I like my coffee to taste, first and foremost, like coffee. That's how this brew is. Medium roast, fairly even and smooth for the whole sip. The can states there's a "woodsy aromatic" which I'm not completely buying but it smells like good coffee.

That's my take. But for a better one, take Sandy's. Up until the past few weeks, her coffee cup consisted of 10 parts creamer and sugar to 1 part coffee. Now, she drinks it plain and straight too. Obligatory Airplane! reference. She adjusted rather quickly, actually, and for all the coffees we've tried at home over the past few weeks, this may have been her favorite thus far. She stated it's because the Monsooned Malabar tries to be a good coffee on its own merits, instead of relying on additives to even it all out, if that makes sense.

And yes, in the spirit of St Patty's Day, you could probably "Irish it up" a bit and it'd work  quite well.

Worth a shot. We're both pretty happy and most likely will buy again, especially with how the two of us drink coffee almost nonstop on the weekends here. Decent stuff at a decent price - $6? $7? Typical price range for TJ's coffee, so we're going with a typical TJ's coffee score.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Monsooned Malabar Coffee: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Mocha Joe-Joe's

Dunking these puppies in coffee is something akin to an Americanized Tim Tam Slam. Just as the center of a Tim Tam liquefies in the hot beverage, so too does the creamy center of these mocha-flavored sandwich cookies. And it would disintegrate and fall directly into said mug of hot coffee if not for being slurped up by some fat Yank who should no doubt be eating fewer sandwich cookies.

But if you're gonna splurge and eat sugary sandwich cookies, these are the ones to reach for. I'm not even that big into sandwich cookies in general. And I've mentioned many times that I'm not really a coffee person. But these magical Joe-Joe's are pretty delicioso if I do say so myself.

Sonia, the coffee connoisseur, agrees. She had a mug of coffee made within seconds of getting these cookies in the door, and moments later, these Mocha Joe-Joe's were swimming in java. I must admit, they taste pretty amazing when dunked. I'm guessing hot chocolate would work, too, but for some reason, coffee and these cookies just go a little too well together. Seventy cups to kill a person? I don't think I'd ever go that far. But I think I've already had enough to give me a headache, thanks to these yummy dunkables. They're so good, they hurt.

When consumed sans café, they still taste pretty coffee-esque. They do contain real ground coffee beans, but "cocoa" appears even higher on the ingredients list. I guess coffee beans are the more potent of the two, because these cookies are heavy on the coffee side of the mocha equation. They're a little earthy, but they're still very sweet. Flaunting the texture of other classic Joe-Joe's, they're the newest experimental flavor at Trader Joe's, but far more successful than those Mango fellows from last year, if you ask us.

$2.99 for 22 cookies, kosher, tasty, and über-dunkable. Four and a half stars from Sonia, four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Ancho Chile Chicken Sausage with Roasted Coffee

Trader Joe's Ancho Chile Chicken Sausage with Roasted Coffee.

Ancho. Chile. Thank God. I have never been so relieved to read those words on a shelf label before.

You see, for the past week or so, Sandy has been talking about this new chicken sausage product from TJ's that one of her friends told her about. But she kept telling me it was anchovy sausage with coffee, not ancho chile. Even if it were anchovy sausage, out of ob-blog-ation to you all, i'd still try it....but so, so begrudgingly. My excitement level for the potential purchase bottomed out near turkey meatloaf muffin level, with even less expectation, and so as to ensure an honest, unadulterated review of my opinion, I refused to Google anything about a TJ's anchovy coffee chicken sausage, lest it would prejudice my opinion any more about them before trying. You gotta admit, that sounds like a garbage disposal nightmare cuisine.

Ancho chiles are supposed to be pretty mild, with like a southwestern-y feel to them. There's more flavor to them than heat. That's more or less the feel to these sausages - really, in some ways, think of a slightly spicier sundried tomato chicken sausage, and theat's a decent approximation to the flavor. More of the spice seems to derive from the pepper and garlic than anything else. Pretty decent flavor.

I haven't mentioned the coffee part yet...because I'm not really sure what it adds. The little brown specks are certainly visible, and there's a slight coffee-ish aromatic. I'll wager that the coffee seems to mute the rest of the flavors a little bit, but in a more or less unobtrusive way, if that makes any sense. Everything seems mixed about right and evenly, with the good textural bite held together by the casing that crisped up nicely while broiling.

For whatever reason, when eating these for dinner the other night, I kept on having an incomplete vision of Guy Fieri pimping these for a Chili's commercial. It seems the kinda product/kinda thing he'd do...sounds "edgy" and "cool" and like a one way trip to Flavortown, but really, it's neither great nor bad. These sausages kinda are what they are, without much more to say about them. Just thank God that assuming TJ's QA is at least somewhat up to snuff they are anchovy-free. The four pack was $4.49, so not an awful deal, not as weird as they sound, and would be a welcome re-purchase for our household.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ancho Chile Chicken Sausage with Roasted Coffee: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, March 10, 2017

Trader Joe's Strawberry Raspberry Oatmeal

It's another riveting Friday here at WG@TJ's, as we bring you a spine-tingling review of everybody's favorite breakfast item: OATMEAL!

It's a breakfast that doesn't even possess the flair of an Egg McMuffin, or...I was going to say one of "Uncle Herschel's Favorites" from Cracker Barrel, but I was stopped in my tracks when my Google search yielded the Urban Dictionary definition of that phrase. I'm not even going to link to it here...because it's filthy. But if you're so inclined, I mean, I did promise you something "spine-tingling" today...although it might be more along the lines of "boorishly lewd" to many of you...I know it was for me. Just don't say I didn't warn you.

Ahem. Back to the oatmeal.

This selection is different from a lot of other pre-packaged oatmeal, in that it's not quite as sweet. There's a moderate amount of brown sugar, but the natural flavor of oats is definitely the dominant taste. Certain bites contain enough freeze dried strawberries and raspberries to taste tart and fruitastic, but by and large the flavor of this oatmeal is quite subtle. Perhaps a bit too subtle. Some people might use the word "bland."

That was Sonia's take, too. She rarely adds sweeteners to products other than black coffee, but confessed this might be one of those products that needs a little bit of agave or stevia or honey or simple syrup or whatever healthy sugar is in right now.

We made the oatmeal with a mixture of about 2 parts water, 1 part half and half. I usually prefer just plain old milk, but we didn't have any on hand, and this mixture of water plus half and half is what Sonia usually uses for oatmeal. We ALWAYS have half and half on hand because Sonia uses it with her morning java. And it works. The oatmeal usually has a fair amount of creaminess, and it adds a touch more flavor and substance than just water.

For $1.29 per cup, there are quite a few other oatmeals at TJ's that might be a better value. Here are the "Search This Blog" results for "oatmeal." I couldn't tell you which of those products are currently available, but there are definitely a handful of offerings on that list that scored better with our team. This one gets three stars a piece from Sonia and I.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Grass Fed Buffalo Milk Butter

Ladies and gentlemen, consider the American buffalo. A strong and mighty animal, a national icon, revered by generations and immortalized by legend, songs, and even our currency. They're also scary as heck. Source: One stuck his/her head into my open car window at one of those drive-thru safari-type deals in central Ohio. Now, I know that buffalo are not carnivorous beasts but I feared my arm would get chewed off, and hearing the air shuffle in and out of a buffalo's nostril from like six inches away is intimidating at the very least. I'm glad that when I drove off, it didn't take my car door with it.

There's also all sort of buffalo meat products, some of which covered on this blog, like burgers and jerky and whatnot. Lean, meaty, tasty. Just like a good animal should.

And apparently, there's also now Trader Joe's Grass Fed Buffalo Milk Butter.

Returning once again to my albeit limited knowledge of buffalo, I know that buffalo are mammals. Mammals make milk. That also means that buffalo have nipples, which I never thought of until now, but came to mind because one of Robert DeNiro's greatest cinematic lines ever. Baby buffs need to eat somehow, I suppose....still. Buffalo nipples. No thanks.

Moving on....with buffalo milk you can make buffalo butter. That's what TJ's did, because, well, why not, right? If that doesn't sound exotic enough, it's "lightly salted with pink Himalayan salt." Hoo boy.

Despite all that, this butter tastes not all that different from regular butter. There's no overriding "weird factor" at play here. Maybe the only weird thing is how normal it is. If anything, the butter tastes a little milder, and maybe a touch less salty, but there's nothing abundantly different with it. We're primarily Kerrygold fans in our house (please, no "vegetable oil spreads" for us), and there's a difference: that aforementioned mildness.There's an extra something to Kerrygold which isn't there with the TJ's buffalo butter, but that's not meant as a pejorative. I can only taste the difference because, for the sake of the blog, I sampled both straight off a spoon* and I'd say is a tossup which one I like more. That's some praise.

I will add that the buffalo butter isn't too prone to spreading. It's hard when chilled, and even if kept out for a bit, the butter never really spreads that much. It's not a big deal for me, as the only time I spread butter is on top of something fresh out of the toaster, and this butter melts nicely when given the right conditions.

We like it. Seems healthier than regular butter - less cholesterol? I'm a guy reaching my mid 30s. Yes please! - without sacrificing too terribly much. I'm not sure if this "our new butter" or not, but I've caught both my wife and my kids eating it just straight*, a smidge here, a tidbit there after using it on toast or a waffle. I don't get it, but it's part of the package deal. The small tub was only a few bucks and worth the pickup. Sandy's only real complaint was it's tub form, making it more difficult to measure for recipes and the like. No other real complaints one way or another.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Grass Fed Buffalo Milk Butter: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Eating butter straight is disgusting. I only sampled some straight off a spoon for the purpose of this blog....people like my wife and kids do this willingly. Ugh. Cold lardy spread with nothing else? Gross. Really gross. Don't do it. Ever.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Josephsbrau Spring Prost

Following in the footsteps of other Gordon Biersch-produced, Trader Joe's-distributed, seasonally-inspired Josephsbrau brews, here we have a delightful vernal offering of Maibock style lager.

I retained enough of my high school and college German to know that "Mai" means May, and that these beers are traditionally served at spring festivals in that particular very merry month. And while we're still just getting into the swing of my other favorite month that starts with "M," it is feeling significantly warmer than Sonia and I are used to this time of year since we're still exploring the Carolinas—a great deal farther south than we've been at this time of year for the past six years or so. All that to say, it feels appropriate enough to be consuming spring-themed products at this particular juncture.

I have certainly heard of bocks and Maibocks before, but I've actually never heard of a "prost" prior to laying eyes on this product. They probably deliberately avoided the word in our German classes because teaching it to us would have been construed by certain overprotective parents and/or uptight faculty as encouraging underage drinking, since the word is inextricably intertwined with beer, and is used to say "cheers" auf Deutsch.

As far as the actual product goes, I think I enjoyed this one the most of any Josephsbrau beverages that I've tried thus far. It was somewhat foamy, with a larger-than-usual head, and it poured a color I'd put somewhere between mahogany and amber. It tasted nutty, caramelly, and moderately bitter. I found it slightly smoother and more drinkable than most beers, and I'd happily purchase it again at $1.17 per bottle. Sonia tried it and was similarly pleased, but perhaps not quite as much as I was.

Three and a half stars from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.