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, January 20, 2017

Trader Giotto's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites

"You wanna taste something truly amazing?"

I'm not asked that question nearly enough.

But forgive me for being a skeptical when my lovely bride Sandy asked me that the other night while motioning to the half-eaten bag of Trader Gitoo's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites on the shelf. I've heard from other folks that they're pretty tasty little snackers...but truly amazing? I'm in favor of not cheapening our language, so to me, those words should not be carelessly tossed about. These bites better be something else.

"You know when we make, like, real homemade mac 'n cheese and there's those little pieces of slightly burned or crispy cheese? They're just like those. Promise."

Well, that's definitely a good step towards being truly amazing.

Giotto's cheesy tidbits are something else. Yet not. That's the thing: the only ingredient is cheese! Well, technically two cheeses. There's the mysteriously labelled semi-aged cheese (now that sounds like a gamble) and grana padano cheese. Never heard of grana padano? Me neither. I'm a sheltered 'murican.  But apparently it's at least somewhat akin to parmigiano reggiano if you're familiar, a really good parmesan if you're not.

I'm going to presume that it's the grana padano from which the cheese bites derive much of their flavor, because there's a definite strong parmigiano/parmesan vibe to them. Very strong. This isn't quite right, but the words "pleasantly pungent" come to mind. The taste also strays a bit towards salty for me - after a few I really wanted a tall glass of water - but it's a very cheesing and pleasing taste that makes it hard to eat just one.

It also helps that even though oven-baked, there's a crumbly, slightly greasy comfort food vibe. But so crunchy! Very, very crunchy. I'm not sure of the all the science into baking nothing but two types of mysterious cheese into a crunchy shelf stable form without adding anything....but here it is. Sandy said that the crunch form also held up very well when she tossed a handful into her black bean soup at lunch. Crunch retained, no sogginess even after several minutes. Nice.

Sandy loves these. Most times I have to tease her opinion out a little bit for my reviews. Not this time around. "Five. No question. Five. Pantheon worthy." Well...I'm not entirely certain of that. I'd be inclined to go more of a four (that aforementioned saltiness is a bit much) but...apparently in the last six months or so I've spontaneously developed this amplified crunching ability which rattles my wife's eardrums to no end. Like, it's really loud. I don't know, sounds the same to me, but apparently this newly bestowed gift was on full display with these cheese bites. I had to apologize, and part of my retribution, I'll bump another half point. Not sure of cost, but inexpensive enough that Sandy bought two bags without feeling guilty, so not too much. Check 'em out...if you want to try something truly amazing.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons


  1. I'll be looking for these during my next trip. Starbucks has been selling smallish bags of Moon Cheese (same concept) for about $5. I'm suspecting what you found at Trader Joe's is probably half that price.

    1. These are far superior to Moon Cheese, which I didn't care for.

  2. Been waiting for you to do these! I found them two weeks ago and had to routinely take the bag away from myself to avoid eating it all in one go. I have a nearly 15-hour flight coming up next month and plan on taking these beauties with me!

  3. This review got me so excited to try them...until I saw "animal rennet" as the last ingredient. Oh well. I'll have to live vicariously through you.

  4. I bought these a week ago. They are fantastic on top of soup. I put them atop tomato soup and I plan to use them with French onion soup

  5. It would be a great gluten-free breadcrumb topping for mac & cheese!!

  6. Oh. Man. These things are amazing!

  7. What's going on with Sonia? I haven't read your blog in a while and I'm sad to see her go. Good luck with your new marriage (unless she's the same person with a new nickname.) I hope she lives up to Sonia's quality of reviews.