2020. There's one for the books. Appropriate to end the year with a product that actually has "2020" in its name, dontcha think?
Thursday, December 31, 2020
Trader Joe's 2020 Vintage Spiced Ale
Tuesday, December 29, 2020
Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust
Sure, maybe they're being super friendly brand ambassadors trying to make an easy natural conversation, but it's happened way too many times to be coincidence. Can any employee confirm?
This is mentioned in reference to the new Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust because while checking out, not just my cashier exclaimed this about this pizza, but two others I walked past as I was walking out. It kinda helps that they know who I am and want to say Hi and wondering what new thing I'm picking up for the blog...but when one of them, whose opinion you generally trust, exclaims "it's one of the best pizzas I ever had!", I follow with a clarifying question of "Pizza pizza or frozen pizza?" and she assuredly states "Pizza. Period.", well, it kinda gets a mind a-wanderin' and a tummy a-growlin'.
Making this only one time so far, I'm not sure if this is an everytime occurrence or not, but during baking the crust puffed up to deflated soccer ball size. Literally, I had a 5 inch tall pizza mound baking. Cheese and pesto slipped off, dropping to the oven floor, making the smoke alarm obnoxiously blare like some dumb kid with subwoofers driving down the street. Relatedly, the toppings also rearranged themselves, making them not quite as uniformly spread out as before. My lovely bride and I shared a pie, and we each only got about two, maybe three smallish bites of pesto on our portions.
At $5.99 for a smallish pie, it's a good enough value. it says three servings per pizza, which sounds slim to me. Half a pizza and some veggies or side salad sounds like a much more appropriate dinner. And yeah, it's still frozen pizza, so there's much healthier things out there (looking at you, fat and sodium), but c'mon now. So happy with the pizza, it's definitely taken the crown of my favorite TJ's pizza. Still can't beat our homemade though. Double fours.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Wednesday, December 23, 2020
Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Cashews
Okay, anybody else else looking forward to new season of "Letterkenny" debuting this weekend? Anyone? I'm almost looking forward to it more than Christmas Day itself.
Anyhoos if you know anything about the show, you'd know that the main character, Wayne, and his buddies have many mantras they repeat. Very few of them are publishable here. But that top quote is, and through all the adult banter and silly stuff like riffs on ants riding SeaDoos (NSFW - and this is tame for the show), some of that all stick through.
Well pitter patter, let's get at her. What's more efficient than snackination with caffeination with a side of TJ'sination for your situation? Nothing.
Enter Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Cashews. It's all that and a bag of nuts. I hope and pray these are still available next time we get into a TJ's as these have gotten me through some very long work days as of late.
These nuts are fantastic. Cashews are already pretty much the king of the snack nut world. Pecans could be a challenger, and pistachios would higher if not for the shell. Take a batch, and roast them up. That's already fantastic...but a bit plain. So get some caramel coffee goo and coat all the cashews and let them dry. Fantastic.
Sharply minded readers and TJ's aficionados may recall a similarish product sans caramel in the past. Maybe it's the nuts, maybe it's me, maybe I'm nuts, but I like these better. A lot better. Delish.
And as Letterkenny fans may know, there is an episode entitled "Nut" which I will not reference here aside from this. I think my lovely bride is due to watch it tonight on my rewatch/her first go through leading up to the new season. Gotta long day at work first to get through first - it's a great day for hay! - , then kids in bed - I'm gonna need some more of these nuts to get there.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Caramel Coffee Cashews: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Monday, December 21, 2020
Trader Joe's Festive Chocolate Collection
In general, I try to look beyond the physical—beyond the surface, to discern what lies beneath a thing, a person, or an idea. But sometimes, sheer physical beauty is its own end. Take, for instance, a Christmas tree or Christmas lights or Christmas decorations in general. If you ask a dozen people what a Christmas tree means to them, you'll get a dozen different answers. But that doesn't take away from the fact that all 12 of said people will agree that it's a pretty thing—a lovely sight to behold.
Thursday, December 17, 2020
Trader Joe's Olive Chicken Bites
Take, for instance, this: Who would watch a chicken drop a spherical white orb from its butt and decide, "Hey, I wanna pick this up." I mean, I've seen an egg fresh from the source, and let's just say there's a lot of cleaning involved before it makes its way into a carton. A LOT of cleaning. But then, pick it up, decide to crack it open, see all the egg insides and then have the insight to add a heat source and watch it firm up and then decide to actually eat it...and find out that it's really good? Especially with salsa. Crazy. I never would have come up with that myself.
Nor would I have invented something quite as silly as Trader Joe's Olive Chicken Bites.
No, I am not saying that these newish frozen appetizers are going to be a dietary cornerstone like eggs, cuz no, that's ridiculous. But who thinks of putting an olive inside a chicken bite...and how does that actually taste, anyways.
So all that stuff aside from the olive makes up the outer shell. There's nothing too wrong with it. It is dark meat, which i don't mind but I know that's a deal breaker for some. The meat itself is the chicken nuggety-y variety, all kinda mashed and shredded with the potatoes and onions kinda holding it all together. Kay. Not bad, but not overly flavorful, aside from the flavor leaking out from the olive core.
There's not much flavor other than the olive, though. A little dipping sauce would probably go a long way towards appreciating the product. A little cheese here could real compliment it well.
Anyways, pretty much everyone in my family except me turned their nose at them. I ate them...not happily, I was just hungry. Back to those PBJs I guess for everyone. For $4.99 I was kinda expecting this experience but was hopeful for better. Oh well. Not gonna score too high here, let's just call it a 4 and move on.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Olive Chicken bites: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Wednesday, December 16, 2020
Trader Joe's Chocolate Lava Gnocchi
Gnoccolate. C'mon, man. You missed a golden opportunity to create a beautiful new word, Trader Joe.
Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar
Trader Joe's. Check.
Candy cane. Yes.
Dark chocolate. Texas sized 10-4.
A chocolate bar with a name like Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar should be fun, festive, seasonal, joy inducing. A cure for what ails ya. It should be a little snippet of merriment, a little piece of contentment, a little bite of something good in a world gone mad. I mean, it's a candy bar, but really, can you blame anyone for pinning at least a little hopes of something positive on it.
Hate to sound grinchy, but that's a bit too much for this chocolate bar. It's simply just okay, kinda good but certainly not great. Let's run through that list again and see what's naughty and nice.
Trader Joe's - on the nice list! Really, did you expect anything different?
Candy cane. Oh there's plenty of candy cane, and it's very candy cane-y. That's a good thing. The "generously topped with crushed peppermint" is a bit of an oversell - I prefer the underpromise/overdeliver model of satisfaction personally - but there's plenty enough little candy cane shard that get all up in there and in tooth crevices and whatnot to make the bar plenty candy-cane'd up. Nice and minty and everything. No issue.
Joe-Joe's. Well, okay, here's where things start going sideways. For the uninitiated, Joe-Joe's are TJ's version of Oreos. They're rather ridiculously tasty, and featured plenty this time of year in all sorts of festive offerings. But here? It's literally just cookie crumbs from the Joe-Joe's table. There's not a lot of them, and the ones present are rather small. This could be forgiven if Joe-Joe's creme filling were somehow incorporated (like a little reservoir in the bar itself?) but nope. The cookie essence is completely lost as the cookie crumbs aren't prominent enough in either size or taste to stand out at all. It just feels like another small crunchy bit that could be attributed to a candy cane instead. Not enough in my book.
Dark chocolate; The usual goodness here. As usual, i could do darker but no complaints.
There ya have it. For a $1.99 you could do better for sure, and while these won't ruin your day, if your kid ends up snatching the whole thing to use for shingles for a gingerbread house you shouldn't be heartbroken either. Middling score here all around with a double 3.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Candy Cane Joe-Joe's Dark Chocolate Bar: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons.
Friday, December 11, 2020
Trader Joe's Nog Protein Beverage Smoothie
Wednesday, December 9, 2020
Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds
On to today's feature: Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds!
In yet another entry into the ever expanding catalog of TJ's chocolate nut varieties, these almonds are fairly new to stores within the past few weeks. Nothing says Christmas like a candy cane, and feeling a little nuts.
And I can see why. These candy-coated almonds make quite a tasty treat. There's a few layers at work here. At the core is your average tasty roasted almond. Who can hate that? No one, unless you're allergic or something. Then, like the rest of us, they're clothed in layers. For the under garmies is a decent, maybe half millimeter thick layer of dark chocolate. As expected, it's the typical tasty TJ's variety. Yums. Then atop of that, for warmth, is the outer layer of white chocolate. Can't argue there. And lastly, for final touches, are little teeny nuggs of candy cane for a minty touch. The more you eat, the mintier they get.
So yup, we liked them. Sandy, even after being dealt with a weird random case of heartburn from them, had a few more bites and we had to negotiate the fate of the last handful of survivors. Tasty stuff.
At $3.99 for the small tub, it's not an awful deal either. I could definitely buy 'em again and put them in a candy dish somewhere...or more likely stash away so i can eat 'em all myself. If someone took all mine, then i could be all bah-humbuggery and poopy-pantsery about that. Good stuff, calling it a double fours de force.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Candy Cane Chocolate Covered Almonds: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Monday, December 7, 2020
Trader Joe's Trail Mix Crackers
This has been a year of curveballs and surprises—mostly unpleasant ones. That's been true for the world at large and very much true in my own personal life, as well. So I decided to do a surprise review of a non-Christmas item right in the middle of the Christmas season. Crazy, right?
Thursday, December 3, 2020
Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies
Anyhoos, we're adaptable and doing a smaller thing this year and taking it on the road. Yup, still making cookies, and gonna deliver to some folks this weekend, so we've still been busy with making cookies..and storing them...and smacking away each other's hands so we have enough for the cookie tins...and kids (myself included) still want to eat cookies while staring at them all day, literally within arm's reach, as we're doing work and school from home.
So if we wanted to get some Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies to help hold us over this week, who can blame us?
But that doesn't mean these tree cookies aren't any good. Nah. They're downright delish. That cookie base isn't quite a shortbread - it's not as crumbly - but not exactly a sugar cookie - not crispy enough - either. Nah. it's like a nice little marriage of the two for texture, with a little hint of sugar. That's all that's needed to serve up the milk chocolate filling, of which there is plenty. The cookie itself even seems a little indented so to have a reservoir to have a little scooch extra filling, which, let's be honest, should be okay with literally everyone reading this. Gotta love the milk chocolate. I usually side more towards darker, but if this were a dark chocolate, it'd likely be too rich a cookie with the amount of filling/frosting slabbed atop. That white chocolate drizzle is a nice little touch, as is the sprinkles. Do they literally meet the definition of "decked out"? likely not, but the cookies are kinda cute, kinda snazzy, and definitely tasty, and what else does one need from a Christmas cookie really?
While not worthy to be the centerpiece of a holiday cookie tray, there's not a thing wrong with them either. Kids will likely love them. Mine sure did. And heck I don't really mind them either. And at like $3 for a tray of 8 cookies it's not a bad deal either. While not blown away, we are quite happy enough to give them a good score.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Decked Out Tree Cookies: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Wednesday, December 2, 2020
Trader Joe's Gluten Free Italian Panettone
Sometimes I wonder if I wasn't supposed to be born into a big Italian family. I'd never even heard of the Feast of the Seven Fishes until a couple days ago, after watching the 2018 indie film by the same name. Seven types of fish and seafood all on the same day? Yes, please. I like the way you Italians roll.
Tuesday, December 1, 2020
Trader Joe's Stepping It Up Spicy Snack Bar Mix
Along with the Chex mix there's a constant chorus, and I don't mean just from 'last Christmas" or 'All i Want for Christmas is You." No, in reference to the Chex mix, it's "no mining! No mining!" What's that mean? That means no digging around for the very best bites, like the wheat Chex that got a little extra soaky in Worchestershire sauce. Take a scoop, and you get what you get and you don't get upset. No mining. It's sacred tradition.
We may have to make a new one for Trader Joe's Stepping it Up Spicy Snack Bar Mix.
Acutely minded readers and shoppers may recall the Step Up to the Snack Bar Mix that TJ's has peddled in recent years. This is a spicy sibling, a seasonal sidekick, a spirited sequel.
And man, it's good.
There's some of the usual suspects around - almonds, cheese sticks, big clunky pretzel pieces a la broken up sourdough bites - all covered in this dusty, spicy seasoning blend. It's everywhere and while mostly tasting like seasoned salt, there are some hot pepper kicks sneaking through here and there. Allegedly some of the pieces have different seasoning - like the pretzels are supposed to have "sweet jalapeno" - but a lot of that gets lost literally in the mix. Not a complaint, it's good.Peruvian corn snacks TJ's has carried in recent years. If you're not familair, think huge, crunchy corn kernels, all crispified and mummified. It's a bit of an odd bite if you'tre not accustomed. While I don't mind them particularly, the "big crunch" factor for a good snack mix has already been satisfied by the pretzel chunks, so i would have preferred a smaller or alternative form.
All of that doesn't mention the absolute best part, though: the pasila chile and sesame chips. My goodness. I'd inhale a sack full of these bad boys. I love sesame chips and sticks and all that kinda stuff, so naturally I'm inclined to be fairly fond of them, but there's something about them - maybe their own chile flavors, maybe the excess seasoning shook off on them - that make them extra tasty to snack on for a fine snacking target. No mining? No rule here, though yes, my lovely bride invoked it to make sure she got some.
Overall spice level isn't too bad, maybe a 5, perhaps a 6 at most. Most people can handle it. My kids couldn't, which is a plus - more for me! The Stepping It Up mix goes very well with an IPA, as I confirmed on a few different nights recently. Pick some up for a little kick - at $4.99 for the can, you may discover (as we did) that it goes fast. Double fours here!
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Stepping It Up Spicy Snack bar Mix: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Wednesday, November 25, 2020
Trader Joe's Creamed Greens
It's kind of ironic and counterintuitive, but Thanksgiving Day and the days surrounding it produce some of the lowest numbers for us on this blog as far as traffic is concerned. You might think that what is arguably the most food-centric day of the year would generate greater interest in food blogs and such, but you'd be wrong.
Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.
Tuesday, November 24, 2020
Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend
This past Sunday was. First of all, it was a Sunday. Also: cool, rainy, all not-sure-if-November-or-March outside (in so many ways, actually). The kinda day that just made you want to curl up with a warm blanket and cats and books and movies while the crockpot did its thing all day to bring forth a warm, comforting meal that goes down easy.
One of the best things about potato soup is: you can make it taste however you want with toppings and mix-ins. In my opinion you gotta go with bacon, cheese and green onion at the very least, but then something else is needed. Something to give it a little more flavor, a little pizzazz, a little je ne sais quoi. Could go hot sauce or salsa, sure, but sometimes, that's not what I'm looking for.
Turns out it was Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend.
Inspired by the "holy trinity" of onions, carrots and celery (or as the French would say, mirepoix), the Italian soffrito seasoning is very evocative of those elements without actually featuring carrots or celery. There's a lot of onion, for sure, which adds a little punch and really drives the overall flavor, but the rest of the ingredients like garlic or rosemary or crushed red pepper taste more like the seasonings one could put on those veggies instead of the actual veggies. Which works, because that's what one tastes anyway from a mirepoix/soffrito/onions, carrots and celery. I really wish we Americans had a cool name for all that. Still, a little dried carrot and celery salt could have been used, just to pay proper homage, but I'm not going to quibble too much and just run with it. It's just too good, with herbal warmth, the right amount of salt (neither too much nor too little), the smallest of kicks
Speaking of fours, we're gonna hit it with two of them and add a little more, because that's what you're gonna be doing once you give this a try. Boom.
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Italian Style Soffrito Seasoning Blend: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons.
Friday, November 20, 2020
Trader Joe's Cranberry Orange Relish
Tuesday, November 17, 2020
Trader Joe's Cornbread Bites
Monday, November 16, 2020
Trader Joe's Spicy Chakri Mix
Thursday, November 12, 2020
Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla
It's legendary out here in the Pittsburgh area. Maybe there's something similar wherever you are, but here, every fall, at the local chain Mad Mex, it's officially Gobblerito season. it's literally Thanksgiving dinner as a burrito - turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, black beans and corn all wrapped up and served with gravy and cranberry. Somehow, all my life I've avoided trying one until just a few weeks ago, and I am lost in the awareness of the error of my ways. It's amazing. It's huge. It's comforting.
And it's a major dietary depth charge. It's so bad for you it practically makes Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla look like health food.
The two other ingredients, though, are worth more insight. First off, the butternut squash. My lovely bride loves butter nut squash while I'm much more ambivalent towards it. We decided to share a quesadilla for lunch the other day, and after just one bite, she unwrapped the whole thing and plinko'ed out every bit of squash she could. Never, in all my years...I took a bite, expecting some shenanigans of the crookneck pumpkin variety. None, really. But my wife? Couldn't stand it. "it...It just doesn't work here, with everything else," she said. With a little unpacking, it seemed that maybe the fibrous nature of the mini chunks weren't the hoped-for mouthfeel, and perhaps some mashed or squashed squash would have been a better option. Taste was good, feel was off. Make of that as you will.
That being, said, in all, the turkey quesadilla made a good enough lunch which we may or may not repeat buy. Costs $4.49 (way less than a Gobblerito!) which puts it in the right kind of price range for a quick grab, easy, filling meal. Matching 3.5s from us!
Bottom line: Trader Joe's Gobbler Quesadilla: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons