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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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 either...it'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