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Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cheese. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Trader Joe's Chevre with Honey


I learned to appreciate goat cheese at a very young age, but for many, many years I saw it only as a savory, salty kind of food and couldn't see pairing it with anything dessert-esque or adding anything sweet to it.

Trader Joe's changed all that with their affordable line of exotic cheeses including Blueberry Chevre and Cranberry Chevre. I get it now. Chevre, in particular, does lend itself to sweet ingredients. Fruits, or in this case honey, can balance out the tartness of the rich, creamy cheese and add a satisfying lusciousness to it. Sweet chevre and crackers have become one of my favorite hors d'oeuvres in recent years.

Some of you might recall Trader Joe's Jalapeño and Honey Chevre. I think that one's still my favorite, but if you're not into jalapeños or not craving anything spicy at the moment, this is a great sweet-tart cheese to reach for. It's best with water crackers or brioche toast so the flavors of the honey and cheese can shine without any competition from the bread.


I'm sure there's a bunch of other stuff you could do with this cheese: add it to a berry salad, have it with fruit, or maybe just pair it with a nice Sauvignon Blanc. For $2.99, it's a great way to jazz up any get together or party with high class appetizers that won't break the bank.

Sonia gives Trader Joe's Chevre with Honey Goat's Milk Cheese four and a half out of five stars. I give it four out of five.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Trader Joe's Organic Crumbled Feta Cheese


When I was a kid, I had allergies to a few very common foods including cow's milk and dairy-based cheeses. My mother had the same allergies, so our family did a rotation diet where we'd eat soy milk one day, rice milk the next day, then nut milks like almond milk, and then finally there was goat milk day. On goat milk day, we could have feta cheese with our meats and salads. I wasn't thrilled with it at first, but it really grew on me over the years. By age ten or eleven, while other kids were turning their noses up at unusual fare like feta cheese, I was seeking it out and educating my Velveeta-loving friends about the tangy, flavorful goat milk cheese.

And while Trader Joe's Organic Crumbled Feta Cheese is still tangy and flavorful, it's actually made with cow's milk, which mellows it out just a little bit. It's still undeniably feta-esque in taste and texture, though. Thankfully, I grew out of my food allergies and can eat pretty much whatever I want these days, so the cow's milk isn't an issue.


Trader Joe's Organic Crumbled Feta is a fairly salty cheese, which might turn off some folks, but the briny edge worked well in this instance if you ask Sonia or me. We added it to salads, sandwiches, pasta, and omelettes, among other things. The little tub disappeared fast. I want to say this was our second or third time purchasing this product, and I'm sure we'll get it again.

$3.49 for the tub. Organic. NOT non-dairy. I neglected to snap a pic of the ingredients and nutrition information, so just click here for all of that stuff. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Organic Crumbled Feta Cheese.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Limoncello Gouda Cheese


I'm fairly certain it was one of the seven universal principles of Hermes Trismegistus that states, and I'm paraphrasing here, that given any two good and pleasant things, when combined, despite expectation, may not necessarily yield a third transcendent good and pleasant thing. It's known as the Hermetic Chocolate Gum Axiom, as it was first applied to ancient Egyptian chocolate and Greek chewing gum...I think. Or perhaps I'm confusing it with this theory I heard from a food blogger a few times.

At any rate, it's a good theory and, well, it applies here unfortunately. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a pretty big fan of all things lemon-flavored. I've only had it a few times in my life, but I absolutely love limoncello. And gouda cheese is, of course, normally good, huh? Get it? Gouda = good, huh? Never mind. It's tangy and sweet and what's not to love?

But "sweet" for a cheese isn't really the same kind of sweet as limoncello. I mean, Swiss cheese is "sweet," but you wouldn't make lemonade-flavored Swiss cheese would you? Somehow Trader Joe's Limoncello Gouda sounds a tad more legit than Trader Joe's Lemonade Swiss, but I think the results are about the same. It's just not sweet enough to be called limoncello. I mean it tastes like limoncello...and gouda. But it's roughly got the sweetness level of normal gouda cheese.

Perhaps I'm simply not a fan of lemon-flavored cheeses. I wasn't as enthused about the Lemon Ricotta as I was hoping I would be, but I must admit that cheese worked a little better than this one did, IMO. This one is pretty far from being desserty, and it's got too much limoncello flavor to function like a traditional gouda.

Sonia agrees it isn't sweet enough but she, as usual, won't be too harsh on the product because she's still optimistic she'll figure out a way to use the cheese in some manner that will work. We're open to suggestions if you've got any.

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

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 15, 2022

Trader Joe's Chive Cheddar Cheese

Chive. Cheddar. Cheese. Cha cha cha.

That allium family is at it again. Garlic, onions, scallions, leeks, and...you guessed it: chives. I don't know that I've ever even had a proper chive outside of, say, sour cream and chive dip. But I know I like the flavor of chives, just like I like the flavor of garlic, shallots, scallions, and leeks. They have that savory, oniony, herby, planty flavor. Yum.

And it's here in this tasty block of Irish cheddar. To my taste buds, this cheese falls somewhere in the middle as far as the sharp vs mild spectrum goes. It's tangy, smooth, and creamy. High quality cheddar is never cheap—in this case, about five bucks for 6 ounces. But it's definitely worth splurging for once in a while.

There are little green flecks of chives all over the rind of this cheese. One side of it is nearly completely covered in chive bits. Through the rest of the chunk of cheese, the chives are somewhat scarce. 

That's Sonia's biggest complaint. She wants more chives and more chive flavor, distributed evenly throughout the product. I see where she's coming from, but I'm fine with a few super chivey bites followed by a few not-so-chivey bites since the cheddar is impressive all on its own.

I could probably eat this whole wedge of cheese in one sitting, just snacking on it by itself or with complementary crackers. We've also tried it in an omelette made with spinach and eggs. Delicious. It melts well and it's got such a nice milky taste and texture, I'm sure there are a thousand other things we could do with it, but it probably won't last that long.

Put me down for a solid four stars and the desire to purchase it again. Put the beautiful wifey down for three and a half, as in she liked it but she'll probably want to try something new next time we splurge for cheese at Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda Cheese

Okay. Time for some real cheese. Vegans and lactose-intolerants, thanks for tuning in today, but you may want to sit this one out.

Where's a good place to start? The label, maybe? Note that it says "caramel washed" rather than caramel-infused or caramel-flavored. In fact, there's not a ton of caramel taste here, much to my chagrin. I mean, there's almost something innately caramel-esque in other gouda cheeses I've had, and this variety doesn't seem to be head-and-shoulders more caramelly, if that makes sense. There's still just a whisper of caramel.

The cheese is nutty and creamy, and perhaps a bit bolder than other goudas I've tried by virtue of this one having "aged 5 months." It's rich and ever so slightly sweet. Yes, I do wish it were a tad sweeter.

Although just now as I'm writing this, Sonia has used the remaining portions of our block of gouda to make grilled cheese...and it tastes sweeter than I remember. It actually makes a very decent, exotic-tasting sandwich. I much prefer it this way to room temperature, served on crackers. It's almost like the heat woke up the flavors, including the sweetness. The texture is better this way, too.

Sonia points out that it's not as oily as other goudas, which is a big plus in her book. It's nice and thick and creamy, texture-wise, but not super greasy. She gives this cheese a solid four and a definite thumbs up. I might have been tempted to go lower, but after having it as a grilled cheese sandwich, I think it's easily in the "would purchase again" tier of cheeses, so I'll go with a respectable three and a half. Apparently Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda has been around for at least seven years or so. "Better late than never" applies here.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Camembert Cheese and Cranberry Sauce Fillo Bites

Oh boy! Here's an ostensibly brand new product for March 2022. I think it's supposed to be a St. Patrick's Day hor d'oeuvre or maybe a meat-free Friday Lent snack, right? It's definitely not like we found it at the back of our freezer that we were in the process of clearing out since spring cleaning is right around the corner.

I'm sure it's not been sitting there for months, like it was intended as a Thanksgiving side or Christmas appetizer or Valentine's Day treat...unless maybe it was. Fact-checkers, feel free to disregard all assertions made in these first two paragraphs of this review. Or feel free to fact-check us and cause some controversy. No such thing as bad publicity and all that.

The point is that this product probably isn't brand new, or even in season, or even available at Trader Joe's right now. In fact, a quick "Search This Blog" inquiry would suggest that it was available at Trader Joe's stores in November/December 2015.


If that upsets you, please bookmark this review and return circa late November or December 2022 when these thoughts may or may not be more relevant than they seem to be right now.

Just FYI, the "best by" date on these was April 2023, so it's not like it's been in our freezer for centuries. We're still preparing the product more than a year before it expires, so freshness shouldn't be an issue. However, the Camembert cheese might be. I'm just sensitive to all mold cheeses like Brie, Roquefort, and Stilton. But I'll taste just about anything once. So I did. And all I could taste was mold. So I decided to let Sonia score these all on her own.

She loved the phyllo dough. It was nice and crispy and flaky like it usually is with similar Trader Joe's appetizers. The sweet and tart cranberry sauce was a nice touch, but it could have been more prevalent. She doesn't think there was enough of it to offset the bitterness of the Camembert.

In the end, I guess she's not really a mold cheese gal, either. She wanted to like these crispy, cheesy little apps, but they're not really her thing. Some bites had a "chewiness" that turned her off, in addition to the grassy, planty flavor that she detected. We both wanted these to be dessert-like, but the prevalent flavor was that of a cheese that's apparently just too sophisticated for either of our palates. At a quick glance, there are plenty of dissenting opinions out there in cyberspace, but this probably isn't a repeat purchase for Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese

It's Friday and that means only one thing in our house: it's jammie movie pizza night! My lovely bride and our *coughcough* charming little rascals look forward to it every week...especially the pizza. Say what you will about the last twoish years, but one of the upshots is that we've really perfected the craft of homemade pizza, and are continuing to branch out...I can't wait til it's warm enough to fire up the OOni we bought ourselves for Christmas!

So yeah we love pizza here, love making it...and maybe that's the problem we have with Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese. 

Perhaps it's silly me. I bought this on a whim on a pizza supply procurement run. I figured it'd be great atop a pizza. That's...not really the case. This cheese just doesn't melt as well as a good mozzarella. And unlike mozzarella, which adds a little of its own mildness that absorbs and incorporates spice and taste and zing from other elements of the pizza, this cheese tries to do it all by itself. It's seasoned to be a pizza, not to be for a pizza, at least to me. The garlic gets too roasty sweet and the rest of the spice blend is a tick or two off from what I prefer.


That and there's this odd tang that toscano has that I forgot that I'm always on the fence of enjoying. 

Probably if sprinkled in a salad or atop a baked potato or into some scrambled eggs I'd enjoy it a bit more. Undeniably, the toscano is going for a pizzaesque vibe, and it does taste at least somewhat like a decent pizza all by itself, and if more things could taste like pizza, well...I don't know. Maybe it's one of those "it's decent but not for us" kinda deals, especially for making pizza so we can season it as we wish, not how this cheese imposes, if you follow. 

I'll go nice and say it's not bad. If it dig it, by all means enjoy, maybe in your jammies while watching Encanto for the 17th time tonight like we just might be.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Shredded Pizza Seasoned Toscano Cheese: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar

 

Certain things really don't need a sales pitch. Cold, frosty beer, for instance. A nice summer afternoon at a ballgame, or a cool autumn morning on the porch with a cup of hot coffee. Air conditioning. So on and so forth. 

Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar? No contest here. It's just the way it is. 

Spicy cheese is always tops on my list. It's really hard to beat a good pepperjack. And lookey here - it's not just jalapenos but also habaneros, too? This is gonna pack some heat. 

Absolutely, the cheddar is spicy, right from the start. There's not much of a gradual build - it's more of a straight up wallop, boom goes the dynamite kinda deal. For that, and that alone, I'll give this high marks - there's not much messing around here, just straight business. 

Everything else about the buffalo cheddar? Ehhhhhhhhh. 

The cheddar itself is incredibly average to perhaps even mediocre. It's mild and soft and clammy, almost like it's lukewarm even when taken right from the fridge even though it's cold, if that makes any sense. This may lead one to think this would be a good melting cheese, but in my admittedly limited experience, it's not, at least when trying to melt atop a burger. Perhaps if trying to make into a sauce for some mac n cheese or something it'd do better. 

It also doesn't help that I had to spit out a bite and dissect it to see what that sharp little shard of something was. Visual test result results were inconclusive but chances are, it was a teeny splinter of a woody pepper stem. That's fairly benign, but still was unpleasant. Really hope it wasn't anything else.  

Anyways, for an okayish cheese option at a reasonable price ($8.99/lb if I recall right) it's worth a try, if spice is your thing. Were you expecting more of a sales pitch? Not here!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Buffalo Cheddar: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 21, 2022

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese


 Now, cheese bread is an easy enough concept to understand. That's bread with cheese in it. But...bread cheese?

No, it's not cheese with bread in it, as the name may initially suggest. That'd be kinda odd but fun. Instead, it's cheese that's apparently baked in some sort of process that carmelizes the sugars and makes a bread like crust. No actual bread involved. Well hmm. Technology these days...

Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese, to my knowledge, is my first go around with bread cheese. Cookable cheese isn't a new concept to me - halloumi, anyone? - but still it feels a bit weird to cube up some cheese to saute. No EVOO or anything needed, it's got it's own grease, for sure. 

If eaten as is, not heated, the bread cheese is kinda firm, with a curdlike squeaky feel to it. No bad, but not my favorite. Once warmed up, though, everything softens, and it's kinda hard to not imagine eating an actual slice of pizza. Sure, there's not the saucy vibrancy of an actual quality pie, but the seasonings, with tomato flakes and onion and garlic and whatnot do a surprisingly okay job of mimicing it. And perhaps I was trying to hard but...there actually kinda almost tasted like there was some sort of crust, too. Just a bit, like the outer layer of crust without any doughiness or crisp or anything to really fill it out. 


And the cheese itself? Deeeelish. it gets all soft and melty, and is really pretty mild - not as much as a mozzarella, but close, with a little more edge to it. The whole flavor and feel, with some of that aformentioned grease, make the whole illusion pretty complete. 

It's a fun cheese. Fun to cook, fun to eat, fun to pass around the dinner table. We got us a whole family thumbs up here. And it's all at a pretty good price - maybe $4 for the half pound chunk? Good stuff, and no complaints. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pizza Seasoned Bread Cheese: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, January 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Baked Lemon Ricotta Cheese

That cheese section at TJ's can be dangerous. There are so many interesting choices, it would be very much within the realm of possibility to blow your entire grocery budget before even getting out of the cheese department. I mean, good cheese isn't exactly cheap, and it's getting even pricier these days. I generally just steer clear altogether. That's why I have ordained the lovely Sonia with the title: Resident Fromager de Chateau Rodgers.

Apparently this item has been around for a number of years. I wasn't aware. Shows how much time I spend in Trader Joe's cheese area. I probably would have picked it up sooner since I'm generally more of a lemonophile than the wifey...although fruit-flavored cheeses aren't necessarily something I'd gravitate towards. What this is: a mild cheese with a modest amount of lemon flavor. What it isn't: a stand-alone dessert food.

The texture is almost spongy, yet creamy. It's nice and soft, supple, and not very dense. The rind is, of course, significantly darker and firmer than the inner portions of the wedge. The picture included might have an inordinate amount of rind represented (the brown parts) but at least you get an idea of what the cheese itself looks like.

I could see this working well in baking applications. You could easily create some kind of lemon pastry by baking this stuff into something bready and topping with lemon curd or some other type of citrusy icing.

Surprisingly, Sonia liked this cheese more than I did. She was fine snacking on it plain. We both had some on crackers. It worked okay with any type of neutrally-flavored crackers like water crackers and butter crackers. I think it would have clashed with anything with seeds or garlicky flavors or anything like that.

Next time, we'll have to get more adventurous in the kitchen and see if we can whip up something lemontastic despite our lack of mad baking skills. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Green Goddess Gouda

I've never been a fan of cheeses with mold growing on them, and I'm kinda allergic, so...fortunately, that green stuff in the wedge isn't mold. If you hadn't figured that out by the title of this post and the label on the product, then I'd have to call you out for being unobservant. But most of you have figured out that the green stuff is, in fact, green goddess-ness. I can't say it's "dressing" per se, because it looks like it's just a bunch of random green goddess-ish ingredients like avocado oil, lemon juice, and garlic powder.

Sonia doesn't think the green goddess flavors come through much at all. I'm not saying they're strong, but I certainly taste them. They blend nicely with the semi-sweet creamy richness of the gouda as they are, and if amplified too much might upset the delicate balance.

We had it with crackers, tried it in vegetable soup, and crumbled it on salad. I'm sure there are dozens of other applications we didn't think of. It worked fine in all cases but wasn't something I'd consider a game-changer.


In the end this green goddess gouda didn't stand out from other Trader Joe's specialty cheeses, nor did it stand head and shoulders above any plain gouda we've had from TJ's or anywhere else. This particular wedge was $3.60. Personally, I don't think we'd purchase again, but it's not a bad concoction by any means—especially if you like green goddess flavors.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Trader Joe's Garlic Bread Cheese


 There's some basic things that take me entirely too long to grasp. Just ask my lovely bride. 

Latest example: What the label of the new Trader Joe's Garlic Bread Cheese was trying to convey pre-prepping. 

Bread cheese? What's that? Like...cheese with bread in it? Cool! Right? I'd give that a try. But ooh let's read the description: 'Seasoned with garlic powder & baked golden brown." Golden brown what? Bread crumbs? Something else? C'mon TJ',s tell me. What else we got here?

But upon opening, further inspection and reading of the ingredients, and the sudden realization that the word "baked" was a verb and not an adjective (it wasn't entirely clear at first, phrase parallelism be darned), it was pretty apparent: this is just some cheese with a little bit of garlic in it. Nothing much more, nothing less. 


I mean, there's nothing wrong with that. Garlic and cheese are tasty! But to expect something groundbreaking here is the wrong thought train. It's a pretty mild cheese, kinda like a cross between mozzarella for its taste and halloumi for its heat resistant properties (though not so much it's crumbly curd-y texture). There's a subtle, not-so-in-yo-face garlic flavor somewhat permeating, and is made more apparent by the glistening effect of heating the cheese for several minutes. It doesn't get all melty, just a little sweaty, and remains softly firm, if that makes sense. 

Really, though, that's it. Not everything has to be full flavor onslaught, but this TJ's garlic cheese does tilt more towards bland than bold. It's not awful, and I can what they're going for - like the cheese from cheesy garlic bread - but most of those I've had have more garlic and zest. Serving with some sauce would really help out, and I can see cutting up tiny bits for like a pasta or veggie salad, and how that'd be a welcome addition, but by itself? Meh. 

Would buy again, especially at its reasonable price point (something like $4 for the 6 oz chunk) but I'm not gonna be stocking up and probably won't notice when it's gone. Middlin' scores all around. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Garlic Bread Cheese: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, September 19, 2016

Trader Joe's Apple Pie Cheddar Cheese

There's a part of me that would like to take this opportunity to make my annual anti-pumpkin spice rant. It's that time of year, as Nathan started out last week, and as one Facebook fan put it, time for "white girls (to) rejoice!", and as we were quick to add, also white guys comfortable with their masculinity. What a little of sprinkling of nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves has to do with given personal identity characteristics, I don't know, but...I'm not a fan. The "pumpkin spice everything" trend is far too ubiquitous, far too obnoxious, far too usurping of many other great fall flavors. It takes something rather special to really impress me in the pumpkin spice regard, so it's possible, but far too many items fall short. Pumpkin spice latte? I've rather have nutmegged toilet water, thank you.

On the other hand...apples. Apple crisp. Apple cider. Applesauce. Apple pie. Now that's something to get behind. Especially apple pie, cuz I'm 'murican, dangit. Forget any other political attack ad going on right now, if an ad came out that a politician didn't like apple pie, they'd lose my vote. Now, I've heard that adding a slice of cheddar cheese to apple pie makes it even better...I've never tried. Either it's my mom's or sister's apple pie, which is absolutely perfect as is, or if I'm need of dairy sidekick, I'd choose vanilla ice cream.

So Trader Joe's Apple Pie Cheddar Cheese is my first foray into crossing these two flavor streams. I know, I probably haven't lived...sorry. Same for Sandy. At least we were both super eager to give a chunk a whirl, even with its slightly-high-for-TJ's price of $10 a pound.

It's...interesting, to say the least. First of all, it's pretty strongly applicious. How can one up the applicity factor of an average apple? Boil in apple cider! Infuise more apple! Stat! I can't quite tell the type of apple used, but I'd guess something in the MacIntosh-type range - strong, yet not overly sweet nor tart. There's also enough presence for the typical pie spices like cinnamon and nutmeg that give it a pie-like vibe. The little tidbits of dried apple add a little taste and textural variant. Nothing wrong on the apple front.

I guess where it gets a little weird is the cheese. In of itself, it's a decent cheddar - soft, mild, not overly sharp, but rather salty. Must be that sodium that, to me, creates a little flavor friction. Salt and apples don't go together all that well, IMHO. I mean, it's not awful...I kinda like the creaminess of the cheese paired with the apples - but the salt, instead of accentuating the overall flavor, kinda muddies it up instead.

Also, if it's apple pie cheese, where's the pie crust tidbits? There's none, and that coulda been fun. I guess "apple pie cheddar" sounds nicer than "fancy applesauce cheddar." Meh.

We're kinda split here - not terrific, not awful, and certainly more successful than previous TJ cheddar mash-ups. Sandy's not entirely sure of what to make of it, except she'll reserve further judgment until trying out a grilled cheese with it. She went right down the middle with a 2.5. It's worthy of higher marks than that in my book, but I can't get over the salt - a few small bites left me in want of a tall glass of water. Heck, I'd even drink a pumpkin spice latte if it were close by just to help. I can't go higher than 3.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Pie Cheddar Cheese: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, March 21, 2016

Trader Joe's English Ale Cheddar Cheese with Mustard


Wait...what? How is the vernal equinox now upon us? 2016 just started!

On the plus side, that means it's almost April and with it comes baseball season.

On the other...that means the demise of Trader Joe's English Ale Cheddar Cheese with Mustard is on deck. So, ya better step up to the plate soon so take a swing at TJ's spotlight cheese of the month.

Enough of the cheesy baseball puns. This cheddar is downright delish. Made with a splash or two of Old Speckled Hen and a dash or three of mustard spices, this otherwise fairly mild, creamy cheddar packs a lot of earthy goodness into every bite. It's sophisticated enough that I wanted to eat each cube pinkie-out style, yet accessible to the point that my kids would devour the whole chunk "Summer of George" style if I'd let them. The cheddar paired well with our Irish bangers the other week, but made great snacking/lunch-munching aside some turkey or pretzels. And yes, it did make me consider drinking a beer, just perhaps not Old Speckled Hen because I'm not my mom.

Sold in various size chunks at $8.99 a pound. Get it while you can.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's English Ale Cheddar Cheese with Mustard: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, January 14, 2016

SHOT O' JOE: Trader Joe's Oakwood Cold Smoked English Cheddar Cheese


So....how do you smoke a block of cheese so it doesn't melt? I mean, where's there's smoke, there's fire, right? I had no idea until Googling it, so if you're interested, here ya go.

We've had a somewhat spotty history with Trader Joe's Spotlight Cheeses of the Month. See Exhibit A and Exhibit B. But Trader Joe's Oakwood Cold Smoked English Cheddar Cheese is a winner. Unlike other English cheddars from TJ's I've had, this isn't of the cold and clammy variety. No, it's more of the traditional waxy/creamy hybrid of most other cheddars, and it's strong, too. It's not the sharpness itself that really sticks out - I'd say it's midrange at most - but the smoke. And it's definitely oak too...my dad smokes meats quite a bit, experimenting with different wood chips, so I can discern between oak and maple and cherry and whatnot. Very oaky, very smoky. It's almost a little too uniform, though, making me question a little if this cheese were truly smoked or just add smoke flavoring added - I'm giving TJ's the benefit of the doubt and saying the first.


Regardless, this is an excellent cheddar, and a good deal at $7.99 a pound. Pair with a pour of bourbon, some slices of pastrami or roast beef, make a killer mac 'n cheese - lotsa possibilities here. Go at it! Bonus points for the Flanders-esque "Oakely Doakely" on the label as well.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Oakwood Cold Smoked English Cheddar Cheese: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 15, 2015

Trader Joe's Spring Premier Cheddar Cheese

It's about high time the Rodgers clan reviewed some cheddar cheese on this blog...despite the fact that we don't know anything about cheese. I mean sure, all of us here at What's Good at Trader Joe's? are "foodie-hacks," but I think our 'Burgh-dwelling counterparts have a much higher level of expertise than we do, if only because they've braved cheeses like Chocolate CheddarChile Cheddar, and Cheddar with Caramelized Onions. In light of those selections, I think you can say that Sonia and I played it safe with this one.

It was the "spotlight selection" at the free sample table on our last TJ's run. The friendly gentleman behind the counter explained that the cheese came from the very first milking of the spring season, and that the grass that the cows eat at this time of year is soft and fresh and the cows are happy because the long winter is over and yadda yadda yadda this is a very special cheese. As we inhaled our samples, there was indeed a happy tingling sensation that might have come from the cheese yielded by particularly happy cows.

It reminded me of an ad campaign in California that goes something like, "Good cheese comes from happy cows, and happy cows come from California." My acquaintances from Wisconsin were all thoroughly offended by this ad campaign, because, they argued, their Wisconsonian cows are every bit as happy as these chauvinistic Californian cows. It has recently been brought to my attention that cows from Vermont are also extraordinarily happy—and it dawned on me just today that they must be joyous indeed, since their milk is the milk that brings us Ben and Jerry's delightful treats. Plus, cows in my native Pennsylvania are happy (I know this because I have met some of them), and I must point out that since this product is imported from England, that English cows, too, at least in the springtime, are quite chuffed as well, I say.

But back to the review. This cheddar is soft and creamy as the label suggests, and both Sonia and I felt it was on the sweet side, as far as most cheddars go anyway—but then again, we don't really know much about cheese. It reminded Sonia of the little Babybel cheddar cheeses that come wrapped in red wax. The bottom line is, we liked it. Happy cows = happy cheese = happy humans. Four stars each.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Trader Joe's Sliced Jalapeño Yogurt Cheese

So, I've taken a look at what we've reviewed over this past month, and realized, probably without meaning to be, both Nathan and I have been reviewing some pretty sly products. What do I mean? Well, one thing that TJ's excels at is some crazy, out-in-the-open combo products, like these delicious treats. But they're also pretty good at making little, teeny tiny twists to a lot of otherwise normal products, whether they're to fit a specific dietary need or just to sound a little fancy. And look at we've focused on in just these past few weeks: a gluten-free pasta twist, a peanut butter facsimile that isn't made of peanuts, non-dairy milk, buffalo (not beef) burgers, sausage pizza without "real" sausage, and an unusually crusted pizza. Kinda makes me wonder how this or this snuck in.

Anyways, it's a short month, and let's wrap it up right with some Trader Joe's Sliced Jalapeño Yogurt Cheese. It's lactose-free (though certainly not dairy-free cheese). A commenter on the aforementioned almond milk review started an interesting conversation about "lactose intolerant" folks being the genetic norm for our species while "lactose persistence" is actually a mutation - whether or not that's actually scientifically accurate, I have no idea. I just know I'm one of the (ab)normal humans with no lactose issues whatsoever, but this cheese looked like a potential interesting break from the norm, hence the purchase.

Ehhhhh....it's alright. I preface any further comments by first stating that for those who are lactose intolerant and want a semi-spicy cheese option, it's not a bad one. Otherwise, it's nothing all that special. The slices are very thick, and get all clammy and stuck together in the package - thank goodness for the little pieces of paper. It's kinda tough to really classify what type of cheese it is - it's not cheddar or provolone or gouda or mozzarella or asiago or limburger or...okay, I'm getting silly. I'd say it's kinda like a cross between muenster and American, except milder and a tad bit creamier, and less distinctive tastewise. Honestly, it really doesn't taste like a whole lot aside from the jalapeños, and even those take a bit to kick in. After first bite, I scanned the ingredients, read "red and green peppers," and thought maybe the word "bell" was erroneously admitted. When it gets around to it, the peppers do give a fair amount of spicy heat, but nothing too much more than a regular ol' pepper jack.

 As a plus, the melty quotient for this cheese is very, very high. I made a grilled cheese with it, and within a minute or two, the cheese got all melted and splashed over the inside of the bread, making a nice, warm, bite-inviting sammich. But melting it seemed to have it lose even more flavor - maybe it was just my bread choice (whole grain something or other), but though I was cognizant of the fact I was eating cheese and getting some strings caught in my beard, I can't say I tasted it all that much either, except for a little poke of heat from a pepper here or there.

It's nothing too special, and if lactose isn't an issue, it's not worth the extra buck ($4.49ish for a 12 oz pack, not a bad deal) versus the regular sliced pepper jack. I'll be happy enough finishing the package in due time, but it's probably not going to be a repeat purchase.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sliced Jalapeño Yogurt Cheese: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Monday, July 8, 2013

Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese


Well, hello there. The past few weeks for the Western PA half of the WGaTJ's team have been, in a word or two, a little nutso. Start with my old laptop dying literally as I pounded out the final words of my last review a few weeks ago. Add in putting on the final touches of getting our house ready to be put on the market (which it finally is!) and driving a little over 2,000 mostly soggy miles in about 8 days for a little vacation up to Vermont and back. Then it was enduring a couple atypically crazy weeks at work and needing some funds to procure a new laptop and....well, yeah it's been a while since posting. Sorry for the lull, but I've found some great little TJ's goodies in the past few weeks, so I'll be making up for that. Thanks, Nathan, for holding down the fort. It's good to be back.

One of those goodies I came across, courtesy of my baby sister (a recent TJ's convert), was Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese. My goodness. "A grilling cheese." I've never heard of such a thing. There's grilled cheese, of course. I'm almost 31 years old, and that's still almost a weekly staple. And then there's one of my favorite things, which is melted then crispied cheese, like the slighty burned edges of homemade mac 'n cheese. But a grilling cheese? Can't say I've heard of it.

But maaaaaaaaaan is it good. As you can see, the halloumi in fact grills up and gets a little browned and charred with minimal (if any) melting. By what power of Zeus is such a thing even possible? The Cyprus folks who invented this are pure men/women of genius. It's a very mild tasting cheese, fairly similar to mozzarella, but certainly isn't as soft. It's tougher, heavier and meatier, with a touch of crumbliness to it. Alongside our burgers, cold beers and grilled peppers, onions and eggplant, the halloumi was a perfect part of a terrific dinner we had on an overnight pit stop at my parents' house as we trekked back to Pittsburgh. My sister, who is pastry extraordinaire by day and an excellent all-around chef, says she picks this up quite often for either grilling big hunks of it (like ho we enjoyed it) or frying some up to put in some salad or pasta. I'm thinking that it would be a great match for a dish with sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs. Sis, if you're reading this, leave a comment or two with some of your recommendations.

There's only one sad thing I can say about the halloumi: like too many other good products that most of the TJ's-lovin' world gets to regularly enjoy (ahem, especially those alcohol related ones), it's not freakin' available at the East End Pittsburgh shop I frequent. Believe me, I scoured the otherwise rather expansive cheese selection for it, high and low, and didn't see it. Being a guy, I was too prideful to ask, but this really needs to be available locally, because I'm craving it again. Until then, I must dream sweet, cheesy dreams about a cheese that chars and doesn't melt. As will Sandy. "Mmmm, cheeeeeeeese...." is about all she could say until the expression on her face switched to one of pure, transfixed serenity as she recalled the fond tasty frolics she and the halloumi had together. I'm kinda surpised she gave it only a four. I'm going 4.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Carmelized Onions

If I were a better writer, I'd be able to write this review in such a way that you could imagine John Cleese of Monty Python fame narrating it. If I were oddly endearing and full of witty banter, and could make some cheesy special effects and have Sandy put on an alien costume, I'd make a video and add it to Nathan and Sonia's YouTube thing they have going, and it'd make you laugh and cry as from the David Tennant era of Dr. Who. And if I wanted to bore you to tears with stuffy British aristocratic handwringing, well, I could attempt to write something like another popular BBC show (I much prefer Downton Arby).*

Great, I think I just alienated half our audience with that last line.  And from what I understand from the last episode, it's poorly timed.

Moving along, for those of you who are left, I'm obviously none of those. I'm just a guy with a mouth who writes things about the stuff he shoves into it. In my world, that qualifies me to write about cheeses like Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions.

I've been hearing pretty much since the advent of this blog about how amazing this particular chunk o' cheddar is. I never once picked it up until my last stop. I've been burned by some cheesy choices in the past, so don't blame me for being a little shy. Anyways....it's interesting. I'm not sure in which way I mean that. Just....interesting. It was and was not what I expected. What I expected: Sweetness from the caramelized onions, with good mild cheddar flavor. What I didn't expect: That sweetness to permeate every little bit, with the cheese itself being so soft. Seriously, right out of the fridge, "cold and clammy" are the two words that come to mind (which is, incidentally, how I envision much of England to be). My tasters aren't sure what to think. It's good to warrant more bites, but in the end...I simply don't know. By the time we finish off our remaining cheese, we may decide this s worth a repeat purchase. Then again, maybe not.

Overall, being honest, the caramelized onions are the standout part of the cheddar. They're much like the ones Sandy and I had recently at the local Irish pub atop our bangers and mash before our night of Ceili dancing, so that's a good start. Maybe I'm just too acclimated to the cheddars from our side of the pond, but if the rest of the cheese were more like a good, firm sharp cheddar that didn't seem to get so sugary from the onions, I'd enjoy it more. Seriously, "cheese candy" is what comes to mind, and whether that's a good or bad thing, who knows.

"'Cheese candy?' I wouldn't phrase it like that," Sandy said, though she noted how much she liked the overall sweetness and cheesiness. She also liked how soft it was, too. For her grade, though, she seemed as much on the fence as I am. "Ehhhhhh....I'm not a really cheese connoisseur, so I don't know....let's say a three." Playing it down the middle always seems a safe bet, so likewise for me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's English Cheddar with Caramelized Onions: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
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* The only thing I can enjoy about "Downton Abbey" is trying to spot all the actors who've been in any of the Harry Potter movies or on "Dr. Who." In one episode, paying only half attention, I spotted five. Five!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Trader Joe's Sliced Smoked Gouda and Artisan Reserve Vermont Cheddar

So there's this shirt that I wear pretty often on casual Fridays at work that's absolutely ridiculous and a constant conversation starter. It's black, with a big white printed logo on it that says "Wisconsin Cheese Cupid." "Cheese Cupid?," people ask all the time. "What the heck does that mean?" It's the name of some cheese pairing app that was giving away free shirts on Facebook yonder back that I just happened to stumble across and against better judgment click on only to completely forget about until the package arrived on my doorstep about three months later. The shirt's been a showstopper since. As for the app...well...it seems to indicate that every type of Wisconsin-originated cheese goes with just about everything, so, to me at least, it doesn't appear all that helpful.

In part because of this shirt, and in part because of my unabashed love of Trader Joe's (which does have a pretty great cheese selection), a lot of folks around me seem to think that I'm some sort of residential cheese expert. Far from it, I say. I know what I like and I know what I don't. I like the fresh mozzarella balls from places like PennMac right down the street from me in Pittsburgh's Strip District. I don't like Kraft singles and their various generic knockoffs. As far as TJ's stuff, though, to be honest, I haven't branched out much from the pretty typical sliced and shredded options. Admittedly, most of the few times I have, whether it's been this incredulous mad scientist concoction, or some waxy hole-y colby-esque grossness, I haven't been too impressed.

Until recently, at least. Let's start with the Trader Joe's Sliced Smoked Gouda. Oh man. This, friends, puts the good in gouda. Let me count the ways. Melted on top a freshly grilled burger? Yes. How about over a bowl of homemade potato soup? Absolutely. Straight as is? No doubt. But the very best way I found to enjoy this has to be as a grilled cheese sandwich with a little raspberry mango jam spread over top. Absolutely heavenly. I love the deep, smokey, rich flavor, I love the thick-cut slices, I love how the wax holds all the melty goodness in place so none goes to waste. Heck, I even love the price. $2.99 for a half pound? That's about the going rate for the cheapie yellow American at the local chain's deli counter, and this is much, much, much better. If you like gouda, this is a surefire winner. I don't really have the right vocab to really explain how good it is, or what exactly makes it so good, but I know good gouda when I taste it, and I'm tasting it with each bite of this.  There is not a single complaint that can be made here that I can think of. 

As for Trader Joe's Artisan Reserve Vermont Cheddar, I go a little back and forth. It's far from being bad cheese, no doubt, but as one of my coworkers stated today, "it sounds an awful lot of fancy marketing for just a hunk of cheese." I think she may be right. I've been to the Cabot factory and outlet stores in Vermont and eaten enough of their free samples to know what to expect from a chunk of Green Mountain state Cheddar, and this just isn't quite it. It's seems to me it should be a lot sharper for purportedly being aged for three years, and it also strikes me as being kinda creamy-tasting. Don't get me wrong, it's plenty sharp, but I've had a lot sharper in my day. I know there's a bazillion decent uses for a block of cheese like this, but so far Sandy and I have just sliced ourselves little bits to chomp them on down. If not for opting for the gouda in the aforementioned potato soup, some of this all shredded up would have been a fairly delectable option. It's the same price as the gouda, which makes it almost an equally good value in my book.    

Sandy's about an equal fan of both, giving them a three each. "I don't have a lot else I can compare them with, so I think they're both pretty good, I just don't know how good," she said. Fair enough, I suppose, although I occasionally hear her randomly utter about the gouda. Me? I gotta go with a full-handed five for the gouda, and I'll play nice and say a four for the cheddar.

Bottom lines:
Trader Joe's Sliced Smoked Gouda: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Artisan Reserve Vermont Cheddar: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons