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Monday, April 7, 2014

Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo 2.0

You just don't mess with some classics.

Like, seriously, no, don't.

Like Jennifer Gray's nose. Like Charlie and Chocolate Factory, despite your fancy squirrels. Like about 2/3rds of the songs on this list (beware, some NSFW language). Seriously, not like I was ever a Madonna fan, but when she ripped off "American Pie"....there are no words.

I guess if any of those can be messed with, though, so can Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo.

Listen: I'm a guy who, despite dabbling in pseudo-vegeterian ways about a year ago, keeps a spreadsheet of every type of animal I've ever eaten (up to 23!), and yet, I love, love, love TJ's soy chorizo. Loved it enough for it to be my first review for this site back in the day. Loved it enough for it to be a continual staple for tasty, healthy, easy dinners - chorizo, black beans, rice, salsa and cheese all mixed together (as pictured) - for years to follow. Darn good stuff.

And then...it got taken away.

The official word I heard: Needed to change supplier, pricing changed, TJ's wanted to keep quality product at low price. Alright, well, I get that. Bizness is bizness. Huzzah. Still, it's a popular enough product that a) Seems like there should be no shortage of suppliers willing to make a deal 2) A small price increase (let's say 50 cents) wouldn't dampen sales too much (wouldn't stop me) and d) Discontinuation of a popular product should be foreseeable enough to start making alternate plans to avoid months of a product not being in stock. Of course, we're talking about the same place that still can't figure out how to bring back the best peanut butter ever, so maybe this shouldn't have been a total surprise.

So now, finally, it's back in stock, after something like six long months of it being gone. If you're familiar with the old version, this is just about a spittin' image, with just a few discernible changes. First, it seems a little spicier, with a little more bite to it. That part is good.

The other change: It's no longer vegan. There's "milk powder for freshness." Some one please explain how that works.  

And someone please explain how someone thought that was a good idea. I'm not vegan, but I can see such a change being pretty upsetting for those who are. It's alienating a segment of the customer base. It's not right.

And apparently I'm not alone in thinking this. This is not official word, but I heard this from two separate store employees in person: It's being discontinued...again...to be reformulated back to being vegan based on the outcry from customers about the switch from vegan to vegetarian. Heard nothing about time frame. Maybe one of you reading this is more in the know than I am. This complete lack of foresight is pretty frustrating.

Anyways, to help hold us over, I picked up three packs the other night. Still $1.99 each, which is a darn good price. Since we ate one already, that means I have two left in the freezer (these freeze great!), and after we eat the second package, we'll have an interesting dilemma for third: eat it or keep it? I mean, within a few years, as the world's last Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo vegetarian version, it might be worth enough to send my kids through college. One can hope.

Sorry for the "more rant than review." Just irritating. And I'm taking it on our score, marking it down a couple full spoons off of the original. You just don't mess with the classics.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, April 4, 2014

Trader Joe's Effervescent Orange Vitamin C Drink Mix

Of the 500+ reviews on this blog, the vast majority have been Trader Joe's brand foods or beverages fit for human consumption. However, there have been one or two that we've deemed "not fit for human consumption." There have been one or two that haven't actually been Trader Joe's brand. There's been food fit for animals—and of course animal food fit for humans. We've entirely avoided reviewing Trader Joe's fine line of household cleaners, flowers, hygiene and beauty products. Yes, you can find all of those things at TJ's, and the few that we've tried we've been fairly impressed with.

But now this product is walking that fine line between "beverage" and "medicine." And while one might argue that TJ's beers and wines can be used for "self-medicating" purposes, this is fairly new territory for us. So really, we're not going to be able to tell you much about the immune system-bolstering properties of this product. Although I'm perfectly willing to eat out of a dog bowl, I'm not willing to subject myself to a scientific scenario that would expose me to real cold germs.

I must say, though, that I often get sick this time of year. I've noticed a lot of people get sick this time of year actually. There seems to be a round of colds whenever the weather changes, even if it's getting warmer instead of cooler. I'm not going to research that claim at all for fear that I will find information that contradicts my hypothesis. But Sonia agrees that people get sick just as the spring arrives, and that's good enough for me. Despite that fact, neither of us has gotten sick this year. Could that be evidence that this product actually works to strengthen your body's natural defenses? I say...maybe.

So anyway, as you've probably already figured out, this product is a store-brand version of Emergen-C. We've always been fans of Emergen-C, and we usually have some on hand here in our household. Not only do we like its nutritional properties, but we love the taste as well. Sonia got in the habit of mixing herself a glass to have with dinner if we ever ran out of juice and iced tea, since it's sweet and tastes good enough to drink just for the flavor. That's our biggest complaint about TJ's version. It simply doesn't taste that good. It's not bad...but it's less sweet and orangey than the name brand product that we're used to. It's less pungent—less flavorful all around.

The nutrition information is similar to Emergen-C, and includes 1667% RDA of your vitamin C and 500% of vitamins B-6 and B-12. Both products give me a little energy rush when I drink them, particularly when I'm not sick. TJ's version is a little less expensive than Emergen-C at $7.99 for a box of 30 packets. Overall, it's a decent product, but we think we'll stick to Emergen-C for now since it tastes significantly better. 3 stars from Sonia, 3.5 stars from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People

You ever look at Fluffy or Rex, happily chomping away at whatever's in their bowl for the 3000th time, and wonder how a creature can so happily eat the same thing over and over again? Or, even better, think it'd be so great to just be able to buy a 20-lb sack of chow for like $10 like you do for the dog, and just have that be your food for a month? You think, hey, it works for them, something like that should be able to work for me. Then you remember, yes, there was once upon a time that you could do that, but college has forever ruined you on ramen noodles, so you just can't do that again.

Me? I think about that stuff often. I sure know my bank account appreciates the sentiment. Then it laughs because it hurts too much to cry.

Fortunately, we're in luck! Similar to what happened around this time last year, the WGATJ quartet has been hand-selected by Big Joe to try out a brand new product, Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People. This one actually has a significant chance to hit the market - although testing very well with us, those nitro-foam-erated salmon muffins apparently increased one's chance of spontaneous human combustion to a level that the FDA just wasn't comfortable with. Stupid regulations...

Much like the cats cookies for people, Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People is an animal-esque product clearly meant for human consumption. Don't get them confused - though Fido probably won't mind, actual dog food tastes too much like a nasty Triscuit for most people to enjoy, which Russ learned firsthand thanks to his seventh-grade science teacher. The concept itself is so straightforward yet so brilliant - it's just a sack of food pellets designed for human consumption, brimming with all sorts of nutrients and hey, some flavor, too, that makes a good, sustainable food source that's worthy of everyday eating.



Wait, you say. How can someone be happy eating the same thing every day? Doesn't that get old?
At least ramen has different colored salt packages, right? As usual, Big Joe's a step ahead. From what we've been told, there are a few varieties in the works. The one we got to sample was chicken, quinoa, apples, and Brussel sprouts, with a maple-y finish. Granted, it didn't really look like any of that, because it was just dark brown and tan crunchy pellets...but it's all there. Every bit. And to help change things up every so often, there's little "additional flavor" packets on the side to mix in - like hot sauce, bacon grease, cheddar - it's all in powdered form, but if you can overcome that, it's incredibly satiating. If that's not enough variety, there's vegan as well as seasonal varieties in the works (Thanksgiving: turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, gravy, pecan pie, and TUMS, for example). Just like real pet food, it comes in a 20 pound bag, so it lasts a while. Savor it in.

But...this is where it gets little weird. Might be a deal breaker for some, but trust us, it helps, we're experts. Historians have recently discovered that our primitive ancestors may have eaten on all fours before the invention of the table. They saw the animals around them doing it, so they simply copied what they saw wolves and bears doing and ate off the floor of their caves. Eating in this posture may have increased the metabolism and aided digestion. Similar to the popular "caveman diet," TJ's has latched on to this idea and thus formulated this product to be consumed like a dog or a primitive human. Nathan was kind enough to make an instructional video to demonstrate the suggested eating technique for the Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People. It's strictly educational, of course.


In all, this is a legitimate game-changer. I (Russ) have eaten nothing except this for about three or four days straight, and not only have been happy and felt great, but I've noticed some pleasant, well, not "side effects" but perhaps "unexpected bonuses." First, I'm sleeping better, in nearly any position. My senses of smell and hearing have greatly improved, and my "fur coat" (for lack of better term) has been become fuller and stronger, which was wonderful for dealing with the last of the wintry throes. I'm also feeling a lot happier, especially when seeing fire hydrants, although my wife and boss say I seem more distrac-SQUIRREL!!!!...Um, where was I?

A twenty pound bag costs only $11.99 and lasts for a few weeks, depending on how many cups I eat a day. The side panel says for an active male about my size I should eat three or four servings daily, which seems right. Really, just this, some water, and whatever scraps my toddler sneaks me are all I need. That and a little scratch behind my ears from time to time, and for that mailman to stop coming around. If there's one chow that can make my tail wag, this would be it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dog Food...For People: 

10 out of 10 Golden Retrievers