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

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.'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.'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
* 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 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 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Trader Joe's Chocolate Cheddar Cheese

Want to know the best thing about having a pregnancy in the household, besides the obvious impending joy of welcoming a child into the world and the ongoing daily discussions about the comfort of your spouse's pants? The power of suggestion, especially for food, is so strong. Sandy will just be reading something that mentions a cookie, and she'll say "Mmm, I want a cookie!" That was definitely the case with one of Nathan's latest cupcake reviews and so we got the same tasty ones just a day or two later. But I definitely have this power as well. A few weeks back, for no other reason than that I'm a guy, I really wanted a buffalo chicken pizza. Pre-pregancy, this *might* be open for debate - "Where from?""What do we have here?""Can't we just get pepperoni?" - but with the bun in the oven, immediately once I said it, Sandy's eyes lit up and said YES. Bingo, we ordered Pizza Hut that night. But like Uncle Ben told Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility, so I try to not pull off that trick too often. I also try to be fair and indulge most of hers, which are limited mainly to things like tasty fries.

There's the every-so-often Trader Joe's indulgence as well, of course. So many crazy things in that store...We were perusing the cheese selection when she saw the TJ's Chocolate Cheddar Cheese. Kinda like the Yeti, I've heard rumors of such things but had never seen it, 'til right then in my wife's hand with the all-too-familiar pretty-please look in her eye. Truth to be told, it didn't sound like a good idea to me, but she had found the smallest chunk (good thing, it's 10 bucks a pound, our piece cost like $2.80), and well, I guess I owe it to you all, too, so I said sure.

There's only a few things out there that I'd find too weird to enjoy, but this is definitely one of them. I like the cheddar part of it, quite a bit actually. I'm not exactly a cheddar aficionado, but have had enough of the good (like Cabot's - I've been to their factory!) and not so good (can you say Valu-Time?) to know what the good stuff tastes like. This is good stuff. It's sharp, rich, crumbly cheddar at first taste...which totally falls apart once the dark chocolate kicks in. I suppose it's good chocolate, as most TJ's dark stuff is, but I find it just muddies up the overall flavor. At the end, my mouth and tongue just feel perplexed and not remotely satisfied, and my stomach's definitely discombobulated. The dark sweetness just contrasts the sharp bite of cheddar way too much. There's not an over-abundance of chocolate taste, but what's in there just ruins it all for me. It might be better if the cheddar wasn't as sharp as it is. Blecch.

I have a theory I think I've mentioned before called my "chocolate gum theory," which actually has two applications. They are 1. Just because two things are good separately doesn't mean they're good together. Also see: Mick Jagger and David Bowie. 2. Just because something is good in theory doesn't mean it's good in practice. Also see: Subaru cupholders (that's the least controversial example I can think of). This chocolate cheddar cheese fits both corollaries of my theory well - separate good, together bad and could be tasty in thought, but it just isn't. It's just not a winner for me.

Sandy, though, with her pregnancy hormones and whatnot? She actually likes it, but not overly, and I think it's because she said she can't taste the chocolate as much. "I mean, I kinda do taste it, but not really," she said. "It's okay for a bite here and there but I don't think I could make a whole snack around it." Indeed, I was kinda glad that after we sampled it, her craving switched to a small bowl of mint chip ice cream. She took a slightly positive middle-of-the-roadish 3.5. Me? Generally speaking, I think this is probably a love or hate item for most folks, my lovely wife not included. I think I've made it clear where I stand. I just hope Sandy eats enough of it so it won't get all moldy in the fridge. I'll give it a 1.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Cheddar Cheese: 4.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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