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Showing posts with label not so great. Show all posts
Showing posts with label not so great. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Cardamom Buns


Fun fact: cardamom is the third-most expensive spice in existence after, presumably, saffron and that stuff they get from the sandworms on Arrakis. It's apparently used widely as a baking ingredient in Scandinavian countries. Those zany Vikings and their cardamom...

But seriously though, I don't think I've had many, if any, pastries with cardamom as a prominently featured flavor/ingredient ever in my life...until now. And if I'm honest, I didn't like it that much, however, the beautiful wifey enjoyed it quite a bit. We haven't disagreed on a product this strongly in quite a while.


We both agreed that there was something fall-ish about this item. Cardamom isn't a far cry from allspice or clove in terms of flavor and intensity. It might not be a pumpkin spice, per se, but it's "pumpkin spice adjacent" in my opinion.

The brown sugar element was nice, providing a sweet, nutty essence to the bun. But the relative bitterness and spiciness of the cardamom was a turn-off for me, while Sonia thought it made the product unique and memorable. The bready part of the pastry was fairly standard, highly reminiscent of last fall's Apple Cinnamon Buns, neither stale nor unusually fresh—passable but not praise-worthy if you ask me.


$4.49 for two big sweet spiced buns, found with the other baked goods. This one will get a thumbs up from the beautiful wifey and a thumbs down from me. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.



Nathan's score: 5.5 out of 10.

Sonia's score: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Trader Joe's Egg Salad


Sonia loves eggs. Maybe not every morning, but most mornings, the first things she'll do after getting up is fire up the coffee maker and grab a few eggs from the fridge. Within minutes she's sipping java and making an egg sandwich with cheese or some sort of omelette.

Me? I like eggs, but I kinda have to be in a certain mood. If I force myself to eat eggs when I'm not hungry for them, I get a little nauseous. But every once in a while I get a specific hankering, and in those instances only eggs will hit the spot. I'm weird like that.


It's a similar situation with egg salad and egg salad sandwiches. If we're traveling and we stop for gas at any random convenience store, Sonia will gravitate toward an egg salad sandwich, if available, more often than not. But it's usually pretty low on my list of preferences...unless I've got that craving.

One thing we do agree upon: this egg salad is not very good. It's bland. It lacks richness, creaminess, and flavor. It tastes and feels watery. Things like mayonnaise and mustard are listed in the ingredients, but they simply don't show up in the flavor of the product, so we wound up adding our own. We both tasted something similar to dill in the egg salad, but there's no "dill" mentioned on the packaging. We're perplexed on that one.


This isn't the first sub-par egg salad we've seen from TJ's. The Spicy Ranchero Egg White Salad comes to mind. I thought maybe egg yolks would help but apparently not. They're 0-2 as far as egg salad is concerned.

Now chicken salad, on the other hand, is a different story entirely.

If we lived any closer to a Trader Joe's, I think this might have been a "no-hassle refund" type situation. As it stands, we'll probably just force ourselves to finish this tub. I mean, it's edible, but this is most definitely not a repeat purchase. Sonia's score: 5/10. Nathan's score: 4/10



Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Monday, April 29, 2024

Trader Joe's Dried Australian Red Papaya


We've been chowing down on carbs, curds, cookies, and candies lately, so for the sakes of both our health and reputation, it's high time we looked at something at least a little health conscious. Ah, here. This exotic papaya comes all the way from the land of Oz. Sonia and I both love dried papaya, so this red version must be even more amazing, right?

Wrong. You've heard of "fruit leather"? This stuff is the closest thing I've ever had to the actual texture of leather. It's crazy hard. It's extremely thin and hard to chew. Other dried papaya we've had contains a bit of moisture and juiciness. It seems this product has had all the wetness stripped out of it completely.


It's not particularly sweet. I can't even really describe the taste. There's something almost akin to black licorice in the flavor profile. It's similar to other papaya but not very sweet and not juicy. Honestly, the product it reminds me of the most is last year's disappointing Dried Cantaloupe Slices.


After lavishing all the recently-reviewed junk food with accolades, praise, and high scores, we really wanted to love this no-fat, low-carb selection but simply couldn't get into it. There's plenty of other delicious dried fruit products from Trader Joe's, but this one will get a thumbs down from both of us.

$2.99 for the resealable bag. Would not buy again. Two stars from Sonia, two and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Dried Australian Red Papaya.



Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Trader Joe's Baked Pizza Flavored Pillow Crisps


These are just crispy little bite-sized snacks...with absolutely nothing inside. I mean, I wasn't expecting a filling per se. I just thought there'd be more to them. The outer shells are super duper thin and crispy, and inside there's nothing but air. They're totally hollow.

Despite the crispness and crunchiness, both Sonia and I thought the product tasted and felt stale. Something about the durum wheat felt stiff in an off-putting way—almost like plastic—and the little pillows tended to shatter in such a way that sharp, angular pieces wanted to break off and stab the inside of our mouths and lips.


I was okay with the flavor, although the pizza coating could have been a lot stronger. Sonia felt they were bland overall, lacking the taste of Italian spices or cheese. We both agree there's very little that justifies putting the word "pizza" on the label.

In summary, Trader Joe's Baked Pizza Flavored Pillow Crisps are an odd whisper of tomato powder and salt on a hollow tube of stiff semolina and most definitely will not be on our list of repeat purchases. Trader Giotto would never have let this happen. $1.99 for the bag. Product of Italy. Two stars from Sonia. Two and a half stars from me.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 17, 2023

Trader Joe's Chunky Garlic & Jalapeño Hot Sauce

First thoughts: looks like one of those Cholula or Tapatio or Texas Pete hot sauce bottles with a teensy little hole where you have to shake the bottle fairly vigorously to get the sauce to come out, so how could it possibly be "chunky"? There might be some pureed peppers in there or something like that, but this sauce being truly chunky seems unlikely.

Oh well, if it tastes like garlic and jalapeño I don't even care if it's chunky or not.

The verdict? Okay...it's...sorta chunky. The entire circumference of the mouth of the bottle is open. It's not like that super tiny narrow hole on other hot sauce bottles, which allows bits of jalapeño to flow from the container onto your food.

The taste? Briny! The jalapeño peppers are brined and they make the whole thing taste super salty. It's like garlic-flavored sea water with a little heat to it. Not my favorite hot sauce for sure. Not even close. This definitely won't replace Tapatio or Cholula in our household, and it definitely won't take the place of good tomato-based actually-chunky salsa for chip dipping or topping Mexican dishes.


I make this meal I call "tuna surprise" because the ingredients change every time we have it based on what condiments are available in our fridge at the time of creation... 

I have a feeling it will do pretty well as an element in tuna surprise. A little saltiness and heat never hurts that dish.

Maybe I just have to get used to it. It's not at all like what I was expecting. Supposedly this type of salsa is quite popular all throughout California's Central Coast. I only made it up that way once or twice during my Cali days.

$3.99 for the 10 oz. bottle. Sonia is similarly unimpressed. Three stars from her. Two and a half from me for Trader Joe's Chunky Garlic & Jalapeño Hot Sauce.



Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, November 3, 2023

Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage


You all know me. I'm a trooper. I'll try just about anything once. There are pumpkin products I love and pumpkin products I dislike, and everything in between. But this right here is pretty gross. I imagine it's about as close as I'll ever get to drinking a pumpkin spice candle.

I mean, we don't even have pumpkin spice cow's milk. Sure, I've had some killer pumpkin pie milkshakes in my day. And there are pumpkin coffee beverages galore, some of which are okay and some of which are not. But there's not really just plain pumpkin milk. So...just maybe the world doesn't need a dairy-free version of pumpkin milk..?


We tried the pumpkin almond beverage a few years back, and it wasn't good. It might have passed as a coffee creamer, but even that was pushing it. This stuff is an even paler shade of unnatural orange—not unlike orange cream milk or an orange creamsicle milkshake. Oh how I wish to God it tasted like an orange creamsicle.

It tastes like the dirty dishwater used to clean out several bowls of plain oatmeal...mixed with potpourri and a dash of pureed squash. The aftertaste is appalling. I just barely managed to down a couple swigs of it for this review. Never again.

Sonia, predictably, isn't nearly as disgusted as I am, although even she says she can't really taste pumpkin spices exactly. She thinks it needs more cinnamon. Yes. Okay. I'll agree with that. It definitely doesn't taste like cinnamon, and the taste of cinnamon is much less vile than the taste of this beverage, ergo, it could use some cinnamon I guess.

Sonia will finish the carton using it as a coffee creamer or to make her own potpourri lattes. $2.99 for the candle. Three out of five stars from the beautiful wifey. One star from me for Trader Joe's Non-Dairy Pumpkin Oat Beverage.



Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Monday, August 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies


Sonia's love of madeleines goes back to her days as a Starbucks barista. She'd snack on their mad cookies as she sipped some free-to-her yet otherwise overpriced coffee on breaks. She's been addicted to madeleine cookies ever since, and she's sold me on 'em, too.


We've reviewed at least two other varieties here on this blog. Despite not having any severe gluten intolerants among us, we've sampled dozens of gluten free cookies, pastries, and snacks over the years, and I'd say more than half got a basic thumbs up from our team if not enthusiastic accolades.

So we both had high hopes for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies. Let's be positive and focus on what's working, first. They're individually-packaged. It might be a waste of material and probably not very green, but all six of the cookies are wrapped separately in a small cellophane bag. It helps keep them fresher longer. You're not going to eat all six in one sitting unless you've got a big family. There's a pleasant amount of moisture to the cookies. They are lightly sweet and taste somewhat similar to traditional madeleines.

What's not working? These cookies aren't dry, but they're not particularly buttery. You could call them "oily" I guess. But they're not smooth or creamy like traditional madeleines. The flavor suffers for want of butter, too. They lack the sponginess of glutenful mads and instead come off as grainy or even gritty in a slightly unpleasant way. The main ingredients are egg, sunflower oil, sugar, and rice flour. It's an odd mouthfeel, and the flavor just lacks that certain something that makes other madeleine cookies special.

$3.49 for six individually-wrapped cookies. Would not buy again. Two and a half stars from me. Three stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Gluten Free Madeleine Cookies.



Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 4, 2023

Trader Joe's Vodka Mule


It occurred to me that in addition to some political motives, there may be some copyright issues with using the term "Moscow Mule" on the packaging of this vodka, lime, and ginger-based mixed drink. A quick search on the interzones will reveal that at least at one point, the term was indeed a trademark of some entity called "Perfect Beverage."

Although, now it would seem numerous other beverage companies do, in fact, use the term "Moscow Mule" on their pre-mixed, often canned, vodka-ginger-lime offerings, while others go the safer route, using the term "Vodka Mule." Whatever their motives were in regards to the name, Trader Joe's has opted for fun flamingo pool floaty graphics while avoiding mules, Russians, and copper mug imagery altogether. Such a lighthearted theme—worlds apart from the WW3 nuclear destruction cover art I'd have suggested were I the packaging designer.

That's probably why I'm not a packaging designer.

Sonia and I have made a couple of our own Moscow Mules over the years, usually employing the gingerrific zip of Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Brew along with vodka and fresh-squeezed limes. We liked them enough that we even bought a couple of copper mugs. I still don't get why you have to have a copper mug to drink one of these. Some say it's about temperature, others say the metal oxidizes and releases pleasant fragrances, yet still more say it's simply about presentation.


Well, friends, copper mug or not, Trader Joe's Vodka Mules are definitely not the best Moscow Mules I've ever had. They are 10% alcohol by volume, and they're only mildly sweet and limey. There's really not even enough ginger flavor, although Sonia disagrees. There's such relatively little taste, you'd think: well all the rest must be vodka...but vodka's generally in the ballpark of 40% ABV. So at most maybe a quarter of the beverage is vodka, right?

The beverage pours perfectly clear and fizzy like your typical lemon-lime soda or what have you. At least they got the carbonation level right. No complaints there.

Plus it's convenient to have them all mixed beforehand and simply pop the top and drink. But I've definitely made much better mules myself, and I'm far from a pro mixologist. Meh. We can always doctor them up ourselves: add more lime, more ginger, more sweetness.

About $11 for four 12 oz cans. I wouldn't buy again. Two out of five stars from me. Three and a half out of five stars from the beautiful wifey for Trader Joe's Vodka Mule.



Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco

I generally prefer tequila reposado or "gold" to the blanco or "silver" version. I guess the main difference is reposado is aged in a barrel and blanco is not, so reposado tends to be a little smoother and blanco just a little more agave-forward.

Not sure why I grabbed Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco on our last TJ's haul. I guess I'd remembered that we reviewed one type of Trader Joe's Tequila Reposado a long time ago on this blog. I couldn't tell you if that one's still available or discontinued, or even if TJ's offers any other types of tequila currently, but I figured why not add a blanco to our long list of product reviews?

Well...I can think of one reason: it's not that good. I mean, I've had other tequila blancos and this one is the harshest one I can recall. It's probably one of the worst tequilas I've ever had. It's like a vague planty notion swimming in a sea of rubbing alcohol. There was also an unpleasant aftertaste both Sonia and I noted that's hard to describe.

It's passable if you dilute it with mixers, juices, and ice, but neither of us would purchase this version again. It's nothing like that Distinqt tequila or the more recently reviewed Espada Pequeña Mezcal. $19.99 for 750 mL. 40% ABV. Product of Jalisco, Mexico. Two and a half stars a piece from Sonia and me for Trader Joe's Tequila Blanco.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Friday, June 16, 2023

Trader Joe's Buttermilk Protein Pancake Mix


Pretty much without fail, if Trader Joe's puts the word "protein" in the title of a product, it's a safe bet I won't like it at all. I mean I have nothing against proteins. I love fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and beans as much as the next guy. But when a product has "whey protein concentrate" or "pea protein powder" or anything like that as a top ingredient, it's virtually a guarantee that the protein powder taste will overpower the entire product.

So why try Trader Joe's Buttermilk Protein Pancake Mix at all? Well, firstly because the beautiful wifey wanted to check it out. But also because it's pancakes. They can't possibly screw up pancakes with some protein gimmick, can they?


In short, yes. Yes they can. These are pancakes that taste very much like they were made with whey protein concentrate. No amount of butter and/or syrup can completely save them and make them taste like normal, delicious pancakes. They taste like health food, pure and simple. They taste like protein powder.

Some people, no doubt, can look past it. I, for one, cannot. Sonia generally enjoys products with or without protein powder, and even she can't get past the protein powderiness of these pancakes.


They're soft and fluffy enough, I guess. There's not a ton of chalkiness like some protein products. So the texture's not a complete failure.

We'll eventually finish the box, but we wouldn't buy it again. $3.99 for the 11 serving package. Two stars from me for Trader Joe's Buttermilk Protein Pancake Mix. Two stars from the beautiful wifey.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup


I hadn't had a decent Asian meal in quite a while, so I thought, what the heck? Let's try some Trader Joe's Pho to see what they've done with the classic Vietnamese noodle soup.

It heats in the microwave from frozen in just six minutes, and unless you wanna get fancy, you can just eat it straight from the plastic bowl for a quick lunch. As the product emerged from the microwave, I detected an unusual potpourri-esque smell. Was that cinnamon and nutmeg in there? I haven't had real pho in a hot minute, but I certainly don't remember the soup smelling like a pumpkin spice candle.


The taste of the soup wasn't as strong in terms of the spices. In fact, it was fairly bland, although there was a hint of fennel. The noodles were slightly chewy, stiff, and mostly flavorless. The meat was excessively fatty for my taste. In a way, the veggies were the best part of the soup, but they were far and few between. I wouldn't have minded more bean sprouts and onions in the mix.

Something spicy was in order. Lacking freshly-sliced jalapeños as the "serving suggestion" depicts, I opted for sriracha sauce. Can't go wrong there. But even generous dollops of my second-favorite condiment couldn't completely redeem this Asian-inspired soup.

I hadn't remembered at the time of purchase, but we did look at a previous iteration of Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup about 12 years ago. It was packaged differently back then and was likely from a different supplier, as this current cover boasts "Product of Canada" on the box while the previous version did not. We weren't completely bowled over by that last beef pho, but if anything, this rendition is a step in the wrong direction.

Sonia doesn't think this soup is that bad, but then she's never had real pho. She wasn't a fan of the chewy beef either, but she enjoyed the broth and noodles more than I did. Her portion sat around for 5 or 10 minutes longer than mine did, thus causing the rice noodles to soften a bit.

$3.69 for the single serving bowl. I would not buy again. The beautiful wifey is on the fence. Two stars from me for Trader Joe's Beef Pho Soup. Three from Sonia.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks


Not sure what happened here. Did we get a bad batch? Did our local Trader Joe's manager go around changing freshness dates like Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart?

Sonia and I both thought these were bland, dry, and way too hard. We followed the heating instructions exactly. We consumed them before their "sell by" date. We tried them plain, with soup, and with various other dips.

There was no discernible garlic flavor in Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks. The cheese was wanting both in quantity and taste. Even the bread itself fell utterly short of the delightfully soft and fluffy Cheddar Jalapeño Pull Apart Bread we looked at last week. The breadsticks were slightly more palatable when we first pulled them from the oven, but now that they need reheated a second time, there's simply no redeeming them.

There was no greasy residue on these sticks. Maybe that's what they needed. To both Sonia and me, they seemed like nothing more than unsalted cylindrical crackers. We're struggling to finish them. If you want breadsticks without jalapeños, we recommend buying the pull apart bread and simply removing the jalapeños, because Trader Joe's Garlic & Cheese Bread Sticks simply aren't worth the $3.49 we paid for them.

Two stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Trader Joe's Carb Savvy Tortillas


Sonia, my wife, is a proud American, but she's descended from a long line of Mexican ladies that purchased nothing but handmade corn tortillas daily for many generations. A snack we've had at least weekly, if not daily, since we got married over 13 years ago is quesadillas. If we run out of everything else, we've always got little tortillas and some cheese in the fridge. Heat them up, throw on a couple drops of Tapatio or Cholula, and you've got yourself an authentic Mexican-inspired snack.

We've done corn tortillas, flour tortillas, and we've even tried other low-carb tortillas. What I'm trying to get at here is that my beautiful wifey knows her tortillas and is somewhat of a tortilla snob. And I'm slowly becoming one too.

Sonia and I both agree the Mission brand carb balance soft tortillas are surprisingly good. And we both agree that these Trader Joe's Carb Savvy Tortillas made with Whole Wheat are not. In general, they lack flavor. There's a whisper of something oddly nutty by virtue of the whole wheat, but it's just enough to let you know that there's something missing.


The texture is even worse. It's like a thin sheet of leather. It's a little too tough and chewy for either of our tastes. I guess they beat the Mission brand in terms of their lack of carbs. These contain 9 grams of carbohydrates per tortilla compared to Mission's 19 grams each. The difference is tastable.

If you're really concerned about your carb intake and you want to make quesadillas or tacos or wraps or something along those lines, an even lower carb alternative is Trader Joe's Egg Wraps—a product with superior taste and texture, albeit not exactly tortilla-esque, with an extra bit of protein up in the mix and also gluten-free. I guess those wouldn't really work if you're vegan, but that's about the only scenario I can think of where I'd steer you towards these. Are these even vegan? Usually the packaging announces it quite loudly and proudly...

$2.69 for 10 tortillas. Would not buy again. One star from Sonia for Trader Joe's Carb Savvy Tortillas made with Whole Wheat. Two stars from me.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.

Friday, December 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Decorate Your Own Holiday Ornaments Cookie Kit


It might be an unpopular opinion, but in general, I think food should just be food and decorations should just be decorations. I've never discovered a product that excelled at both simultaneously. And that's to be expected, isn't it? Most edible decorations have been handled excessively before anyone gets the chance to eat them. And if they do, in fact, serve the purpose of ornamentation, well, then...they've likely been sitting out in the open collecting dust, being touched by children and licked by pets for goodness knows how long.

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. And that's one of the reasons we'll be looking at this classic Trader Joe's Decorate Your Own Holiday Ornaments Cookie Kit. We'll be sure to score based on value and fun-factor, not just on taste and texture of the "baked cookies."

First observation: this is a big box. It's heavy. It's one pound and 4.7 ounces! I think that's the second heaviest food product we've ever purchased from Trader Joe's after the big round tin of Jingle Jangle.


There are three tubes of icing: red, white, and green. The colors aren't particularly vibrant. They're rather drab for holiday red and green. I suppose we can chalk that up to Trader Joe's using natural stuff for colors like vegetable juice, paprika, beet powder, turmeric, and spirulina extract instead of typical man-made dyes. That's fine. It's a trade-off.

There are two of each cookie shape: gift box, Christmas tree, snowman, and snowflake. And there are two little packets of candy decorations, one with tiny snowflakes, candy canes, gingerbread men, trees, and balls of various colors. They also give you shiny golden twist ties to hang the ornaments from your Christmas tree.


They taste like the most boring sugar cookies ever. They're only moderately sweet, and they taste and feel like they were meant to be decorative. The candy sprinkles and icings aren't much better. I honestly wouldn't buy this as a food item. I guess kids might like 'em, but I can't imagine many adults being enamored by the taste and texture of these things. A full cookie contains 300 calories, and that's not even close to worth it by my estimation—especially around the holidays when there are so many super tasty foods available.

But I gotta admit, they're cute. Feel free to critique our handiwork in the comments below. I'm sure your kids made much nicer cookies than we did. We're a little out of practice at decorating edible Christmas ornaments.


$7.99 for eight cookies. We'll offer two separate scores here, one as a food item, and another as a decorative one. Four Christmas stars a piece from Sonia and me as far as a fun family activity and ornamental value are concerned for Trader Joe's Decorate Your Own Holiday Ornaments Cookie Kit. Two grinchy Christmas stars a piece from Sonia and me for the edible aspects of this box of cookies.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10 stars for the fun-factor.

Bottom line: 4 out of 10 stars for the food-factor.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Maple Vinaigrette Dressing

Truth be told, I wasn't super excited to pour this stuff on a salad and consume it. Intrigued? Yes. Eager? No. If not for the prospect of reviewing it, I might not have purchased it at all.

I mean, I love maple syrup and generally enjoy maple-flavored things. I also love vinaigrette salad dressings. But together? That's an odd combo if you ask me...but not so odd that I'd avoid it altogether.

With a new, iffy salad dressing, you don't want to dump a bunch of it on your greens and beans and potentially ruin the whole bowl if you're not into the dressing. You have to do that thing like when you're trying a new cleaning product on your carpet where you have to "test in an inconspicuous area" in case it's a disaster. So I just poured a teeny little bit on one corner of my salad to assess the product.

And I'm glad I did it that way. I might have wasted a bunch of salad otherwise, because this stuff is gross. Like, it's the worst salad dressing I've ever had. You'd be better off putting household cleaning vinegar and raw tree sap on a salad.

Not only did the maple and vinaigrette elements commingle and clash in exactly the way I was hoping they wouldn't, there was also this unexpected smoky element that made the whole thing nearly gag-worthy. Maybe the dijon mustard? Canola oil? It poured like a medium-thick brown ooze, similar in appearance to a peanut satay sauce but perhaps a tad thinner. Not particularly appetizing.

I'd try it as a marinade for salmon or a drizzle for ravioli as suggested on traderjoes.com but I can't imagine it working better than something more traditional. I'm taking this one straight to Trader Joe's and getting my $3.49 back. Thumbs down from me.

Sonia tolerated it a lot better than I did, but even she admitted it had "a very weird flavor." She's not going to fight me on the return because she knows I won't help her finish the bottle. Two and a half stars from her.

I'll throw out one since I like it when Trader Joe's gets adventurous, and it is certified organic after all.

Bottom line: 3.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Trader Joe's Beef Birria

Like any good dad, I could mumble under my breath about any number of things my kids have done. Leave their wet swimsuits on their bedroom floor? "Forget" to feed the cats again? Take my cell phone charger and knock my pillow right from it's perfect spot, all in one swoop?

Yes, to all those, almost every day. 

And man, to top it off this past week, none of my kiddos left Dear Ol' Dad any tortillas, so when I finally had a few hours to myself one night and wanted to make tacos with Trader Joe's Beef Birria, alas, I could not. 

At first, I'll admit, I was fairly sad about about having to make the birria as more a stew then a taco. The first few bites, with that amazing warm, welcoming sauce (or perhaps more aptly here, broth)....man. I just wanted something carby to help soak all that up. If we even had some rice (did my kids eat everything...again...did they eat uncooked rice???), it would've been welcomed. Mildly spiced, but just pleasant overall, until....

Eating the TJ's beef birria this way, no sidekick style, made me have to really focus on the quality of the broth. And unfortunately, this stuff suffers tremendously from the law of diminishing returns. The more of it I ate, the less I liked it. It still tasted "good" in some ways, but was increasingly one-noted, kinda flat, and as you can likely guess, incredibly salty. There's so much good flavor in the world, why does sodium overloadium have to be so prevalent? It's not like I have much authentic birria exposure, but I'm reasonably confident that most quality iterations have complexities and layers to their flavor profile. Here, it's not so much. It's just...salt. Red salt, I guess, with some scant notes of chili and garlic or whatever else, but really, it's almost all salt. If my newly established cardiologist would have seen me chowing down, I'd hope she'd properly slap me. 

Obviously, that's the biggest detriment. Everything else seems alright. The beef is a little mushy, as one would expect from a frozen entree, but still had a good quality to it. It wasn't too stringy or fatty or anything, and had a decent pot roast kinda feel to it. It was a good sized portion, but for the price I paid ($7.99!), I'd hope for a few bites more. That'd make it a more feasible tacos-for-two kinda dish. 

And, well...that's about all there is to it. 

My lovely bride didn't have a chance to try, as she was out wrangling those kiddos. When I made my dinner report to her, there was some initial disappointment, but assuredly, love, you're not missing much here. This will be hard pass from here on out. Not a fan. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Beef Birria: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, July 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada


 Fast food cravings are pretty infrequent these days. 

Chick-Fil-A? Maybe once every couple months, and somehow, somewhat ironically, mostly on a random Sunday. Wendy's? About on the same schedule, but also rarely/ The fabled golden arches, or as my four year old likes to say, "Mick-ell-Donnells'? Maybe once a year, if only for a breakfast sando, or if the kids are hangry on a road trip, I'll consider. 

Taco Bell? Practically never...like once a decade...which is a lot more often than Burger King...but anyways....

If I were more of a Taco Bell fiend, I'd likely be more familiar with the "Mexican pizza" that's not on the menu rotation any longer from what I gather, and that the new Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada at least somewhat emulates and may serve as a somewhat suitable replacement for. 

Where do we start with this near disaster, though?

First, I guess, the basics. There's a beef and bean paste-like substance sandwiched between two tortillas that serve as the base of this offering. It's bland and nondescript without anything to it. Atop the top tortilla, there's a handful of cheedar cheese, some diced poblanos, sliced black olives and green onions all kinda haphazardly strewn about. It's as sloppy looking as once can imagine.

No matter, bake it up and it'll taste great, right? Well...no. Everything (and I mean everything) is pretty much devoid of anything resembling flavor. It's...so uninspirational. Just tastes like soggy cardboard. Oh, there's the word, soggy. Baked up at 425 for slightly longer than the recommended 18 minutes, it's still a wet, jumbled, not crispy or crunchy anything. It's a soggy jumbled mess. 

How can something go so wrong? Poblanos (or perhaps more aptly, poblandos) just aren't a pepper worth featuring in a dish. In a school play, they'd be a tree, not Snow White or one of the dwarves. And everything else just doesn't have anything to make up the slack. There's no spice, ni pizzazz, no flavor...just bland mush. Which, come to think of it, is exactly how I consider most of my Taco Bell experiences to be, so perhaps this is the perfect pizza to compare them with. 

If I were to ever eat this again, i'd need to bake longer and load up on some salsa or some sauces or something. But more likely than not, I'm just gonna skip it from here on out. 

My lovely bride was a touch more forgiving and said she'd try again as part of a snack or something. But she shared much of the same observations, so good to know it wasn't just me. 

So disappointing. It's an airball that shoulda been a slam dunk. Awful stuff. Just skip it, and hopefully that freezer aisle real estate can be reallocated soon enough to something much more worthwhile. One spoon from me, two from the Mrs.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Layered Beef Tostada: 3 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Cashew Butter Cashews

Let's do a quick little break down here, to see where exactly all of this begins to go completely wrong. 

First, the name. Trader Joe's Cashew Butter Cashews. Trader Joe's, cashew butter, and cashews. Man, we're quick off the line here - that sounds delicious!

Let's move to the description: "Honey roasted cashews." Oh yes please! But then..."covered in a sweetened (ruhroh) cashew butter coating (more ruhroh)."

Obviously the ruhrohs were added for dramatic effect. Would be bad marketing otherwise. 

Let's look at the ingredients then, to maybe deduce more of what's goin' on. First off, there's that "cashew butter coating" again. Not just cashew butter, it's cashew butter coating. Which means taking perfectly good cashew butter and adding dry milk, a load of sugar (6g in a 30g serving - they're 20% sugar!), a bunch of palm oil...and all that before even a mention of cashews. 

And to go really wrong...just take a bite. 

Imagine Reese's making a candy coated cashew snack, it gets hugely popular, then there's a dollar store knockoff coming around. I'd imagine these nuts would taste almost exactly like that. They're annoyingly sweet, in a fake amped kinda way, which detracts so hard from anything resembling the natural earthy goodness of a good cashew. I don't taste honey or cashew, I taste plain ol' sugar and cream with a vague hint of nut. There's barely even the crunch or bite of a good roasted cashew. It's just sugar blobs. 

Part of me will admit that the cashew butter cashews are kinda good in a somewhat trashy/junkfood way...but that's not what I wanted here. I wanted good in a wholesome way. And maybe that's the biggest thing wrong here: being too attached to my own expectations. Kinda funny how often that's the case. 

For what it's worth, my lovely bride and I balance each other out here. She loves 'em, for that junk food-y candyish vibe. She picks up a bit more of the saltiness and nuttiness than I do, too. Me? Man, there's just some better ways to make a healthier snack here. Honey roasted cashew, a drier style cashew butter and maybe some ground cashews to dust off the outer layer? Come on, that sounds delicious! 

Anyways, she'll four them up. That's way too high in my book, and I'll go lower than intended to help balance out. Can't go wrong that way. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cashew Butter Cashews: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Papadums

Ever kinda bite your tongue and try to hold back because you know whatever you have to say is gonna be unpopular but you kinda have to say it anyways.

That's where I am when it comes to Trader Joe's Papadums, with one key exception: I'm biting my fingers, not tongue, cuz I have to type this all out instead of just saying it, hoping it goes unnoticed. 

I......do not like the TJ's papadums. Not at all. 

This is completely contrary to every other opinion I've seen on them online. I kinda get it. The idea behind them is wonderful. From what I can tell, papadums are a traditional Indian snack, with some variation, but a lot are crispy, crunchy, crackery chiplike guys made from lentils and chickpeas. Texturally, they're a lot like sweet potato tortilla chips. So far, so good. Flavorwise, there's not much except the natural lentil and chickpea flavor, with a small dash of cumin and salt. Again, we're off to a good start here...

...it's just...

...there's something about the taste. Upfront there's no offensive or wrong, but after a crisp or two, the flavor "turns." I don't know how else to describe it, but it changes from a pleasant earthy crispy crisp to something I can only liken to dirt. Just...gross dirt. Like dried up, bottom of the soccer cleat kinda stuff. No, I don't actually know what that tastes like. But it's just so off-putting.

I tried, really, I did. I ate multiple papadums in multiple sittings, just to see if it was my mood or something else. Nope. Each bite was worse. Can't take them any more. 

Now, sure, I'm sure some of you will say you had to try them with a dip. I'm sure that'd cover up some of their unpleasantness. But to me, for a product to be good, it has to stand independent from anything else, and not be reliant on something else to make up for what it lacks. That's not where I am here with these.

I don't know, maybe this papa is dumb for not liking the papadums. Everyone else does, including my lovely bride, so that means more for you all I suppose. Enjoy for me, I'm gonna be sitting these out from here on out. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Papadums: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie


 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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