My quest to try everything new at Trader Joe’s is going great, thanks for asking. I’ve written close to 8,000 words, and we’ve photographed so many snacks that, well, I had to build a second page for part 2 to keep from overloading our system. What about overloading my body? Nope, impossible. New these summer weeks at TJ’s: pre-spatchcocked chicken vs. pre-sliced chicken, gigantic cold brew tea bags, tri-color Neapolitan Joe-Joe’s, and a big hunk of cheese.
Cold Brew Coffee Bags, $5.99
Barista Joe makes homemade cold brew one step easier by putting the grounds into palm-sized tea bags that you steep overnight. These little bean bag chairs means all of that fuss where you strain the grounds yourself is taken out of the equation, the convenience level of Velcro shoes. And I love Velcro! The coffee is strong as hell, without the bitterness of hot-brewed TJ coffee. Note: there are only four bags in each package and they recommend two bags per pitcher. Does math for the first time in ten years. Not sure if this adds up to a good deal. But bean bags!!!
Organic Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Strips, $6.99/pound
Chicken is cut for you.
Asiago Cheese, $7.99/pound
Remember how revolutionary the asiago bagels at Einstein Bros. Bagels were? Imagine my shock and disappointment when I moved to New York only to discover they didn’t pre-melt cheese on their bagels. Slightly nutty asiago—Parmesan’s more mellow cousin—has slowly grown in popularity in the past decade, and here it is all by itself in a slightly greasy wedge that I grated into malfatti (great idea). The crumbly, near-rubbery texture means I’ll pass on it for cheese plates; it’s a shredder all the way.
Cheese Party Tray, $5.49
Speaking of cheese plates I’ll pass on, this party tray contains shingled rectangles of swiss, cheddar, pepper jack, and colby jack. Those are SANDWICH cheeses, not party cheeses, JOE. Where’s the GD triple creme?! As they sat out in the black plastic tray fit for a party in a car dealership break room, a sheer layer of cheese sweat formed, which gave each slice a hardened edge. Not unlike someone who’s been reviewing Trader Joe’s products for eight months.
Mini Sheet Cakes $4.49
Ooooh cake! Someone DMed me on Instagram that they loved the Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean sheet cake so much that they tracked down the original bakery and commissioned them to make a larger version for their wedding. Isn’t that incredible?! And I can see why: the charmingly off-center frosting is sweet and buttery with flecks of real vanilla, while the moist cake is lightly spiced. Which reminds me! I also forgot to tell you guys that I recently saw a happy couple on their wedding day, making a Trader Joe’s stop en route to City Hall. Suit, wedding dress, the whole thing!! They were walking down the (TJ’s) aisle with a bouquet of flowers, beaming with happiness. Everyone in the checkout line wished them congratulations. It was a special moment—for this hardened piece of cheese in particular.
Skip the Dark Chocolate Ganache, unless you have a whole gallon of milk at the ready to wash it down.
Organic Mediterranean Style Salad Kit, $3.99
There’s nothing like the smell of raw, chopped broccoli unleashed from its plastic bag. My notes read: “farty.” Hey, that’s what they say, I can’t sugar coat it. Or can I? The gloopy sweet red wine vinegar dressing certainly will. This salad kit, like all the others, spawns more plastic bags right as you cut upon the next one. One’s got the dressing, another some shoe leather pieces of sundried tomato, one for crunchy things, one for feta cheese. Despite all of the arts and crafts, I liked the shredded radicchio and romaine confetti, which I’d eat over raw kale any day of the week. I doctored it up with black olives and made a lunch of half the bag.
Neapolitan Joe-Joe’s, $2.99
Extreme artificial strawberry ice cream flavor overwhelms any hope for equilibrium in these ambitious tri-colored not-Oreo cookies. What I mean is: hella strawberry. I watched my colleague Emily Schultz dissect a Joe-Joe, using the vanilla cookie to scrape the cement-like strawberry creme filling off the chocolate cookie, which she licked off like Fun Dip. WHO RAISED YOU, EMILY? Others took a whiff and walked away. I ate four in a row. You either do, or you don’t.
BBQ Seasoned Spatchcocked Chicken, $3.99/pound
“That’s obscene,” Andy Baraghani said when he saw the spatchcocked chicken about to be photographed, limbs splayed open for the world to see. However, it’s a genius selling point—an intimidating-seeming way to cook whole chicken (here’s how to do it at home), backbone removed and wings tucked under for even, crispy-skinned grilling. Or roasting–I cooked it in the oven on a cast-iron. If only they sold plain spatchcocked chickens instead of the pre-seasoned ones (there’s also lemon-rosemary), because it tasted like barbecue potato chips, heavy on the maple syrup and paprika.
Organic Hemp Seed Bars, $2.99
Healthyish editor Amanda Shapiro chimed in with her professional opinion on these bars, which are “chewy but not too chewy,” and “taste like nothing.” There ya have it, folks. The agave sweetener is subtle; the only flavor you really taste are the shriveled little bites of freeze-dried blueberry.
Simpler Wines Chardonnay Too Uncanny. $2.99
Hold onto your velour beach visors! Because Chardonnay joins the lineup of canned TJ rosé this summer. The aroma of green apple shampoo paired well with the ice cube I added. There are notes of who-cares-it’s-canned-wine, and papaya-I-think? (Marissa Ross, am I doing this right?) It’s a slightly acidic, not buttery, Chardonnay that I wouldn’t mind stashing in my bag to take to the movies.