Trader Joe’s has it all figured out. The new products, they just keep coming. We’re on a hare-brained mission to try every new product at TJ’s in 2018. Trying. A noble pursuit, a “good use of time,” “what is this, an ad?”, call it what you will. New this week—Valentines gummies, coconut clusters of fun, pretty good chicken sausage, and more.
Organic Oven Roasted Turkey Breast, $4.99
These floppy shingles of roasted turkey are a lunch meat staple, though I’ve never tried to bind two pieces of paper with them. Instead, I roll them with sliced Swiss cheese and dip them in mustard like the grown adult person with an expired license I am. A subtle, roasted flavor elevates the turkey from its natural state of taste (soggy meat Kleenex) to a whisper of Thanksgiving leftovers. Good product. Reliable sandwich material. Real meat. Gluten-free. Protein. Precisely circular. Not salami.
Gummy Xs & Os, $2.99
In time for Valentine’s Day, we have a big bag of gummies. The ”natural flavors” flavor reminds me of rosé–supposedly grapefruit, strawberry, and mixed berry—but they all blend together to me in the way you’re pretty sure gummy bears are different flavors for different colors but are they, really?? All I know is that the Xs taste better than Os. The big downside–sorry, gummy enthusiasts—is that the texture is too soft. Like that moment you’re making out with your Valentine and finally come to terms with the fact that he’s a body pillow named Ted. Gummies need a little bit of chew, some struggle, a reminder that it’s not gonna be easy all the time. A nice metaphor for love if you ask me.
Electric Buzz Coffee Cups, $5.49
I drink coffee the old-fashioned way—by pouring off-boiling water into a filter directly in my mouth—so I enlisted a guest reviewer for these TJ branded K-cups that are supposedly EXTRA CAFFEINATED! “It’s no special cup of mud,” texted my friend Keith, a man who puts plastic cups in a machine expecting roasted bean juice to come out. BA’s Alex Delany described these coffee pods like he does beer, ridiculously: “It tastes like someone walked across your tongue with brand new dad sneakers on. Rubber soles.” Did he really need to offend all of dadkind like that? Probably yes.
Organic Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage, $5.99
Like many chicken sausages, it tastes like chicken sausage. Throw in some garlic powder and basil particles and poof, Italian. Out of the package, they have a slimy smooth, bouncy hot dog texture because the casing has been removed. I don’t get how this works, but I‘ll try anything once. A sweet, kind cashier with a striking resemblance to my Uncle Manny (RIP) said he loves to make sausage and peppers with them, so that’s what I did. I mean, we’re practically family. The sausages are smaller side, more the size of Ball Park Franks, and crisp up in the pan as intended. Two people in my household ate the entire package of five links, dipping each bite in mustard and trying to find something more meaningful to say about something as mundane as chicken sausage. Notes of peppercorn tingle the tastebuds. Solidly Not Bad.
Coconut Sesame Seed Clusters, $1.99
These are little shards that aren’t quite granola and yet aren’t anything else. Purgatory snacks! They’re crunchy pieces of toasted coconut covered in sesame seeds, sealed together with coconut sugar and tapioca syrup. Okay so they’re candy. Serving suggestions include: casually eating out of a hollowed coconut shell, on ice cream, but more likely, by the handful until you read the nutrition facts and realize the bag is empty but hey, at least they’re gluten-free? If this isn’t impulse purchase material, I don’t know what is.
The Week of January 22
Churro Bites, $2.49
The only thing these churro bites share in common with hot-off-the-oil churros is a coating of cinnamon sugar. Other than that, these crunchy nuggets are their own category of cookie-chip. They have a near-velvet outer texture, the combination of shiny hardened butter and sandy sugar, like when you dropped a doughnut hole at the beach but ate it anyway, because seagulls. (Because you’re a monster). Sort of like giant Corn Pops, rolled cinnamon sugar. I won’t even begin to describe what they visually resemble (😺 💩). The cashier at TJ’s looked at the nutritional details and then slowly raised her eyes to mine. Me: “These are not good for you.” Her: “Then why are you buying two?”
Gluten Free Oat Cranberry Flaxseed Cookies, $2.99
As a general life principle, you should never trust a cookie with more than three names. These gluten-free-oat-cranberry-flaxseed-cookies seem to think that they can trick us into believing they’re some kind of health food but we know, ohhhh we KNOW. These are cookies. With plenty of butter and sugar. Because of that, I have some great news: They taste like cookies! Like a very good grocery store oatmeal raisin cookie, with a surprisingly soft and chewy texture (I see you, molasses and rice flour.) They crumble a little, but then again who doesn’t in this current political climate? Still not sure what a flaxseed is, but I’m already starting to see definition in my abs.
Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce, $1.99
This so-called simmer sauce is the pale minty green of my grandmother’s bathroom walls, with much more flavor (and a lot less lead!). Even though a simple green curry is easy to make, at this price, it costs the same as just the can of coconut milk, and there’s Kaffir lime peel in here. It’s fragrant with lemongrass and ginger, and super creamy, a little sweet—overall, delicious. You cook some protein or veg, add the sauce, serve over noodles/rice. What does this sauce have in common with a certain presidential marriage? There’s absolutely no heat. BYO-chile if you need to spice it up.
Tahini, Pepita & Apricot Slaw Kit, $3.99
Inside one plastic bag you get four more little plastic bags! It’s like a Russian nesting salad of environmental doom. Or something. The slaw is a combination of veggies from the aisle-land of misfit produce. Spiky broccoli stems. Faded carrots the color of construction cones abandoned by the highway. The curly split ends from a kale haircut. Cabbage. Unfortunately the dressing, a sweet honey tahini (try this one!), which is pretty good, can’t mask the musty taste of the veg. The pepita and apricot sprinkles are a nice idea, but like hoping the 14 throw pillows on your couch hide all of the cat hair, they can only do so much.
The Week of January 8
Frosted Sugar Cookies, $2.99
Trader Joe’s imitation of Lofthouse’s iconic packaged cookies is the best thing they’ve brought to the new year. The freakishly smooth, delightfully underbaked sugar cookie is topped with frosting and randomly distributed purple-pink sprinkles. Whoever was in charge of sprinkles appears to have sneezed them out, some gather along the edges, holding on for dear frosting life.
But they really did it. It’s mythic, and it dissolves into dust the second it touches your saliva. The minute you bite into it, you forget it was ever there. And it’s everything you’ve missed since the last time you had one, stoned at 10 p.m. in Kroger with your middle school friends who’ve all had babies on Facebook by now. It’s a cookie that will send you back in time, in memory, in a sugar-induced nostalgia nap.
Cocoa Almond Cashew Beverage, $2.29
Who doesn’t love a beverage? AKA the FDA-approved term for milks that aren’t milk. Remember milk? Pause to pour out some beverage in the memory of milk. Those days are over.
This incredibly silky not-milk is chocolaty and sweet, with a vaguely nutty aftertaste, like a burp after too many bar peanuts. The creamy texture, thanks to the beautiful food science that is locust bean gum and other emulsifiers, ends on a near slimy note, reminiscent of the inside of the cardboard chocolate milk carton. It would be nice in a banana smoothie, heated as faux cocoa, mixed into iced coffee, or given as a bribe to children who have never known the cult of cow.
Italian Marinara Sauce with Barolo Wine, $3.49
Have you ever spooned straight marinara sauce into your mouth? It’s acidic and sweet, smooth save for the little toenails of tomato skin here and there. The saltiness left my chapped lips burning and tingling, like I’d exfoliated them with French fries. The addition of Barolo seems to say, “I know wines other than red,” while the black-and-gold Deco packaging suggests a Gatsby-themed party at the Olive Garden. It tasted like pretty good pizza sauce. Sign me up.
Organic Fruit and Seed Granola, $3.69
These little clusters of organic seeds, held together by plasticky tasting tapioca syrup, are nuggets of health. I think. No pesky oats here, just seed bombs that I imagine are only slightly larger than what well-fed pigeons expel. The sharp and crunchy texture is appealing to parents who bring healthy snacks to the movies. They’re also the perfect snack for mindful eaters, as you will mindfully spend every bite doing tongue yoga to get chia seeds out of your molar fillings from the 90s. There are surprise bites of sweetened dried cranberries that will make you exclaim, “SUGAR, for MEEEE?” Somehow you will eat the whole bag.
Stay tuned for more, next week.