There’s still no pancake loaf in sight at my local Trader Joe’s. But how curious, what’s this? Cinnamon croissant loaf? There’s something carby and sweet that’s even better this month, look out belowwwww!
Cinnamon Croissant Loaf, $5.99
While the best-by date told me I had some time, it turned out that this loaf dries out quickly. It had the wispy texture of Donald Trump’s combover—hard to swallow. It’s not as sturdy as toast toast, so I wouldn’t load it up with almond butter and banana slices or shove it between the cracks in the brick siding of my home. However, the dryness could be offset in a big batch of French toast casserole. WHERE’S THE PANCAKE LOAF, JOE?
Antipasto Mediterranean Vegetables and Cherry Tomatoes, $2.99
These “half-dried” antipasto veg things are about as tasty as they look, which is gross. Slimy and oregano-ed up the wazoo, deeply in need of acidity from fresh lemon juice or vinegar, I could only stomach a few bites of each before deeply pondering the customer this is meant for. Someone who wants a cheese plate no one will touch so they actually eat all of their dinner? Okay, maybe them.
Joe-Joe’s Slims, $1.79
What happens when you slim down a perfect cookie? There’s crispy crunch, sure. But the ratios go askew. Here we have too much chocolate flavor, not enough cream filling. You’re left wanting.
Chocolate Chip Pain Au Lait, $2.99
Sweet and squishy! It reminded me of a sweeter kolache, or a Hawaiian roll with bites of acceptable near-melty chocolate chips. READER, IT’S DELICIOUS. We all loved the way the shiny milk bread springs up after your finger’s left an indentation, like a carb trampoline.
Lemon Cookie Scented Candle, $3.99
Froot loops and graham crackers.
Organic Honey Hedgehogs Snack Packs, $2.99 for a box of 6
These are for sweet, innocent children who’ve never tasted the beautiful corn syrup landscape of an original Teddy Graham. Suckers! They’ll love these alongside a lukewarm carton of 2 percent milk. These cookies are sandy and slightly sweet, and the shape of one of nature’s oddest looking mammals.
7 Seasoning Salute To Salmon, $10.99
This huge frozen salmon filet packaged in a vacuum-sealed plastic contraption is as long as a Big Mouth Billy Bass, but it won’t sing on your wall for unsuspecting dinner guests. Nope. It’s pre-seasoned with TJ’s 7 Seasoning Salute, which is garlic, onion powder, cumin, black pepper, and some dried herbs. As Billy the Salmon roasted, my entire apartment smelled like barbecue, not a bad thing. And it’s low-maintenance: you just put it on a pan and go. I found the salmon strongly fishy in flavor (I wonder if it’s because you cook it straight from frozen, versus thawing?), but it flaked off in nice big coins. I give it four salutes (with my toes).
Beer Bread Mix, $2.79
Pour a bottle of Shiner Bock (or whatever beer represents who you are inside) into the dry ingredients, shred some cheese directly into the mixing bowl, douse everything in melted butter and blammo, 50 minutes later you have loaf bread version of Red Lobster biscuits. Buttery, moist, sweet, and yeasty. I can’t in good conscience tell people to bake with boxed mixes because we…develop recipes for a living…but this is a great product to eat. Dammit!
Corn, Pea, Bean & Quinoa Crisps, $2.49
Sort of like Popchips meets Popcorners meets a wolf in the woods trying to eat your granny. What are these things? The texture of packing peanuts with just as much nutritional benefit. Certain coworkers couldn’t stop eating them, because: salt. The bright dehydrated green dried peas will be familiar if you’ve ever had Cup Noodles. I don’t trust ‘em.
Rich Hydrating Face Sheet Mask, $1.99
MOUTH HOLE NOT BIG ENOUGH. I could only suffocate under this for six minutes before giving up. I need face masks with mouth holes big enough to sip my martini without getting moisturizer in my gin. This didn’t make the cut! But even then…my skin was so soft after.
Organic Rosé Vinaigrette, $3.49
Food director Carla Lalli Music caught me trying to take a shot of this dressing out of a plastic cup in the Bon Appétit Test Kitchen. I had a problem, I told her. The vinaigrette had separated and the rosé part was an amoeba bubble in a pond of olive oil, so every time I tried to sip it, all I got was oil. “No industrial stabilizers,” she noted wisely while reading the label. Once you do shake it to something close to mixed, you realize the rosé vin has an oxidized, unpleasant flavor and the dried oregano gets too much air time. Doesn’t it always?
Chocolate Covered Wafer Cookie, 79¢
These chocolate covered wafers are the chocolate covered versions of the Keebler ones my grandma always had stashed among the powdered donuts and ice cream cups and orange pop. If you’re wondering if she had diabetes the answer is yes, and it runs in our family, weeeee! Aaaanyway. These are airy, crispy, and feather-light. A little dry if I’m being honest (shifts eyes towards strangers across the floor). But I can turn a blind tooth to that for 79 cents.
Organic Earl Grey Tea, $2.49
Big Earl Grey fans (write as if the Queen is reading, write as if the Queen is reading) might find this too mild for their royal tastes, but it’s nice and floral, pleasant and light. By royal decree: a good desk tea.
Red Honey Processed El Salvador Coffee, $8.99
This is a medium roast coffee but it’s definitely closer to light, which is my favorite roast (more flavor!). Because of that bias, I loved this coffee. I’m not great at pinpointing notes in coffee (or have the bold confidence to spew them out), but I could tell it was complex and round, not one-noted and burned, or worse, flat and stale. It can stand up to other fancier brews in my modest routine any morning.
Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter Cups, 99¢
Really bitter and pasty, unless you like bitter and pasty, in which case you’re Emma Wartzman and you’re the only person who enjoyed these things. Great, take the whole package, get them way from me!
Jackfruit Cakes, $3.99
Like highwater jumpsuits and tiny sunglasses we’ve got a TREND ALERT. The box brags that these are vegan crabless cakes, which means the jackfruit—a gigantic tropical fruit that, in its young stage, tastes like nothing—is shredded like crab meat and doctored up with celery salt. It tastes like celery. Some onion. The exterior gets crispy in the oven, and a generous salting almost reminded me of a scallion pancake (there’s a ton of tapioca and potato starch to bind, giving them that savory pancake gummy quality). It’s oddly tough and harder to cut with the side of your fork than a tender, delicate Real Crab Cake, but I hear imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Brussels Sprouts & Caramelized Onion Ravioli, $3.49
Dr. Seussian green stripes are an indication to your brain that you’re eating vegetables. In reality, these are pillows of cheese, specifically European sham pillows of cheese. DELICIOUS CHEESE SHAMS. The caramelized onion gave them a pierogies vibe that I was not mad about. I added shredded parm on top and browned butter because if you’re going to go all the way, go all the way.
Gluten Free Crispy Crunchy Salted Toffee Cookies, $3.99
A downright suspicious competitor to Tate’s! So crispy-crunchy, with inexplicable little holes that make the whole cookie look pock-marked and planetary. The rice flour base turns to watery sand in your mouth, an intriguing experience. Plus they’re salted to the nth degree, which makes you want to smash them like Cookie Monster (did you know the cookies he smashes are actually rice cakes?). These are wonderful.
Malabari Paratha, $1.99
Kinda greasy and dry at the same time.
Organic Spinach and Riced Cauliflower Salad Kit, $4.99
Ugh, all I asked for was NO MORE SALAD KITS in 2019, but Joe clearly wasn’t listening. Must be listening to the market instead. The cauliflower maggots sank to the bottom or stuck to the side of the mixing bowl, but the sweet golden beets in this kit were a nice surprise after opening SIX INCREASINGLY SMALLER PLASTIC BAGS.
Fruit & Nut (& Other Stuff) Crisps, $3.99
These are orange-flavored crackers with stained glass windows of dried apricot that get stuck in your molars. My corrupt dentist would not want me eating these, but would love if I interviewed him for a story in exchange for a free cleaning.
Chocolate Pecan Pie Bar, $6.99
I thought this would be, you know, pecan pie, but it’s gooey. All chocolate and sugar and goo. MISSING: NUTS. Some pecan limbs were left behind, but that’s not going to cut it for me. I’m from TEXAS. We love pecans! Where are the pecans?! Also not corrupt dentist approved.
Smoked Salmon Trio, $12.99
Ranked by flavor from best to meh: 1) Pleasantly peppery black pepper, 2) amusingly pink beet–cured, 3) dill that doesn’t taste like dill at all.
Mushroom & Company Umami Seasoning Blend, $2.99
So we’re going to keep throwing around “umami,” huh? It would be a good dog name, honestly. “This is umami, he likes listening to classical music podcasts and sniffing butts.” This tastes like French onion soup stock: overwhelming onion and mustard seed, not that funky. I prefer the Spice House’s porcini salt if you want to get shroomy (add it to the water you’re making rice in!).
Rolled Corn Tortilla Chips, Chili & Lime Flavored, $2.49
These rolly chips are harder and sturdier than Takis and the chili lime flavor is SO SOUR it will make your cheeks pucker and burn…in a good way. The chemical flavor is especially zingy paired with a cheap pilsner or shot of tequila. The not-Hot Cheetos from TJ’s are still my favorite, but these were a wild ride.
Stay tuned for more reviews for THE REST OF THE YEAR.