Mustard and Ale Cheddar Cheese


Trader Joe’s “British Mustard and Ale Cheddar”? Hmmm…Sounds a bit intriguing, no? Comes in a small package, only 5 ounces and kind of cheap, it was well under two bucks. Now I have to say I’m not usually one who is too into cheeses with added “flavors”. Still on rare occasion you do come across a quite decent cheese with something added to the cheese that works quite well. An example are some Dutch Gouda’s that have cumin or caraway seeds in them. I’ve tried some that are really delicious. I didn’t know what to expect from a Mustard and Ale Cheddar. I love mustard with cheese of course especially cheddar. So I got some of this mustard and ale cheese to taste, and frankly thought well it’s OK, its got a lot of whole mustard seeds in there which are a little strong, maybe over-shadowing the cheddar. I couldn’t put my finger on the “ale” part really. So I think, it’s OK but would I buy more, no, not really, I’d rather buy a jar of TJ’s excellent Whole Grain Dijon Mustard and some Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar or New Zealand Extra Sharp Cheddar and use some mustard as I see fit. But here’s the funny part. During this evaluation, I tasted a piece, then tasted another. Just one more bite…. ok one more… and soon I realized during this tasting I had eaten about half the package. It was hard for me to stop tasting this cheese! Maybe I liked it more than I though? So if the combination sounds appealing to you, you may want to give this a try and see what you think.

TIP While we are at it, if you want a great melted cheese sandwich, try spreading that TJ whole grain Dijon on some nice bread before you add your cheese. Grill it up with butter. When all the elements melt together its pretty great. So I figure this cheese might make a very good melted cheese sandwich too. If anyone tries that let us know if its any good like that. So its a bit odd, but this cheese may be worth trying. If you put it out on a cheese plate, folks might even ask where you got this stuff.

Trader Joe’s Liquid Dish Soap


I liked this Liquid Dish Soap that TJ sells under their own brand.

This is the LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT version. They also sell a Citrus scent version. It’s clear, meaning no dyes. Is Dawn blue naturally? I think not.

I imagine this stuff is probably comparable to one of those crazy expensive dish soaps you see in Whole Foods that I will never let my wife buy (“Seven dollars for dish soap?! You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t worry I’ll pick some up at the dollar store next time I go. “) And yes I do frequently buy the huge bottles of dish washing liquid at the dollar store. 40 ounces for a buck. Now I do recognize they are more “watery” and I have to put more on the sponge more often but its just going down the drain anyway, quite literally.

Anyway to make my honey happy, I “splurged” and got a bottle of TJ’s Dish Soap It’s $2.99. You can tell instantly this is thicker than my $1 soap. Turn it upside down and see how fast it takes a bubble to rise. I tried it out washing up and this does a good job, it made a lot of foam that lasted. It smells quite nice (lavender and tea tree oil).  I can tell I don’t have to use as much soap as often as I do with my Dollar Store stuff. I’m sure its really some famous brand sold under TJ’s label at half the price the name brand usually costs, as is typical with some Trader Joe’s products. A big thing on the internet is guessing who really makes a product TJ sells (for example Annie’s Mac and Cheese vs. TJ Mac and Cheese) Anyway for $2.99 I will probably now buy this soap from now on. OK perhaps in addition to having one of the big bottles of the cheap stuff under the sink just in case we run out. Old habits die hard.

LAVENDER TEA TREE SCENT – made from plant derived cleaners Biodegradable. Hypoallergenic. Cuts Through Grease.

A 25 oz bottle is $2.99

Trader Joe’s Bags: Wrapping Paper!


My neighbor sent me this photo. I think its a great idea, not to mention being very Green! Recycling a Trader Joe’s shopping bag as Xmas wrapping paper!

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Trader Joe’s WINTER WAKE UP TEA


So let me just start off with the comment that I really like this tea but frankly found the name a wee bit misleading. When I saw the words “Wake Up Tea”, I just assumed this will make a cup of strong, dark, kick-ass, rocket fuel (English/Irish) tea… A dark cuppa that really wakes you up in the morning. But when I brewed up a cup as you can see in the picture its not a very dark super strong tea. However when I tasted it I thought, oh this quite good! So I really like this tea but my take is kind of Trader Joe’s should have come up with a different name minus “wake up”. “Winter Wake Up Tea” is probably not something I would brew to wake me up in the morning. But other than that comment, Trader Joe’s has come up with an EXCELLENT TEA BLEND with great spice flavors that would satisfy me at any time of day, and makes me feel all nice and warm and cozy!

TJ’s Winter Wake Up Tea is a wonderfully balanced tasty spiced tea, a blend of black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger and cloves. If it was called something a bit different without “wake up” in the name, I would have simply started the review with “A most wonderful spiced tea that will make you feel warm and toasty on a cold snowy winter’s eve, and will warm your heart and soul! Drink it in front of the fireplace and just relax….” Personally Mr. Joe, I would have named it something like, say… WINTER COZY TEA. or WINTER SPICE BLEND TEA* or something like that.

Brew this up and you get a very nice spiced tea that reminds me slightly of CONSTANT COMMENT tea – a famous spiced tea blend created back in 1945. My parents always had it in our cupboard, especially making an appearance when “company” came over, as it was kind of special and would get a “yum… whats this tea?” comment from our guests. Ah the good old days! This TJ tea make a lighter cup than Constant Comment, with less black tea prominent in the blend but probably more spices such as cinnamon, ginger, plus clove and orange peel. It even is has the slightest bit of sweetness naturally as an under-note from a bit of licorice, which possesses natural sweetness.

So will this wake you up like the Irish Breakfast tea which actually is a “wake up tea”? Myself, to wake up I need a strong cuppa like TJ’s excellent Irish Breakfast Tea, or a typical English tea like Typhoo Tea or the like. But still enjoy this Winter Tea for what it is – a quite lovely spiced tea full of flavor.

Aha, methinks, I’ve a great idea! What if I combined the two teas together?! I brewed both teas up together, and very much liked the resulting concoction. If you do you want something a bit darker and stronger but with lots of nice spice flavors, just take 2 cups of water, bring to a boil in a pot, and toss in a bag of this Winter Tea plus a bag of Irish Breakfast Tea. Let it brew for at least 5 minutes. The result is nice mix-up of both, a strong “cuppa” plus lots of warm spices and flavor, not terribly unlike Constant Comment, and which actually now is a Wake Up Tea that will perk you up on a cold winter’s morn.

*So Mr Trader Joe, should you borrow my ideas and rename this product “COZY WINTER TEA” you better at least send me a case of this stuff!

 

 

 

TJ’s ROSEMARY HAM


Trader Joe’s Sliced Rosemary Ham

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RAVE

Oh yeah this Good Stuff. Wonderful aroma, flavor and and truly excellent texture. I find this to be a superb, high quality, out-of-the ordinary sliced rosemary ham. It doesn’t say exactly where its produced so I imagine in the U.S. but to me somehow its got an Imported kind of taste and quality. The back of my mind says “Italy” but they would state that if it was true. I’m pleased to know WE can produce this quality too here at home! This is what I would call really good “adult ham”. Its not too salty nor sweet. Has just the right salinity and sweetness. Oven roasted with rosemary. ALL NATURAL INGREDIENTS. MINIMALLY PROCESSED. No Nitrates, Nitrites, its cured with all natural, real ingredients on the label that you can recognize without a dictionary, such as : Sea salt, lemon juice, vinegar, sugar cane, and of course rosemary. You get a pronounced aroma of rosemary as soon as you open the package but the rosemary flavor does not overpower the flavor of the ham, it enhances it with a lovely little rosemary coating on the outside edges. Sliced super thin, it has a super tender, fall apart, melt in your mouth, texture. Probably cooked for a long time, low and slow. Its so tender and comes apart so easily into shreds that if you don’t want to rip a slice as you remove it, you will need to do it carefully.

I love this, its a really great TJ product. It’s a little more expensive than the other ham I usually buy (Black Forest) at TJ ($3 for 8 oz). This one is $3.29 for a 6 oz. package, which is 6 slices. But for this quality, a bit less than $9/lb for a sliced ham this good, is not untoward and certainly worth trying. I would imagine if you are having guests and put this out on a plate rolled up into little bites with a toothpick….you would get a lot of “hey where do you get this ham ?”

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VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY KIT (aka Yakisoba)


VEGETABLE & SOBA NOODLE STIR FRY

This “stir fry kit” is composed of cut, prepped veggies all ready to stir fry, along with 2 packets of (cooked) soba noodles, plus a packet of soy- ginger finishing sauce. It has broccoli, bok choy, savoy cabbage, snow peas, scallions.

Look for this in the refrigerated / veggie/salads case. I say this convenient $5 kit is in actuality, most of the makings of Japanese YAKISOBA – minus a few ingredients – that one can easily add to make that super tasty Japanese dish. So when I saw this at TJ’s in the veggies section I said to myself, “Great I’m making Yakisoba tonight”.

YAKISOBA – YAKI means grilled. SOBA means buckwheat (noodles). Ergo, grilled noodles. Yakisoba is one of Japan’s most popular homey dishes, both eaten out, made at home, and served at school. Japanese kids pretty much grow up on it. Everyone loves Yakisoba.

You can cook up this Kit exactly As-Is on the package and get a decent Veggie Noodle Stir Fry. Or easily turn this kit with a few additions, into Yakisoba.

The main thing missing would be some kind of Main or protein (Pork, Tofu, Chicken….) plus some ginger and garlic, and a little more soy.

Protein: If you are vegetarian, you might add BAKED TOFU, sliced up into strips and grilled with the veggies. Possibly also add some sliced mushrooms, either shiitake, crimini or white mushrooms, any of them will add a lot of “umami”. If you are not vegetarian, protein options could be the traditional sliced or ground pork (even very thinly sliced pork belly). In Japan Yakisoba is even sometimes made with squid! Any protein you can stir fry with the veggies will pretty much work. Chicken strips, or steak, even ground beef. When I made it, I used pork tenderloin from TJ sliced up into strips that I first got a nice sear on both sides then set aside to add back at the end when I added the sauce package. I have cut pork chops into strips to make this with. Ditto chicken breast or thighs.

TIP: The noodles come cooked in a plastic bag. When you open the bags the soba noodles are totally stuck together in a very firm block that you can’t do anything with. You MUST prep them ahead a half hour before you start your dish. Loosen them up by letting them soak in very, very hot (even boiling water) for 15-20 minutes — and not for only two minutes as the package says which is not enough time! Once loosened up you can gently untangle and loosen them with your fingers and drain them in a colander, ready to throw in at the end with a pinch of more oil. Want more noodles then come in this package (not much)? Then just first cook up some Soba noodles or Chinese noodles or rice noodles, drain them and have them ready to toss in the pan with some more oil.

YAKISOBA: In a non-stick pan, sauté some ginger and garlic with the Main Protein (slicked pork, meat or tofu – or squid!) in a few teaspoons of neutral oil. Toss in the veggies. Add mushrooms if using. Stir fry veggies about 3 mins. till barely cooked (do not overcook!) Add the softened noodles and the meat or tofu back to the pan. Stir fry for a few more minutes, then turn off heat and add the sauce to coat. A few drizzles of sesame oil would be great. Add some Green Dragon Hot Sauce if thats your style. Stir all to combine. I threw some arugula and more chopped green onions on top. Katsuobushi* flakes if you have them? Done. About 10 minutes and you have a delicious dish.

PS – If you can find “Katsuobushi” flakes* at an Asian store, that would be great to top this with for authentic Japanese Yakisoba. Amazon sells Katsuobushi.  Ditto for “BENISHOGA” (Picked Red Ginger). Both are traditional Yakisoba toppings.

 

UPDATE: The first time I purchased this kit there were 2 packs of Soba Noodles inside. Recently on 2 occasions when I purchased it, there seems to be only 1 pack of noodles in the kit. Whats up with that? With 2 packs there was really a meal here for at least 2 people but with 1 pack of noodles, obviously thats much less noodle to veggie ratio.

 

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Uncrystallized CANDIED GINGER – Its Baa-aack!!


STOP THE PRESSES!

 

This is a package of Trader Joe’s ‘Uncrystallized CANDIED GINGER’.

Its back!

Yes, its true. This now almost mythical TJ product is finally back in stock after being MIA and off the shelf at Trader Joe’s for more than one year! 

Possibly due to some labeling issue (I heard some manager mention sulfites), possible due to supply issues, this was off the shelves at Trader Joe’s for a long long time. I mean over a year!  Seems they’ve solved whatever the issue was because its back on the shelf. And the label on the back has only two things on it, ginger and sugar. Pretty natural product.

So I can finally get my fix for this (very) spicy adult candy. (Now should I buy a case?)

O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!

Thanks to one of my readers, Nancy who first sent the alert about this!

A Week In The Life Of A Trader Joe’s Employee


If you are interested in how Trader Joe’s works, you may find this interesting. It’s part of a Huff Po series called Food Informants – “a brand-new, week-in-the-life series profiling fascinating people in the food world”. This post from the series is from a TJ’s employee.

I find it has a few interesting facts one can glean about TJ”s employee conditions (which sound better than your average supermarket’s working conditions) and the Trader Joe’s corporate mentality as an employer.  I’ve noticed that TJ’s employee’s seem more engaging with customers than any supermarket I’ve been to – as if they’ve been drinking the Kool-Aid. It seems partly that this is what they are instructed to do with customers, but also it does seems TJ’s hires employees who seem to be “people persons”. I’ve been told by staff they have very good benefits. I like that TJ’s recognizes that people should not be stuck doing the same thing all day and lets them rotate around tasks and doesn’t make them work a whole shift at Checkout (which this employee says is the most tiring thing).

I had someone I know tell me they did not like the way TJ’s employee’s engaage them in small talk while checking out. I find it totally refresing and humanizing – even if the employees are encouraged to do so. As “Jane” states customers can be very rude and condescending to Checkout people, “especially where she works” Gee – I wonder if its NY?

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Good Rant! And some Trader Joe’s vs. Fairway stuff


Speaking of “Trader Joe’s Rants” I happened to come across a very good rant on a blog by Leland in BK. I hope he won’t mind me linking to it and sending a few visitors over. He wrote it in 2006 but I think its just as valid now; See what you think. I think Leland made some interesting points about TJ’s produce.

PRODUCE: Ah ha. One thing I  always thought was that, compared to other aspects of the food it sells, Trader Joe’s fruits and vegs are not at the same level, generally speaking. For example compare the produce at TJ’s to lets say in my area, Fairway. Ask anyone in NYC and they will tell you Fairway’s produce is great. If you take a look at some of these videos on their site can you get some idea of what we are talking about. This stuff is FRESH, top-notch produce (cheap, no). Is Trader Joe’s produce up to this level? I can only judge the ones I have seen in Manhattan, which for all I know may not be indicative of all Trader Joe’s. Again, generally, I don’t think of their produce at the level of a Fairway. Perhaps Califorian TJ’s being closer to the produce may have better and more variety of produce? There is some produce I buy regularly at TJ’s. For one, their bags of organic carrots? They are the same price as Fairway’s non-organic carrots, 89 cents. That’s amazing. But I saw some corn today at TJ’s that I could not believe someone kept on the shelf. There were three ears of corn so old the husk was dried out like paper. It was garbage. I wish I had a camera to document that! Someone should commit hara-kiri in their produce section for that offense.

Fairway vs. TJ: Fairway, which has been here forever, is located 3 blocks away from the Trader Joe’s on 72nd St. and Broadway which opened up late 2010. So in the Upper West Side food vendor scene it was quite a big thing to have a potential competitor like Trader Joe’s open up a few blocks away! I’m not kidding, this made a for a ton of news in the blogoshpere:

http://www.foodandthings.com/2008/11/550/

http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20101029/SMALLBIZ/101029834

http://www.dnainfo.com/20101007/upper-west-side/trader-joes-wins-price-war-against-fairway-whole-foods

http://ny.racked.com/archives/2010/09/20/fairways_worst_nightmare_is_here_trader_joes_uws_is_open.php

http://www.yelp.com/topic/new-york-what-do-you-buy-at-trader-joes-and-fairway

I still shop at Fairway for many things. However I now also go to Trader Joe’s for many other things. If you are looking for very good olive oil at an AMAZING price, I give TJ’s the nod hands down. If you are looking for a “super Tuscan” olive oil of the kind that sells for $30 a half/litre Fairway has it. Me, I can’t afford that stuff and I love to use olive oil, liberally so personally for everyday use, I have become a HUGE FAN of TJ’s Olive Oil. I am bowled over by their olive oils value and what you get for your money compared to others. I especially like their Spanish Olive Oil. It sells for $5.99 a litre, and I say at that price, no one can come close: superb value for your buck. Is it the same as the $30 stuff Fairway might have? Perhaps not – however its not junk, it is a very decent olive oil. I have seen much crap oil, typically “pomace”, for the same price TJ’s sells Extra Virgin Olive Oils for. Oh, and TJ does sell “really good” olive oil (“Sicialian”, “Kalamata”…) I just haven’t tried these oils yet, but I have a feeling they must be good to warrant them making them “premium” prices vs. the “normal” stuff they sell.

I am going to guess that Trader Joe’s must have great sources of producers of olive oil and major financial clout; They must be able to make huge deals to purchase massive quantities of oil to be able to sell stuff this good for $6. As they say “we pay cash” and buy alot. Olive Oil I think is a key Trader Joe’s item. I think its the ONE item than almost instantly makes people into a “Trader Joe’s customer”. If you buy a bottle of TJ’s Olive Oil, you will have you will be returning. Its usually the first thing anyone going to Trader Joe’s notices and will tell you about. “Wow. They sell extra virgin for $6 bucks!” I’m pretty sure I’ll do a future post just about Olive Oil. Its a good topic.

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