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A Stunning Look at the 17 Most Popular Items at Trader Joe’s

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Fact: Trader Joe’s isn’t just a grocery store. It’s a tiki-themed wonderland filled with pyramids of Cookie Butter jars and Two Buck Chuck. It’s a place you enter thinking you only need to pick up milk but leave with a cart full of things you never knew existed — PB&J chocolate bars, green tea candy mints, pumpkin macarons, roasted coconut chips, frozen tikka masala… the grub is unbelievable.

The purveyors of novelty eats garnered a cult following over the years, with lines in New York wrapping around the building and spilling onto city streets. The brand has surpassed hipster-cool and become a household name. Yet, like any good relationship, TJ knows how to keep us on our toes while still holding true to what brought us there in the first place — their classics. This year, the company dropped a list of their most popular customer products in 2013.

We broke down the top-selling items by price and taste. Note, this year Triple Ginger Snaps dethroned Cookie Butter for the No. 1 title. Peruse below to see if you spot any of your addictions.

 

1. Triple Ginger Snaps

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TASTE LIKE: DEEP, SAVORY GINGER ORGY

After the initial crunch, the cookie’s inner chewiness melts in your mouth as you bite into the hot, tangy crystallized bits ginger. Like most of Trader Joe’s dessert finger foods, this comes in their standard bucket-sized packaging — a gentle suggestion to share, but you’ll probably be tempted to devour it all solo.

Protip: dunk in Cookie Butter (below).

PRICE: $3.99

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2. Speculoos Cookie Butter

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TASTE LIKE: SNICKERDOODLE DRUG BUTTER

You’ve probably seen this on Instagram with the caption #omg #heaven #obsessed. Texture is creamy like peanut butter and has a nutty, cookie flavor. It’s not unusual for jars of Cookie Butter to disappear the moment it hits shelves and the best/worst part is that is goes great on literally everything from apple slices, bread, shoelaces, etc.

PRICE: $3.69

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3. Joe Joe’s Cookies (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: ‘BETTER-FOR-YOU’ OREOS

The Joe-Joe’s line comes in vanilla creme, chocolate creme and the seasonal candy cane creme varieties. It’s a lot less sweet than your regular Oreo fare and doesn’t carry the same crack-worthy flavor. Still, like it’s cookie brethren, dunk > twist. This is not an option.

PRICE: $2.99

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4. Reduced Guilt Chunky Guacamole

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TASTE LIKE: TART, LIMEY

This lighter-than-thou item claims to have 50 percent less fat and 40 percent less calories than regular guac. Think guac whipped with Greek yogurt, which lends a light taste that’s surprisingly addicting (I ended up eating an entire container like pudding). Amazingly, the airy dip manages to keep it hearty with chunks of avocado, tomato, and jalapeno.

PRICE: $3.49

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5. Charles Shaw Wine (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: DEPENDS

Yes, it’s no longer the iconic “Two Buck Chuck,” but at just 50 cents more, it’s still a boozy come up. The quality varies, so it’s a bit like wine roulette. In general, however, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot tend to be the best picks of the varieties, while the Saugvignon Blanc usually tastes like spoiled bananas. You’ve been warned.

PRICE: $2.49

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6. Frozen Mac ‘n Cheese

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TASTE LIKE: MILD, SAVORY, SALTY TANG

Gooey, melty and loaded with four different cheeses — the cheddar, havarti, Swiss, and gouda help class this up. A compromise between frozen dinner and stove-top quality, this is as good as microwaved grub gets.

PRICE: $2.99

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7. Almond Butter (All Varieties)

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TASTE LIKE: SALTY POTATO CHIP BUTTER

Make sure to stir this with a knife before attempting to slather it on, as its more liquid than butter. While the saltiness can be overwhelming for some, the almond cuts through for a nice finish. Wear a bib with this one, as it gets messy fast.

PRICE: $6.99

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8. Chili Lime Chicken Burgers

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TASTE LIKE: LIME CHICKEN, MA

At 4 per box, it’s a great deal and a refreshing option if you’re looking for a break from beef. You’ll definitely feel the citrus on this one, while the promised chile holds back. We dressed this up with the Reduced Guilt Chunky Guac, which helped amp the lime flavor, and drizzled on a healthy helping of Sriracha. Definitely recommend trying this at home.

PRICE: $3.49

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9. Fennel Bulbs *

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TASTE LIKE: LICORICE 

Fact: Trader Joe’s kills the vegetable game. The fennel is no different and incredibly aromatic. Grill, sautée, or toss into a salad. You can even chop it up and sprinkle onto the mac n’ cheese for a quick microwave “hack.”

PRICE: $1.99

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10. Pound Plus Chocolate Bar (Milk & Dark)

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TASTE LIKE: A POUND OF GUILT

The fact that this comes in brick pounds is dangerous. While you have the option of breaking it into proper bite-sized portions, you’ll definitely want to tackle this with a friend or two. The flavor is exactly like their mini versions found near the cash register — smooth, milky and indulgent.

PRICE: $4.99

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11. Almond Cocoa Spread

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TASTE LIKE: I CAN’T BELIEVE IT’S NOT NUTELLA!

Trader Joe’s shameless interpretation of everyone’s beloved hazlenut spread manages to impress. While there’s the obvious lack of hazelnut in their version, the Cocoa Almond Spread delivers the same cocoa richness as the original. Just what we need. Another reason to eat dessert for breakfast. We see you TJ.

PRICE: $3.99

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12. Rosemary Marcona Almonds

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TASTE LIKE: DELICATE, BUTTERY PINE

Marcona almonds seem to be the gourmet food world’s not-so-secret best-kept secret. Chefs name drop marcona almonds on menus, lauding the Spanish-bred delicacy for its sweeter taste and wet texture. Personally, I think of them as upgraded bar nuts. Plumper and softer than other varieties, Trader Joe’s Marcona Almonds have a great oily feel with explosions of roasted rosemary.

PRICE: $6.49

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13. Corn & Chili Pepper Salsa

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TASTE LIKE: SYRUPY SWEET WITH A SLOW HEAT

A great swoop for those who enjoy a lack of tomato guts in their salsa. The sweetness more than balances the spiciness and don’t be shy if you get the urge to eat spoonfuls of this straight from the jar. I like to throw this on my taco when I’m feeling like adding a sweet, chunky change-up or on my burger to keep things interesting.

PRICE: $2.49

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14. Dark Chocolate Covered Caramels

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TASTE LIKE: WARM, COMFORTING NUTTY FLAVOR

Sometimes, walking into a Trader Joe’s can be awesome dangerous for chocolate lovers, as they carry everything from chocolate-covered potato chips to chocolate-covered almonds. These caramel snacks are a favorite of that category,  packing an especially sweet combo of caramel decked in dark chocolate. Expect an incredibly sticky richness and don’t be surprised when you accidentally finish off an entire box. Whoops.

PRICE: $$3.99

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15. Chocolate Orange Sticks

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TASTE LIKE: CITRUS CUT WITH CHOCOLATE BITTERNESS

Remember what we said about TJ covering everything in chocolate? These chocolate orange jelly sticks aren’t your average orange peels. Rather than hardened orange peels like most on the market, the jelly gives way to a soft, juicy inside. The slight bitterness of the dark chocolate adds a beautiful layer of complexity to this snack.

PRICE: $3.99

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16. Mandarin Orange Chicken

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WHAT: SAVORY, GINGER TANG

TASTE LIKE: This was one of the products no one in the office had tried yet and to be honest, we expected it to be the usual frozen-to-table fare. Then, after heating it up on a skillet for a few minutes and dousing it in the microwaved sauce packet, our mouths melted. The chicken was crispy on the outside, tender and flaky on the inside. The orange tang of the sauce brought a superb punch of flavor, but didn’t overwhelm the savory chicken taste.

PRICE: $4.99

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17. Spinach & Kale Greek Yogurt Dip

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TASTE LIKE: ANYTHING BUT KALE. ZESTY BLISS

Usually, when you see “reduced guilt” on something you expect it to be a lesser version of it’s more indulgent self. This spinach and kale combo manages to reverse this standard and take your average picnic dip to the next level. The replacement of Greek yogurt for sour cream lends an unexpected zest that’s refreshing. The spinach and kale bits bring texture, making this low-calories dip feel hearty and satisfying.

PRICE: $3.99

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Big shout out to Chris at the Trader Joe’s in Tustin, California for helping us tackle this phenomenal grocery list.

*Omitted, seasonal items: Pumpkin Coffee, Pumpkin Butter, Pumpkin Pecan Instant Oatmeal, Cranberry Goat Cheese Log, Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix, This Cranberry Walks Into a Bar…, Pesto Gouda

Categories
Features

A Legit Sommelier Rates All the Trader Joe’s Two Buck Chucks. Awesome Happens

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Read the original article from Thrillist here.

Whether you were throwing a dinner for people you felt compelled to not impress, or just hate paying $2.01 and up for literally anything, at some point you’ve likely been in a position to load up a shopping cart with a crapload of Two-Buck Chuck, pray nobody from church sees you, and party down.

Here’s the thing, though: some of it’s actually pretty damn good, and could easily be sold as Nine-to-Eleven-Buck Chuck without anyone being the wiser.

So we brought in two devoted tasters to blindly drink eight different types of Charles Shaw Blend, hit us with detailed notes, and determine 1) which bottles are totally palatable and even enjoyable, and 2) which should be avoided as if they were made by Chuck Woolery, who, it turns out, makes terrible wine.

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Taster No. 1: Our resident sommelier for the evening, Sam Lipp is the current general manager of NYC’s Union Square Cafe, and the former bar manager of three-Michelin-starred Eleven Madison Park, which might not sell a single glass of wine that costs less than what these eight bottles do together.

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Taster No. 2: Girlfriend, who previously displayed her capacity for providing next-level tasting notes when I made her and my sister drink 21 extremely strong beers on a brewery crawl. She got confused as to which was wine for a second here.

We had each of them give their impressions of each wine’s appearance, smell, and obviously taste, provide a 1-to-10 overall rating (of general drinkability — nothing’s being compared to a Lafite Rothschild here) and then try to blindly guess each varietal.

Let’s get down to it.

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CHARDONNAY

Sommelier: “It’s very pale, going on green color. I get lavender. Like, soapy lavender. It reminds me of my dad’s bathtub [EDITOR’S NOTE: Weird]. This is pretty damn palatable. There’s acid, there’s fruit, and there some semblance of a body to it. There’s certainly an element of fake oak, in the best possible way. It’s as if somebody took a whole bunch of the wood chips from when playgrounds were badass.”
Score: “8.”
What is it?: “Chardonnay.”

Girlfriend: “I know exactly what this smells like. A hippie. Not the kind of hippie that camps out at Phish concerts, the kind who gets acupuncture and wears crystals. Not the patchouli thing. It just smells like nature, I guess. This is the Jessica Simpson of wines. A little trashy, but you wanna like it.”
Score: “This is a 7 for me.”
What is it?: “Yep, Chardonnay.”

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CABERNET SAUVIGNON

Sommelier: “It smells like alcohol and paint thinner, which to me smells like alcohol. This could basically be the sweetest red wine I’ve ever seen passed off as a table wine. If you left it in a glass overnight it would have sugar crystals in it. If you poured me this wine at the end of a three hour dinner, I’d swear this was totally appropriate.”
Score: “7.”
What is it?: “This is either the Shiraz, or the Cabernet. Or the Merlot. This is the… Shiraz. No. Wait. It’s the Cabernet.”

Girlfriend: “Can you get high from sniffing too much wine? Just wondering. This tastes like a beet.”
Sommelier: “What kind of beet? Red? Chioggia? Some other beet?”
Girlfriend: “I thought I was just doing well saying beet. Also brie cheese. This makes me want to eat brie cheese. This one’s good! This is good wine.”
Score: “7.5.”
What is it?: “Shiraz. Also, I’m 100… no, not 100… 76 percent convinced that Trader Joe makes all his wine from Robitussin. I’m robo-tripping.”

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WHITE ZINFANDEL

Sommelier: “This thing smells like a pie. It’s the strawberry patch that nature forgot about, then rained and hailed on. Pure liquefied, alcoholic Jolly Rancher. I’m sorry I can’t give you more on that. Yet — and this is serious — there’s a useful quality to this wine. I would use this in college punches, as a sweetening product, when I didn’t need more alcohol.”
Score: “A very soft 1.”
What is it?: “No wine has ever been more obviously White Zinfandel.”

Girlfriend: “It’s like vinegar. This is 100% Easter egg dye. It smells like Easter egg dye, it’s probably going to taste like Easter egg dye. Or maybe a scratch-and-sniff sticker. I don’t want anything to do with this wine. I want out.”
Score: “I don’t even know that I can give it a 1.”
What is it?: “Oh, it’s White Zinfandel, 100%.”

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MERLOT

Sommelier: “This one has just a little more intensity to the color for me. When I smell it I also start to introduce the idea of ground black pepper. When you smell it, you should think about it like nestling your nose in a furry chinchilla. Oh my god, maybe we are high from sniffing it. If I hadn’t seen the labels of all eight beforehand, I’d take this for a cheap impersonation of a Loire Cabernet Franc.”
Score: “I’m going with a 7.”
What is it?: “I’m gonna say Merlot.”

Girlfriend: “Oh, I was thinking like a roasted red pepper. Anndd… hmmm, I had it but I lost it… oh, chocolate covered-cherries! What are those things called? Cherry cordials. It does that thing where your mouth goes dry when you’re done swallowing. It kinda shocks you, then it goes soft, then your mouth goes dry. This is really not bad!”
Score: “I’ll give it a 9.”
What is it?: “I think it’s the Cab.”

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PINOT GRIGIO

Sommelier: “It’s a bright, fresh, lively nose, sort of citrus dominated, grapefruit, lemon, lime. Hmmm… now all of that potential in the nose has pooped out in the palate. It sort of feels flabby. But overall it’s really not that bad at all.”
Score: “6.”
What is it?: “Gotta be the Sauvignon Blanc.”

Girlfriend: “It smells like a sausage casing and tastes like a knock-off peach Hi-Chew. It tastes a little peachy, right?”
Score: “6.”
What is it?: “Sauvignon Blanc, sure.”

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SAUVIGNON BLANC

Sommelier: “It smells like weed! Dammit, I think he poured us the Sauv Blanc now to show us how wrong we were. [EDITOR’S NOTE: I sure did.] Let’s get past the cannabis overtures. This wine tastes of every wine. It has zero defining varietal characteristics. This one is terrible — it’s approximately half a step from Mad Dog.”
Score: “2.”
What is it?: “Pinot Grigio.”

Girlfriend: “Generally speaking, wine isn’t supposed to smell like skunks. Also it’s hard to sniff and keep your mouth open at the same time. It smells like grapes, for sure. And Laffy Taffy, the green one. And I was gonna say bananas, but you can’t squish bananas into a drink. We’re really selling this one. I can’t drink any more of this.”
Score: “3.”
What is it?: “Wine product, like the stuff you can get in a deli.”

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NOUVEAU

Sommelier: “All the reds look absolutely the same to me. This is going to be easy on your stomach. It has no distinguishing characteristic as wine whatsoever. It just smells like grape. The problem with this wine is it just tastes like candy, the sugar is off the charts.”
Score: “I’m gonna give this one a 3.”
What is it?: “I really hope this is not the Syrah. Let’s say Pinot Noir. Wait, it’s not the Pinot, but I’ve now bamboozled myself.”

Girlfriend: “This just smells like wine, you’re right. I was gonna say this one tastes like perfume, but no, it’s body spray. Like from Bath & Body Works. And don’t get me wrong, I use it and love it, I just don’t want to drink it.”
Score: “I’ll give it a 3 also.”
What is it?: “This is the Nouveau. 100%. Even though I don’t really know what that means. But that’s what I think it is.”

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SHIRAZ

Sommelier: “I think if we poured you a glass of really good wine after this, I think you’d say you love this one. Mine looks nice. I think that this has an inherent strawberry characteristic. Maybe even other berries, like raspberry jam, or plum Smuckers. It’s light bodied, just kinda quaffable. It’s got this real light rancidity under the freshness. I’m light, I’m fresh, I will tear you up in the morning. But the second sip is better than the first!”
Score: “7.”
What is it?: “I’m calling this that Nouveau wine. It could be Pinot Noir too.”

Girlfriend: “It’s a little magenta-y. That could be the Christmas tree lights though. This is the closest to what I think wine should smell like. I can tell you right now this is the best wine I’ve had. Also it smells like Country Crock margarine.”
Score: “8.5.”
What is it?: “I’ll go with Pinot Noir. It really just tastes so margarine-y. But that’s not bad for some reason. I really like it.”

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HOW MANY THEY GOT RIGHT

Sommelier: 4/8
Girlfriend: 3/8

THE FINAL SCORES, FROM BEST TO WORST

Merlot: 8
Chardonnay: 7.5
Shiraz: 7.75
Cabernet Sauvignon: 7.25
Pinot Grigio: 6
Nouveau: 3
Sauvignon Blanc: 2.5
White Zinfandel: Technically 1, but not really even.

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Also we got pizza.

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Ben Robinson is Thrillist’s editorial director, and is eagerly expecting a Fudgie The Whale cake on his birthday, and also just general other days. Follow him@BenjoRobinson.

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Hit-Or-Miss

‘Two and a Half Buck Chuck” WTF? Trader Joe’s Announces 25% Price Hike

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The days when you could call Trader Joe’s infamous Charles Shaw wine “Two-Buck Chuck” may have come to an end.

“In general, our retail prices change only when our costs change,” Alison Mochizuki, director of public relations for Trader Joe’s, stated in an email. “We’ve held a $1.99 retail price for 11 years. Quite a bit has happened during those years and the move to $2.49 allows us to offer the same quality that has made the wine famous the world over.”

The company cites increased costs as the cause of the 25 percent price hike, while only California locations are guaranteed to see this immediate change. Of course, going from $1.99 to $2.49 isn’t going to devastate many piggy banks; the main issue seems to be how the new price tag will affect what consumers will now call the wine.

“Inflation Chuck” and “Upchuck” are a few disgruntled responses given to Press Democratwhile another commentator at Grub Street groaned, “Nifty two-fifty Charlie?”

However, Rudy, our Senior NapTaker here at Foodbeast, said it perfectly: “Two and a Half Buck Chuck just doesn’t sound right.”

Agreed.

H/T Grub Street,  Press Democrat