I have been in a relationship with the Target grocery section for quite some time now. Already a Target groupie, the fact that they have a full-blown grocery section has forced me to frequent the establishment 3-4 times per week. Much more affordable than my local grocery, I couldn’t think of a better place to get my munchies. Then Trader Joe’s came to town…
My first experience with this fine establishment was when I was in Chicago a few years ago for work, and it was located on the ground floor of my hotel. Because I was in town for two weeks and had no kitchen, Trader Joe’s became a sanctuary for me as they had a lot of ready-made items that I could eat and prepare with no fuss. And what a cute little place it was! Everyone was so friendly, they wore Hawaiian shirts, and had THEE best chocolate-covered pretzels I had ever tasted ( so long Flipz!). A few years later, Miami finally got its own Trader Joe’s and I was one of the fools who went to the opening at 7am on a Friday in late fall. I went and picked out one of everything I had when I was in Chicago, and was introduced to $3 wine, plus cool meats and cheeses. TJ’s is the land of quality food at affordable prices, but their interesting combination of tastes and flavors is what keeps me going back. Here is a list of my top ten items from Trader Joe’s that will change your life:
1. CHARLES SHAW WINE: Famously known as $2 Buck Chuck, the price went up as soon as the 305 got its own Trader Joes’. But for $3.00, it’s actually not bad at all. The reds are quite delicious. I know that cheap wine can kill you, but this wine does not disappoint. Gato Negro it is not.
2. DARK-CHOCOLATE COVERED PRETZELS: I would love to meet the person who decided to dip pretzels in chocolate for the first time. And thank goodness for the people over at TJ’s who dipped them in the dark stuff. This item goes so quickly at the store, that I have to buy several bags at a time. Even though I shouldn’t. But I do.
3. APPLE CINNAMON GOAT CHEESE: O.M.G. It sounds like the most disgusting thing on Earth, but I nearly ate the whole block of cheese when they handed out samples at the opening! This is the type of cheese that makes you feel fancy. The downside of this delectable item is that it’s apparently a seasonal food item, so it’s not offered all year round. I can’t wait until October!
4. CHOCOLATE COVERED KETTLE CORN: This is also a seasonal item only offered around the holidays. It will also cause you to understand why people fight in Wal-Mart. It is so good that it also flew off the shelves. A perfect combination of sweet, salty, and sweet again, this popcorn is a perfect snack for a movie night or if you just want to eat the whole bag for breakfast. I’m not saying it should happen, but it has.
5. PEAR CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE DRESSING WITH GORGONZOLA CHEESE: Too many descriptive words, so much flavor. Trader Joe’s is a great place because they are always giving out samples. A few months back, they had samples of a simple spinach salad, topped with strawberries and pomegranate seeds, drizzled with the most amazing salad dressing I’ve ever had in my entire life. I’ve literally had 450 salads in the last month because of this dressing. I mean, come on, it has champagne IN it! It’s a celebration!
6. SEA SALT CHOCOLATE BROWNIES: Who in the world thought it was a good idea to pour salt on top of brownie? And can I get his phone number? Lord Jesus, there’s a fire! Just imagine the tastiest brownie you’ve ever had and now envision it with a light dusting of sea salt. Your taste buds will thank me later. Wait, I just noticed that many of the items on this list contain chocolate. But it’s good for you, so what? Who cares?
7. CINNAMON SUGAR PITA CHIPS: I don’t always eat pita bread. But when I do, it’s in the form of chip. And dipped in cinnamon sugar. You’re basically eating huge pieces of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, except that it’s birthed out of pita bread so you can sort of feel good about yourself.
8. APPLE AND CHARDONNAY CHICKEN SAUSAGE: The second item on the list infused with alcohol. I would love to join the team that creates signature items for the Trader Joe’s franchise. I could be like Tom Hanks in “Big” where he works for the toy company by just playing with all the products. Except I would eat them. Back to the sausage- it’s fantastic! Minus all the fat of a pork sausage, it’s a really good substitute that packs a punch. The awesome thing about TJ products is that they contain no artificial flavors or preservatives, so even though you’re still eating a sausage, there’s no surprise with what you’re eating. You can actually read all of the ingredients!
9. NON-DAIRY CHOCOLATE DESSERT: When you think of alternatives to ice cream, you think that flavor will go out the window. Frozen yogurt? Uggh. Soy substitute? Oh, I don’t think so. But this treasure contains no dairy and uses coconut milk to give it that creamy, dairy-like taste. And for someone who cannot stand coconut anything ( my mom used to try to force me to eat those Keebler cookies with coconut and I wasn’t having it), the dessert is darn tasty! Just try not to eat the whole carton.
10. ROASTED CORN AND PEPPER SOUP: Who knew soup could be so sweet? Well, they used sweet corn, so that could be it, but whatever. Since I had to put an item that involved vegetables on the list, I immediately thought of my favorite soup from TJ’s. I always combine it with Trader Joe’s sourdough bread, making it a nice afternoon snack.
–KEEP IT A HOT MESS