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Posts Tagged ‘Trader Joe’s’

Everyone! Hi! Over here! Exclamation mark! Remember how, in the last post, I put up this photo of mystery berries in the hopes that someone would know what they were and tell me? Well, if there’s one thing I’m not, it’s patient with gaps in my own knowledge. After some extensive and intensive googling (okay, okay, some intermittent googling whilst watching a recorded episode of Spicks and Specks), I can proudly tell you that the berries in question are known as Che Fruit, or Chinese Mulberries.

I feel privileged to have tasted these largely-unknown and farm-fresh berries and, although it’s been almost three years since I ate them, I still remember their honey and fig-like sweetness. Of course, during my year in America (2007 to 2008), I ate a myriad items far less wholesome in nature than fresh fruit…

Probably Bad For My Insides Eats

Ben & Jerry's Cinnamon Buns

One of my favourite Ben & Jerry’s flavours. What’s that the kids say these day? Cinnamon is my home boy? It is. It is my home boy. Also, Ben & Jerry’s needs to get off its Melbourne and Sydney high horse and start stocking Canberra’s shelves.

Lucky Charms

Styrofoam marshmallows, anyone? Oh, let’s be honest, I used to fill take-away cups with these Lucky Charms and sneak them out of the cafeteria at UVA almost every day. After all, how can something made of whole grains and with added calcium be wrong? Pshaw, Lucky Charms are practically dark leafy greens.

Goldfish crackers

Just keep swim-ming, just keep swim-ming... (I love you Ellen.)

Toffifay

Toffifay: “A Whole Hazelnut in Chewy Caramel with Chocolate Hazelnut Filling and Chocolate”. I remember being really bored by this. It was too sweet and one-dimensional, even with all the different flavour components. It mostly just came across as chewy and sweet with a none-too-fresh hazelnut inside.

Reese's Elvis Peanut Butter Cup Banana Creme

Marketing GOLD. Reese’s, you had me at your “King Size” wordplay.

Reese's Elvis Peanut Butter Cup Banana Creme

Despite abhorring fake banana flavouring, I found myself enjoying this more than I expected. Peanut butter and chocolate trumps banana, I s’pose. Also, please ignore the spoon in the background. From memory, I had this on the train en route from somewhere near Monterey Bay to LA.

Trader Joe's Edamame Seaweed Salad

Just to prove that I did, in fact, eat nutritious foods during my student exchange year, I present to you Trader Joe’s Edamame Seaweed Salad. This was the first item I ever bought from a Trader Joe’s (along with Matcha yogurt and a Peanut Butter Cookie Luna Bar) and, because it was delicious, I fell deeply in love with the place(s).

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Where did we leave off in New York? Ah yes, that’s right. In the space of mere hours I’d gained new clothes, chocolates, and children… and then promptly lost the last of these to their rightful owner. I mean, mother.

Sometimes, when I go to bed at night, I think of the toddler and hope someone peeled his orange for him at lunchtime, or I think of the baby and wonder if she’s teething yet.

Oh, who am I kidding? Mostly I just wonder which of the newfangled chocolates from my travel stash I’m going to eat when I wake up. But this isn’t a chocolate review post, so let’s get back to New York, shall we?

Spawn-less, the Day Shifts from Hilarity to Sheer Panic

After relinquishing my claims to the Trader Joe’s children, I made my way to the cashier and gleefully handed over my tub of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds, pomegranate muffins, and half-kilo of peanut-butter-filled pretzels. Clearly sensing my joy, the saleswoman expressed her own excitement over “the pink ones” in the sunflower seed mix. Thus ensued a speedy Gilmore Girls-esque chat about chocolate, my 30-hour flight home the next day, and the requisite snack-stocking-up I was doing in preparation for it.

It’s such little connections that brighten the solo traveller’s day and so, buoyed by friendliness, I made my way to Garden of Eden for my third chocolate stop.

*strangled voice* No! Leggings are not pants, even if you change their first letter! (I'm even more certain of this after buying leggings for the first time to wear under my new skirts. Leggings without anything over them = Hello, would you like to meet my bottom?)

Twenty minutes and a heavy shopping basket later, I reached the head of the Garden of Eden queue and got out my wallet to pay.

Except, I didn’t, because I couldn’t.

My wallet wasn’t in my handbag, or my duffel bag, and when I pulled my backpack off my back, it was half-open.

At this point, I all but flopped onto the floor and went through everything I owned, to no avail. Remarkably, I stayed quite calm. I thanked the heavens that I had a few dollars in my pocket, so that I could get back to my hotel. I knew my first move had to be cancelling my credit/debit cards, quickly followed by calling my parents. I tried not to think about the fact that I had no way of accessing any money.

I remembered feeling a bump when leaving Trader Joe’s, and knew the pickpocketing must have happened then. I stood up, vaguely taking in the fact that the woman who had been about to serve me had expressed no concern over my loss-of-wallet panic. I half-ran, half-limped back to Trader Joe’s, steeling myself all the while for the inevitable reality of disappointment.

Moo-cluck yourself, little vegan cupcake. Moo-cluck indeed.

It wasn’t until I was facing my Trader Joe’s girl and she was smiling and saying “It’s okay, it’s here, it’s okay” that I realised how upset I was. I clasped my wallet to my heart and started shaking, gasping, and thanking the girl, in the grateful way I imagine wallabies at petting zoos must thank their god when the five-year-old who equates “petting” with “smacking” is finally pulled away by an embarrassed parent.

The nicest thing in the whole situation was the Trader Joe’s salesgirl. She came out from behind her desk to pat my back and smile at me while saying “I was hoping you’d come back while I was still working”, and I think her face may be my favourite image from my two days in New York.

Of course, I couldn’t pick said face out of a line-up now if you paid me, but shhh.

And Then What Happened, Hannah?

After exiting Trader Joe’s for the second time and taking a minute to lean against a wall so as to ensure I didn’t throw up (charming, I know), I decided not to go back to Garden of Eden for its chocolates. Look, maybe I’m a bleeding-heart hippy, but I can’t help feeling that if someone went white as a sheet, plonked onto a shop floor, and told me they’d lost their wallet, I’d at least ask if they were okay. Seeing as Ms. Eden Worker didn’t even bother with that, I decided to give all my re-found money to Whole Foods instead.

If you like Pina Coladas, or getting caught in the (coconut milk yogurt) rain.

But you know what? I’m going to prolong this even further, because the Whole Foods story is worth its own post.

Also, I’m moving out to a month-long house-sitting gig tomorrow, and I haven’t packed yet. There’s no internet at this lady’s house (or a microwave… however shall I cope with my oat bran taking five minutes on the stove rather than three in the nuker?), so posts and comments may be a teensy bit less frequent for a while.

I’m almost certain I’ll have serious blog-withdrawal issues and end up buying some sort of mobile broadband, but we’ll see. There are one and a half hours of Masterchef Australia every night this week, though, so that might keep me distracted and entertained enough…

What's a New York story without at least one squirrel? A squirrel from Central Park, no less!

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I love New York. Broadway, beautiful shoes, and a plethora of gourmet stores stocking my favourite edible treasures: high-end chocolate and ingenious dairy-free/vegan foods. Having visited New York three times in the past four years, I decided to dismiss all feelings of tourist obligation this time around. Instead, I planned to spend my two stop-over days in the Big Apple enjoying myself in a laid-back fashion. I would wander around in the warmth, shop, eat (and eat and eat), and revel in feeling the way New York always makes me feel: happy and slightly envious of everyone around me. 

Flower outside The Pod Hotel, highly recommended. The hotel, not the flower, as I doubt the latter will be as lovely in the future.

With this intention surrounding me like a pale fern-green miasma, I didn’t expect to have much to blog about. 

What’s that they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? 

The Day Begins

The first half of my day followed my easy-breezy scheme, with some Food Network-watching, some Coffee Frappuccino-drinking (even if it did melt rather quickly in the warmth and honey glow of 5th Avenue on a sunny Spring day, but one can hardly complain about that), and some non-food shopping*. This last was a rather novel experience, as I am usually inordinately bored by any shopping that doesn’t end with me digesting the results. 

Darn tootin', New York sidewalk.

Then Gets Slightly Less Sedate, But I am Still Emotionally Balanced

Did you know that the subway machines won’t let you buy an $8 pass with $20? You have to buy a $20 pass. And the people in the subway booths give only information, not tickets. No worries, thinks me, I’m young and a cripple fit, what’s another 20 blocks to walk after the 17 I’ve just done, even if I’m now laden with duffel bag, backpack, shopping bags, and handbag? 

So I walked to Union Square for my HEAPS BIG UNRESTRAINED CHOCOLATE BUYING, and it was eight parts glorious, two parts sunburn. Not too shabby. 

Flutterbys! (Macy's Spring display.)

Hello Stranger, Would You Like Two Babies?

First stop at Union Square: The Food Emporium. Chocolates bought: Many. Second stop: Trader Joe’s. Muffins bought: yummy. Long lines to the checkout entered: one. 

Here’s where the day got interesting. 

In front of me in the line was a woman with a large stroller containing one (1) toddler and one (1) baby. Behind me were a couple (2) in their early 60s. After snaking halfway around the store (it was a long line), the mother before me turned and said “I forgot something. Can you push the stroller forward?” And off she sauntered, leaving me with one (1) duffel bag, one (1) handbag, one (1) backpack, two (2) full shopping baskets, one (1) enormous stroller, and two (2) strange children, all of which I had manoeuvre through and around assorted other shoppers and aisles with my two (2) hands. 

I heard an harrumph from behind me, and turned to see the older lady shaking her head. Her husband offered to take the mother’s shopping basket from my care, while the wife told me I was really too kind, and that the mother shouldn’t have wandered off. 

I smiled and said I didn’t really mind making sure someone’s children didn’t get stolen (or eaten by a dingo). 

Macro Vegetarian Brown Rice dish from Whole Foods. Sesame seeds, tofu, broccoli, brown rice, corn... just the ticket for a 22-year-old mother. I mean traveller.

At this point, a Trader Joe’s worker approached me and asked what I needed help with. Confused, I soon ascertained that the worker had been told to look after the mother with the two children and the stroller, and so I was being approached as she. 

“Oh, no, sorry, no, these aren’t mine, some lady just left me with them,” I babbled. 

Harrumph, from behind. 

The worker fervently agreed with such harrumphing, thanking me profusely for my generosity in spontaneous-child-rearing while stating that the woman ought not to have bequeathed her children to me. 

Eventually the mother returned, at which point the worker semi-politely chided her and left. The mother promptly dropped her carton of eggs on the floor, peeked inside, muttered “of course”, and placed the carton on a nearby shelf of chocolate-covered edamame. 

Harrumph

Having relinquished my pseudo-children, I watched as the mother started sharing a pear with her toddler. I’m sure this was a lovely bonding moment and all,  but the line had moved forward to the extent that, metres and metres away, she was now technically next in line, and the rest of us were stuck behind her. 

The woman behind me leaned forward and whispered “I’ve never hated someone in line before”. I simply smiled and joked “You sure do things differently in America”, not wanting to get caught in a cross-generational-grocery-store showdown. 

As I watched my children being rolled away, I shed a tear for all the birthday parties and tantrums and first-days-at-school I’d never get to see… and then I looked down at my carton of chocolate-covered sunflower seeds and decided I’d got the better deal. 

Macro Vegetarian Macro Sushi

Macro Vegetarian Macro Sushi, made with wild rice, brown rice, sweet rice, nori, daikon, carrots, tofu, kale, apple cider vinegar, agave syrup, spices, and sesame oil. Did I mention I love New York?

Spawn-less, the Day Shifts from Hilarity to…  

Well, you’ll just have to wait and see. Because this chickadee needs her dinner, and suspense is good for the soul. 

*A skirt that makes me feel like Little Ragged Blossom, two jackets, a duffel bag for the planned chocolate splurge, and a pair of heels. This last was an accident, as I was honestly just going to try one shoe on my right non-bandaged foot then leave the store. Except what’s a girl to do when a stylish New York lady interrupts her own shopping to say that the shoes look amazing and must be bought? The girl has to buy them, obviously, even if she couldn’t try on the left shoe to make sure it fit, and so it subsequently may not. But shhhh.

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Despite my proclivities towards dark and often unadulterated chocolate, sometimes a girl jist cain’t say no to a candy bar that promises a sugary high. Such was the case with the following two bars, and as has happened before, I found myself enjoying what I thought would be forgettable and being incredibly disappointed by what I had thought would be fantastic.  

Sometimes the life of a chocolate reviewer is traumatic.

Jokerz Candy Bar 

Go Max Go Jokerz Candy Bar

Yes, that's my hotel bedspread as the backdrop. I'm classy that way.

The Jokerz Candy Bar is made by Go Max Go, a vegan family-owned business that creates vegan versions of several popular candy bars. 

With its caramel, peanuts, nougat, and “rice-milk chocolatey coating”, the Jokerz is the vegan version of Snickers. After my experience with the Crispy Cat, I must admit to not having high hopes for this vegan candy bar. 

More fool me! Sure, the Jokerz is incredibly, mind-bogglingly sweet, but it works. There’s a depth to the sweetness that was missing from the cloying one-note Crispy Cat. The Jokerz caramel is softer, glossier, and grainier than the dairy-laden Snickers version, but it also has a unique and distinct floral fruitiness on its side. 

Go Max Go Jokerz

I Spy With My Little Eye... a peanut!

The nougat has a nice maltiness and the “chocolatey-coating” sufficies, though admittedly does not have any discernable cocoa notes of its own. The only disappointment is the peanuts, which are few and far between and have a too-subtle raw flavour. I couldn’t help wishing the peanuts contributed a stronger roasted nuttiness, but the caramel and nougat were interesting enough on their own. 

However, for a [very sweet] candy bar, this really hit the spot. 

Trader Joe’s PB & J Bar

Trader Joe's PB & J Bar

So full of promise.

Oh, Trader Joe’s. How could you lie to me so? You promised peanut butter, milk and dark chocolate, raspberry jam and, most excitingly of all, potato chips: 

Trader Joe's PB & J Bar

The excitement builds.

Lucky me? Lucky me? I ask you, Trader Joe’s, where is the dark chocolate? By raspberry jam, do you mean the millimetre thick piece of rubber that, when dissected from the rest of the bar, tasted faintly of fruit roll ups? And where are my potato chips, with their salty and crunchy goodness? Where? 

Trader Joe's PB & J Bar

The crushing blow.

I see no dark chocolate. I see no potato chips. And worse, nor do I taste them. Even your peanut butter description is almost a falsehood. I accept that the texture of your filling has that same beautiful smoothness found inside a Lindor truffle. But you have presented me with the lamest and vaguest excuse for peanut butter flavour in the (my) history of candy. 

You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Trader Joe’s. And if it weren’t for the fact that I love your bran muffins and your dark chocolate almonds with turbinado sugar and sea salt, I would never darken your doorway again.

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