Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do You Know a Trader Joe's Virgin?

My lovely friend Peter lives in London and my constant postings about Trader Joe's have been driving him crazy for a long time.   But, he need suffer no more.  He is going to New York and wants some guidance on how to approach his first Trader Joe's visit.  So, this one's for Peter.... and Tara who is in Canada, too, who I think is equally frustrated with my darned Trader Joe's ingredient lists.

Peter took me for a lovely walking tour all over London a couple months ago.  When I think of embarking on the Trader Joe's tour, I find it almost as daunting as a city tour!  There are so many hidden gems, off the beaten path, and so many areas you might accidentally miss due to other bright and shiny things being right near by.   So, I'll break the store up into sections:

1.  Fresh Flowers -- Really inexpensive here. I suggest making your own flower arrangements.  For instance, they often have tulips and gerber daisies and some sort of lily.  Mixing these all up is lovely.  They also often have calalillies -- purple, white, pink and yellow...lovely.
2.  Fresh Veggies and Fruits -- Gams you might miss are Broccoli Slaw which is broccoli stems and carrots mixed together in the crunchiest, yummiest mix.   Just throw vinegar and olive oil on it, some salt and papper, and a few toasted nuts.  They also have a bijillion kinds of lettuce.  My current favorite combo (sold separately) is butter lettuce and arugula.  Also, they always have regular green beans, but you want to get the Haricot Verts in little plastic bags.  These, as well as several other veggies sold like this, have bags that can be snipped and thrown in the microwave for quick veggie treat.  Bottom line: take your time in this aisle.
3.  Cheese -- Trader Joe's Started with nuts, chees, and wine, so they know how to choose 'em.  Trust them.  Current faves are the Aged Gouda, and for the holidays, the goat cheese logs rolled in Cranberry or Blueberry -- both are amazing.  The Blueberry is a little sweeter. 
All the goat cheeses are incredible.  Another daily fave is the Whipped Goat Cheese (look for little blue and white tub).  You can't go wrong with anything that draws you...OMG like the Baked Brie they already
4.  Nuts/Dried Fruits --   My faves: dry toasted almonds (two cuts available), toasted salted Pepitas (OMG what an amazing snack or salad spicer upper), dried cranberries with orange flavoring (must try, great on salads in this season especially), and the very best peanuts on planet Earth:

Old Fashioned Blister Peanuts.   Just literally don't leave the store without them.
5.  Chips/Crackers -- Current favorite cracker is the Pita Crackers -- they are so thick and crunchy and exquisitely salted.   The Low Fat Cheese Crunchies (a cheeto rip off that is so much better than the original, much cheesier and yummier) are hard to put down.  Every chip I've ever tried was absolutely delish.  They have a bijillion potato chips and a bijillion tortilla chips to choose from.
6.  Frozen Foods -- The pastas in a bag are remarkable good.  Throw a handful of fresh spinach or other lightly sauteed veggies to just kick them up a little and they are spectacular.  New favorite the Bento Box -- gloriously spiced and balanced, a lovely light supper.  Something you will ALWAYS find in my freezer -- Jasmine Rice.  Each box has three bags.  Pop in the microwave and miraculously perfectly cooked rice is ready to bless any dish!  The frozen thin pizzas are my faves in that section. 
7.  Chocolate and Cookies -- Peter-- YOU WILL BE IN HEAVEN -- you will need a while to slowly linger down this aisle.  The chocolates and cookies, by the way are all above the frozen foods.  So, dress accordingly, as you will be here for a while.  My most favorite new thing at TJs are these unbelievably brilliant Chocolate Mint Wafers.  Imagine this: ice cream cone wafer about an inch in diameter, covered with divine dark chocolate and sprinkled with teeny tiny candy cane bits.  Two different kinds of crunch and lots of richness.  Also, I'm sorry but TJs food creators are GENIUSES:

The other aisles are Coffee/Tea, Dry Goods (pasta, canned foods, etc.), Liquor, and Dairy... all things delicious found in all of them, but I think I've hit all the "stars" of Trader Joe's that are must-visits, or must-buys if you can fit them in your suitcase!

Everyone else: free to pass this on to all the "Trader Joe's Virgins" you know.

Buon Joe Appetito!


  1. Go to Individual Joes and store for some of the biggest substances in the town. Almost as excellent a Whole Meals but Individual Joe's also has a devoted alcoholic beverages store.

  2. Bridget, just the thought of that chocolate counter has me in a near swoon...this is a perfect guide...

  3. I actually had my first Trader Joe's experience a couple of months ago! A girlfriend and I drove over the border and hit one up. Unfortunately we are unable to bring back any produce or vegetation so I was sad to not be able to bring back some lovely veggies. We also couldn't bring back any wine! Waaaahhh! But the cheese! Oh the cheese! Onion and chives gloucester is to die for!!!

    And now next time I go, I have some new things that I see here I will add to my list!