12 new products from Trader Joe’s to sample during your hot vax summer
We’re officially in the throes of hot vax summer, which can mean multiple things, depending on whether you’re reviving your Hinge profile or simply concerned about global warming. What else does it mean? It means there’s a slew of new products at Trader Joe’s, the grocery store chain whose name can officially no longer be used with “cult following” in the same sentence. If you’re clearing north of $13 billion a year, it’s not a cult following.
Give Trader Joe’s credit. Although I’ve had fun with criticizing the company in the past, it does a good job of keeping things interesting by constantly rotating products in and out of its lineup. That strategy has led to a loyal fan base and the creation of Instagram accounts like @traderjoesobsessed and @traderjoesfoodreviews, which carefully chronicle the chain’s new products.
Here’s a quick list of some of the newer products I purchased on a recent trip to my local store, some of which I liked, some of which I didn’t.
Chili Lime Mayonnaise
Think of the great character actors of our time — Steve Buscemi, Margo Martindale and Luis Guzmán, among them. Although they’re not typically tasked with the job of carrying a production by themselves, their supporting roles are almost always memorable and make everything around them better.
That’s how I feel about mayonnaise. Or, at least, what I want mayonnaise to be. It doesn’t dominate; it complements, like a tasteful handbag. It lubricates the parts of the larger machine and ties everything together. While it should taste good on its own, you don’t necessarily want to notice it more than anything else.
This Chili Lime Mayo, unfortunately, crosses that line. The chile pepper flavor is strong, almost overpowering, and the tang of the mayo, typically from vinegar, comes instead from an equally strong lime concentrate. The result? It’s a bit too much. I wouldn’t put it on a sandwich unless said sandwich had equally assertive components. I could see this working as a condiment, however — with French fries, for example.
Dark Chocolate Coffee Buzz Bars
My first experience with a caffeine-infused product was a fruity energy drink stocked at my college coffee bar, and it wasn’t a good one. While trying to stay up to study for a final, I drank so much that it felt like my heart was trying to escape my torso, as if I were John Hurt in “Alien.”
These dark chocolate bars, four to a package, taste pretty good — just know that each contains about 70 mg. of caffeine (a cup of coffee typically contains 80 to 100 mg.). Consume responsibly.
Dill Pickle Mustard
This is a mustard that passes muster. I can see it working well on one of your favorite encased meats or in a potato salad. But Trader Joe’s could have gone further with the “pickle” flavor, which doesn’t come through that strongly. Mustard by its very nature falls on the tangy and acidic side of the spectrum. A stronger dill presence would’ve made it more pickle-like.
Garlic Bread Cheese
OK, sure. I suppose you could say I liked this one the “best,” seeing as I “ate the entire package almost immediately.” This is, effectively, a giant cheese curd. It even has that distinctive squeak when you chew, just like the real thing. Cut it into strips, heat it up for a few seconds in the microwave, and stuff your face.
The garlic flavor doesn’t come through that strongly, but does that really matter when you’re eating a mound of hot cheese?
Fruity Gummy Candies
After the Garlic Bread Cheese, this was the product that disappeared the quickest. These are great and will appeal to most gummy candy fans. Why? The flavors are as you would hope — separate and distinct; the gummies actually taste like the fruit they profess to resemble. The mango tastes like mango. The grapefruit has the slight bitterness of an actual grapefruit. The snozberries taste like snozberries. Texturally, these are slightly firmer than a typical gummy candy, resembling an English wine gum more than a Welch’s fruit snack (which I also love).
Key Lime Kettle Popcorn
Heinz’s purple and green ketchups. Crystal Pepsi. Former Trump advisor Jason Miller’s new social media platform, Gettr. What do these things have in common? No one asked for them.
I feel similarly about this decidedly odd kettle corn that, yes, tastes a little like a Key lime pie. Did someone … want this? After the initial shock of the first few bites, your tongue becomes somewhat accustomed to the citric sweet-salty taste. But the entire time, there’s a cognitive dissonance that never really goes away. On a fundamental level, my brain kept insisting: These flavors don’t really belong together.
No, it’s not Moby, the electronic musician who lamely insisted he dated Natalie Portman and who keeps putting out music for some reason. It’s Mobay. This product is described as “goat’s milk cheese and sheep’s milk cheese separated by a distinctive ash layer.” I’m not sure how appetizing “ash layer” is supposed to sound, but the mild, semisoft cheese will be an acceptable addition to your cheese board.
Organic Spicy Honey Sauce
This honey (technically a “honey sauce,” as it’s not pure honey) is very spicy, but it sneaks up on you. (It’s sneakier than master cat burglar Peter Scott.) The initial sweetness of the honey melts into a slow-building smolder that can quickly engulf your whole palate. If you’re spice averse, consider yourself warned.
My issue: There’s a fairly limited number of things I’d want to put this on. Chicken wings, I suppose, or pizza. I’m certainly not going to be putting this into a bowl of my morning yogurt.
Shawarma Chicken Flatbread Wrap
Not a world beater, but this chicken wrap with a garlicky tzatziki sauce is a perfectly acceptable thing to bring to the office for lunch instead of walking down to Starbucks. The slaw gives it heft — there are big chunks of red onion and red cabbage. There’s also cilantro, so be warned, those of you with a particular variant within the olfactory receptor gene OR6A2!
Spicy Porkless Plant-Based Snack Rinds
These aren’t going to approach the porcine goodness of a genuine pork rind. But if you’re looking for an animal-free option, this isn’t a bad way to go. This is a rice meal- and pea flour-based snack — the individual pieces have a distinctive curl plus an airy quality that you’d expect.
Taste-wise, they’re fairly sparky. The cayenne and paprika flavors come through strongly — not enough to cause you to break a sweat but enough to raise the temperature of your palate a few degrees.
Tangerine Cream Bars
Do you like Creamsicles? Or a nice Orange Julius? That’s the basic idea here. The orange flavor could be stronger, but you can’t go wrong with a treat like this on a hot summer day.
Wildberry Cheesecake Ice Cream
I was looking for the Southern Peach Crisp ice cream but was told that, alas, it had already been rotated out for the season. Again, props to Trader Joe’s for keeping late adopters like me on their toes.
That was a letdown, but the new Wildberry Cheesecake Ice Cream nearly made up for it. There’s a bit of a pan-berry flavor going on here. Is it blueberry? Blackberry? Strawberry? But the cheesecake bites have decent tang and good texture. It may not be what I imagined the Southern Peach Crisp would be but, to loosely paraphrase Farmer Hoggett in “Babe,” it’ll do.
Eat your way across L.A.
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