IF prompted by the time-old icebreaker of what I would bring stranded on a deserted island, I have locked and loaded the foods I would eat for the rest of eternity, health-conscious or otherwise.
My picks would be Hawaiian poke, hand-squeezed grapefruit jasmine tea from a shop I live down the block from, and unlimited pints of Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter ice cream.
Clearly, lots of folks feel the same way about the supermarket chain.
Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, and content creators dedicated to the specialty grocery store have popped up, with loyal regulars sharing their latest finds and obsessions.
We took a trip to our local TJ's to try for ourselves some of the most raved-about snacks from the chain.
One viral video recommended trying TJ's latest Sweet Cannoli dip with their Belgian Butter Waffle Cookies for a take on, well, cannolis.
Upon perusing forums and threads, we also picked up the popular Maple Leaf Cookies and Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies.
Another viral product is the frozen Beef Birria that has been making the rounds in traditional birria taco recipes and even in ramen.
Last but not least, to satisfy personal curiosity, I picked up the Cheddar Brioche bread, a regionally-distributed pick available to locals.
I waited until I was sufficiently hungry, and by that, I mean 8 am at the start of the day, to begin the full day of taste testing.
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First, I opened up the package of Cheddar Brioche ($4.49), a promising loaf of six squares, took a hefty slice, and threw it in the microwave.
The cheese soaked into the top layer of the bread was an incredible, mouthwatering combo, but the bottom of the bread I noticed was a bit stale.
I would recommend purchasing the brioche when you have immediate plans to use it as it's much better fresh and give it a 7/10.
Then came the long and agonizing (three and a half hours!) wait for the next meal.
For lunch, I cooked up the birria meat in a pan, adding onions as recommended by the box instructions.
I dipped some tortillas in the remaining meat sauce, cooked until crisp, then piled in some birria along with a dash of lime and cilantro.
As a big birria enthusiast, I've definitely had better tacos but for something in a box for just $8, I was able to get a pretty hefty portion that satisfied all my cravings.
I was also glad to see there was plenty left over for a filling dinner and granted it a 9/10.
After lunch came snack time, where I excitedly dunked a Belgian waffle ($2.99) into the cannoli dip ($3.99).
Although there was a lot of hype around the combination, it failed to meet my expectations.
The main issue was the dip, which was way more cream cheese based than I had expected, with little to no ricotta influence.
Although the dip itself was much lighter than plain old cream cheese texture-wise, the taste was spot-on — a con for someone who dislikes cream cheese, therefore the dip was awarded a 5/10.
However, I was a big fan of the waffle (which scored an 8/10!), which was a light and delightful mid-afternoon treat that wasn't too sweet or filling.
For sweeter snacks, I turned to the Snickerdoodle cookies ($2.99), which were delightful but I wish had a little more cinnamon flavor to them.
I was, however, pleasantly surprised that they were gluten-free and vegan, which certainly did not reflect in their soft texture, but won them a 7/10.
For those with sweet tooths, I would recommend crumbling the cookies into some vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt for a healthier topping option.
HOW THEY DID: RANKED
The viral snacks we tried from Trader Joe’s, from worst to best
- Sweet Cannoli Dip, $3.99, 5/10
- Cheddar Brioche Rolls, $4.49, 7/10
- Soft Baked Snickerdoodle Cookies, $2.99, 7/10
- Butter Waffle Cookies, $2.99, 8/10
- Beef Birria, $7.99, 9/10
- Maple Leaf Cookies, $3.49, 9/10
Last but not least, came the Maple Leaf Cookies ($3.49) with a maple leaf filling.
I was blown away by the cookie sandwich, two maple leaf-shaped biscuits with an addictive, sweet cream.
The dessert practically flew out of the box, somehow finding itself in my stomach, and I was halfway through the entire package before taking a look at its nutrition facts.
At a whopping 110 calories per cookie, however, the box of 14 cookies would have meant dedicating an entire day's worth of meals to just dessert.
For that reason alone, I gave them a 9/10 instead of a full ten points.
I made a vow then and there, to thoroughly enjoy the short, sweet time I have left with the life-changing baked goods before banning them from my household for life.
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My warning for all Trader Joe's enthusiasts — avoid these at all costs, they are simply too addicting.
Maybe if I was on a rhetorical, magical island where the options were unlimited and without consequence, I would purchase and snack with abandon.
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