My life has been defined by its proximity to a Trader Joe's. Growing up in little Gloversville NY, we didn't have Trader Joe's. And there is a Trader Joe's near Amherst MA - but it wasn't there yet when I was in college! Damn! But then I moved to Seattle, and in due time I learned about Trader Joe's and started frequenting it. And it was a love affair that only grew stronger over time.
But then I moved to Burlington VT! And they didn't have Trader Joe's there! But then I moved to Mad City, and we do have Trader Joe's here. Kind of like Bogey and Ingrid Bergman in "Casablanca" - you think something's out of your life forever, and then of all the places in the world to walk into blah blah blah.
Anyhow, I started this off as my "10 things I love about tj's," but of course I couldn't stop at 10. Just like shopping there! You think you're done, but then on your way to the register you see something else you want, and then something else, and before you know it you've decided to do another loop of the store. I call it "impulse touring."
All right, enough talking. Here goes, in no special order:
1. Chipotle hummus. I love chipotle - my fickle stomach can't handle stronger peppers - and its marriage with hummus in this dish is like a match made in heaven.
2. San Francisco sourdough round. Perfect for toast ...
3. Mochi ice cream. If I were still in Seattle, I could get this shizzle at Uwajimaya. But I'm not, so I can't. Luckily, TJ's carries it. My favorite flavor: chocolate.
4. Shopping bags. Trader Joe's has the coolest, earth-friendliest, most durable shopping bags of all time. 99 cents, baby! I own 4 of them.
5. Wine. I'm actually not a fan of Three-Buck Chuck. Because you see, for like 5 bucks, you can get a bottle of something pretty damn good, like Bear's Lair Merlot, and avoid that Charles Shaw stigma.
6. Dark chocolate chocolate pretzels. Ohmigod, these are sooooo good!
7. Triple ginger ginger snaps. Ohmigod, these are sooooooooo good!
8. Barbeque chicken frozen pizza. Props to my peep B-Phat for introducing me to this little number ...
9. Stockyard oatmeal stout. All right, wait just a moment here: this beer is ridiculous. Ridiculously good, that is. It may be as good as any other stout I've ever had - I shizzle you not - but it's also cheaper than any other stout you can buy. How? How do they work this magic???
10. Civility and banter. Normally I'm not big on talking to whoever's working the register at a store. I tend to be the sullen, silent type. But the employees at Trader Joe's somehow recognize this, and respectfully engage me in enlightened, thought-provoking discourse. I trust them. They are my friends.
11. Almond butter. Almond butter is a fairly simple substance - basically, just ground-up almonds. And yet, Trader Joe's makes it so goooood, and it costs like 30-50% less than at other places. I don't know how they do this. I assume it's being produced in a Bangladeshi sweatshop. I don't really want to know. Just keep it stocked on the shelf.
12. Pure castile soap. I really like castile soap, but I feel alarmed by the religious ferocity of the labels on Dr. Bronner's soap. TJ's gives me another option.
13. Jam. Are you like me? Do you like low-sugar, no-artificial-sweetener preserves? TJ's has them, in a rainbow of flavors.
14. Peanut butter Puffins. Well, I guess technically these are made by "Barbara's Bakery," not Trader Joe's. Unless that's one of those aliases for a TJ's product, like Trader Jose or Trader Giuseppe. Anyhow, none of the other supermarkets around carry this cereal. For anyone else who gets freaked out by Cap'n Crunch (you've gotta admit, he's one scary mofo), this is for you. And get this serving size information: total carbohydrate, 23 gm. Sugars ... 6 gm! When was the last time you saw sugars account for less than 90% of the total carbs in a cereal? Amazing.
15. Chocolate-covered espresso beans. Sure, you can get these in the bulk-foods section of any ol' store. But at TJ's, they come in a cool little tub, just the right size. Proper ...
16. Chicken sausages. I was talking to some people about Trader Joe's during the Super Bowl yesterday, and one of them mentioned these. I've seen 'em in the store, just haven't pulled the trigger yet. Next time. They're in my sights.
17. One-pound chocolate bars. Another thing that's usually not on my shopping list, but my friend Dean loves these things. He'd be upset if I didn't mention them.
18. British muffins. Definitely better than the store-brand English muffins at other places.
19. Olive oil. I have no idea why the olive oil costs so much more at other places. They should do what TJ's does: pick their own damn olives, stomp 'em with their own damn feet, and sell it under the Trader Giotto's label.
20. Peanut butter-filled chocolate pretzels. There's only one way to improve chocolate-covered pretzels, and that's to drill holes in them and pump in some peanut butter.
All right, I'm sorry but my mouth is totally watering at this point. I'm gonna go clean myself up. Talk amongst yourselves or something.