Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 364 - Chocolate Raspberry Tamales and WHAT I HAVE LEARNED from this blog

Here are a few things I have learned from this year long Trader Joe’s reviews project:
  • Even commitment phobics can manage to commit to something hard if they try.
  • Talking to strangers in grocery stores is fun (I actually knew this before this project, but this tooootally reinforced it for me).
  • People are seriously nutso for Trader Joe’s – I didn’t realize how huge a “thing” TJ’s was when I started!  I chose TJ’s as my “theme” for the project because we liked to shop there, we needed groceries, and it seemed “do-able”.  But throughout the course of the year I have seen what a CRAZE Trader Joe’s is!!  Guys, there are other review blogs (I have tried not to read many of them because I didn’t want them to influence my writing/opinions, plus I was already devoting enough of my time to a grocery store and didn’t need “homework” reading on top of it all!).  But seriously, like, there are a lot of people writing about Trader Joe’s online.  And get this – some people apparently TAPE THEMSELVES BRINGING HOME THEIR TJ’S STUFF!  I have not watched any of those videos, but since I am nearly done here and since they are out there online, I think we should check one out now.  Are you in?  I am gonna Google and post one here, get ready…HOLY SHIT GUYS, people are obsessed!!!  I am so glad I didn’t look at these before!  Hahahaha!  Look, this is a shorter video than many of them!!  "Haul" video  I am perhaps 1/1000th of a percentage as into Trader Joe’s as these people who videotape their purchases are…  They even have a FACEBOOK GROUP if you wanna join, it is called “Trader Joe’s and Other Groceries Hauls”.  It looks like it is a “closed group” so you need to ask to join, but you will have almost 1,300 friends in there if you do.  Hahaha – oh my.
  • Trader Joe’s has great employees.  I think I knew this fact before I started writing the blog, but it was reinforced by the many, many people who work at TJ’s that we met throughout the year.

Amy in Indy

Rebekah in Clarendon

The dancing parking lot guy at U Street in DC
  • Trader Joe’s treats their distribution centers as if they were Fort Knox.  There is a HUUUUGE one in Daytona Beach, Florida and I thought I would easily be able to go in and have a little tour.  I mean, we have toured several factories and always enjoyed ourselves.  But not a TJ’s distro center.  When I asked my local TJ’s manager if she could “hook me up” she gave me a phone number to call but warned me that it was highly unlikely…  I called several times.  It was BUSY.  Busy, as in, didn’t even roll to voicemail.  Busy.  So we drove out there.  It is HUMUNGOUS.  Two huge buildings.  Huge buildings that are not visitor friendly. But the security guard talked to us and was really nice J. 

Daytona Beach, FL Trader Joe's Distribution Center

It is ultra super duper TOP secret!!

We FOUND the distribution center (now if only we could get a tour...)

  • People you meet online are fun.  I have never really talked with strangers online before.  I never dated online.  I only accept Facebook friend requests from people I know in “real life”.  So this blog was really my first experience of connecting with virtual strangers, and I loved it!  

We got to meet Ttrockwood in person, but I feel like I know many more of you "virtually", too!   

  • I am not the only person who decided to do one thing every single day of 2015 (see yesterday’s blog for info on a Washington Post article).

  • Many cities who do not have Trader Joe’s stores have ONLINE PETITIONS trying to convince corporate to build one in their area.  Again, another factoid I had no idea about until getting involved here.
  • I have secretly done two other things every single day of 2014 AND 2015, but I haven’t completed the 2014 ones because I HATE ENDINGS (see yesterday’s blog…) and I haven’t completed the 2015 one because ALL MY TIME HAS BEEN SPENT ON THIS TRADER JOE’S PROJECT!  However, now that I am finishing up here I hope to finish those other 2 projects, too! 
  • And finally, a project of this scope takes way more time, energy, and focus than I ever dreamed it would.  Seriously waaaay more. 
So now you know some of the things I learned, now let’s get to the second to the last review of the year!

Snap!  Look what we found at the Jacksonville Beach, FL store - CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TAMALES!
Chocolate and Raspberry Tamales.  This is a rather kinky product that someone mentioned we should try, so we squeezed it in before the year finished.  Our friend Kathy is visiting us and after we picked her up at the Orlando airport we popped into the Winterpark, FL store.  It was fun to watch her reactions – Trader Joes’s is new to her J.  After we came back to the Cottage of Cheese (the Florida house) last night we were having sooooo much fun talking, laughing, and eating that I FORGOT to make and serve the chocolate raspberry tamales like I had planned!  So that could mean only one thing:  CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY TAMALES FOR BREAKFAST TODAY!  Hey, a reviewer has gotta do what a reviewer has gotta do!!  David and I have been known to dine on cupcakes or cake for breakfast, but Kathy is not that sort of girl, so the concept was a bit “off” to her.  J  She agreed to take a bite and be a guest reviewer though!  So here is how it went down:

Here it is before I unwrapped it - pretty!
David:  “As a dessert, which is how this is intended, I could see this if it was covered in a nice kind of custard-y sauce to kind of mellow it out.  But just eating it on its own – the first thing that strikes you is, wow, this is unpleasant…  And then you try and figure out, is that because of the RASPBERRY-ness or the CHOCOLATE-ness…  And then you hang in there…  You stay with it…  You chew it…  And eventually you go, you know, the raspberry-ness is raspberry!  You can’t blame a snake for being a snake!  It is a good raspberry.  The raspberry is OK.  I think it is the chocolate that I find not so good…  And it is very rich, not rich…  Really deeeeep, dark, chocolate.  And it is so….  It is kinda like puttin’ a spoon into a Hershey’s Cacao box and stuffin’ it in your mouth.  It is kinda too much without the…  It makes me feel like there might be some CAROB goin’ on.  You know that thing that is trying too hard, saying, “Maybe I’m chocolate”.  But it could be that it is just such INTENSE chocolate.  That might be it – it is just really INTENSE and I guess I wasn’t ready for it.  But I have to say that the 2nd and 3rd bites, when it was less warm and less gelatinous, nicer.  Would I buy this again?  Probably not.  Would I eat this again if this were in front of me??  Probably so (editor’s note – that is good to hear, because we all shared ONE and there are THREE more to eat in the freezer…).  Overall I would give this a 3.”

David eating his first bite of tamale - he was not so impressed in the beginning....
Kathy:  “I had the same reaction as David to the raspberries.  That was the first thing that I was aware of was the RASPBERRIES, and I was like, yeah, I don’t think so…  They were really tart.  And then I got to where I kind of, yeah, that’s good!  It is good that there are raspberries in there and they are actual raspberries.  You can taste them!  So that is probably a good thing.  But it was kind of, a little bit intense right off the bat. 

For me, the CHOCOLATEYNESS is great.  But it is something about the texture…  Like, chocolate raspberry CAKE – WONDERFUL.  Chocolate raspberry BRULEE – WONDERFUL.  But this – I don’t know what it was trying to be…  Chocolate and raspberry I don’t think were INTENDED to be in a tamale…  So that is where – chocolate is GOOD.  Raspberry is GOOD.  But the VENUE, the VEHICLE in which they were featured – NOT SO GOOD.  Something about the texture…  It should either be a CAKE or something FUDGY.  This was some weird in-between that didn’t really make sense for my mouth.  I give this a 2.5.”

Kathy has chosen to remain anonymous, this mermaid puppet I got for Christmas is standing in for her.  
Me:  we do not eat tamales of any kind very often, and I liked that this came wrapped up (tamale style).  To me it felt like a little package, a GIFT as it were!  It was fun to cook (I steamed it) and unwrap it.  And putting chocolate in a tamale to me is innovative and creative.  I like that it is something NEW.  (Kathy had to interrupt me here and exclaim, “Yeah!!!  But that’s like, “Nobody has ever done a hamburger where the BUN is 2 pieces of fried chicken, so let’s do THAT!!!”.  And this same conversation we are having is what they had before deciding to do THAT and it was not a good idea.  It’s like – TAMALES are good, CHOCOLATE is good, RASPBERRIES are good.  That does NOT mean you need to put them all together!!!!”.)  Apparently Kathy is not on board with the inventiveness factor here J.

Here it is all unwrapped
Kathy is counting calories using an app called Calorie King ($4.99 to download) and her take on it is that this tamale is “not worthy of the calories”.  One thing I do agree with Kathy on is that the texture is WEIRD.  But it is a tamale- like texture, it is just weird to have it with a chocolate taste.  But they nailed getting the appropriate texture for the tamale venue, but the question is “how appropriate is that texture for the chocolate taste”.

The molten chocolate when it is heated I liked.  I think this would be nice with a custard drizzled on top, whipped cream, or even a Greek yogurt…  Kathy suggests béchamel sauce or crème fraiche but I had to point out that her calorie app may have literally exploded at the addition of those decadent ingredients.  I personally think all of those ideas would help this product but I would not recommend putting a chocolate or fudge sauce on it, it is chocolatey enough without that.

Works out to a buck a tamale - cheap dessert
Unwrapping this tamale was like a present on a plate.  But it was kind of like the present your Aunt from Iowa gives you and she doesn’t know you very well.  It was nice to have a GIFT, but maybe a piece of cheesecake would have been even better.  As Kathy says, “It was cool to have this once.”  Because of my failing to serve this as a DESSERT and having to instead make it for a BREAKFAST, I am going to bump up the average score by half a point because I feel this would have been better received if not served in the morning.  I give these tamales a 3.

I just want to make sure you knew we didn't ONLY eat chocolate for breakfast!
We picked this papaya from the tree and ATE IT - yummy!

Price – $3.99
Rating (average of 3 raters, with half a point added for my timing faux pas) - 3

Please check out my new project starting in 2016:  KINDNESS ACTIVIST.  You can find it here:

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Twitter:  @kindactivist

See you on the KIND SIDE!


  1. I do feel compelled to comment that some aunts in Iowa give awesome gifts. They also travel 75 miles several times a month to obtain their Trader Joe's fix.

    1. This is so sweet. Are YOU said Iowan aunt or do you HAVE this aunt???

  2. Really? You won't be doing this blog after tomorrow? I found you a few weeks ago and have LOVED this blog! Where will we turn to for new TJ product reviews? Wah! :)

    1. Oh my Sally, I am sorry you just found the blog recently! I am thrilled that you have enjoyed it! David said, "Tell Sally to start on Day 1 (January 1, 2015) on Jan 1, 2016!! If she just read the last couple of weeks she hasn't seen the beginning of the reviews :) !". That David is one smart cookie. I say, read my NEW blog, . And not to fear, I will still post reviews in this one every once in a while. :) HAPPY NEW YEAR!