REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate

With cookies from the Netherlands, chocolate from Belgium, and ownership by a California-based grocer that sports Hawaiian shirts, these cookies are reserved for only those with an open mind, an appreciation for all nationalities, and a predilection for spontaneous, risky, sometimes foolish, yet always admirable purchasing habits at the supermarket.

That is, they are reserved for you.

Yes, you. The few. The proud. The dashingly madcap buyers of consumer goods. And yet, despite your inherent courage, you will be tempted to stand back, to cling tight to the familiarity found in the Pepperidge Farm “Milano.” There is great safety in familiarity. Do not be ashamed. I, too, have stood where you stand.

But sometimes, gentle readers, we must branch out. Who among us is brave enough to defy the traditional, “Milano”? Who shall cross not one, but three (THREE) international borders to emerge on a new, diversified biscuit horizon? Who will dare to eat the cookies? After consumption, who will remain?

It’s a long journey. Let us begin now.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate A perfect duet

Actually, I lied. It’s a staggeringly short journey.

Because these are some good sandwich cookies. Straight up. Ripe for dunking in your afternoon coffee, the cookie itself has some solid structural integrity, more crunchy than crispy, just right for a solid dunk in coffee or tea if you’re so inclined.

It’s also sturdy enough that I could see it making good building material if you’re looking for a weekend construction project and are too lazy to go to Home Depot or are a contractor who specializes in building cookie log cabins for grandmas with questionable, Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired intent.*

*A note to contractors: please do not fall prey to innocent-looking, yet maliciously-inclined grandmas. Only contract to happy grandmas who wish to spoil their grandkids with abundant amounts of milk and cookies.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate insides

In terms of taste, the cookie wafers are faintly sweet and mild. Some may call it dubiously flavorless, but I can think of worse things. For example: 1) having a distressing population of moles infest your backyard, 2) dying from a spontaneous accumulation of nuclear plasma in the Hudson Bay, and 3) being buried in the break room beside the water cooler. These cookies? Nowhere near nuclear waste or water coolers, buried or unburied.

Thankfully for anyone snoozed out by the cookie’s mild taste, that biscuit is but a canvas to better showcase the smothering of Belgian chocolate smooshed between. This inner cocoa mass proves itself smooth, but still creamy, much like a halfway-hardened ganache. The chocolate flavor starts out rich, cane-sugared, and a little woodsy in that semisweet way as it trundles toward a slight coffee-like bitterness to balance out the sweet, bringing the cookie a good dose of ying, yang, and yada yada yada.

When combined, the cookie sandwich, what with its rich chocolate inside, crunchy cookie outside, and absence of hydrogenated oil (all the arteries shout, “Yay!”), not only edges this cookie up in the “Good Stuff” rankings, but, dare I say, sneaks it just above the Milanos. The lower ingredient count really does heighten the chocolate’s flavor. It may not be spectacular or even original in execution, but it’s simple, and, by gum, simple done downright well.

TJ's Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate lunch time!

I often imagine the cavernous hallways of the U.N. Headquarters echoing, “Can we all get along?” If these American-Netherland-Belgian-inspired cookies imply anything, I’d say definitely. The well-tempered, semisweet chocolate paired with the crunchy, mild cookie makes these simple and balanced. They hearken back to the Milano, yet, with their lower ingredient/preservative count, their taste is stronger and respectably unique. Plus, they are in the shape of a rectangle, so they really look like “sandwiches,” and “sandwiches” are good for lunch, right?

(Yes.)

And now that I have given you an excuse to have cookies for your mid-day meal, my work here is done.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 160 calories, 90 calories from fat, 9 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, Less than 5 milligrams of cholesterol, 45 milligrams of sodium, 16 grams of carbohydrates, Less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 7 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Crispy Cookies Filled with Belgian Chocolate
Purchased Price: $2.79
Size: 7.5 oz package
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Sweet, crunchy cookie. Smooth, semisweet chocolate. Taste is stronger than Milanos thanks to lower ingredient count. Cookies for lunch. Encourages positive international relations. Makes good building material.
Cons: Some may think the cookie portion boring/tasteless. Forces me to betray my beloved Milano (I still love you, Milanos!). Backyard rodent infestations. Death by nuclear plasma. Grandmas with malicious intent.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky

Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky

Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky may be a bit of a misnomer.

I’m not completely sure it should be labeled as a jerky. Maybe it falls under the technical definition of “jerky”? Let’s look it up and see. Okay. Jerky. “Characterized by abrupt starts and stops.” Hmmm. I guess so? I guess my jaw was abruptly starting and stopping in a chomping motion. Is that just considered “chewing”?

Anyway, I wanted to point out off the bat that the jerky is wet. It’s probably the “sweet sriracha” glaze or whatever but it’s certainly a surprise when you reach into a factory sealed plastic bag and come out of it with a fistful of wet meat.

Also, I wanted to point out the fact that this jerky is “uncured.” It’s unclear what that officially means but probably something like it wasn’t brined or preserved in a certain way, like most jerkies are. Like if Han Solo in carbonite is “cured” then Tom Hanks sitting in the sun talking to a volleyball for four years is “uncured.” Soylent Green is people. And honestly it would probably be sold at Trader Joe’s.

Why the word police? Well, it’s just that this is basically cooked bacon in a bag. Like, bacon you would take out of the oven at home. Imagine you are a food corporation. Now imagine you try to sell “bacon in a bag.” Forget the internet trend and imagine all the moms and dads in the supermarket scrunching up their faces like, “Bacon is for breakfast and Wendy’s Quadruple Baconators only.” But designate bacon a jerky, and poof, there’s a familiar snack that is entirely meat and everyone eats. So familiar it’s, like, the oldest food ever. Yes, even older than Crystal Pepsi. So, in the name of tradition, go ahead and shove that bacon in your maw.

Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky 2

All this being said, it’s not an unpleasant product. It is wet and sticky at first, but biting into the jerky is fine. It has the texture of some well-cooked bacon on the chewier side. The crisp factor seems to be turned down a bit and there are some pockets of fat. There is a wave of sweetness that dovetails into a bit of heat, and if more than a few pieces are consumed, the spiciness elevates to a nice sharp numbing.

Here’s a riddle: What starts off wet and sticky and ends up meaty and numb? Answer: Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky! That’s what this review is about. Nothing else.

Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky 3

While I’m unclear about the jerkization process used here, I can tell you for sure this thing is being sold at jerky prices. It’s almost six bucks for two ounces, whereas the regular beef jerkies cost about five bucks for four ounces. That’s a lot more for a lot less, and knowing that is pretty much the only reason why we all take 12 years of math. Well, at least I took 12 years of Jerky Pricing. I majored in Jerky Pricing! I’m in data entry right now, but I still do Jerky Pricing in the evenings and the weekends.

I think I read the wrong definition of “jerky” in the intro. Here, it’s actually: “foolish, stupid or rude.” Look it up. Here’s a new riddle: What begins with abrupt starts and stops and ends foolish, stupid and rude? It’s this review! Good night, Pigs.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 oz. – 140 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 3 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 15 milligrams of cholesterol, 600 milligrams of sodium, 6 grams of sugar, 6 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky
Purchased Price: $5.49
Size: 2 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 6 out of 10
Pros: Good texture. Nice elevating spice kick after a base of sweetness.
Cons: Sticky. Seems like just bacon you can make at home. Fairly expensive.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies

This is everything the trainers, cardiologists, and armchair psychologists warned me about. Why? Well…

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Tower

(You still here?)

To the three of you who you haven’t sprinted for your keys, I’ll do my best use some adjectives that describe the above cookie sandwiches, photographed just moments before they were ingested. If you head for your local Trader Joe’s via car/bus/ferry/personal helicopter before you make it to the end, I won’t blame you.

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Topless

Despite the sudden population boom in biscuit-based spreads, the cookie butter Trader Joe’s implements here holds tight to tradition, using the familiar cinnamon caramel flavors found in Speculoos cookies. The goo is a little thicker than peanut butter, but not quite as stiff as an Oreo creme. The spread separates from the cookie swiftly when twisting and remains as tasty as I remember in that special caramelized-frosting way. But the real kicker? Comes with the shortbread.

Salty, sugary, and sandy as a renegade drifter, the buttery shortbread breaks with a crisp bite before it crumbles and dissolves under its own weight. Darwin surely would’ve been fascinated to hear my post-first-bite monologue of, “Yum. Cookie. More. Yum,” as I’m fairly certain it brings into question humanity’s ability to linguistically evolve…or perhaps this is just me? Am I de-evolving?? And what will I do when I become a monkey?? If these cookies have anything to do with it, I’ll be eating shortbread.

Despite the Super Wonderful that is this cookie, I’m a little conflicted. This is the third cookie butter product I’ve reviewed in the past 12 months. Trader Joe… are you using cookie butter as a crutch? Maybe even surfing on a… (gulp)…trend??

Now, no lies: it’s a very, very tasty crutch, but, as my ski instructor said to me back when I was a poorly coordinated 10-year-old, one never learns if one always takes the Bunny Slope. Sometimes, you gotta strap on your skis and rocket down the double-black diamond at 50 miles per hour without a helmet.* You may crash, lose a glove, and bonk into a California pine, but you’ll learn from the wipeout.

*This is a lie. You should always wear a helmet, silly.

Trader Joe's Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies Mug

But who am I kidding? These are delicious. I’m knocking them a little for being trendy, for not having a re-sealable bag, and for making my arteries sad with the box’s 216% of my saturated fat, but, let’s face it: neither health nor coolness are what you keep in mind when eating these. What you keep in mind is joy. Pure, unobstructed joy. And Trader Joe? You’ve succeeded in that.

So, dear reader. will you twist? Nibble from the outside in? Dip in milk or not? One at a time or gulf down a pile of five? There are a lot of ways people will tell you to eat these, all stress-inducing and rife with contradictions. I say ignore them and enjoy your cookie.

(Nutrition Facts – 2 cookies – 180 calories, 90 calories from fat, 10 grams of fat, 5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 20 milligrams of cholesterol, 90 milligrams of sodium, 20 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 8 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter Sandwich Cookies
Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 10 oz. box
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Classic cookie butter. Crumbly. Buttery. Sandy. A little crispy. Renegade drifters.
Cons: Dangerously trendy. Not in a re-sealable bag. 214% Saturated Fat in one box. Ski accidents. Knocking into a California pine. Cardiologists. Turning into a monkey via de-evolution.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake

The following are uncovered hacked e-mails from Trader Joe’s headquarters. The correspondence is between CEO Trader Joe and powerful cheesecake agent Graham K. Racker.

On Jun 14, 2014, at 2:19 PM, “NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Graham K. Racker”> wrote:

Joe,
Had a chance to check out the samples yet? Want to get these cheesecakes on the shelves stat.

On Jun 14, 2014, at 6:31 PM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Trader Joe”> wrote:

Graham,
Yes, I have. Although I appreciate the time and effort in sending me all of these cheesecake samples, there is just no way that we will be able to accommodate them all at our stores. Some of the flavors also seem strange. “Brussel Sprout?” “Toro Sashimi?” “Little Caesar’s $5 Pizza Cheesecake?” That’s not even legally possible, Graham.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 2

Though, I will say, one particular cheesecake caught my taste buds. The Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake. I think this is perfect for our stores, as it’s very good and will continue the extremely popular Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter tradition.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 3

Here’s what I think: I was at first taken aback with the fact that it wasn’t an entire cheesecake with cookie butter cream cheese or something like that, maybe a swirl. It’s more like a plain cheesecake wearing a cookie butter hat. Actually, if you consider the crumbled speculoos cookie crust, the cheesecake is wearing a cookie hat and cookie pants. Might have to save that saying for one of our sign artists!

And it’s a delightful slice. The plain cheesecake is not too sweet, allowing the cookie butter to shine. The two flavors of cheesecake and topping are relatively muted and elevate each other, allowing the consumer to mindlessly zombie-eat it, like Oreos or Doritos dust. (Ironically, I couldn’t eat more than two bites of the Oreo-Doritos Dust Cheesecake you sent)

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 4

The cookie butter top is a little denser than the cake filling itself and biting into it releases a waft of cinnamon that triggers pumpkin pie memories. Following that, the cream cheese exhibits a mild tang typical of a cheesecake. It’s almost until the aftertaste that I am walloped in the mouth by ground up shortbread dancing around my mouth. It’s not trying to reinvent cheesecake, it’s delivering what it says on the box: It’s a cheesecake with cookie butter on it. I like it.

If there is a downside, it is that it is frozen. Of course there is no way around this, as per transportation and storage necessities, but the instructions on defrosting ranges from “4-6 hours or overnight.” So people’s mileage may vary. I know myself, I sleep 3 hours a night, being the CEO of a successful company. So overnight for me is less than the recommended time. Now I’m bragging.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake 5

The speculoos cookie crust does a decent job of serving up the rest of the goods, but the cookie butter top and cheesecake are definitely the stars. Also, because it is frozen, the crust absorbs a good deal of moisture, which is not a deal breaker but not the best situation for crusts. Also to consider because of it being a frozen product—how long a consumer puts it out to be room temperature will affect the softness of the cheese in the cheesecake.

But most of all it sucks that we have to wait to eat it! This item seems great for our shelves and a good supplement or replacement for the apple pie and pumpkin pies during the holidays. Thanks Graham.

On Jun 15, 2014, at 8:35 AM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Graham K. Racker”> wrote:

You can’t just pick and choose, Joe. If you want the Speculoos Cheesecake you have to take the Dragonfruit Salvia flavored one too. Don’t mess with me. We’re on the verge of getting Obama to pardon a cheesecake this Christmas and it will put us on the map and you will be sorry. I’m going to make it a [redacted] flavored one. You think he’ll love that?

The cheesecake industry is coming up and your Hawaiian shirt wearing pathetic losers can’t stop me. You aren’t even in control of your own brand, Joe. Not saying you’re a whore, but you’re a whore.

You can have the cookie butter cheesecake but you have to take the Cardamom Parsley Squid one too. This is not up to debate. I am not destroying my career over a minimally talented spoiled brat, Joe. I’m talking about you, Joe.

On Jun 15, 2014, at 9:06 AM, “RE: NEW CHEESECAKE?” < [EMAIL REDACTED]>, “Trader Joe”> wrote:

Good thing I have a mouth like an elephant’s brain — it can replicate tastes with amazing recall. It also feels large but actually is proportional for my body size. We don’t need you, crazy man. Putting this stuff out by December.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/6th of a cheesecake – 410 calories, 220 calories from fat, 25 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, 0.5 grams of trans fat, 80 milligrams of cholesterol, 220 milligrams of sodium, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 29 grams of sugar, and 4 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Cheesecake
Purchased Price: $6.99
Size: 22.5 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Tastes like cookie butter. Fans of cookie butter can enjoy it in cheesecake form. Not too sweet.
Cons: Thawing process unpredictable. Soggy-ish crust.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups

Ever since buying this tub, I’ve woken up to a THWUMB, THWUMB, THWUMB outside my window. Upon investigating, I find nothing at the window. I am convinced it is a) a very stupid pigeon, b) the ghost of Edgar Allen Poe, or c) a telepathic message from Professor X that states, “Margaret…you’re a Mutant. You must join the X-Men!” No matter which, it’s clear this thing eats cookie butter cups and wants them bad, but can’t quite figure out the whole “opening the window” thing (hence why it is not a breed of hyper-intelligent monkey or particularly creepy human).

But it makes perfect sense for this creature to try to get in every morning to obtain this little tub of aluminum-studded cups. Let me tell you why.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups TJ Cookie Butter cup escapes from foil

Sparing us from frippery of fluted cups, Trader Joe’s delivers a simple, complete concept right out of the golden foil. The size of a mini Reese’s Cup but with a firmer, darker outer shell, these start off with a striking visual impression, a sensation that swiftly carries over to the taste.

This is not a hyper-sugared confection that coats your tongue, no glucose-ridden lozenge that burns as it courses down as if the Almighty were ripping out your trachea. No, this is just quality semisweet chocolate, dark, bitter, and smooth like a 1965 Clint Eastwood riding out into the vengeance-ridden dusk.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup insides!!

Stuffed into each nub is a generous helping of cookie butter paste. Smooth, but slightly crumbly, that inner spread tastes of the named pulverized Speculoos cookies, highlighting the oat-cinnamon streusel notes. This filling, coupled with the woodsy, coffee-wisped chocolate, pushes this candy to the top, the cream of the crop, the Chrome Viking Refrigerators of confectionary-dom.

Just one problemo: there are only 28. Sure, it’s a pretty good number, but for $4.99, I do wish there were a few more. Desperate to hold on for as long as possible, I tried to ration them out. Like today: I’ll only have 2 cups…or maybe 3…or 4…

(2 hours later, upon emptying tub)

Sugar is GOOD!!! I feel I could pick up a lawnmower and fling it across a baseball field! I am invincible! I am unstoppable! I AM a Mutant!

(1 hour later, upon going to Home Depot and looking at lawnmowers)

I overestimated myself. I am not a Mutant. I am not even an Animorph. I am more like the lanky, awkward teenager hired to stand outside the store dressed in a paper mache koala suit. Nothing near a Mutant. Just a mortal, attempting to down a bag of sugar, chocolate, and crumbled cookies.

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups Cookie Butter Cup sculpture

But maybe that’s okay. It certainly doesn’t make these cookie butter cups any less delicious. With such quality semisweet chocolate and a good ratio of cookie butter stuffed in each, who needs to be a mutated superhero? Maybe I could become one if I were to share these with that creature that rattles at my window, but me? Share these? I think I would rather be trampled by a fleet of rabid pigeons.*

*Not sure if pigeons can contract rabies.

(Nutrition Facts – 3 pieces – 180 calories, 120 calories from fat, 13 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 19 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of fiber, 14 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Speculoos Cookie Butter Cups
Purchased Price: $4.99
Size: 11 oz. tub
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Smooth chocolate. Crumbly insides. Streusel-like filling. Nice balance of sugary insides to bittersweet outsides. Provides you with enough energy to throw a lawnmower. Messages from Professor X.
Cons: Those sensitive to dark chocolate may be sad. Runs out quickly. I am not a Mutant. Rabid pigeons.