REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream

I injured myself yesterday.

It was in aisle 3. The Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream had been sold out for the previous 10 days. Already half-defeated, melodramatic dairy cravings oozing from my limp, lactose-deprived mind, I turned my head and there, between the frozen waffles and Pomegranate Sherbet: one last quart.

“Blah! Cream! Ice! Butter! Cookie! Now!”

It was then that Zeus looked down upon me and said, “You! You did not form a grammatically coherent sentence! You MUST SUFFER!” A bolt of Karma-infused lightning darted from Mt. Olympus, swooshing carts, Trader Joe’s employees, and oblivious human beings right into the 12-foot path that stood between me and dairy perfection.

Grabbing a nearby Kouign Amann from the sample station, I leapt over the baskets, the boxes, and the kindly Trader Joe’s employee who was re-stocking the Salsa Authentica (saying “Excuse me” along the way). I reached down, my goal in sight, when my noggin bonked the shelf above and the slew of Very Vanilla meringues avalanched on my cranium.

Luckily, neither Ancient Greek-inspired divine intervention nor avalanching plastic tubs can stop a true dextrose zealot.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream The untouched ice cream

Having brought the tub home and peeled off the safety-sealed container, I can see white creamy stuff and (small) brown chunky speckles. Smells of vanilla and sugar crackle into the air. By all the gold in Robin Hood’s barn, this stuff looks good. With the cover devoid of any specifics, I can only take an amateur dive at what awaits: vanilla, perhaps even sweet cream, ice cream with cookie butter swirls…and Speculoos cookie chunks? Maybe? MAYBE??

No. No cookie chunks. But cookie butter swirl chunks? Yes! And in wide abundance. Those chunky, gritty, swirly thingies are spattered throughout, gathering up on your golden spoon 1, 2, 5 chunks at a time. Unlike a dense, crunchy cookie, these cookie butter swirlies are gritty and loose and crumble with their spicy warm bite.

The art of perfecting the ratio of cookie-butter-to-cream is an exercise worthy of a sensei master. When gathered in their best proportion, the chunks accentuate a warmth from cinnamon and clove in the Speculoos butter while also bouncing off the sweetness in the vanilla base. What’s better is chunks get chunkier as you dig, rewarding you with golden nuggets so big they’d send the gold panners from ‘49 into a tizzy.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Proof that swirly chunks may take over the world

And that vanilla-cream base? It’s pretty good. Not enough to make a possum do a back flip or anything, but pretty good. Thick and creamy with a super sweet melt, it makes for a smooth foundation that’s just on the cusp of tasting like an Oreo filling. The Trader chose not to toss in any vanilla bean speckles in this particular base, but who needs speckles when you have chunks of pulverized cookie goo all around? Give me the cookie goo. Give me it all.

For those in the Vanilla Clan with a penchant for spicy-warm, yet wonderfully simple concoctions, this ice cream will do you right as it stands. If you like your ice cream with more of a punch, you might be well-served to incorporate other mix-ins or smoosh it up with another ice cream flavor. Think chocolate. Coffee. More cookie butter. That triple-layer Mocha Cake your Aunt Sally baked for you last week. Almost anything will do. The vanilla has a lighter flavor, so anything you dump on it will be a dimension to all that perpetual lightness, a yin to its yang, a Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.

Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream Close up of swirly chunkies

On the whole, this ice cream registers as “good” in both the tender, youthful, overly optimistic part of my brain as well as the crumpled, calloused, grumpity part. In fact, it may be the only thing that these parts of my brain agree upon. Ever. While not chaotic or exploding with mix-ins, it’s a simple, slightly spicy, sweet cream that makes good for eating right off the sugar cone, between French toast, or in a bowl after you’ve dumped your entire Halloween candy stash upon it.

I plan to eat this quart in the morning. I plan to eat this quart at night. I plan to eat this quart until it is finished… and what if someone tries to eat it from my freezer before then? I will not let them. And if they do, I will buy another. I will collect the cookie butter ice cream. All of it. I will stock my freezer to the brim, supporting the dairy farmers as I fill my belly with cookie-butter-laden cream. I suspect future historians will dig me out of a landfill of empty ice cream containers. I will have no regrets.

(Nutrition Facts – 1/2 cup – 220 calories, 130 calories from fat, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 70 milligrams of sodium, 25 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugar, and 2 grams of protein.)

Item: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie Butter Ice Cream
Purchased Price: $4.49
Size: 1 quart
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Cookie swirls, cookie swirls, everywhere, everywhere. Gritty cinnamon goodness. Solid vanilla-cream base. Less sugar than most powerbars. Good for breakfast. Good for dinner. Supports dairy farmers. The Nietzsche to its Dora the Explorer.
Cons: Could have EVEN MORE cookie swirls. And more cookie swirls. Ice cream base may be too sweet for some. Being buried in a landfill of ice cream pints. Poor grammar. Karma-related injuries. The wrath of Zeus.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Spread

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Spread

Do you remember your first time?

Were there scented candles? Sensual music in the background?

I remember my first time. It took place right outside of Central Park. I didn’t mind the public watching. Children stared. There was whipped cream. Things got sticky. Real sticky.

Yup, I remember my first time trying speculoos spread like it was just yesterday. Like many others, my first taste of speculoos spread came atop a waffle from a Wafels & Dinges truck in New York. That sweet, slightly spiced cookie butter knocked my tastebuds’ socks off. (And my tastebuds don’t even wear socks.)

Naturally, when I found out that Trader Joe’s had combined their speculoos spread with a cocoa swirl, I jumped at the opportunity to try it. Chocolate is the only thing that could ever improve speculoos, right?

Behold: Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl.

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Spread Topless

Removing the lid from the glass jar released the heavenly scent of speculoos, an aroma reminiscent of raw sugar cookie dough mixed with cinnamon. Strangely, my proboscis was unable to detect any trace of chocolate.

The light brown speculoos base is fabulous: sweet with a light cinnamon spice, like a spreadable mixture of snickerdoodles and graham crackers. Tiny bits of cookie crumbs are incorporated into the speculoos, providing a very slight crunch. For those who have yet to experience the joys of speculoos, be warned: it is extremely addictive.

But the chocolate? Oh boy. The chocolate changes things for the worse.

The dark brown cocoa swirl is saccharine and excessively rich, almost like a chocolate syrup in solid form. Its chocolate flavor seems artificial, two-dimensional, and ultimately unappealing. There’s no way I would ever eat the chocolate portion of this spread alone.

Because it’s not as thick as peanut butter or Nutella, the cookie butter spreads easily onto bread, waffles, and anything else you can imagine putting speculoos on. (Keep it PG, kids.)

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Spread Closeup

When the speculoos and chocolate portions of the spread are combined, the result is one dark brown mass, more similar in appearance to Nutella than a cookie butter. The speculoos helps to calm the overpowering chocolate flavor of the cocoa swirl. However, the chocolate equally mutes the speculoos, converting the spread in its entirety into what tastes like a cheap, knockoff speculoos spread. Essentially, the addition of the cocoa swirl smothers the speculoos base’s wow-factor, downgrading a spectacular cookie butter to mere mediocrity.

What happened, Trader Joe? There was so much potential here. You took the easy way out by cutting corners and using cheap chocolate, didn’t you? For shame!

I should have known better than to trust a cookie butter sold by such an elusive man. I’ve been to his store countless times, but I still haven’t been able to find this Trader Joe guy. He’s harder to locate than Carmen Sandiego, Waldo, and the corpse of Jimmy Hoffa all combined.

Trader Joe, I will never again purchase your Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl spread. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 Tbsp. (15 grams) – 90 calories, 50 calories from fat, 6 grams of total fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 20 milligrams of sodium, 8 grams of total carbohydrates, less than 1 gram of dietary fiber, 6 grams of sugars, and less than 1 gram of protein.)

Other Trader Joe’s Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl Spread reviews:
What’s Good at Trader Joe’s

Purchased Price: $3.99
Size: 14.1 oz.
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 5 out of 10
Pros: First times. Speculoos base is fabulous. Cookie crumbs mixed throughout.
Cons: Chocolate seems artificial. Combination makes spread seem mediocre. The corpse of Jimmy Hoffa.

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Organic Frosted Pumpkin Toaster Pastries

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Frosted Toaster Pastries

I’ve never been good at finding things. I can’t find the metaphors in Shakespeare’s 58th sonnet. I can’t find Atlantis. I still don’t know where in the world Carmen Sandiego is.

So it was with great surprise and befuddlement that I stumbled upon these seasonal pumpkin toaster pastries crammed in the back aisle of my local Trader Joe’s. Like a rabbit caught in Mr. McGregor’s garden, my first instinct was to freeze in the middle of the aisle, causing a 5-cart pile-up behind me. The next impulse was to unashamedly shove not two, but three boxes into my cart with all the fervor of a dictionary collector coming upon a stash of 1884 Oxford English dictionaries. I may have pulled an oblique muscle in the process.

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Frosted Toaster Pastries Untoasted Rectangle

I’ve often pondered the functions and philosophical implications of Pop-Tart’s no-melt frosting, so it was to my chagrin to uncover: the Trader Joe’s surface icing melts! And re-crackles! Like the glaze of so many doughnuts, this works favorably for the pastry as a whole, adding a gentle caramel flavor on first chomp.

The act of icing meltification led me to investigate the box closer. What were these ingredients that allowed icing to actually melt? Could toaster pastries be made with something other than sodium acid pyrophosphate? Why, yes, yes indeed. To my further confundity (yes, Computer Spell Check, that is now a word), I discovered that these are organic. And made with ingredients I can pronounce. And made with…whole wheat?! Hmmm…is this genius or blasphemy?

Having finished one box in 24 hours, I argue in favor of genius.

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Frosted Toaster Pastries Toaster Pastry profile

“Brown Sugar Cinnamon! Brown Sugar Cinnamon! Brown Sugar Cinnamon!” These were the eloquent thoughts racing through my brain on first bite, and those thoughts were reinforced bite after bite as the pleasantly gritty, sugary filling reminded me of the filling of Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts (one of my top 3 toaster pastry varietals). There’s also a noticeable hint of nutmeg, a kick of ginger, and just an edge of deep woodsiness that I’m guessing comes from the molasses.

While those sugar-and-spice notes lollop on the front engine of taste, the promised pumpkin makes itself known on the caboose, coming in with a gentle flick of flavor that is unquestionably pumpkin. The discretion showed in the amount of pumpkin somehow highlights the squash’s sweet, tart characteristics, thus giving due respect to the best qualities of the jack-o-lantern vegetation.

As a consequence of nature, nutrition, and an ancient Merlin curse, whole wheat flour is denser than its fluffy, all-purpose brethren, thus it takes these rectangles more ticks in the toaster to achieve the standard crispy edges often found in a non-whole grain tart. The instructions on the box recommend toasting at the lowest level on your toaster, but if you like your pumpkin-sugar pastries on the crunchity side, go wild. Turn the heat up to 3, or, if you’re really living on the edge, go to 4. These are pastries covered in what might be a NASA-approved full metal jacket of whole wheat, so no fear. Toast!

If you toast wisely, you shall be rewarded with a honey whole-wheat crust that is crackery, almost nutty. While this crust is nothing too astounding or offending on its own, it does make an excellent base for that sugary, pumpkin-ish filling inside. Finding them hearty for his morning meal, my friend and former logger suggests that these are pastries for the lumberjacks of the world*.

*They’re also really good for non-lumberjacks.

Trader Joe's Organic Pumpkin Frosted Toaster Pastries Toasted Rectangle of Magic

Sometimes, organic products can be expensive and filled with fluffified frou-frou in their foodie egos. Trader Joe’s seems to have broken all pretenses of that here. Not only are these original and cost-friendly, they are daring to compete with Brown Sugar Cinnamon pastries in my pantry. The honeyed crust coupled with the sugary, sweet, slightly pumpkin-y filling has won me over.

If you are looking for an entire can of Libby’s inside your toaster pastry, this may not be the rectangle for you, but if you enjoy brown sugar cinnamon, a bit of pumpkin flair, and good toaster pastries, these are definitely worth your time while they’re around. Good show, Joe, good show.

(Nutrition Facts – 1 pastry – 200 calories, 40 calories from fat, 4 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 125 milligrams of sodium, 0 milligrams of potassium, 38 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of dietary fiber, 18 grams of sugars, and 3 grams of protein.)

Other Trader Joe’s Organic Frosted Pumpkin Toaster Pastries reviews:
What’s Good at Trader Joe’s

Item: Trader Joe’s Organic Frosted Pumpkin Toaster Pastries
Purchased Price: $2.49
Size: 1 box/6 pastries
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: In the running for “Top 3 Favorite Toaster Pastries I’ve Ever Eaten.” Sugary spiced filling. Highlights tart sweetness of pumpkin. Greater ratio of filling-to-crust than average Pop-Tart. Crackery honey wheat crust. Icing actually melts and reforms. Good for lumberjacks and non-lumberjacks.
Cons: May not be pumpkin-y enough for pumpkin lovers. Seasonal. Only six to a box. Pondering philosophical implications of frosting that never melts. Ancient Merlin curses. Pulling oblique muscles.

QUICK REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Cheddar & Horseradish Potato Chips

Trader Joe's Cheddar & Horseradish Potato Chips

Purchased Price: N/A
Size: 7 oz. bag
Purchased at: Trader Joe’s
Rating: 9 out of 10
Pros: Bold horseradish flavor and creamy cheddar flavor takes your taste buds on a tasty roller coaster ride. If you enjoy horseradish (and its burn), you will love these chips and licking the seasoning off your fingers. Thick chips. Awesome crunch that’s crunchier than other kettle chips.
Cons: Doesn’t come in a huge bag that can double as a body pillow. Only available at Trader Joe’s and there isn’t a Trader Joe’s on the rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
Other reviews: What’s Good at Trader Joe’s, Chip Review

Nutrition Facts: 140 calories, 7 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 0 milligrams of cholesterol, 180 milligrams of sodium, 370 milligrams of potassium, 17 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 1 gram of sugar, 2 grams of protein, 2% vitamin A, 2% calcium, 10% vitamin C, and 2% iron.

WEEK IN REVIEWS – 3/10/2012

Willie Nelson

Here are a few product reviews posted this week from other blogs we follow.

The makers of Rockstar Energy Drink has a new tranquility beverage that I’m guessing makes you relax like a rockstar. I’m going to assume that rockstar is Willie Nelson. (via Thirsty Dudes)

Google Translate tell me the “dinamita” in Doritos Dinamita is English for “dynamite.” Wile E. Coyote hasn’t been successful in catching the Road Runner with regular dynamite, so maybe he needs to order these from the Frito-Lay Corporation. (via The Bootleg Guy)

Walmart now offers a store brand version of something similar to MiO Liquid Water Enhancer. I wish Kmart would make themselves something similar to Target. (via Drinkable Review)

Some company makes haggis chocolates. If you don’t know what haggis is, Google it and then wish you hadn’t. (via Chocolate Reviews)

Trader Joe’s takes a cookie and puts popcorn inside it. Next, I’d like Trader Joe’s to take this rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and put a Trader Joe’s on it. (via A Sweet Score)