REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s

It’s finally officially autumn. Which means that the inside of Trader Joe’s looks like a pumpkin goblin vomited all over the entire store. And it’s goddamn beautiful. While many brands started rolling out their spooky seasonal selection in August, Trader Joe’s tends to wait until a more tasteful mid-September, but when they bring it, they BRING it. Pumpkin soup and pumpkin chips and pumpkin spreads and pumpkin pasta and on and on and on. Of course, not excluding pumpkin cookies. Somehow in my autumnal escapades last year I didn’t pen my thoughts on Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s. In fact, I didn’t even eat them last year. But the time has come for me to formally enter TJ’s mock-eo into the pumpkin catalog. Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s are pumpkin sandwich cookies with a pumpkin cream filling.

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REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Neapolitan Joe-Joe’s

I could’ve sworn the Neapolitan resurgence was over. After Peeps, M&M’s, and Cocoa Puffs did their best to revive the tri-flavor palate earlier in the year it felt like a done deal; but never leave out sneaky stylish Trader Joe’s when it comes to cashing in on a new trend. Last year the company released two of the best new sandwich cookies with Matcha Joe Joe’s and Mocha Joe Joe’s both being incredibly strong contenders holding their own against the handful of gems Nabisco dropped amid their flurry of Oreo’s. A quiet cookie drop to mark the last month of summer feels like a fitting way for Trader Joe’s to ease into the holiday insanity they’ve become known for. Neapolitan Joe Joe’s combine one chocolate wafer with one vanilla wafer and a strawberry crème filling.

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REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Baked Churro Bites

Trader Joe’s ain’t no slouch when it comes to making house brand snacks. Their Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks, Multigrain Crackers, and Organic Peanut Butter’s rival anything you can get from a big brand. And last year’s Cornbread Crisp’s? One of the best chili co-pilot’s you’ll find anywhere. Comin’ in strong for 2018 TJ’s have unleashed a new snack gunning straight for my cinnamon-soaked heart with Baked Churro Bites.

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REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Salty Honey Toffee Milk Chocolate Covered Crackers

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Among the onslaught of holiday cookies, cakes, and candies, someone has to bring the crackers, right? Granted, that cracker will likely be spread with some rich pimento cheese, brie, or something else with a crazy amount of lush fat in it, but Trader Joe’s took it a step further. It’s Christmas, after all, the most indulgent time of the year, and crackers ought to be covered in chocolate. Not only covered in chocolate, but topped with salted honey toffee, diced almonds, and even a hint of coffee. Crackers? Cookies? Who knows, who cares, it’s time to eat.

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REVIEW: Little G’s Cookie Butter Crunch

People love to lose their goddamn minds over cookie butter, and as much as I am a proponent of sugar, spice, and everything nice – I’m not one of ‘em. Yes, cookie butter is delicious, but I bought exactly one jar of it, enjoyed it, and have never had the urge to buy another. My problem is I don’t really know what to do with it, because while it’s good on pancakes and waffles I like maple syrup and butter more, and if I’m gonna eat something straight-out-the-jar like a savage it’s gonna be peanut butter. What I am a fan of though, are actual speculoos cookies, aka autumn’s shortbread, that deliver the big spicy flavor of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and nutmeg in a crunchy little buttery cookie that go marvelously with a morning cup of coffee. Even though I think the buzz on cookie butter is a bit overzealous, I’m always down to get down on something cinnamon-y, which is why I am pumped for Little G’s Cookie Butter Crunch, which dunks crushed speculoos cookies in a cookie butter ice cream with a cookie butter swirl, and mini chocolate chips.

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As expected, this pint of ice cream tastes like cookie butter. The cookie butter base is light and subtly spicy, but it’s honestly hard to discern how much of the flavor is coming from the base itself and how much is coming from the pieces of actual cookies. The important thing is that the flavor is very similar to diving straight into a jar of the pure brown good stuff. The speculoos crumbs have integrated themselves pretty prominently throughout the actual ice cream, so while there’s still some melty creaminess going on, a bit of a the luscious mouthfeel I want from a premium ice cream gets lost for the sake of the flavors intensity.

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The actual speculoos chunks and cookie butter swirl do exactly as advertised. The bigger pieces of cookie have softened with a nice chew and have a wonderful spicy, slightly dark flavor with a hint of molasses-y caramelization.  The cookie butter swirl is predominantly smooth with some slight grittiness. It’s interesting eating cookie butter frozen instead of at room temperature, as some of the fats have hardened and solidified like peanut butter and the texture has changed ever so slightly, which fades more as the ice cream tempers. Unfortunately the flavors in the base, swirl, and cookies are all so similar that after a serving of Cookie Butter Crunch it starts to feel kind of redundant and I wish I had more contrast to keep the scooping more endearing.

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Ironically, what really doesn’t work for me in this flavor are the mini chocolate chips. While on one hand they’re the lone non-spicy non-cookie component in the container, there’s simply too many of them. Even though they break up the speculoos party with a pop of bittersweet cocoa, they ultimately take away from the sweet, creamy, and spicy balance that this flavor sets out to achieve, and I find their consistent chocolatey crunch distracting and unnecessary.  The chips are so ample that there is at least one, and usually more, in nearly every bite.

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While this flavor isn’t bad by any means, it’s a perfect example of trying to do too much and simply needing to pull back for a self edit. I would have enjoyed trying these components in Grace’s stellar vanilla bean or even a caramel base so that the cookies and swirl could really stand out. I would have also skipped out on the chips, or at the very least dialed them back by half so I can get into a true spicy groove, even though they really are the only element that bring the crunch of the flavors namesake.

Rating: 7.5/10

Found at: http://www.goldbely.com (use code seanpancake0 for $25 off of your first order!)

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Matcha Joe Joe’s

Green tea is one of the oldest, most comforting, soothing, and healthy warm drinks to seek out when needing a little caffeine or immunity boost. As traditional as the beverage is, that hasn’t stopped all types of innovative uses for the ground up matcha powder that packs a huge antioxidant and energy boost. Green tea ice cream? Awesome. Green tea lattes? Great. Green tea cake? Delicious. The ways in which we can use the grassy flavor knows almost no bounds, and in this day and age of limited-time insanity it’s time for an ultimately portable version of this earthy treat. I’ve always been fond of Trader Joe’s products but they really impressed the hell outta me with their Mocha Joe Joe’s earlier this year, and I’m looking at them to pave the way for the crunchy version of this tea-treat. Continuing their trend of beating Nabisco to the punch with innovative-yet-obvious flavors, they’re back in the drivers seat with Matcha Joe Joe’s, which pair a green tea matcha creme with crunchy vanilla wafer cookies.

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I’m not sure if it’s just the thickness of the wafers themselves, but Joe Joe’s just seem bigger than their big bro Oreo, and these cookies are simply pleasant to look at. Deep white vanilla wafers with lushly green creme make me excited to dig in, and the grassy tea notes waft with ease from the package.

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Biting in this cookie is everything I wanted it to be. A super snappy vanilla cookie gives way to immaculately balanced creme that is a textural delight. The filling is extremely smooth, soft, and creamy with an absolutely spot on balance of earthy matcha notes that don’t get bitter or astringent in the slightest. Green tea is front and center without any of the potential negatives that could pull this flavor down, delivering all the joy of green tea ice cream in a vessel that won’t melt in my pocket. The sweetness is perfectly executed with the vanilla cookie bringing just the right sugary punch to accentuate the matcha flavor without drowning it out, and finishes with a lovely buttery note that puts a lovely green ribbon on the whole experience.

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Once again TJ’s deliver an elevated, delicious, and fun Joe Joe that is just as crave-able as it is unique. The flavors are simple, straight forward, and just sweet enough to go wonderfully with a good cup of coffee, but not so much that they need the coffee to be enjoyed.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Trader Joe’s ($2.99)

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REVIEW: Trader Joe’s Mocha Joe Joe’s

The world has never seen a coffee Oreo…until later this year. That’s right, in 2017, thanks to a collaboration with Dunkin Donuts, Nabisco will finally release a coffee flavored Oreo.  Bad news for them, Trader Joe’s has beaten them to the punch via the release of the brand new for this year Mocha Joe Joe’s. With two chocolate wafer cookies sandwiching a vanilla creme studded with ground coffee, Oreo has some heavy competition on their hands.

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Coffee is one of my most cherished and nostalgic smells, and busting into these Joe Joe’s is like unearthing a fresh bag of whole bean espresso.  There’s a full, dark, dominant coffee aroma that will be no stranger to anyone who grinds coffee beans at home, and is a surprising coming so intensely from a $3 box of cookies. The creme filling is smooth, soft, and almost runny with a much softer texture than its Oreo idol. The creme is studded with coffee bean bits that add a little extra crunch but primarily bring a bold coffee flavor that is sharp, bitter, and genuine. The taste is very similar to that of chocolate covered espresso beans and that’s a huge boost over a lot of coffee flavored products I’ve had before.

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As powerful as the coffee flavor is, the cookies do still overall register sweet, with the wafer cookie being a little less dark and bitter than the standard Oreo. There’s enough sugary sweetness in the melty creme and wafer to balance the coffee intensity and I think this cookie will be loved not only by caffeine junkies, but those who appreciate the other element of a mocha – good chocolate. The finish is sweet and smooth enough to accompany a good cup of coffee, tea, or espresso, but dynamic enough that it isn’t just another average tasting Oreo copy cat.

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This is the most excited I’ve been by a cookie so far this year, and it caught me by total surprise.  I love drinking coffee daily but am not as hyped on coffee flavored treats, and these cookies may have converted me.  I’ve always thought Joe Joe’s were of high quality but with this Mocha flavor Trader Joe’s have taken them to another level, achieving the perfect snack-able balance of coffee, chocolate, and delicious that has me excited for other new limited releases in the future.

Rating: 9/10
Found at: Trader Joe’s
Quick Nutrition: 2 cookies – 7g fat – 95mg sodium – 23g carbs – 14g sugar – 1g protein

REVIEW: Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s

Yes, it’s January, and technically the holiday season has come and gone, but there are such an insane amount of delicious seasonal products released every year that sometimes it takes a little longer than December 25 to get to them all.  This could end up being my last Christmas-y write up of the year, and fortunately, it’s a good one.  Trader Joe’s have done something I have always wished Nabisco would do with Oreo’s – released a variety pack.  This, however, is no ordinary variety pack, this is the “Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s” variety pack featuring four different sandwich cookies, covered in different chocolate, and garnished with additional texture/flavor boosts.

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Let me start off by saying there isn’t a bad cookie in the box, and I am going to attempt to talk about each one and rate them somewhat based off of each other because honestly they all kick ass.

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First up is the only one you can get in a separate package outside of this box – the Peppermint Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with Peppermint Sprinkles.  It should come as no surprise that this one is awesome, since Candy Cane Joe Joe’s are one of the best seasonal cookies TJ’s offers, it’s a no brainer to amplify those flavors even more and they simply slap even harder.  The dark chocolate is rich and indulgent, with the peppermint “sprinkles” on top actually being crushed up pieces of candy cane that give crunch and an extra mint boost.  Completely crave-able and delicious, the only thing I can fault this one on is the dark chocolate coating mutes a bit of the mint bite from the creme and the “sprinkles” don’t add enough to really take the minty-ness over the top.  Still, an absolute winter wonderland in your mouth.
Rating: 9/10.

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Next we have one of my favorite flavor combinations ever with PB&C – Peanut Butter Joe Joe in Milk Chocolate with Dark Chocolate Drizzle.  Chocolate and PB is an automatic win and this cookie basically transforms the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup into cookie – beautiful round shape and all.  As much as I was looking forward to this one it didn’t give me the depth of peanut butter flavor I had hoped for, once again being a bit muted by the chocolate cookie and double chocolate coating.  One of the best aspects of a solid peanut butter cup is the ratio of PB to chocolate and I’ve never been a fan of a cup that gets too chocolate dominant, which happens here.  Again, still completely delicious but some of the fatty nutty nuances of the peanut get lost in the drizzle party.
Rating: 8/10

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The third cookie in the lineup is the most unique and by far the one I was most excited to try – it was actually the push that came to shove that convinced me to spend $6.99 on this box of brilliance – Ginger Joe Joe in White Chocolate with Ginger Sprinkles.  I absolutely love white chocolate when it’s executed well and ginger is one of my favorite flavors of the festive season (or anytime, really).  I have never tried a naked Ginger Joe Joe so I’m not sure how this one stacks up but the first flavor I got was lemon.  I’m don’t know if this is a weird mind trick from the flavor play of the ginger and white chocolate together but the initial bite reminded me of that lemony cookie flavor you get from a box of Barnum’s Animals crackers.  The white chocolate is smooth and sweet, and on the finish you get a pleasant little dance of ginger that gets extra heightened when a bite with the gingersnap crumbles comes into the picture.  The flavor on this one really seemed to vary depending on the amount of sprinkles, with either just enough, or not enough ginger spiciness to mellow out the white chocolate.
Rating: 8.5/10

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Finally, last but definitely not least, the one I was least looking forward to and took me by surprise – Double Chocolate Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with a Milk Chocolate Drizzle.  This cookie is a perfect example of don’t dog it till you’ve tried it, because while I expected this to be a relatively one-note boring experience it ended up being my favorite in the whole box and absolutely perfect.  The layers of chocolate on chocolate give a rich, almost brownie-like flavor and texture to the cookie, with the variations between the creme, wafer, and coating being more distinct than in the other three Joe Joe’s.  This cookie channels all of the greatest chocolate indulgences, reminding me of not only brownies but layer cakes, truffles, and candy bars.  It’s got the kind of cocoa richness and depth you would expect from a high end chocolate shop like See’s or Godiva, not a cardboard box of cookies from a grocery store.
Rating: 10/10

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The whole happy family

It took me awhile to review this product, not only because each cookie has 130 calories and 11 grams of sugar, but because I wanted to give each one its proper due in how they not only stood on their own but how they fit in in relation to the others in the box as well.  During the holiday’s Trader Joe’s becomes awash with an insane amount of high quality limited time products and these astounding Joe Joe’s are no exception.  Highly recommended, highly delicious, highly dangerous.

Overall rating: 9/10