I’ve been a fan of Trader Joe’s since I was younger, and slowly but surely, I’ve grown perhaps a bit obsessed with the quaint grocery chain in the past few years. I apologize in advance if this turns into a mushy love letter of sorts – you’ve been warned.
As much as I would complain about the distance, maybe it’s lucky that the location nearest my house is at least half an hour away, lest my wallet be continually drained. When my mom, who was suddenly afflicted with an unfortunate dairy allergy about 15 years ago, frequented the store for their wide and affordable variety of dairy-free products, I would marvel at the fun products that lined their shelves. Even now, I’m arrested with childlike wonder every time I enter the store. Maybe it’s the friendly employees that make you feel welcome (but not at the intense level of Chick-fil-A workers), the eye-catching signs done up in colorful chalk art or the aisles packed to the brim with an ever-changing assortment of goods, but grocery-shopping never feels like a chore when I’m at Trader Joe’s. And I know I’m not alone, considering the cult following of the brand.
With my latest trip there, my roommates and I were almost overwhelmed by the number of autumnal items that had just come out. We weren’t able to get everything that we wanted, but that’s an advantage of the seasonal products being rolled out so soon. I certainly haven’t been able to try everything that’s caught my fancy at Trader Joe’s, however, I sure have a number of favorites that have captured my heart (and taste buds). Here are just a few of my staples that hopefully you can get your hands on:
Chocolate Brooklyn Babka
Trader Joe’s bakery goods are on another level. Luxurious stripes of chocolate weave throughout the fluffy loaf, studded with a solid amount of chocolate chips that melt with just a few seconds in the microwave (recommended method of consumption). The inexpensive price tag compared to some high-end bakeries is just a bonus.
Mandarin Orange Chicken
We always have a bag of this dish in our freezer at home for an easy meal to throw together. Our family has tried our fair share of Americanized Chinese food, and we’re proud to say this orange chicken is Lao-approved.
Cold Brew Latte Dessert Bars
The Friendly’s coffee ice cream set up my expectations for coffee very high the first time I tried the drink and was disappointed by its bitterness. But now, I’m a coffee lover and I enjoy the accuracy of the cold brew flavor for a quick, icy treat.
Literally all the dim sum options
Another staple in the Lao household are the multitude of dumpling and shumai dishes, from the Thai vegetable gyoza to the pork shumai. To curb my xiao long bao cravings when we can’t travel to Chinatown, the pork and ginger soup dumplings are pretty up to par.
Ube Ice Cream
I’m equally ecstatic and miffed that ube has become such a trendy flavor recently. I’m glad there are more accessible foods, like this delicious alternative to the Filipino Magnolia or Selecta options when we haven’t gone to Roosevelt Avenue in New York in awhile (if you can’t tell by this column entry and the previous, New York has my culinary heart), however, I can’t shake the “we liked it first” mindset.
Cinnamon Bun Spread
Cinnamon buns are my favorite dessert, and the gooey center is the best part. How could I not love this?
Sour Cream and Onion Corn Puffs
I used to be mad at these puffs for not being as sour cream-y as the Lay’s chips I’m enamored with, but now I appreciate them for their lightness and airiness so I can eat more without feeling sick.
Coconut and Almond Vanilla-flavored Creamer
The nuttiness of the two milk alternatives coupled with the slight sweetness of the vanilla flavor add a nice twist to my cup of coffee.
Honorable mentions: Thai tea mini mochi, lemon basil arugula salad kit, everything bagel ciabatta rolls, chocolate-covered banana slices, breaded cod fillets, vegan pesto, roasted garlic hummus, mini chicken tacos, southwest salad, cold brew caramel latte chocolate bar.
Thumbnail photo courtesy of @traderjoes on Instagram.