Me & Joe, A Love Story

This is Guest Blogger Cherie Mercer Twohy’s love affair with Trader Joe’s.  Cherie writes the blog ChezCherie.com.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m an unabashed Trader Joe’s fan.

A geek, actually.

“Hi, my name is Cherie, and I have three TJ’s  numbers on my cellphone favorites list.”

I’m in my local store so often, I can greet the checkers without a name-tag glance. So I guess you could say I’ve got a huge crush on Joe.

And I know I’m not the only one.

Entire websites and blogs are devoted to TJ fandom. There are several unauthorized books about TJ’s out there—hell, I even wrote one!

As with all love affairs, there are emotional hills and valleys inside that tropical-themed emporium of bargain-priced deliciousness. Like a new relationship, the highs can be exhilarating. I have been known to emit a shriek of uncontainable glee when I spy a particularly enticing new product. When I first encountered the frozen puff pastry, I let out a squeal loud enough to get a few glances from fellow frozen-aisle shoppers. One warning sign of potentially unhealthy Joe-addiction: You never fail to check out the “What’s New” shelf. One terrific new product (hello, jarred Piquillo peppers at an impossible price!) in my reusable TJ bag can make my whole day. (Me=TJ geek. See above)

I get a crazy thrill when one of those checkers looks into my cart, and says “Hmmm. I haven’t seen this before!”  Discovering a new product before the employees have sampled it is like finding a love-note tucked into my lingerie drawer.

But, as in any relationship, those heart-fluttering highs can be tempered by soul-sinking lows.

Joe can be a fickle partner, and he’s notorious for his heartlessly abrupt discontinuation of beloved goods. That particular organic chai blend that starts your morning with a perfect blend of calm and caffeination can disappear without warning, leaving your heart wounded and your mornings bereft.

“Why, Joe…why?”

The incredible vanilla paste that made your crème brulee the envy of your gourmet group can (and did) vanish off the shelf, never to return. And don’t get me started on that frozen, all butter puff pastry that changed my life in magical ways—Joe and I are heading to couple’s therapy over that betrayal.

In any long-term relationship, compromise is healthy, and forgiveness occasionally required. I’ve been holding hands with Joe for a looooong time, and while he occasionally cuts me to the quick, I’m in this for the long haul, because I know that his heart is good, and that he will make up any small slights (Hot & Sweet Mustard, I miss you so) with grand gestures (“You brought back your fabulous Panko Breadcrumbs? For me?  Be still, my heart!”) and win me back again.

I’m thinking of starting a self-help group for lovelorn TJ shoppers.  You can reach me at 1 555-TJ-THERAPY.

Brie and Pear Galette

Brie and Pear Galette

From The I Love Trader Joe’s Cookbook, by Cherie Mercer Twohy. Ulysses Press, October 2009

1 Trader Joe’s Gourmet Pie Crust, thawed and rolled out slightly
4 ounces Brie, (rind removed), cubed
1 pear, thinly sliced
1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the pie dough on a baking sheet and scatter half the Brie over the center, leaving the edges clean. Arrange the sliced pears on top of the Brie. Scatter the pecans on top, and then add the remaining Brie. Fold the edges of the dough in to create a “picture frame” around the filling, leaving the center exposed. Grind a little black pepper over the filling and bake 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden. Cut into wedges or squares to serve.

Try this with Gorgonzola instead of Brie—rather than putting the last half of the cheese on before the galette goes in the oven, reserve it to scatter on top of the galette as soon as it comes out of the oven. Pour a glass of port, and you’re in heaven.

  • a1cramer

    I will have disclose that I hate Trader Joe's: I'm the shopper that is confounded by the lack of basic ingredients in most so called 'super' markets. Granted TJ's is dealing with a pretty small foot-print and is clearly geared to the semi homemade crowd but how can you make a pie dough into a pizza or vice versa? To me it's like substituting butter for margarine or to put it another way anyone that has had real pastry croissant will not mistake it for a Safeway croissant. Why would anyone want to put themselves through the torture of finding a product that they love only to find it missing next week or get seduced by those pretty jars of olives only to find that they are truly awful when you get them home? Now if TJ would carry pasilla peppers or banana leaves I just might convert.

  • Cat

    wow I loved that vanilla paste and still can not believe that did not stick around. Wish I had the space to be a TJ's hoarder

  • gertrude magillicudy

    the panko breadcrumbs are back?! yeah!

  • Rosalia

    Help! They didn't have pie crust! Can you use puff pastry for this recipe instead?? If so, what, if anything, changes?