Moving Beyond 2 Buck Chuck
When I was in my swinging single hey day – and entertaining up a storm – my go to wine was Trader Joe’s “2 Buck Chuck.” You know the one – that Charles Shaw wine that sold for $1.99 a bottle… And while I love an extreme bargain as much as the next girl, I have to admit my palette has become slightly more refined over the years. So, as we enter the entertaining and holiday season, I wanted to know what fabulous deals Trader Joe’s could offer me (and my snobby taste buds) now. In other words, I’m ready for an upgrade!
TJ’s Wine & Cheese
I walked into my local Trader Joe’s and cornered the manager, who was very excited to share with me his insider picks for the best wine and cheese pairings TJ’s has to offer. I told him my criteria was that his picks must taste like they cost a lot more than they do. Very Fab & Fru, right? And the Winners Are…
The pick for top bang-for-your-buck white wine? Black Mountain Vineyard 2009 Chardonnay. At only $5.99 a bottle, he said this one was a staff winner when they do their behind-the-scenes wine tastings, and likened it more to what you might expect from a $9.00 bottle of wine.
This was where Mister Manager really got excited. He told me without hesitation that his top pick for red was Trader Joe’s Reserve 2009 Medocino County Cabernet Sauvignon. At $9.99 a bottle, he said it easily compares to wines that cost twice as much! They had done a recent in-store wine tasting, and this was the huge winner among customers and staff alike. When put head to head with the $18.99 per bottle Rodney Strong, the Trader Joe’s Reserve was the winner, hands down!
Ok, so now you’ve got your vino taken care of. What about cheese pairings? No offense, but haven’t we all gotten past putting out the pre-sliced little squares in the Trader Joe’s Crowd “Cheeser” Tray? Again, I told my new-found friend I wanted grown-up cheese that you had to slice yourself – and of course that tasted like a million bucks!
The Good Goat
It was at this point that several Trader Joe’s employees began clamoring around to find the one cheese they all went crazy for at a recent in-store tasting. Their pick? Trader Joe’s Cranberry Chevre – this delectable log of cranberry covered goat cheese makes for an elegant presentation and a sweet treat. No one will know it only costs $3.99 for an 8 oz. log. They also had a couple other sweet varieties of chevre log which looked yummy, including Wild Blueberry/Vanilla and Honey.
Next up? Navigating the sea of sharp cheddars. I asked Mister Manager what was his top pick out of all of their sharp offerings, and I have to say his choice surprised me. It wasn’t an import from England, but rather Vermont’s very own Cabot Extra Sharp White Cheddar. At only $5.99 a pound, you can get a nice sized wedge sharp and tangy enough to rival the best that English cows have to offer!
Reinventing the (Brie) Wheel
My new favorite thing at TJs is also a great way to round out (no pun intended, you’ll see what I mean) your cheese platter. I just love Brie, but those big wedges become a total mess and are hard to navigate on a tray. Thankfully, Trader Joe’s offers a Brie Cheese Log! Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? This brilliant brie easily slices into round cracker size toppers, and it is only $3.99 for a 6 oz log.
Salty and Sweet
Everyone knows that the only thing that can make a glorious wine and cheese party better is — well, a little chocolate, of course! I always like to add a bowl of Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels to the cheese platter. The guests go crazy for it, and it is a perfect inexpensive accompaniment to the wine and cheese. And it’s WAY cheaper than having to buy blocks of dark chocolate for all your guests!
Taste For Yourself
One of the best things about my experience at Trader Joe’s this morning? I really wanted to taste one of the English Cheddars to see how it compared to the Cabot. So, the manager ripped open a package and let me break off a hunk right there – and, no, it did not measure up to the Cabot!
I have no idea if all managers are this helpful, but I loved that TJ’s let me do this. In addition, my local Trader Joe’s usually offers a couple wine and cheese tastings per month, and yours probably does too… So, if you’re looking to save BIG and entertain in style this fall and winter, check out what your local TJ’s has to offer!
So what’s YOUR favorite wine and cheese from TJs?
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