RamPage Editors Rank Trader Joe’s Valentine’s Day Items

Photo Credit: Mark Bialczak, WAER, Creative Commons License

With February 14 fast approaching, Trader Joe’s is beginning to stock up on fruity and chocolatey goodness for the romantic holiday. Considering all the hype around Trader Joe’s and their in-house branded products, it is only fitting that the RamPage editors decided to hold yet another taste test, this time to ascertain the absolute most appetizing of the assorted accouterments.

Photo Credit: Isaiah Steinberg, ’23

Cacio E Pepe Puffs – 6.0/10

The Cacio E Pepe Puffs are an Italian snack. Basically, they are puffy, crunchy, hollow snacks with cheese, peppercorn, and rice. This is fitting since “cacio e pepe” means “cheese and pepper” in Italian. Gourmet cheese puffs, every kid’s dream. The puffs were denser than normal cheese puffs, however, more like Pirate’s Booty with pepper added into the mix. The editors noted that the puffs were not in keeping with the Valentine’s Day theme.

Photo Credit: Isaiah Steinberg, ’23

Dark Chocolate Mini Heart Cookies – 9.2/10

A fan favorite among the editors was the Dark Chocolate Mini Heart Cookies: chocolate shortbread cookies with a chocolate coating and mini nonpareil sprinkles on top. The cookies were surprisingly small and bite-sized, perfect for snacking. They start off crunchy and then melt in your mouth, which is the perfect combination. The texture was perfect and the chocolate flavor really shone through. YamPage Editor Anka Chiorini describes them as “pink and white sprinkled wonder.” The only complaint we had is that the shortbread itself was more crunchy than the shortbread grandmas around the country make for Christmas.

Photo Credit: Isaiah Steinberg, ’23

Winter Fest Pineberries – 4.6/10

The Winter Fest Pineberries are two types of strawberries mashed together to form one mega-berry. They are supposed to taste like pineapple when combined, but they in fact taste just like a normal strawberry. They are yellow with white or red seeds, and they are the size of standard strawberries. Unfortunately, the combination added an odd pungent smell like that of artificial cheese. The Pineberries taste like pineapple for the first bite, but then they mellow out and just become normal strawberries. According to Co-Lifestyle Editor Muhammed Abdel-Aziz, “No.” The Pineberries overpromise and underdeliver. Co-Culture Editor JoJo Meskos adds, “I did not eat it because it scares me.” One editor states that they’ve had the Pineberries before, and the other batch was better. The Pineberries, however, are not, in fact, as revolutionary as they claim to be.

Photo Credit: Isaiah Steinberg, ’23

Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups – 8.0/10

Trader Joe’s likes to copy other name brands for their in-house products, This can be seen in their Oreo knock-offs, “Joe-Joe’s,” but also in the Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups, which are taller versions of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. They are one of the most popular items in the candy section. The cups are wrapped twice for an unknown reason, but they taste pretty good. I’ve personally never liked peanut butter or nuts in general, but I found these to be tolerable. So did the other editors. According to Web Master Andrew Zhang, the cups are “Like Reese’s but with dark chocolate.” Meskos remarked on the texture and ratio of ingredients on the delectable dessert. “I like how there’s not a lot of crust. The worst part about a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup is that there’s too much crust.”

Photo Credit: Uploaded to Open Food Facts by “inao,” Creative Commons License

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting – 7.3/10

The penultimate item we tried is the Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, which features timely pink frosting. They are normal-sized cupcakes, and the frosting is absolutely amazing and very sweet. Luckily, the cupcakes don’t taste weird since they’re gluten-free, unlike some other gluten-free products. The frosting came off of the cupcakes for lots of the editors, but they still maintained a nice flavor. As Meskos notes, “It’s a really good alternative [to regular cupcakes].” Co-Culture Editor Nora Gross also enjoyed the cupcakes. “It doesn’t really taste gluten-free. Sometimes gluten-free doesn’t taste right, but it tastes fine.”

Photo Credit: Isaiah Steinberg, ’23

Chocolate Mousse Cake – 7.4/10

The legendary Trader Joe’s Chocolate Mousse Cake was our final adventure into the world of Trader Joe’s Valentine’s Day food, and it was a grand slam in the last proverbial inning. This cake could be eaten by an overzealous sweet-toothed individual in two sittings, as it’s pretty small. Definitely don’t just bring one to a party. The cake features a semi-hard outer shell with chocolate cake filling and several layers of chocolate mousse. The cake has a super deep, rich chocolate flavor, although it kind of tastes like a Hostess cupcake (which is not a high bar). The cake is very pretty and well-decorated. Chiorini, proving that taste is preferential, states, “I don’t really like mousse,” but Abdel-Aziz described the cake, which proved to be popular among the editors, as “bussin’.”

Here’s how the products ranked:

  1. “Dark Chocolate Mini Heart Cookies” – 9.2
  2. “Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups” – 8.0
  3. “Chocolate Mousse Cake” – 7.4
  4. “Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting” – 7.3
  5. “Cacio E Pepe Puffs” – 6.0
  6. “Winter Fest Pineberries” – 4.6
Isaiah Steinberg, '23
Isaiah Steinberg is a senior at J-DHS. He is the Standards Editor and News Editor for the RamPage. In his free time, he enjoys hanging out with friends, playing with his half-brother, or sleeping.