In a recurring daydream, I am reclining on Espresso Pillows and having a drink with Two-Buck Chuck while munching on Pork Gyoza Potstickers or Pita Crisps dipped in Pumpkin Cream Cheese. Van Morrison or the Beach Boys are playing in the background, and dozens of smiling people spontaneously start singing, using their bottles of salad dressing or olive oil as microphones.
Then I wake up, and I’m trudging up and down the supermarket aisle, plucking items by rote from the shelf. Same old cereal and charmless chicken thighs. Don’t forget the toilet paper. Push cart, fill cart, repeat. It’s kind of like being a miner, except it’s much too bright, and the Muzak is too loud.
“If only I could be shopping at Trader Joe’s,” I’ve sighed for years.
But now, my daydream is coming true. At long last, a Trader Joe’s is opening in South Florida, on Friday, at 9205 S. Dixie Hwy., Pinecrest, site of the former Border’s bookshop opposite Shorty’s.
If you hunger for good food at good prices, the arrival of TJ’s brings visions of Roasted Seaweed Snacks raining from the sky like dollar bills.
Is it really possible to fantasize about a grocery store? If you, like me, are a Trader Joe’s groupie, yes it is.
The chore of shopping and the brainteaser of stimulating taste buds week after week is made more adventurous and economical by this California-born, German-owned chain, which sells its own line of unconventional products, thus eliminating the middleman.
You can find Trader Joe’s Mango Passion Granola, Carrot Ginger Soup, Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee, Speculoos Cookie Butter (the consistency of peanut butter but with a Belgian cookie, caramel, gingerbread flavor), Tofu Edamame Nuggets, Celtic Cheddar Trio, Monkey Business Trek Mix, Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Pasta, Smokehouse Pulled Beef Brisket, Beurre Meuniere Popcorn, Midnight Moo Chocolate Syrup, Masala Simmer Sauce and Broccoli and Cauliflower Duet.
There are self-rising croissants, lavender clothes-dryer bags, scone mixes, real cheap real maple syrup, exceptional frozen entrees, citrus body cleansers and cedarwood household cleaners. The bountiful, fanciful alcohol section includes Charles Shaw wine starting at $1.99 or a bottle of brawny barolo for $15. Did I mention clever greeting cards for only 99 cents?
Ask diehard TJ’s fans, and the list of favorites will tumble off grateful tongues.
“Thai and Lime Cashews,” replied one friend, who was rebuffed by another nuts nut: “Coconut Cashews are better.”
Trader Joe’s buyers travel the world searching for new and unusual products on which to imprint their brand name. So there’s Trader Giotto’s pasta sauce, Trader Jose’s microbrewed beer, Trader Jacques’ oatmeal exfoliant savon de France and Trader Ming’s stir-fry dishes.
Stores have a South Pacific theme. Employees, led not by a manager but a “captain,” wear Hawaiian shirts. You taste food samples and coffee at a tiki hut. You can buy a bag of frozen vegetables called Contemplate Your Inner Peas.
Somehow this is not cloyingly cute because it’s done with a wink. A TJ’s store, known in the industry as a “limited assortment retailer,” is about a quarter the size of a Publix, and designed to feel like an air-conditioned farmer’s market.