Health Canada is warning that products sold by ayurvedic clinics in B.C. and Ontario may pose serious health risks, after some were found to contain lead and mercury.
An advisory issued Monday said inspectors had seized products, ingredients and equipment from A1 Herbal Ayurvedic Clinic Ltd. in Surrey, B.C., and from an affiliated clinic in Brampton, Ont.
« The seizures came after the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control informed Health Canada of a case of heavy metal toxicity involving a patient who was using products from the Surrey clinic, » Health Canada said.
« Laboratory testing identified lead and mercury in the products. »
Lead and mercury are heavy metals that may pose serious health risks when consumed in excessive amounts. Children, pregnant women and breastfeeding women are particularly susceptible.
Symptoms of lead poisoning include:
Headaches/irritability/ slowed thinking
None of the seized health products are authorized for sale by the federal regulator. Selling unauthorized health products is illegal in Canada.
Health Canada is warning against using all products by A1 Herbal Ayurvedic Clinic.
The BCCDC advises discarding all products by the clinic, and seeing a physician if you have used any of the products and are concerned about your health.
Ayurvedic products are used in traditional Indian healing practice and are often imported from India.
While many products can be used safely, improper manufacturing processes may result in dangerously high levels of heavy metals in the final product, health officials say.
The holidays can feel like that person you meet on Tinder who whips you into a frenzy of parties and dinners, then drops you at the end of the month like last year’s news. To prepare for the inevitable split, you need to take good care of yourself and your crew. These gifts are great receive, but they’re even better on January 1st when you wake up to three more months of winter and a desperate need for some self-care.
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Compared with every TV show, movie, and comic strip about Thanksgiving, my family’s version is extremely chill. Examples of “dramas” we’ve faced: Someone arrives an hour early and we must entertain them. Someone comes with a new girlfriend or an acquaintance or a Canadian friend and we must set an extra place. Someone brings a raw cranberry sauce to put alongside the cooked one, and there’s a heated conversation about whether the raw one is technically a relish. So I really have no business being stressed on Thanksgiving; it’s just that my usual low-grade anxiety is heightened thanks to the fun combo of heinous travel plus cooking responsibility plus large family gathering. But I didn’t come here for therapy. I came to talk solutions.
It starts with the Thanksgiving Eve journey, wherein I smash myself onto a subway car and then a commuter train to get to my parents’ house north of New York City. Here, between the armpit of a business suit and
a tiny dog in a Vera Bradley bag, I’m grateful for my daily Sun Potion ashwagandha habit. I get the adaptogenic herb powdered and stir it into hot water every a.m. to build up and support my body’s resilience to stress.
By the time I make it home, smelling like the pumpkin spice beverage someone spilled
on my shoes, I’m ready for a drink of my own. But I’m also taking half a dropper of CBDoil, which has been shown in some studies to help with pain relief and muscle relaxation. I look for products made from the whole hemp plant, like Lily CBD. My parents can’t quite remember the acronym, but they keep asking me about “that new weed thing,” so this year I’ll share. Family bonding!
No one in my family sleeps late—it’s in our genetic code. If I want to try to make it past the still-dark hour, I need a set of earplugs and my Slip sleep mask, which stays put all night and feels like lingerie for your face.
Between table setting, potato peeling,
and whatever other tasks my ruthlessly efficient parents find for me to do, I pause for sips from my Fressko infuser flask. Inside is fresh-brewed skullcap, a plant that calms my nerves and helps with stomach pain. If things start getting a little hot in the kitchen, I’ll sneak off with a Monq aromatherapy pen. It looks like an e-cigarette but is really nothing but pure delicious smells such as eucalyptus, lime, and tangerine.
If I’ve done all these things, I’m on cruise control by the time extended family and friends start arriving. This is the easy part: a frenzy of plates passing, glasses refilling, and claims that this year’s turkey is the best ever and we mean it this time. Afterward, with tryptophan coursing through my bloodstream, all I need is a couch, Forrest Gump, and a promise to do the dishes later. For a moment, I’ll forget what stress even is.
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The Medical Council of Canada says it’s reviewing its practices after being criticized online for prohibiting women from bringing tampons or menstrual pads into exam rooms while writing multi-hour tests.
Dr. Michelle Cohen, advocacy chairperson with Canadian Women in Medicine, said it’s « sexist and unfair » to confiscate feminine hygiene products from exam takers, or to require them to ask exam supervisors for access to them in the middle of a test.
« It’s just a completely disgusting overreach and outrageously invasive, » Cohen said in an interview from Brighton, Ont., where she works as a family doctor.
Cohen launched a petition calling for change, saying that making menstrual products available in washrooms doesn’t adequately solve the problem because exam writers are entitled to use the product of their choice.
While women now outnumber men in medical schools, she said gender parity has not worked its way up to leadership positions.
« When we look at medical leadership it hasn’t really changed the same way that movement in the profession has really changed, has really feminized. So a lot of those rules are still quite antiquated and reflect a sexist bias, » she said.
No specific ban
In a statement on Wednesday, the council said it does not have a policy on the use and access to menstrual products during exams, but personal items such as purses, bags and backpacks are not permitted in the exam area.
It says bags stored away on site can be accessed by staff on request, and test takers can also request to use the washroom and to have access to necessary personal items but it must be under supervision by exam administrators.
« We sincerely regret any frustration that this has caused, » the statement said.
Yes, we have to balance exam integrity, but at the end of the day they’re going to have to draw the line somewhere and we’re going to have to respect personal autonomy in women making their own health decisions. – Dr. Alana Fleet, Resident Doctors of Canada
« A group is being established to review current practices and we look forward to collaborating with learners to identify opportunities for improvement in these practices moving forward. »
Dr. Alana Fleet, who is on the executive of the Resident Doctors of Canada (RDC), said she took an exam with the medical council last weekend in Vancouver. Rules about what you can bring into the exam room are outlined on the medical council’s website.
« Essentially you are to have a lab coat, reflex hammer, stethoscope and identification. Any other valuables that you bring, those are deemed unacceptable and placed in itemized bags and stored at the side, » Fleet said.
RDC, which represents about 10,000 physicians, has been working with the medical council to change its policy, she said.
In the past, she said the council required test-takers to pre-register and declare health accommodations. That was problematic for unpredictable things like menstruation, she said, and the policy was eliminated for this year’s exams.
It’s a step in the right direction but it would be better if women could just bring the products of their choice without asking permission to access them, she said.
« Yes, we have to balance exam integrity, but at the end of the day they’re going to have to draw the line somewhere and we’re going to have to respect personal autonomy in women making their own health decisions. That’s ultimately what I’d like to see, » she said.
VANCOUVER—Medical professionals sounded the alarm on social media over a policy in which students taking last weekend’s Medical Council of Canada (MCC) licensing exams were asked to declare their menstrual products — now being referred to as “#tampongate.”
The social media storm over the policy began the night before the second part of the Medical Council of Canada’s Qualifying Examinations (MCCQE) began on on October 27, a two-day long exam in which would-be doctors must pass in order to obtain a medical licence. Doctors and members of the medical community criticized the MCC for their policy in which menstrual items had to be presented to exam staff beforehand.
Alana Fleet, a second-year resident at UBC and board chair of the Resident Doctors of Canada, said that for the past two years her organization has been fighting the MCC policy, which had initially categorized menstrual products under “accommodations” that had to be pre-registered in advance of the exam.
According to the MCC website, uponregistration, exam staff would “collect your personal belongings, such as keys, papers, pens and pencils, books, wallets, cell phones, coats, etc.”
Fleet said that items outside of specific exam tools to be taken in would be deemed an “accommodation.”
“Previously the policy was that you had to pre-register up to six weeks in advance for anyone that had an accommodation,” Fleet said, explaining that the policy included menstrual items.
But after the Resident Doctors of Canada advocated for a fairer system, Fleet said that earlier this year that policy was changed so that students did not have to pre-register, “but you had to inform an examiner when you show up.”
Members of the medical community took issue with that new policy, calling out the problem directly to the MCC the night before the exam.
On October 27, the day of the exam, the MCC issued a statement, amending their policy yet again so that they were to provide menstrual products in women’s bathrooms:
They also issued an apologizy two days later:
Fleet, who wrote the exam this weekend, said that on Sunday she saw menstrual products on the women’s washroom, as promised.
However, she still found the policies confusing as there is nothing specifically written on the MCC website with regards to menstrual products, and that most of it was communicated on Twitter.
“This was not clearly communicated to residents. I was on a leadership body so I was aware … but this was not specifically explained to residents,” she said.
While Fleet said providing products is a good start, she hopes that the MCC can address the root of the problem.
“I think that whatever policy they come to they should look to recognize the rights of exam takers.”
A online petition, lead by Dr. Michelle Cohen, advocacy chair of Canadian Women in Medicine, points out the potentially discriminatory nature of the policies.
In a statement on the petition page, Cohen said that the change in policy to the MCC providing menstrual products is a step in the right direction, but that was still problematic in that test takers would have to rely on the organization to provide personal items; it was still discriminatory to transgender men in that products were not provided in men’s bathrooms; and that it “does not resolve the issue of the MCC feeling entitled to inspect and confiscate personal use items from a menstruating exam writer.”
In an interview, Cohen reported that her petition had reached “almost 500 signatures.”
The MCC could not be reached at the time of publication.
Cherise Seucharan is a Vancouver-based reporter covering health and safety/youth. Follow her on Twitter: @CSeucharan
On top of running the wine and beverage program at Wildair, Contra, and Una Pizza Napoletana, Sam Anderson is logging up to 80 miles a week. Yes, 80. That’s because he’s training for his fifth consecutive New York City Marathon. Which means between pouring you a glass of frizzante skin contact wine and making a new spritz recipe, he’s probably downing water and taking electrolyte pills so he can run 15 miles the next day. So how does someone whose career revolves around wine and alcohol manage to work until midnight then get up the next morning and hit the pavement? Well, for starters, by avoiding the hot dogs during family meal. Here, Anderson talks to us about the five things that help get him through training season. (Yes, natural wine is one of them.) — Rachel Karten
I use this sports drink religiously. It is an extremely high carbohydrate drink mix that has been used by nearly all the world’s top marathoners including Eliud Kipchoge, who just set the world record, and Mo Farah, who just set the European Record with his win at Chicago. Maurten is unique because it delivers so much carbohydrates but these carbohydrates are encapsulated in pectin, which controls the rate that the nutrients are absorbed by the digestive system. This keeps you from getting stomach cramps or digestive issues. I mix it with some matcha tea powder, and that’s basically my training juice.
I am a huge proponent of tea—it’s one of the healthiest ingredients we can put into our system but I really love the gentle caffeination it provides when I mix it into my Maurten fuel. Additionally, it has very high levels of theanine, which is one of the few amino acids which can cross the blood-brain barrier and has a great ability to reduce stress and promote a sense of well-being. It’s simultaneously relaxing, but also energizing. As a result, the mind is better suited to keep the body relaxed and performing freely. If you’re stressed out about running 22 miles, your body is going to tense up. Anything you can do to promote a state of relaxation and peacefulness, be it meditation or a tea ingredient, is definitely important.
Ashwagandha and Arjuna
Ashwagandha is the lion of all roots. It is incredibly powerful in its ability to reduce inflammation, lower cortisol (stress) levels and improves brain function and ability to focus. Arjuna, which in Sanskrit means “shining,” is a tree bark that is the ancient herbal hero of the cardiovascular system, increasing the efficiency of heart contractions. When these two ingredients are taken together systematically and regularly, they have been shown to greatly enhance endurance athletes VO2 max and cardio-respiratory performance. When I’m dosing with these, I make a tea with ashwagandha, arjuna, cinnamon, lemon, and honey and drink about two liters of the tea daily. I get my ashwagandha in whole root form from Furnace Creek Farm at the Grand Army Plaza Farmers’ Market. Arjuna is available online from herbalists.
Honey ambrosia is basically a mixture of bee pollen, honey, propolis, and royal jelly. And it’s all mixed together into this crazy paste. This stuff is like the fountain of youth. It’s sourced from just outside of NYC, so it has a great effect on your immune system, cardiovascular system, and keeping your lungs healthy.
Beer and natural wine
I drink alcohol very sparingly when I am training heavily. I will have some wine or beer on the weekends, but I don’t drink during the week at all. Evil Twin « Race Day » is a beer that I designed with my good friend and fellow runner Jeppe Bjarnit-Bjergso of Evil Twin with post-race refreshment in mind. It’s a sour IPA brewed with pineapple and aloe-salt, which is a natural full-spectrum electrolyte replacement. Additionally, I designed the label, which is a racing track.
Recovery also definitely involves plenty of natural wine the day after Saturday training. I’m tasting wine all day long for work but I don’t actually drink during the week. As a wine director, it’s easy to have pick of tons of delicious natural wines, but I tend to favor wines that are fresh, bubbly, and balanced. And made by producers who farm and make their wine transparently—not adding anything or taking anything away. My favorite producers at the moment are: Tom Lubbe of Matassa, Baptiste Cousin, __ Athénaïs de Béru__, René and Agnès Mosse, Nacho González, Envínate, Christian Tschida, Laurence Manya Krief, Le Coste, Cantina Giardino…this list could probably go for miles.
Yannick Craigwell doesn’t need to guess how large the Canadian appetite will be for edible pot once it’s legal. He already knows — it’s huge.
The Vancouver entrepreneur whips up marijuana-infused cookies, brownies and fudge that he sells online through his company Treats and Treats.
« Once it becomes legal, I think the only thing that’s going to change is you’re going to get the people who were raised to think … ‘Weed is bad, it’s the devil’s lettuce,’ and they’re going to be open to trying, » he said.
« It’s not really anything to be afraid of, but we are stigmatized by the laws that we have on the books. »
Businesses across Canada are cooking up weed-laced goodies to prepare for their legalization next year. Companies are betting on a big market and hope to avoid some of the pitfalls seen in U.S. jurisdictions when edibles were legalized.
The only legal marijuana on Oct. 17 will be fresh or dried bud, oil, plants and seeds. The federal government has promised to develop regulations to support the sale of edibles and concentrates within a year and will launch consultations later in 2018 and 2019.
In the meantime, despite them not yet being legal for recreational use, edibles producers already shipping products to Canadian addresses appear to be trying to achieve a legal grey area. Detailed terms and conditions on the Treat and Treats website, for instance, require that the buyer agree they have solicited the product from the company, and that they know the purchase without a prescription is illegal in Canada.
In this Sept. 26, 2014, file photo, smaller-dose pot-infused brownies are divided and packaged at The Growing Kitchen in Boulder, Colo. When the pot treats became legal in the state in 2014, there were practically no restrictions. That year Colorado’s poison control centre received 87 marijuana exposure calls about children that year, nearly doubling the previous year’s total. (Brennan Linsley/Associated Press)
Canada’s cautious approach stands in contrast with Colorado, which had practically no restrictions when pot treats hit stores in 2014. The Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center received 87 marijuana exposure calls about children that year, nearly doubling the previous year’s total, though no children died.
The statistic grabbed headlines and pushed the state to introduce regulations in 2015. Edibles must now be contained in child-resistant packages, stamped with a universal symbol and divided into servings of 10 or fewer milligrams of THC, pot’s psychoactive ingredient. They also can’t be shaped like animals, fruit or people.
Health Canada considering standardized labels
The dangers of edibles hit close to home last week when a young child on Vancouver Island ate pot-infused gummy bears. She was rushed to hospital in medical distress, RCMP said, but was expected to fully recover.
Health Canada is considering requiring a standardized cannabis symbol on labels and banning product forms, ingredients and flavouring agents that appeal to kids, said spokesperson Tammy Jarbeau. Previously introduced regulations already require marijuana to be in child-resistant packaging.
The effects of edibles take longer to be experienced and last longer than those caused by smoking cannabis, she said, putting users at risk of overconsumption. And since edibles can look like normal food, there’s a risk that children and pets will accidentally eat them, she added.
Colorado updated regulations to require marijuana products, like this one held by a caregiver in this April 18, 2014, file photo, to have bolder labels highlighting the level of THC. (Ed Andrieski/Associated Press)
« These two issues point to the need to control the amount of THC in edibles, as well as the need for measures to ensure that edibles are appropriately packaged and labelled. »
It’s illegal for anyone other than a licensed producer to sell medical pot, but Craigwell said he operates in the « grey. » He requires online buyers to agree to terms and conditions that state they need cannabis for medical reasons and he also sells his edibles in dispensaries in Vancouver, where police have chosen not to crack down.
A standard dose of THC in Colorado is 10 mg, but Craigwell’s goodies range from 90 mg to 175 mg. He said he’s open to the government mandating a lower dose, but it should consider what customers want.
« All you’re doing is risking them going into the black market, » he said. « My business model won’t succeed if I don’t have customers. »
Craigwell advised first-timers to eat a small piece and wait to feel the effects.
« Start off with a quarter. Work your way up to a half, and then a whole. »
Poised to take a big bite of the legal cannabis market
Experts predict edibles will eat up a major chunk of the market once legal. Six out of 10 likely pot consumers will choose edibles, according to a Deloitte survey of 1,500 Canadians.
The format has less stigma than smoking, said Deloitte partner Jennifer Lee.
« We found that it was really a product category — baked goods, chocolate, candy, beverages, honey, (ice pops) — that is much more accessible, » she said.
Some companies are banking on alcohol-free cannabis beverages rising to the top of the pack.
The Coca-Cola Company has reportedly been in talks with Aurora Cannabis Inc. about beverages containing a non-psychoactive pot component. Molson Coors Canada teamed up with HEXO Corp. to sell marijuana-infused drinks, while Constellation Brands Inc., which makes Corona beer, invested $5 billion in Canopy Growth Corp.
At five o’clock, do you want to meet for a gummy bear or a glass of wine?– Bruce Linton, Canopy CEO
Bruce Linton, Canopy’s CEO, noted it’s already common to socialize over a beverage.
« At five o’clock, do you want to meet for a gummy bear or a glass of wine? » he asked.
Canopy has developed calorie-free drinks that deliver a high within seven to 12 minutes, rather than the usual delayed onset of an edible, Linton added.
Province Brands CEO Dooma Wendschuh said his company has also created a way to speed up the onset of a high from its beers brewed from the cannabis plant.
But Wendschuh said developing a product prior to its legalization has its challenges. He can’t currently taste-test the beers in this country.
« It’s been absurd, » he said. « In Canada, we can make this product … but no one’s allowed to drink it. »
My quest to try everything new at Trader Joe’s is going great, thanks for asking. There have been SO MANY THINGS that this is part II. (Here is Part I.) New this month: Pumpkin-spiced madeleines I’m fond of, mochi I’m not, and get this, carrot cake spread. I think it’s jam? Let’s explore together.
Heirloom Popcorn, $1.99
The sound of a bag of packaged popcorn opening is on a frequency only zombie office workers can hear. And they come speed-walking to try handfuls of the salty-crunchy stuff. This HEIRLOOM popcorn, made with AVOCADO OIL and PINK SALT, might as well be served with a carafe, it’s so thirsty. We get it! You’re made with buzzwords! The tinier-than-usual but not quite Pipcorn kernels are barely salty, which keeps you coming back for more. The avocado oil doesn’t taste like anything, but how does it make you feel? Righteous. “If by heirloom, they mean it tastes like something dusted off from the attic, that’s accurate,” commented a snobby colleague. It’s not that bad, but it was a funny quote so I included it here. If someone left me this in their last will and testament, I wouldn’t be mad. It’s more than anyone else has.
Spiced Pumpkin Madeleine Cookies, $2.99
Nice spice, Joe! Not fake tasting, no overpowering clove, but just a touch of cinnamon. As a madeleine enthusiast and owner of the specialty pan that only makes one thing, I noticed that these don’t have the puffy potbelly that freshly baked cakes, and my cat, do. Whatever! These are moist (so much so that they sort of stuck to each other in the bag) and tender, and they won over the pumpkin haters in the office. Dip it in your coffee, be happy! I’m not stopping you.
Thai Tea Mini Mochi, $3.49
There’s something eerily fleshy about the color and texture of these mochi, made with coconut milk instead of the traditional sweetened condensed milk. The overly bitter black tea-flavored ice cream within has that icy, dairy-free quality that I imagine it would taste like to lick the walls of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude. Once left out for longer than 10 minutes, these begin to melt and their rice flour skin detaches from the ice cream, leaving a woefully 💩 blob stuck to the sides of the plastic container. Uhhhh…..
Contrary to popular assumption, these are not already-been-chewed bars. Too bad! Could’ve been a nice time for Trader Joe’s to get into performance art. These cocoa powder coated chewy almond butter bars look like dirt, or the squishy black top of the parking lot where my high school marching band practiced for three hours in the hot Texas sun. (People passed out daily.) Anyway. The paste-like almond butter in the center sticks to your mouth and needs salt–bad. I prefer the peanut-date bars tested earlier this year.
Organic Shredded 3 Cheese Blend, $4.49
Sprinkle it into your mouth like a child catching snowflakes, see what happens. (They spill all over your floor, the cat comes running.) Each individual shred has the sort of rough but pliable texture of…plastic, I guess. It melts beautifully into a grilled cheese offering the nuanced flavors of not one, but three different cheeses. What are they? I don’t know and don’t really care. It’s cheese.
Black Licorice Treads, $2.49
GUEST REVIEWER! Healthyish editor and black licorice fan Amanda Shapiro. “It’s sweeter and less salty than the intense stuff I’m normally into,” she told me, showing off. It tastes like the interior of Good & Plenty, she noted, with the texture of a fruit roll-up, while fun to tear like string cheese. That’s a lot of metaphors, but you get it.
Organic Caesar Salad Kit, $3.99
Ready To Drink Cold Brew Coffee, $4.99 for 32 oz.
Because it was cold and rainy on the day I tasted this—I heated it up. Yep. So what? It’s smooth and medium-bodied (unlike the chest-hair sprouting tar water of some bottled cold brews) with notes of Hershey’s milk chocolate.
Carrot Cake Spread, $2.99
I love this in theory, which is the same reason I never learned French. The idea is, you spread this on top of a cinnamon raisin and cream cheese bagel, swirl it into oatmeal, or “eat it with a spoon,” which is what I did. And what’s it like? A sugar paste dotted with little crunchy bits of DRIED CARROT. LE HUH? The texture of the astronaut space food carrots was of chia seeds, if they were twice as large and not softened. A distinct knobby crunch you can’t shake. Is there pineapple in carrot cake? It’s present here, like a cell phone going off at the ballet. Some people might enjoy this.
Organic Yellow Lentil & Brown Rice Spaghetti, $2.99
A long time ago, rocks in chair on porch, I realized that if I’m going to eat pasta, it’s going to be regular-ass pasta. This bean business, which has the flaxen hue and stick-like texture of scarecrow hair, is too far a cry from the original. It never quite reaches the chewy, silky texture of your usual spaghetti. If you’re gluten-free, I’d recommend a bag of Trader Joe’s brown Basmati rice.
Thailand Mae Kah Jan Chiang Rai Small Lot Coffee, $8.99/12 oz. bag
This had a surprising (and near transparent) light body, considering most TJ coffee tastes like too-strong hotel room coffee and that the packaging said…bold.
Old Fashioned Waffle Cones, $2.49/box of 12
Really proud of Joe for keeping all of these intact in their foam packaging. I loved the near-burnt toast flavor and appreciate the sturdy structural integrity. Imagine this: Cone. Insert single jumbo marshmallow at the bottom. Squirt a spiral of caramel sauce on cone interior. Insert one scoop of ice cream. Add layer of crushed potato chips. Top with second scoop of ice cream. Repeat until overfloweth.
Uncured Ham & Swiss Cheese Flaky Croissant Dough Squares, $4.99
There’s a sort of Humpty Dumpty quality to this product. Each individual dough boy, a soft rectangle of pre-cut puff pastry, comes in a plastic bag where cheese and tiny ham cubes have scattered about. Once you put all back together again, you throw it in the oven until the dough is golden and cheese melted. In that time I googled “uncured ham” and contrary to my assumptions of something special, it just means plain, unbrined/smoked/yummy. I guess “plain ham squares” wasn’t on the table, but it was, I’d still eat them. A serving is “one,” so I demolished three, leaving fond greasy memories all over my laptop keyboard.
The Week of August 23:
Cold Brew Coffee Bags, $5.99
Barista Joe makes homemade cold brew one step easier by putting the grounds into palm-sized tea bags that you steep overnight. These little bean bag chairs means all of that fuss where you strain the grounds yourself is taken out of the equation, the convenience level of Velcro shoes. And I love Velcro! The coffee is strong as hell, without the bitterness of hot-brewed TJ coffee. Note: there are only four bags in each package and they recommend two bags per pitcher. Does math for the first time in ten years. Not sure if this adds up to a good deal. But bean bags!!!
Organic Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast Strips, $6.99/pound
Chicken is cut for you.
Asiago Cheese, $7.99/pound
Remember how revolutionary the asiago bagels at Einstein Bros. Bagels were? Imagine my shock and disappointment when I moved to New York only to discover they didn’t pre-melt cheese on their bagels. Slightly nutty asiago—Parmesan’s more mellow cousin—has slowly grown in popularity in the past decade, and here it is all by itself in a slightly greasy wedge that I grated into malfatti (great idea). The crumbly, near-rubbery texture means I’ll pass on it for cheese plates; it’s a shredder all the way.
Cheese Party Tray, $5.49
Speaking of cheese plates I’ll pass on, this party tray contains shingled rectangles of swiss, cheddar, pepper jack, and colby jack. Those are SANDWICH cheeses, not party cheeses, JOE. Where’s the GD triple creme?! As they sat out in the black plastic tray fit for a party in a car dealership break room, a sheer layer of cheese sweat formed, which gave each slice a hardened edge. Not unlike someone who’s been reviewing Trader Joe’s products for eight months.
Mini Sheet Cakes $4.49
Ooooh cake! Someone DMed me on Instagram that they loved the Chantilly Cream Vanilla Bean sheet cake so much that they tracked down the original bakery and commissioned them to make a larger version for their wedding. Isn’t that incredible?! And I can see why: the charmingly off-center frosting is sweet and buttery with flecks of real vanilla, while the moist cake is lightly spiced. Which reminds me! I also forgot to tell you guys that I recently saw a happy couple on their wedding day, making a Trader Joe’s stop en route to City Hall. Suit, wedding dress, the whole thing!! They were walking down the (TJ’s) aisle with a bouquet of flowers, beaming with happiness. Everyone in the checkout line wished them congratulations. It was a special moment—for this hardened piece of cheese in particular.
Skip the Dark Chocolate Ganache, unless you have a whole gallon of milk at the ready to wash it down.
Organic Mediterranean Style Salad Kit, $3.99
There’s nothing like the smell of raw, chopped broccoli unleashed from its plastic bag. My notes read: “farty.” Hey, that’s what they say, I can’t sugar coat it. Or can I? The gloopy sweet red wine vinegar dressing certainly will. This salad kit, like all the others, spawns more plastic bags right as you cut upon the next one. One’s got the dressing, another some shoe leather pieces of sundried tomato, one for crunchy things, one for feta cheese. Despite all of the arts and crafts, I liked the shredded radicchio and romaine confetti, which I’d eat over raw kale any day of the week. I doctored it up with black olives and made a lunch of half the bag.
Neapolitan Joe-Joe’s, $2.99
Extreme artificial strawberry ice cream flavor overwhelms any hope for equilibrium in these ambitious tri-colored not-Oreo cookies. What I mean is: hella strawberry. I watched my colleague Emily Schultz dissect a Joe-Joe, using the vanilla cookie to scrape the cement-like strawberry creme filling off the chocolate cookie, which she licked off like Fun Dip. WHO RAISED YOU, EMILY? Others took a whiff and walked away. I ate four in a row. You either do, or you don’t.
BBQ Seasoned Spatchcocked Chicken, $3.99/pound
“That’s obscene,” Andy Baraghani said when he saw the spatchcocked chicken about to be photographed, limbs splayed open for the world to see. However, it’s a genius selling point—an intimidating-seeming way to cook whole chicken (here’s how to do it at home, backbone removed and wings tucked under for even, crispy-skinned grilling. Or roasting–I cooked it in the oven on a cast-iron. If only they sold plain spatchcocked chickens instead of the pre-seasoned ones (there’s also lemon-rosemary), because it tasted like barbecue potato chips, heavy on the maple syrup and paprika.
Organic Hemp Seed Bars, $2.99
Healthyish editor Amanda Shapiro chimed in with her professional opinion on these bars, which are “chewy but not too chewy,” and “taste like nothing.” There ya have it, folks. The agave sweetener is subtle; the only flavor you really taste are the shriveled little bites of freeze-dried blueberry.
Simpler Wines Chardonnay Too Uncanny. $2.99
Hold onto your velour beach visors! Because Chardonnay joins the lineup of canned TJ rosé this summer. The aroma of green apple shampoo paired well with the ice cube I added. There are notes of who-cares-it’s-canned-wine, and papaya-I-think? (Marissa Ross, am I doing this right?) It’s a slightly acidic, not buttery, Chardonnay that I wouldn’t mind stashing in my bag to take to the movies.