What's so great about Trader Joe's? That's a hard question to answer if you haven't been there, and a rhetorical one if you have.
Over the past decade, the California-based grocery chain has built a rabid following with its healthy bent, quirky products and typically low prices on everything from wine (Two-Buck Chuck being its most famous) to produce to weird salsas and other products (for an example, see the end of this post). And when the company began expanding into the Midwest, the East Coast and the Pacific Northwest, it gained new fans and provided a respite for California ex-patriots.
Colorado, sadly, continues to be left out -- a situation that likely won't change in 2010 -- though not for lack of trying.
Thousands of people have signed petitions like this one, implored the store on its own website to move here, or joined Facebook fan pages like: Trader Joe's Should Open a Store in Colorado!, with 578 members; Bring Trader Joe's to Denver!, with 1,891 members; or this more recently developed one, Denver Needs Trader Joe's!, with 958 members.
But the company refuses to make its googly-eyed loyalists happy, repeatedly denying reports that it plans to open a store in the square state.
While Trader Joe's won't give a straight answer as to why - its spokeswoman has never returned phone calls from Westword over the years - the two most popular theories are: 1) our liquor laws have discouraged the owners from colonizing here, and 2) It costs too much money to drive trucks over the mountains.
Both are clearly bullshit, since the company does fine with only two stores in New Mexico and has a nationwide distribution network to boot.
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And speaking of New Mexico, plenty of Coloradans make the trek to Santa Fe on a regular basis, cars laden with coolers, to pick up supplies for the year. In November, I spent about $100 there myself, buying Bool Kogi (an incredible Korean sesame-marinated boneless beef), carne asada tri-tip, frozen bags of Mandarin orange chicken, pot stickers, French onion soup, and Gummy Tummies Penguins, among other things.
So what did I miss? And what are you missing every day? Here are two examples of some new products the store is offering:
Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Seeds "The jewels of the prized pomegranate fruit are enrobed in semi-sweet dark chocolate to create a uniquely smooth-crunchy, sweet-tart-chocolate treat that sets the tongue tingling. It's a rich experience that boasts the added benefit of being a delicious way to dig into antioxidants. Why not? Eminently snackable, our Dark Chocolate covered Pomegranate Seeds are great straight out of hand, but they're also delicious sprinkled over ice creams or sorbets. Enjoy a 5 oz. container for $2.99." -- from the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer
Scallops on the Half Shell "Our Scallops on the Half Shell make an ambrosial starter. While their succulence and flavor are paramount, their aesthetic appeal adds to their enticement. As does the fact that they are just so easy to make. 12 scallops are marinated in a luscious garlic parsley pesto sauce that contains butter, plentiful garlic, shallots and white wine (yum). Presented on the half shell, you need only bake (less than 15 minutes) and you have a savory starter set to serve. Is your mouth watering yet? Each 6.3 oz. box is $6.99 - a great value for the quality and convenience these pleasing scallops proffer." -- from www.traderjoes.com via the Trader Joe's Fan page on Facebook