If you've never experienced the creamy, crackalicious wonder that is Trader Joe's Cookie Butter, it might be because the shipment imported late last year caught on like wildfire. It's been sold out since before the end-of-year holidays, in fact. We confirmed with the Monrovia store location nearest the company's headquarters that TJ's cookie butter is back in stock as of today.
Your local Trader Joe's store might not have it yet -- we called around and some locations weren't yet aware that the warehouse has it. If that's the case at your local TJ's, the Monrovia store manager we spoke with says each store must manually request a fresh supply from the distribution center -- apparently it won't just show up automatically.
What is speculoospasta? It's a Belgian invention made from the cinnamon-spiced shortbread cookie called speculoos, and it comes with a little bit of industrial cloak-and-daggery, which you can read about in this New York Times story. The cookies are ground into a smooth, creamy paste, just like peanut butter. Because it's made with no nut products, those with nut allergies can enjoy the fat-and-sugar rush without worry.
If you got hooked on the Trader Joe's Dutch version (as in: You kept a jar on your nightstand with a licked-clean spoon on standby), and went into withdrawals when the supply ran dry, we don't blame you for trying alternatives like the Lotus brand, which is sold at Cost Plus World Markets all over Southern California. The two brands are substantially different, and it's worth taste-testing the two warring pastes.
Lotus is also the brand sold by Belgian waffle truck Waffles de Liège, which is where this author first encountered speculoos. Smeared onto their namesake sweet waffle, dense, chewy and and studded with crunchy sugar pearls, the dessert-lonchera goes for the jugular by topping the works with fresh bananas.
We asked truck owner George Wu how he first came to love speculoos, and he replied, "I had never heard of speculoos prior to hearing about Liège waffles, and I think that is the case with most people. It is very possible that the popularity of our truck, along with other establishments that serve Liège waffles, helped facilitate awareness of speculoos and just how delicious it really is." That, plus the broad distribution of the stuff through Trader Joe's certainly didn't hurt.
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Shuji Sakai writes about Belgian cookie butter addictions and spending Valentine's Day with Hello Kitty ... at Hooters. Follow him on Twitter and professorsalt.com.