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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Vegan Kale, Cashew & Basil Pesto

I've never been a huge fan of pesto. I was never sure why. Something about the flavor just kinda rubbed me the wrong way. And I've often been told by readers that I'm not allowed to review foods that I don't already appreciate because my score will be unfairly biased against the product.

But this product is a prime example of why I still try foods that I "know" I don't like. In this case, like so many others, the devil was in the details. I never bothered looking at the ingredients of traditional pesto. Usually, there are pine nuts. And I hate pine nuts. To be fair, if Trader Joe's ever offers a bag of plain pine nuts, I'll refrain from reviewing those—unless it's some new species of pine nuts or ones coated in wasabi or cookie butter or something crazy like that. 

Cue the reader comments that tell me TJ's does offer a bag of plain pine nuts. And a version where they're covered in wasabi. Wouldn't surprise me. Readers, we love your comments. But anyway, I digress.

The point is that this product employs cashews instead of pine nuts. And I like cashews. And that makes all the difference in the world to me. I mean, the product doesn't taste a lot like cashews per se—I just prefer them as an ingredient to pine nuts. Also, I'm not sure that most pesto contains kale...and I like kale, too. The texture is like a mushy vegetable puree. It's thick, soft, and spreadable.

I'd eat this stuff on pasta, potatoes, sandwiches, crackers, pita, or even as a chip dip. Sonia liked it enough that it inspired another short video review. $3.69 for the tub. Four stars a piece.


Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Milk Chocolate Bar


Rereads package several times

Well, I'll be...

Alright, listen. I have no idea what the actual name of this product is. It might be Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Milk Chocolate Bar. It might be Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Bar With Bits of Crunchy Cinnamon Square Cereal. It also may be Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Milk Chocolate Bar With Bits of Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Cereal. That last one is straight from the Department of Redundacy Department...but it is what the packaging of this particular candy bar suggests, isn't it?

I guess, no matter the name, it's clear its from Trader Joe's, its a milk chocolate bar, and it has something to do with crunchy cinnamon square cereal as well. Well, dang it, count me in.

Well, it's a pretty decent candy bar, though not without a flaw we'll get to here in just a minute. Unfortunately Sandy, the kiddos and I kinda devoured the thing before taking a better pic of the actual product, but it's a gridded up choco-bar, easily breakable into 24 pieces. So it's perfect for sharing with all sorts of group sizes. It all looks like a pretty normal Hershey's relative, save for a gritty, dusty undercoating of cinnamon and sugar., typical milk chocolate. I prefer dark, mostly, but it's an agreeable enough base. The cereal chocolate bar definitely emphasizes the cinnamon, though - it's heavy. My first reaction was a little of a turnoff - seemed a bit strong, too soon, but by the end of my allocated portion I was just beginning to enjoy the overall flavor. The cinnamony bite is pretty balanced out by the choclate, and it makes for a fun flavor, not too much unlike Mexican hot chocolate.

But there's a problem. I expected there to be cereal here. But...there isn't. The "bits of crunchy cinnamon square cereal" the packaging promised aren't there, at all. At the very least I would have hoped for something like a typical crisped rice/Nestle Crunch kinda deal, with lots of crunchies everywhere, if not big actual cereal chunks. Yeah, nope. The couple little specks of cereal here and there are few and far between and add nary a textural variant. It's kinda disappointing in that regard, so there's some mega point deductions there.

Overall the bar tatstes about right, if you like cinnamon, of course. But it just doesn't feel right. There's just too much untapped potential here. For a couple bucks, the cinnamon cereal chocolate bar with cinnamon but not really cereal made an alright buy, but it's not a purchase I'd seek out to repeat over and over. Meh.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Milk Chocolate Bar: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Infuse Spirits Broken Barrel Bourbon

"Are you having fun?"
"I'm having bourbon," replied Jessica Jones.

Ah, the power of suggestion. I'm not sure if everyone's like this, but Sonia and I have noticed that any time we see someone eating or drinking a particular type of food or beverage on TV or in a movie, we instantly get cravings for said food or beverage. We see Seinfeld at the Chinese restaurant, we want Chinese. We see Kevin order pizza while he's home alone, we want pizza. We see hobbits with pint glasses at the Prancing Pony, we want ale. 

Case in point: Jessica Jones Season Two on Netflix. She drinks bourbon/whiskey like it's water. Neither of us could ever chug 95 proof the way JJ does, but the ubiquitous presence of the spirit on the show finally got to us. The combination of us binge-watching this latest addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the advent of St. Patrick's Day led us to crave some good, old-fashioned barrel-aged bourbon. 

As fate should have it, just in the nick of time, we discovered this: the smoothest whiskey we've ever had—not that either of us is a connoisseur exactly. Just like any other product we find at TJ's, we're not subjecting the product to 50 points of intangible criteria or reading about what some whiskey snob says about it. We're simply listening to our taste buds and perhaps measuring the product against other comparable offerings we've tried from other brands. 

And virtually every other American whiskey I've ever had went down kinda funky. And when I say "funky," I mean there was almost a chemical kind of flavor either in the body or the aftertaste, along with an unpleasant burning sensation in my sinuses. Those other brands were fine when mixed with a cup of egg nog or coffee or...basically anything else, but when served neat or on the rocks, they were pert near unpalatable to me. Not this.

This is the first time I've truly enjoyed a whiskey as a stand-alone beverage, and I've tried a number of major brands of bourbon and other American whiskeys. Now don't get me wrong, this beverage has a kick to it—but it goes down super easily. There are hints of sherry and a distinct and pleasant woody, oaky flavor here, no doubt from the French and American "broken oak staves" mentioned on the bottle. The color is a nice caramel brown, and I'd swear I taste something caramel-esque in there as well.

$29.99 for 750ml. We should also mention that as of now, this Infuse Spirits brand product is apparently only available at select Trader Joe's in California, although you might be able to track it down in other wine and spirits stores throughout the country. Sonia was recently back in her native SoCal for family reasons and well...she's a sucker for nice packaging. She raved about the presentation of the bottle as she proudly exhibited it to me. I must admit, it's impressive—stately, even...much like the taste of the bourbon.

Four and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.