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Friday, January 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cookie Sticks

Personally, if it were me designing the cover art for this product's packaging, I would have gone with a narwhal. Narwhals are the only animals with a tusk that has a girth to length ratio comparable to these cookie sticks. They're very long and very thin, hence the moniker "sticks" as opposed to "bars," "batons," or "fingers."

If I were instructed by my creative director to steer clear of narwhals for some reason—perhaps they're too freakish looking for a box of cookie sticks, or they carry connotations of cold climates and frigid waters, or they're just too cumbersome-looking in general—the next obvious choice is a unicorn, right? I mean, they're not real, and their horns are significantly shorter than these sticks in relation to their thickness, but at least everybody knows they're fun mythical animals with horns coming out of their heads.

Instead, Trader Joe's packaging artists decided upon a zebra-like animal to grace the cover of this cylindrical container. Regular zebras don't even have horns. Only unicorns do. So, logically, this would be a zebracorn. What's a zebracorn, you ask? It's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a zebra and a unicorn mixed...bred for its skills in magic.


You feel me?

The tubular box is unique. There's a tab around the middle that you tear off and then the top separates so you can access the cookie sticks, and it slips right back onto the bottom when you're done. It's not air-tight, though, so it does little to prevent exposure. We found the sticks got stale in fairly short order. 

Even on day one, they weren't exactly show-stoppers. There's a lightly sweet and salty bread as a base and a semi-sweet dark chocolate coating. They tasted fine to both of us, but we weren't blown away. We tried dipping them in coffee, but they don't retain the liquid very well. They're vaguely crunchy, nearly pretzel-esque, texture-wise. It's a nice mouthfeel, but they seemed to lose some of that initial crispness if you don't finish them right away.

I must admit, they're convenient and snackable. I just wish they delivered a little more in the flavor department. For the price, $1.69, they're a decent enough value. Not sure if we'd purchase again, though. Three stars a piece for these zebracorn horns.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.


Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers

Lookin' for some hot stuff, baby, this evenin'
I need some hot stuff, baby, tonight
I want some hot stuff, baby, this evenin'
Gotta have some hot stuff
Gotta have some love tonight

Well, thanks Donna Summer and Kygo (whoever you are) for what should be the official entrance music to one of the latest (and literally hottest) condimental offerings from all of ours' favorite grocers...

It's Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers!

Hot stuff indeed.

Hot hot haaaaaaaaaahhhhhht. 

I mean, duh, the primary ingredient is, of all things, habaneros. They're not the spiciest peppers in the world, but starting at at least 100k+ on the Scoville scale, they're not exactly slouching it either. Habaneros are likely the hottest pepper I've ever ingested and would ever want to, and now, here they are, dried up in a jar, coated with a little olive oil, ready for me to sprinkle on anything I want. 

That's the real cool part, the texture. If you're familiar with the popular TJ Chili Onion Crunch, or even better, various LaoGanMa sauces, you'll know about what to think of here. The peppers are like crackly skins, dehydrated and very light and extremely crispy. It's fun, whether it's bigger pieces or itty bits. The word "mummified" comes to mind. really, check it out.

But don't mistake the peppers appearance for a lack of potency. No, no, no. There's still so much burn to be had. Granted, I'm more a "throw caution to the wind/full effect" kinda guy - the peppers had me bawling at how good they tasted. or so I told my kids, who eagerly watched my every reaction. And normally I'm not like that too much...am here. Holy cow. hot, just like a good habanero should. 

Yet the great thing is, for all the heat and sizzle, there's still some great complementary flavor that's imparted. it's not just heat for the sake of heat, it's...different. And while the main licks of flame are strong, they neither linger too long nor overpower the rest of the flavors of whatever else you're eating. Instead, after a moment or two, it's nice, casual, residual heat that will leave you wanting, cautiously, for more. 

What will go undescribed is a certain day after side effect, at least by me, as we're classy here. I instead once again invite you to enjoy this classic Johnny Cash tune

Love them, can't get enough. Breakfast sandwiches, tacos, sauces, with pasta, in stir fry, on pizza, in a fresh baked challah or babka....yes to all that. And more. I want it all. 

Hot stuff, baby, this evenin' indeed. lovin' it. I'm smashing the peppers with a perfecto and my lovely bride isn't quite there herself, but close. It's the first smash hit of 2021 for sure. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hot Hot Crispy Habanero Sliced Peppers: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons







 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry & Ginger Beverage


Since I called attention to the fact I reviewed a non-holiday item back in early December, I suppose calling myself out for reviewing this overtly Christmassy beverage more than two weeks after Christmas Day is unavoidable. I wish I had a clever reason for doing things this way, but the truth of the matter is that I forgot we even had this product stashed away in the back of a cupboard. If I had to do it over, I'd have reviewed this one back then and saved those crackers for now, although I'm not sure either one is currently available at Trader Joe's. Hopefully they'll bring them both back next year.

On its own, this beverage is refreshing and tasty. There's a moderate tart cranberry taste and a little throat-tickling ginger flavor. It's actually a bit sweeter than either of us expected it to be—not obnoxiously so, but enough to be just a tad syrupy and to balance out the tang of the cran and the bite of the spice.


The carbonation level is just about perfect, comparable to the many other fancy sparkling four-packs we've seen from Trader Joe's in the past. It stays fizzy even after a spell in a cocktail glass with ice cubes. I guess this is the biggest advantage of the four tiny cans: a larger container would yield flat soda by the end of its tenure.

Another great strength of this drink is its mixability. There's a recipe for a mocktail on the side of the box—or you may add vodka for a true cocktail. It involves orange and lime juices, slices of citrus fruits and cranberries. We substituted fresh-squeezed with store-bought orange juice, and we didn't have any actual cranberries on hand, so we just plopped some lime wedges in ours. It was even more delicious with the addition of extra citrus flavors.

Finally, we did verify that it mixes well with vodka. Pro tip: everything mixes well with vodka. Alongside the ginger, something akin to a fruity Moscow Mule results.

$3.99 for four small cans. Four stars from Sonia and three and a half from me for Trader Joe's Sparkling Cranberry & Ginger Beverage.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.