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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies

That time of year again, of course...nah, not how I meant it a few posts back. In a different way. It' gathering season! Gather round and be merry, y'all.

Sandy and I hosted our usual holiday cookiepalooza this past weekend, which was a blast and, quite naturally, a fair amount of effort to be ready for. But that's nothing comnpared to this upcoming week, where we're going to almost ten different Hanukkah/Christmas/holiday parties. I'm not kidding. I'd figure out that thee exact number, but that requires thinking, then thinking of how crazy that is, so it'd better not to and just go with it. But all the cookies. And treats. And beverages. And maybe the need to bring something thats, you know, a little healthy or snacky but looks good and could be used as a present of some type in a pinch... it's as good a time as any for some Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies.

Look at 'em. You can't tell me they're not reminiscent of sushi rolls in appearance. Literally it's the first thing I thought of when I picked them up. Fruit and nut sushi. Cool. There's two varieties in the neat wooden tray: cherry coconut almond, and apricot walnut sesame. Both types are predominantly mixed with fig paste, so you gotta like those to have a shot at liking these fancy figgy faux fishy festive feats.

Between the two, the cherry almond is better IMHO. The cherry tartness plays out better with the almond and coconut for a better tasting bite. For the apricot walnut, that taste is alright enough in of itself - really no complants - but the sesame seeds seems just kinda odd. It's a bit strange to have small crispy seeds in a slightly firm yet chewy morsel. Once accustommed, the mouthfeel was certainly acceptable, but the first couple nibbles were a little offputting.

Both varieties are fairly muted and earthy flavorwise - no added sugar or anything to jazz them way up. Nah, this is a good, wholesome kinda treat that would be welcome at most holiday parties, I would think. The package says it pairs well with cheese - it doesn't give too many suggestions, but with a little imagination it'd probably work. I'd personally reach for a few while trying to pace myself between meatballs and chocolate chip cookies and whatever else might be on the smorgasbord.

Plus, like briefly mentioned, it comes packaged in a really neat little wooden tray. Ours will probably end up as property of our kids and some type of art project, but I kinda want one for myself. Not that I'd have any great use or idea of what to do with it.

I think the TJ fruit fancies cost $5.99, which isn't an awful deal for treats of its ilk. There's similar bagged fig/fruit bite type deals at Costco, which cost roughly in the same neighborhood per unit if my slightly suspect memory is clicking right. I'd pick them up again, and hope for a little variety to be coming down the pipeline.

Nothing too strong to say about them one way or another. Sounds like double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, December 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Sugar Glazed Mixed Nuts

Let's pause for a moment to remember an older, oft-forgotten Christmas movie that shares its name with this product—that's right: Mixed Nuts, starring Steve Martin. It centers around a suicide-prevention hotline, features a cross-dressing Liev Schreiber, a young ukulele-playing Adam Sandler, and a serial killer known as the Seaside Strangler. Sound a bit awkward and weird? It is. Each character introduced is more strange and unexpected than the ones before...very much in contrast to this bag of nuts from Trader Joe's, which features all the usual suspects.

Peanuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans. I can't think of four more "normal" nuts. I mean, I guess walnuts could have made the cut since they're vaguely holiday-ish. But I don't think they would have enhanced this mix at all. Quite frankly, I'm not even sure this is a holiday product, but we'll treat it as such. It's kosher, too. So...if you're throwing a Hanukkah bash, keep these in mind. 

Personally, I wouldn't have minded some macadamias thrown in there, but no doubt they would have upped the price point by $20 or so. All four nuts in the bag are represented pretty adequately, except for the pecans. At least in our bag, they were quite scarce. 

Sweetened by cane sugar, the nuts are high quality and feel fresh. They're nice and sweet, but not to the point where you have to stop eating after only a nut or two. They're not completely covered in an actual glaze, but each nut is peppered with hundreds of granules of sugar. It makes them somewhat messy, but I'd rather eat granules of real sugar than something less authentic. There's no Christmas spice mix here. No berries. No chocolate. Just "sugar nuts," which, incidentally, is Sonia's favorite nickname for me...

Just kidding.

And on that note, we'll give our final scores. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me. Nothing spectacular or original here, just a solid nut mix sweetened with cane sugar.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

"Syrup in my coffee? Why didn't I think of that?"

That's one of those sneaky underrated lines from Elf, our favorite Christmas movie. In fact, it's repeated quite often in our kitchen on those few mornings where Sandy and I have enough time and peace to enjoy a cuppa joe together. Especially guessed it...from time to time we put maple syrup in our coffee. It's actually pretty good in place of sugar if you've never tried.

Of course, if you're familiar with the movie, that's not maple syrup Buddy's putting in his mug there...go with me and let's say it's bourbon. In the movie, hilarity ensues. For us, it raised the question: what would bourbon flavored maple syrup taste like?

No more guessing for us! We finally caved and bought Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. I say "caved" because we've been tempted often, but let's just say as a growing family we're somewhat value conscious, and $9.99 for a little bottle of maple syrup seems to be more aligned with luxury than necessity.

Not that it's a terrible price for quality maple syrup, given the cost factors that go into production, but it's worth a mention.

Anyways, as someone more acquainted with the darker amber and more maple-y flavor depths of Grade B maple syrup, it really struck me at first how light and super sugary sweet the TJ's borubon maple syrup is. It's a big step to Grade A. Wow. I could almost feel a cavity forming after my first taste. But once that shock wore off, the subleties of sweetness here began to come out a bit. It's kinda like a layered effect, and I'm not sure how to describe it except there's like these micro ebbs and flows with how sugary sweet this particular syrup is.

And there's a legit bourbon presence as well. It seems to slip in, about halkway thru, and provide like this little flourishing underpinning. It's quite delicious and seems to meld nearly perfectly with the sugary high notes. I will say that the bourbon is less apparent when sampled with things like pancakes and waffles - damn carbs soak up all that booze, it seems.

And yes, it works well in coffee. And better than bourbon barrel coffee too.

Leave the kids with Aunt Jemima or whatever - this is some pretty decadent syrup to not let go to waste. Savor and enjoy. At least that's what we're trying to do and ration out, as now our maple syrup line item on the family budget is tapped out for a bit...I kid. Good stuff, give it a try. Just wish there a Grade B version. Matching fours from me and the wife.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons