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Friday, April 20, 2018

Trader Joe's Garlic Spread Dip

"Garlic ambrosia."

No, not fruit salad with marshmallows, ambrosia. Ambrosia, as in the food of the gods, ambrosia. Lemme tell ya, she's not wrong. And, as reader DogMaTX pointed out, it's very similar—if not identical—to the garlic spread from Zankou Chicken. Thanks to both of you for the heads up on this product. I feel like at least one other reader brought this to our attention on our Facebook page, as well.

It's a creamy, smooth condiment that spreads like mayo or cream cheese. I'd say the texture is right in between those two, in fact: slightly thicker than mayo, slightly thinner than cream cheese.

And it doesn't fail in the flavor department either. It's garlicky—very garlicky, but simultaneously not overpowering somehow. Where raw garlic brings a heavy staccato "punch" of garlic flavor, this spread causes a gentle "wave" of garlic to wash over your tongue. It's just as powerful, but there's a little bit more of that "mmmm" factor and a wee bit less of that "whoa!" effect.

It's strong enough that you don't need to use a ton on your food, but at the same time, if you do choose to slather it on in great quantity, it still enhances the other flavors and doesn't bury them completely. We had it with tuna sandwiches, pizza, and falafel. I know it will go well with chips, chicken, fish, and other Mediterranean dishes, too. Can't wait to experiment with it. It's a fine addition to TJ's legacy of delicious condiments.

$2.99 for the tub. Vegan. Four and a half stars from me. Four stars from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Yellow Jackfruit Curry with Jasmine Rice

Apparently I don't know jackfruit.

You probably knew that already.

My wife certainly does, bless her heart. So I was really kinda curious when she was trying to tell me that some people consider jackfruit to be kinda like a vegan pulled prok kinda deal. On the surface, that sounds kinda ludicrous to me. How can a plant be meatlike? Pssh, sounds like other crazy stuff she tries to tell me, like that Tupperware has a particular place and organizational method for storage. Yeah, right.

Anyways, in another attempt to yank my coworkers' chains, I picked up Trader Joe's Yellow Jackfruit Curry with Jasmine Rice for an at-desk lunch this week. This would have to do it, right? C'mon now.

Mission failed. No raised eyebrows. No mention of anything. Everyone was too nosedeep in gossip and TPS reports, I s'pose. 

At least I got a pretty good lunch out of it. jackfruit kinda like pulled pork?

Tough for my admitted carnivoresque self to say. Visually, I can somewhat see the similarity here - there's kinda a stringy, chunky look. In this curry's instance, though, the jackfruit gets a little lost amongst the rice. There's a soft chewy feel here and there, but not really the fleshy bite. Kinda the difference between pig and plant, I suppose.

As for the rest of the dish? Delish. Somewhat unlike the jarred TJ's yellow curry sauce, the curry here definitely has a sizable, decided kick. As in, at first, it's pretty spicy...probably about an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. Took me by surprise at first, but once accustomed to it, the curry heat took on more of a pleasant, sustained warmth. There's a little layered aspect too - I wouldn't necessarily say complex but there's some sweetness from the coconut base, the mentioned spice, and a healthy dose of turmeric as well. The only real relief from it is the few biggish bites of eggplant here and there that the curry sauce doesn't really sink into. There's something about the bell peppers that makes it kick up a notch.

Altogether, I'll admit I was pretty pleasantly surprised by the overall wholesome goodness of this curryous dish. It was no more than a couple bucks for the tray which took about five minutes in the microwave - I would have expected (and been reasonably happy with) paying for something of similar quality from a restaurant. It's all there - good flavor, good heat, good firm rice. And it's all good enough that I want to try and make my own now, too - apparently there's a canned jackfruit TJ's sells for just this purpose? I'd be down. Sandy wasn't quite brave enough to try it herself yet, but probably will now. I'm just gonna go go out on my own here and give it some double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Yellow Jackfruit Curry with Jasmine Rice: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Tempura Shrimp

Bubba never mentioned shrimp tempura—and boy, was he missing out.

I've always loved shrimp, fried, steamed, or otherwise, and I've always loved tempura anything. So there are plenty of things stacked in favor of this product right off the bat.

There's also one big thing I have against it, even before tasting it: the price. At $7.99, this product ranks right up there with the most expensive things we've ever bought from Trader Joe's. I'm not saying it's not a good value. I'm just saying that it takes a lot to get that much money out of me for a single product at the grocery store. In other words, I'm cheap. When compared to a restaurant, of course, the price is more than reasonable—and these shrimp are most definitely restaurant-quality.

They're huge, farm-raised, and tasty as can be—not fishy in the slightest. We baked ours in the oven, followed the directions pretty closely, and they came out just about perfect. The tempura is good, too, although, I'd say it's a bit thicker here than most tempura products I've tried. I've only ever had tempura as a very thin, crispy outer layer. In this case, the tempura is crisp on the outside, but there's enough of it that there's almost a doughy layer in between the crispness and the shrimp. It's not so thick or soft that it's off-putting in any way. It's just not quite what I'm used to.

The sauce is simply a sweet soy sauce—basically what you'd get if you dumped a bunch of sugar into those ubiquitous packets from Asian restaurants. And there's TONS of it. I'm generally a gluttonous condiment hog, and there have been dozens of TJ's products throughout the years that were super-skimpy on dipping sauces. Not here. There are two large packets where just one would most likely have sufficed. If I had it to do over, I would have only opened the first one and saved the other for leftover rice and veggie dumplings from our next Asian take-out run. Oh well. Live and learn, as they say.

There are ten shrimp in the pack. Three work well as a single serving. They're quite filling and satisfying, and definitely not wanting as far as quality is concerned. The price tag alone will prevent this from being a regular purchase in our home, but if I ever get a particular craving for shrimp, I have a feeling this product will quickly come to mind. Sonia enjoyed them, too, but I don't think she's quite as big a shrimp-o-phile as her hubby. Three and a half stars from her. Four from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.