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Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Frosted Hot Cocoa Toaster Pastries

Listen, we all know it's coming. Heck, it's practically here. Some (many?) of you are probably wondering why we haven't jumped on that bandwagon quite yet.

Not me, though. I can wait. Long time readers probably know that already. Nathan's the basic one, not me. And if you still don't know what I'm talking about, heck, I'm not even ready to write the actual words. But you know them, they're everywhere this time of year. They rhyme with "sumpthin' nice."

But nah. I'm sticking with what I'll call "alternative seasonal tastes" as long as I can. It's a long fall ahead...heck, it hasn't even technically started yet. But colder weather is on the horizon, and with that comes great classic tastes like a good cup of hot chocolate.

Or, more to the point of this review, Trader Joe's Organic Frosted Hot Cocoa Toaster Pastries.

Sheepishly, it was while searching for another seasonally appropriate PopTart compadre that I first spotted these particular TJ's breakfast/snacky pastries. Those other ones were for my beautiful bride, but these? For me. All mine. Gimme all dat cocoa....now!

For me, this is the rare toaster tart that actually tastes better toasted than "raw." The key is the filling. At room temp, it's kinda a basic choco-fill, nothing too special. but when toasted, it gets this warm, gooey, fudgy feel that's quite evocative of the dregs at the bottom of a cup of hot cocoa. Except, well, better.   It's good filling for sure, and the surrounding dough pouch is appropriately soft and crumbly with just the right feel, whether toasted or not.

But there's a small disappointment here. Look at the top. Where's all the frosting? Every pastry we got in our box had this same male balding pattern thing going on. And what's on there isn't quite enough to really taste if it's supposed to be more like some wispy froth type deal, or more of a marshmallow essence. I know this sounds like I'm complaining that there's not enough sugar on my sugar, because I am, but when you're getting a toaster pastry out to mash on down, you know what you're going for, organic or not. If I wanted healthy and good for me I'd make a kale smoothie.

It's been a long time since I've actually consumed a name brand Pop Tart so direct comparisons are going to fall flat, but I'd rate the TJ's toasty tarts as at least equal to if not better than their more famous counterparts. Maybe it's the word "organic" playing mind tricks. You never know...but I know you can find these now at TJ's for $1.99 for a box of 3 dual foilpacks (6 tarts total) which strikes me as a good deal. Need more frosting, though. But for a first taste of things to come, not bad, not bad at all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Frosted Hot Cocoa Toaster Pastries: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Candy Corn Popcorn

I'm not a huge fan of picking up Halloween products before the leaves have turned and the air gets chilly, but TJ's releases these things in September, and we've got to strike while the iron is hot. Also, we're reviewing this sooner than later for the benefit of you readers. Knowing Trader Joe's, they'll be sold out next week, and they'll discontinue the product forever, and you'll be pulling your hair out, shopping for it on eBay at some obscene markup. I mean, hopefully, that won't happen, but if you're a fan of candy corn and/or caramel corn, I wouldn't take the chance...

Because this stuff is pretty yummy. It does, in fact, taste like candy corn. I think it tastes like caramel corn, too. But it's a very high-quality kind of caramel corn. It's on par with the Pumpkin Spice Caramel Corn we checked out just about exactly two years ago. I'm not even particularly fond of regular caramel corn. Never have been. But fancy, flavored, gimmicky, sexy, newfangled caramel corn? Yes, please.


As far as candy corn is concerned—as a kid, I was obsessed with it. I waited all year for those waxy, triangular sugar drops, and I'd inhale as much as my parents would allow during the season. I'd pray for lots of little bags of it during trick or treating, and they were among the first of the confections devoured on Halloween night. 

Sonia? Not so much. She thinks candy corn is kinda gross. But she still enjoyed this product because, in her words, "the candy corn presence is subtle." I see where she's coming from. It's not really an overpowering flavor. Candy corn haters may enjoy it despite an aversion to classic candy corn.

On the texture front, we're looking at nice, big, whole, popped corn kernels. They're fresh and crunchy. They'd be fluffy white if not coated in that slightly waxy, firm, sugary glaze. There are three colors in the bag: yellow, orange, and clear. I wouldn't have minded if they were three different flavors...but I guess that wouldn't be true to the candy corn theme.

It's a nice combination of two classic junk foods. It's a little addictive, too. Two people just might polish off the bag in one sitting. $1.99 for 5 oz. If I were rich, I'd hand out whole bags of this to the trick or treaters.

If your local store is sold out before your next TJ's run, you could always try melting a bunch of candy corns in the microwave and then dumping them over a bowl of popcorn, but I doubt it would turn out this well. Double fours for this product.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread

A few posts ago, there was a link in there about wine "experts" having their opinion swayed by the label. Product presentation affects perception, right? Seems like kinda no-brainer. Tell me what it is, I can judge adequately. Blind taste tests are tougher (yet perhaps fairer) in that something can be judged on its own merits. And maybe labels can make you "taste" something that kinda isn't there.

Mentioning this in reference to Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread because, honestly, if I didn't know it was trying to taste like carrot cake, I probably wouldn't have guessed it right off the bat. It's kinda an odd concoction...but oddly good.

Let's do this hypothetically blindfolded. First words I would say are chunky, almost like a marmalade. Except it's little bits of matter instead of orange peel or whatever. But there's absolutely a jammy marmalade vibe. Then, sweet. Very sweet. I'd pick up on apples right away, then probably pineapple for a slightly tart taste. Then, spicy. Not overly. I'd say ginger primarily, maybe a little cinnamon too. Then, super sweet, lots of sugar. Almost too cloyingly sweet but it sorta reins it in a smidge.

Blindfold off...hey, what are those little orangey doodads mixed in with pineappley tidbits? Are they...carrots? I guess? Wha?

Makes sense, I guess. Carrots really don't taste like much by themselves, and there's enough other stuff going on here.

Does it taste like carrot cake then? Meh....not sure. When I think carrot cake, my mind defaults more to it being a vehicle for cream cheese frosting inhalation, not a super sugary cake by its lonesome. Indeed, nekkid carrot cake would sway more towards savory in my opinion, while this TJ's carrot spread is undeniably sweet and sugary. So I wouldn't say it tastes just like carrot cake...but seeing the label, a little, I can see what TJ's is going for here. It kinda works.

All that aside, though, it's a good spread. Sandy and I spread some out on graham crackers for a post-dinner snacky that our kiddos turned up their noses at. Sandy's plotting a bagel and cream cheese run to use so we can try that, and she's intrigued by the jar's suggestion to try on pork. All that seems like it'd work to me, so why not? Most other uses you can think would probably work, exccept probably not as the J in a PB&J. I kinda want to mix it up with a can of cream cheese frosting, get a big spoon, and get shameful myself.

Still, I just can't shake that the carrot cake jelly is a bit too sweet and perhaps a little off the mark. Maybe if labelled as Spiced Pineapple with Carrot or something goofy like that, I'd be a bit more on board with the general concept. You see, it's messing with me here...quitting while I'm somewhat ahead.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons