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Monday, June 24, 2019

Trader Joe's Bloody Mary Salsa

Family I right?

I'm writing this review about halfway thru a family vacation. And by family I don't mean just me, my wife and our kids...I mean my parents, my siblings, their spouses, and all their kids. there's eighteen of us. It's what we do every other year. It's crazy. It's frustrating. It's fun. It's draining. And ultimately pretty awesome. Really hope to be building some memories here by continuing family traditions.

 And of course we're bringing in our own. As is our own individual family tradition, while on vacation, we seek out the local Trader Joe's (Burlington, VT this occasion). And for our designated night to make dinner we brought in our own tradition which I think I mentioned before, to have a "snacky dinner." Cheese, chips, fruits, veggies, hummus, salsa, etc.

So that's a long way of saying yup, we got Trader Joe's Bloody Mary Salsa to experiment on my entire family on vacation. Wasn't sure how else to start. Sorry, couple beers in. Surely, you understand.

It's a decent salsa, even for those (like me) who aren't well acquainted with actual bloody Marys. There's huge chunks of tomatoes and maybe some peppers, so if smoother salsas are your jam this won't be it. Even then, the rest of the base is somewhat watery enough that calling it thick doesn't seem entirely right.

For the first hit, the salsa is fairly mild, even somewhat sweet. Some in my clan here said there's almost a certain "fake tomato" taste here - perhaps it's a bit too cloying. Or maybe it's even else that happens afterwards - the bitterness of horseradish creeping in, the peppery bite beginning to hit, the pickling spices beginning to tickle in, the spice whacking you from the back end. Still, for an overall taste and feel, it's decent yet lacks a certain oomph. Maybe this is something inherent in bloody Marys, hence the need to pile on with all those crazy...I don't even know what you'd call it all. But you know what I mean.

For a jarred store brand salsa, not fresh made, and all that, it'll do. Not great, not bad. The salsa is definitely a plausible rebuy for the middling $2ish bucks it cost. And middling scores is about all it got from everyone here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Bloddy Mary Salsa: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Trader Joe's Kunefe

Before we dive into the review, let me just throw this little disclaimer out there: I've never had kunefe prior to trying this product. I've had plenty of international desserts, and I love Mediterranean food in general, but this isn't something I recall seeing listed on menus. Could be it was there and I passed over it because I had no clue what it was. Now I do and I just might try it next time I'm in a Turkish restaurant.

All that to say I won't be comparing this to other kunefe. I'll just be recounting our personal experience with this fascinating foreign dessert offering from TJ's. Kinda hard to lead into a review with a personal story when you don't have any anecdotes about the product in question. I know you're all heartbroken, but my disclaimer will have to serve as the lead-in here.

Found it in the frozen section of the Halsey Street, Portland store for $3.99. It wasn't immediately apparent that it was a dessert. I mean, it would have been if I had read the blurb on the back of the box, but that's just not my style. If I learn too much about something—anything, I tend to psych myself out and lose interest. Better to dive in as blind as possible and have no expectations.

The baking instructions were easy enough even for this guy. You simply place the unwrapped tray in the oven and bake for 20-22 min. There's a pouch full of a clear, sweet syrup that you add after baking, flip the dessert over onto a serving plate, and then sprinkle a packet of pistachio bits on the top. From frozen to serving in about 25 minutes. No major mishaps or fine examples of foodie-hackery here. 

It's hard to describe. Pretty tasty if you ask me. Unusual. The outer portions are quite crispy. Wisps of phyllo dough grace the exterior of the dish. The core of the dessert is made of sweet, melty mozzarella and mizithra cheeses. The pistachio sprinkles are tastable but not overbearing. There might be something vaguely reminiscent of baklava here if it weren't for all that cheese. But as it stands, I like it, in the words of the late Chris Cornell, "cause it doesn't remind me of anything." 

I'm always down for novel experiences.

Sonia had an equally difficult time describing the flavor, but she, too, liked it quite a bit—particularly its uniqueness. If you like sweet cheeses and phyllo-encrusted desserts, it's most definitely worth a whirl. Four stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar

Last week, I saw an article online referring to a new food product  as "salad frosting." Didn't click on it. Couldn't. Listen, I don't care if it were frosting that tasted like salad, or some sort of -not-quite-dressing matter to put atop a sald. I din't want to know. Just sounded way too gross. If this were to somehow come to Trader Joe's, yeah, I'd make Nathan and Sonia do that one because just NOPE.

On the same spectrum but not nearly to that extreme is Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar. Drinking. Vinegar. "Drinking vinegar." That...just doesn't sound appealing. At all.

As recently as a year ago or so I would have noped my way out of this one too. But I've really come to enjoy kombucha and related beverages, and have thought of making some sort of apple cider vinegar-y concoction as an alternative and occasional chnage up.

As of now, TJ's carries two varieties of drinking vinegars: cucumber mint and strawberry basil. As you can see Sandy and I got both to try. I opted for the strawberry as cucumber mint usually isn't one of my favorite combos.

It's a smooth beverage, for sure, and goes down easy. There's less bite and funk than from kombucha, probably from lack of fermentation. There's no little SCOBY floaties around either if that's something that skeeves you. There's also a touch less carbonation too - still some but not as much as kombucha. And sure, yes, there's a decent taste of vinegar, but it's fairly mild and unoffensive overall.

For flavor, the strawberry basil made a nice profile. It's a little sweet, a little herby...hey, maybe it'd make a good salad frosting! Ugh. I took a small swig of the cucumber mint and didn't like it as much - it had a little bit of a "minty pickle" vibe to it. Sandy said that's ludicrous, but it's logical to me - cucumber and vinegar plus mint, right? Minty pickle. Regardless, she said it wasn't like that at all, but she liked the strawberry better too.

Give 'em a try. They're a bit small so noit exactly a thirst quencher, and at $1.69 each I'm unsure of how great a deal it is...but I digress. Drinking one made my queasy stomach feel ten times better within minutes so I'm not gonna argue much. Four spoons each for these vinegars from my lovely bride and me.

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons