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Friday, September 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Marble Mousse Bar

Ah, the first day of fall is finally here. Sure doesn't feel like it yet, though. It'll be nearly 90 degrees here in New Jersey for the next few days. I'm eagerly awaiting temperatures cool enough to wipe out the local mosquito population—or at least temperatures cool enough that I can spend some time outside with long pants and long sleeves on so the little jerks can't bite me as readily. You should see my legs. It looks like I have some bizarre skin disease...but I'll stop right there since this is a food review blog and talk of skin disease and mosquito bites isn't particularly appetizing.

Know what is appetizing? Pumpkin pandemonium at Trader Joe's. We can just stay inside, crank the AC, eat fall foods, and pretend it feels cool outside. Fun stuff.

Pumpkin cheesecake over a fudgy brownie base? Yes, please! Looks delicious!

Except once you bite into's not terrible...but really? That's cheesecake? I tried just the top part of the product by itself—the "mousse" section. It's nothing like cheesecake in my humble opinion. It tastes and feels like pumpkin pie filling. And that, of course, isn't a bad thing in and of itself. But I was promised cheesecake. Also, the fudgy brownie part isn't very fudgy. It's just...there.

There's a vague chocolatiness to the brownie base and an even more vague pumpkinniness to the crown, but overall, it's not particularly pumpkin-spicy or creamy or chocolatey. It's just an orange and brown dessert that, again, isn't terrible. It's just not terribly good or unique, either. The product's name makes it sound super gourmet, but the taste and texture just don't quite live up to our expectations—especially in light of the $6 price tag.

On the plus side, the presentation is stellar. These would look great on the dessert table at a fall party or something. The bars are very simple to prepare: just thaw, cut, and serve. And as Sonia pointed out, all of the constituent parts are quite moist and soft.

We'll easily be able to finish these bars over the course of the next few days, but if you're excited about Trader Joe's pumpkin products, this is not the first six bucks you should spend there.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Taco Sauce

You know what Trader Joe's Organic Spicy Taco Sauce would probably taste good on?

I'm gonna go out on a limb here...and say tacos. Just a wager, I suppose. Something tells me that idea just might have some merit.

Yup, here's a review of taco sauce not actually taste-tested on tacos. Not for lack of desire - tacos aren't just for Cinco de Maya and Tuesdays. They'd be everyday chow if I had my say. Not my fault TJ's came out with this on a non-taco designated week here. Or as I call them, only half-kiddingly, the Week of Sadness.

So for what offlabel purposes did we try spicy taco sauce?

Mostly, on eggs in the morning and stirred into our chili. Why not? Taco sauce is, after all, basically hot sauce. It's thicker, and with more base comes more flavor potential, yes, but's slightly goopier hot sauce.

And ya know what? It works. Really, really well.

There's a lot more to the sauce than just flavor fuego. There's the heat, yes, but also smoke and sweet and tang. Taking a spoonful straight up is like a jousting competition - it's the vinegar then tomatoes then cumin and cayenne back to garlic then over to jalapenos. Another bite, and it'll be all jambled up a different way. It's great. Tasted awesome on the eggs, and since for the sake of our kids we have to make our chili pretty tame, once a good couple squirts got mixed in our bowls...almost perfect. I might have a new chili cheat. Bonus tip: Excellence of cornbread crisps when matched with chili: confirmed. I'd personally love to try the sauce on some homemade mac 'n cheese.

Lots of good stuff going on here. I can't even think of any real complaints. Some with a tamer tongue will probably find the TJ taco sauce too spicy, while those who are super-adventurous may wish it were even spicier...I will admit that the potency decreases somewhat when actually consumed with food. But for a storebrand hot sauce that wishes to be neither too wimpy nor too picante (and certainly not too vinegary!), the TJ's sauce straddles a near perfect line. For only a few bucks a bottle, it can make every night taco night. Even when it isn't.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Spicy taco Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, September 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Jam

Today's sign of the apocalypse: Russ reviewed a pumpkin item before I did, and I'm reviewing the first apple cider product of the year. 

But I certainly don't regret it. Because this stuff's deee-licious.

Yep. There's more to the tastes of fall than just pumpkin spice. And honestly, I was more eager to try this fascinating condiment than any of the new "Pumpkin Joe's" items I've seen so far. Haven't you heard? Apple cider jam is the new cookie butter.

My goodness. Where do I start? It's absolutely bursting with apple bits. Chunky style. It's still quite spreadable, but there's more than enough apple pieces to make it substantial. The syrup is sweet, but not overly so. And it actually tastes like cider, not just apples or apple juice. They really nailed the blend of fall spices if you ask me. Just the smell from the jar alone is enough to make you want to put on flannel and jump in a pile of autumn leaves.

Sonia says it reminds her of the filling in a McDonald's apple pie. Really, my love? I mean, sure, there are apple chunks and golden syrup in both cases, but I'd argue the quality here is head and shoulders above those cardboard-clad fast food confections. Plus, there's not a whole lot in the way of a spice blend there with the Golden Arches' offering.

She's also hung up on the price. $3.99 for a small jar does seem a bit steep. We're going through it fast. Like, it'll be gone somewhere between 24-48 hours after first opening it—which is both a testament to its delectability as well as its diminutiveness. Honestly, I could eat the stuff straight out of the jar with a spoon and be perfectly happy. But this jam really shines when served on toast with a little butter. It turns an ordinary slice of bread into a first-rate fall pastry.

Upon my initial taste, I was really thinking this spread was headed for the Pantheon. Sonia was slightly less enthused. She was torn between three and a half and four stars. I went ahead and selected four on her behalf. I'll throw out four and a half myself. 

Now I'm eagerly awaiting Pear Cinnamon Cider Jam and Honey Crisp Cider Jam.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.