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Friday, May 29, 2020

Trader Joe's Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffle

Like most of Everclear's song catalog, there's some things in life I used to love but now can hardly tolerate any more.

Like sauerkraut, there's other things in life I used to deplore but now enjoy.

And like the phrase "social distancing," I'm pretty sure there's some stuff that I'll just never get around to really cherishing, pretty much no matter what.

It's said that taste buds change every few years. I can see that happening - I used to do spicier than I can now, I like me vanilla more than chocolate most times these days. I change my mind on Yuengling about every five years as well.

But still, if there were one constant in my life, one thing that I always offered scorn and no adoration whatsoever, it'd be this: ketchup.

Never liked it, not even as a kid. Can't figure out why, it's just always been gross to me. Right now I live within literal walking distance of where Heinz squeezed their first tomato into an American staple, it matters not. Ketchup = nope.

I'm not alone in this, I know, but there's been some like-minded people who said that Trader Joe's Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffle was a game changer for them. I've seen it on the Interwebs so it must be true.  So here goes.

First off: as an immediate plus, it's in a glass jar and not a squeeze bottle. I HATE squeeze bottles, especially when it gives a constipated sounding squelchy toot and watery discharge. Just...ugh. Glass jar for this highbrowed-sounding condiment, so a plus.

Everything else....ehhhhh. I don't hate it. but I don't like it either. I don't consume ketchup often, if ever, but the base strikes me as more or less a basic ketchup-y kinda sauce. It's maybe a tad sweeter, with a different consistency somehow, but whether ot nor that's accurate in a describable way is not really my wheelhouse. The truffles offer a decent backended twinge of umami-ish flavor that's pretty welcome. It's a nice kinda savory take, and I can see some people swooning over it. For me, it doesn't make up for the fact that it's all still ketchup. At least it's not catsup.

I was able to place a small portion on my plate, dab a couple fries into it, and take on down without too much struggle. So I don't mind that this new TJ's trufflicious ketchup exists, but it hasn't changeed my mind. My normally ketchup-loving kiddos werren't so fond on it either. it'll probably be up to Sandy, my lovely bride, to finsih up the remaining 7/8ths of the jar, which is gonna take a while. But at least it's hers. Happy Belated Mother's Day, love.

In her usually correct way, Sandy's asserting that the only reason why i'd dare give something like this a low score is only because I'm simply convinced I don't like ketchup. So take my score with a grain of salt - it's a two. I recognize it's quality but I'm not a fan, and that's ok. She'll go with a little higher.

Bottom line: trader Joe's Tomato Ketchup with Black Summer Truffle: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Trader Joe's Thai Green Curry Simmer Sauce

Some Trader Joe's products seem to get more than their fair share of marketing attention. They get ridiculous, lengthy, lavish titles. They're presented with artsy, colorful packages and placed front and center in the store, maybe on an end cap or at the checkout counter. I'd say more than half the time, these items are gone just months after they drop, and they're forgotten about by the vast majority of patrons that purchased them. 

And then there's a completely understated line of Trader Joe's brand items. They're products that have been around for quite a while, and they need no clever marketing to sell. They get by on the merits of their quality and flavor. No cutesy packaging. No goofy nicknames. It might be just an unassuming jar of sauce with a modest amount of copy on the front—items like this product.

The sauce is super flavorful, medium-thick, and coats whatever foods you mix with it. It's not a sweet curry. I've had some curry sauces so sweet they were almost dessert-like. Not this one.


It's full of lemon grass, garlic, and shallot flavor. It's obviously coconutty, too, but the taste isn't particularly coconut-forward despite the coconut milk base. It's spicy, savory, and it makes your kitchen smell like an authentic sit-down Thai restaurant.

Sonia and I had it with mahi mahi fish for lunch yesterday, and it was scrumptious. Served with veggies and rice, it was one of the most satisfying meals we've prepared ourselves in a long time. All you do is put the sauce on your food in the skillet and let it simmer. So good and so easy.

The sauce darkened a little bit from the time we poured it out of the jar to the end of the cooking process. I'm not good with specific shades of individual colors, but I'd say it went from something like a pea green to more of a olive green tan light brown by the end...? Anyway, it's not much to look at, but it tastes good enough you probably won't care.


You have my word we'll continue to review those brand new nonsense-laden gimmicky products as they're released, but we'd be remiss in our Trader Joe's brand food reviewing duties if we didn't tell you all about products like this one from time to time. Delicious. Apparently, this version has only been around for about a year and a half, but I'm hoping it'll stick around and stand the test of time. 

At $1.99 for the jar, it's a steal. Four and a half stars from me. Five from Sonia.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices

So, what's your quarantine hobby been?

For me, to help keep myself from going mad, I've gotten a little bit into pickling and fermenting. So for it's been a blast, figuratively speaking and thankfully not literally, yet. I've seen enough explosion videos from home fermenters to know it's a thing. Like Robert Plant once sang, my time is gonna come.

But yeah, I've done a couple things. Sauerkraut, green beans and other assorted veggies, honey garlic, a ginger bug, even some mangoes for my very own amba sauce as well as my own hot sauce. It's been pretty fun, and it gives me something to look forward to, whether it's looking for little bubbles or feasting down.

So, I'm not an expert yet (watch out, Brad Leone) but I know enough to know that pickling and fermenting, while both are delicious processes and have a little overlap, are not the same thing. Here's some more info on all that.

So, naturally, a product like Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices will catch our eye right now.

Can I ferment and/or pickle my own jalapeños? Easily! But...it takes a while, and these are ready to go, and within easy reach. Sometimes you just gotta go with the here and now.

Opening the jar is a pleasant, spicy aroma - it's not overly funky or smelly. Good so far. Don't think of the standard mushy green circle you get with your stadium nachos, these peppers are fresher with a lot more snap to them. That's an even better step in the right direction.

And as far as taste - yep, it seems on point. A little initial sweetness is followed quickly by a little dive towards sour before finishing up with the heat. There's an overall saltiness at play, in a nod towards fermenting, while the total effect seems accentuated with vinegar, which of course would be the pickling. The heat does linger for a bit after but isn't unpleasant, unless you don't really like jalapeños and therefore wouldn't be in the target audience here. Visially, it looks like maybe about half the seeds were removed from the peppers, which might be the right way to balance out heat without too much bitterness.

M lovely bride and I got to enjoying a good bottle of honey mead (another blessing from fermentation, gonna try that soon) while grilling some hot dogs and corn on the cob last night, and got the great idea to put some of these peppers on the hot dogs with some melty knockoff Velveeta...hey, don't judge, you know it was awesome. Simply yes. We're both already looking forward to our upcoming burger night to bust these peppers out again, and hey, I'll get another little glass jar for next basement experimental ferment.

Nothing wrong with these peppers, and of course I'm gonna do my own soon now, but for a commercial batch, Sandy and i would sign off on them with a 4 each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pickled Fermented Jalapeño Slices: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons