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Friday, December 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Smoky Honey Seasoned Kettle Chips

Really, the last thing needed right now is potato chips. I *like* chips, I do not *need* chips. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I'd rather eat raw spinach straight up than indulge in some chips...back when I was crazy about dropping weight and being healthy and all that stuff. Which is all good, but not where I am now. It's dark, cold and icy for a good morning run, which cuts down on my dietary indulgence margin, and my fridge is currently half-full with holiday party leftovers, with more holiday parties coming up...but the more cookies I eat, the more room for fruits and veggies, right? So goes my logic. It's got some holes in it.

Anyways, I *knew* I shouldn't have bought Trader Joe's Smoky Honey Seasoned Kettle Chips. NO NEED for these in my kitchen. NONE. But...but...I like kettle chips. A lot. "Smoky" and "honey" sounds good. And the packaging is reminiscent enough of one of the last chips I fell in love with it...dangit...the bag is coming home with me.


These chips kinda have a split personality to them. On one hand, the crisps are remarkably snackable, to the point where inhalation of the bagfull seems entirely plausible if not outright encouraged. That's the allure of the kettle chip - extra crunchy, more girth, more grease perhaps. So good, so remarkably good, and these TJ kettle chips are a textbook example of quality in that regard. Definitely had to exercise some willpower to close the bag and put back on the shelf.

It's the flavor that's a little disappointing. It's not awful, but the taste seems neither smoky nor honeylicious. Instead, it's like a pretty mild barbeque flavor that's pretty pleasant and certainly not heavyhanded, with a small touch of sweetness presumably from the honey. But smoky? No taste of that thus far. And I like smoky.

Anyways it's like $2 for the bag, and I will have to remind myself it's not a single serving next time I open. If the flavor were stronger or something more to it, it wouldn't be as easy to just keep on eating and eating and eating...that must be what they're going for. Sandy and I liked them alright, as did our kiddos. Nothing too much else to say except let's go with double 3s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Smoky Honey Seasoned Kettle Chips: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Apple Cranberry Herbal Tea Blend

Ahhh, there's nothing like a warm beverage on a cold day. Blizzards, polar vortices, and Arctic blasts are the perfect kinds of weather for herbal tea. You can always put on more layers of clothing, but I can't think of a better way to put something nice and warm inside you.

This tea has a delicate flavor, with a soothing herbal essence, and both subtle apple and cranberry flavors coming through—although it smells like apple much more than it tastes like apple. There's a slight tang to the flavor, no doubt thanks to the cranberry.

Both Sonia and I wanted to put sweetener of some kind in it. That's not been the case with every Trader Joe's tea—in particular, the Harvest Blend comes to mind as a tea with a very similar fruity flavor, but one that didn't beg for added sugar or honey for some reason. I could drink that one plain. This one's not terrible by itself, but I think the overall flavor is a little more pleasant with something added.

Sonia made another video to explain her feelings in a little more depth, and to show off the beautiful December snow we recently had in our area.

Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three stars from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies

That time of year again, of course...nah, not how I meant it a few posts back. In a different way. It' gathering season! Gather round and be merry, y'all.

Sandy and I hosted our usual holiday cookiepalooza this past weekend, which was a blast and, quite naturally, a fair amount of effort to be ready for. But that's nothing comnpared to this upcoming week, where we're going to almost ten different Hanukkah/Christmas/holiday parties. I'm not kidding. I'd figure out that thee exact number, but that requires thinking, then thinking of how crazy that is, so it'd better not to and just go with it. But all the cookies. And treats. And beverages. And maybe the need to bring something thats, you know, a little healthy or snacky but looks good and could be used as a present of some type in a pinch... it's as good a time as any for some Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies.

Look at 'em. You can't tell me they're not reminiscent of sushi rolls in appearance. Literally it's the first thing I thought of when I picked them up. Fruit and nut sushi. Cool. There's two varieties in the neat wooden tray: cherry coconut almond, and apricot walnut sesame. Both types are predominantly mixed with fig paste, so you gotta like those to have a shot at liking these fancy figgy faux fishy festive feats.

Between the two, the cherry almond is better IMHO. The cherry tartness plays out better with the almond and coconut for a better tasting bite. For the apricot walnut, that taste is alright enough in of itself - really no complants - but the sesame seeds seems just kinda odd. It's a bit strange to have small crispy seeds in a slightly firm yet chewy morsel. Once accustommed, the mouthfeel was certainly acceptable, but the first couple nibbles were a little offputting.

Both varieties are fairly muted and earthy flavorwise - no added sugar or anything to jazz them way up. Nah, this is a good, wholesome kinda treat that would be welcome at most holiday parties, I would think. The package says it pairs well with cheese - it doesn't give too many suggestions, but with a little imagination it'd probably work. I'd personally reach for a few while trying to pace myself between meatballs and chocolate chip cookies and whatever else might be on the smorgasbord.

Plus, like briefly mentioned, it comes packaged in a really neat little wooden tray. Ours will probably end up as property of our kids and some type of art project, but I kinda want one for myself. Not that I'd have any great use or idea of what to do with it.

I think the TJ fruit fancies cost $5.99, which isn't an awful deal for treats of its ilk. There's similar bagged fig/fruit bite type deals at Costco, which cost roughly in the same neighborhood per unit if my slightly suspect memory is clicking right. I'd pick them up again, and hope for a little variety to be coming down the pipeline.

Nothing too strong to say about them one way or another. Sounds like double threes.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fruit Fancies: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, December 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Sugar Glazed Mixed Nuts

Let's pause for a moment to remember an older, oft-forgotten Christmas movie that shares its name with this product—that's right: Mixed Nuts, starring Steve Martin. It centers around a suicide-prevention hotline, features a cross-dressing Liev Schreiber, a young ukulele-playing Adam Sandler, and a serial killer known as the Seaside Strangler. Sound a bit awkward and weird? It is. Each character introduced is more strange and unexpected than the ones before...very much in contrast to this bag of nuts from Trader Joe's, which features all the usual suspects.

Peanuts, almonds, cashews, and pecans. I can't think of four more "normal" nuts. I mean, I guess walnuts could have made the cut since they're vaguely holiday-ish. But I don't think they would have enhanced this mix at all. Quite frankly, I'm not even sure this is a holiday product, but we'll treat it as such. It's kosher, too. So...if you're throwing a Hanukkah bash, keep these in mind. 

Personally, I wouldn't have minded some macadamias thrown in there, but no doubt they would have upped the price point by $20 or so. All four nuts in the bag are represented pretty adequately, except for the pecans. At least in our bag, they were quite scarce. 

Sweetened by cane sugar, the nuts are high quality and feel fresh. They're nice and sweet, but not to the point where you have to stop eating after only a nut or two. They're not completely covered in an actual glaze, but each nut is peppered with hundreds of granules of sugar. It makes them somewhat messy, but I'd rather eat granules of real sugar than something less authentic. There's no Christmas spice mix here. No berries. No chocolate. Just "sugar nuts," which, incidentally, is Sonia's favorite nickname for me...

Just kidding.

And on that note, we'll give our final scores. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me. Nothing spectacular or original here, just a solid nut mix sweetened with cane sugar.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

"Syrup in my coffee? Why didn't I think of that?"

That's one of those sneaky underrated lines from Elf, our favorite Christmas movie. In fact, it's repeated quite often in our kitchen on those few mornings where Sandy and I have enough time and peace to enjoy a cuppa joe together. Especially guessed it...from time to time we put maple syrup in our coffee. It's actually pretty good in place of sugar if you've never tried.

Of course, if you're familiar with the movie, that's not maple syrup Buddy's putting in his mug there...go with me and let's say it's bourbon. In the movie, hilarity ensues. For us, it raised the question: what would bourbon flavored maple syrup taste like?

No more guessing for us! We finally caved and bought Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup. I say "caved" because we've been tempted often, but let's just say as a growing family we're somewhat value conscious, and $9.99 for a little bottle of maple syrup seems to be more aligned with luxury than necessity.

Not that it's a terrible price for quality maple syrup, given the cost factors that go into production, but it's worth a mention.

Anyways, as someone more acquainted with the darker amber and more maple-y flavor depths of Grade B maple syrup, it really struck me at first how light and super sugary sweet the TJ's borubon maple syrup is. It's a big step to Grade A. Wow. I could almost feel a cavity forming after my first taste. But once that shock wore off, the subleties of sweetness here began to come out a bit. It's kinda like a layered effect, and I'm not sure how to describe it except there's like these micro ebbs and flows with how sugary sweet this particular syrup is.

And there's a legit bourbon presence as well. It seems to slip in, about halkway thru, and provide like this little flourishing underpinning. It's quite delicious and seems to meld nearly perfectly with the sugary high notes. I will say that the bourbon is less apparent when sampled with things like pancakes and waffles - damn carbs soak up all that booze, it seems.

And yes, it works well in coffee. And better than bourbon barrel coffee too.

Leave the kids with Aunt Jemima or whatever - this is some pretty decadent syrup to not let go to waste. Savor and enjoy. At least that's what we're trying to do and ration out, as now our maple syrup line item on the family budget is tapped out for a bit...I kid. Good stuff, give it a try. Just wish there a Grade B version. Matching fours from me and the wife.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Reserve Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, December 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Scandinavian Tidings

You might remember some other Scandies we reviewed on here a while ago. This time, Trader Joe dropped the chuckle-inducing title of "swimmers" and went with "tidings," as in: tidings of comfort and joy or something like that. 

TJ's holds the holiday theme high here, as this product features a bold Christmassy red resealable bag, snowflake art on the packaging, and three ultra-merry colors/shapes/flavors: green trees, red ornaments, and yellowish stars. I say yellow-ish because, well, they're somewhere between yellow and off-white. That's just fine, because they went with vegetable-based coloring in this product, as we've seen from TJ's in the past. We don't need our candy to be electric-neon-radioactive yellow. I'll take the blackcurrant, carrot, and pumpkin colorings any day over "yellow number five" or whatever carcinogenic nonsense the other guys use.

As far as flavors go, there are three distinct tastes. The red ornaments are my favorite, and they taste just like classic Swedish Fish if you ask me. The stars are slightly softer than the other two shapes, and they taste like...I dunno...something sweet. Call me crazy, but I feel like the green trees taste slightly appley. There's no apple listed in the ingredients, so...I guess I could be wrong.

Both Sonia and I would have enjoyed these more if they were sour, in the manner of the legendary T's and J's. And honestly, I think I prefer the swimmers over these. 

Why? Well, at least three out of the four flavors present in the swimmers were pretty tasty. Here, I don't think the flavors are quite as unique or memorable. Plus—there are only three shapes, as opposed to four. I guess you could make a big tree shape out of all the trees in the bag and then pretend to decorate it with the stars and red balls, but that's not nearly as much fun as staging battles between dolphins, giant lobsters, seahorses, and rock fish. 

I mean...not that I actually did either one of those things.

There's certainly nothing wrong with these candies, but they're neither the most fun nor the best tasting gummy candy we've seen from Trader Joe's. It's a decent bit of gummies for $2.99, and the overall quality is on par with what we've come to expect from TJ's. I'll go with three out of five gummy candy Christmas stars. Sonia gives them three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, December 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Almond Beverage

Holiday shopping season. Hurrah.

If it's not Black Friday then it's Small Business Saturday or Cyber Monday or Giving Tuesday or it's any of those extended for one whole week or more. And of course it's complete with the TV ads and jingles and must-buy lists and all that. Apparently this year I am supposed to find a good deal on something called "Fingerlings" for my kids. No, not play potatoes....something like some sort of animal toy that hangs on to your finger. Flamingos and sloths or something like that. It's another must buy item at a must buy time of year...because someone is telling us so.

Well, I can't be too opposed to the whole notion behind all this holiday buying nonsense....because you must go buy Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Almond Beverage! Right now! While supplies last! Your holidays will be incomplete without it! Go! Go! Gooooooooooooooo!!!!

Alright, alright, let's catch our breath a little bit. I mean, this seasonally festive TJ's drink is a pretty decent beverage after all. There's a little extra creaminess that most almond-based milk-type substances seem to lack that's a real nice touch. It's smooth and very non-chalky, with a small hint of almond taste to give away that it's not the usual cow juice type deal for its base. That nuttiness certainly isn't too heavy handed. The chocolate part is fairly rich and somewhat decadent - it'll hit your sweet tooth for sure.

It's the peppermint part that could be construed as problematic. If consumed cold, the mint is bit much, like these matching Christmas pajamas. There's nothing too wrong with it, and it's kinda cute, but it's just a bit much. Yet when heated to hot cocoa-type temperatures (i.e., it's prime consumption mode) a lot of the mintiness just disappears. It's still there, but the chocolate really kinda takes over, with only a hint o' peppermint. I wish it'd be more minty then.

Regardless, for a dairy-free holiday option, the chocolate peppermint almond beverage is a pretty good and reasonable buy. It's only $1.79 for the quart carton, so it's a good product at a reasonable price...and since it's shelf stable at room temperature, hey, stock up if that's your thing. Just no trying to charge five times MSRP on eBay for it. I'm thinking of you, you Fingerling hucksters, you...grumble. Both the wife and I are gonna hit it with a fourspot.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Peppermint Almond Beverage: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons