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Friday, May 27, 2022

Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns


Unable to procure the brioche, New England style, or gluten-free hot dog buns we've heard so much about, Sonia and I grabbed these regular old Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns for our Memorial Day festivities this year. In addition to remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country and making sure the lawn is mowed and tidy, it's also obligatory to cook and consume at least one meat product outdoors on this last weekend in May, you know, if you're an American. I mean, if you're vegan or something like that, you can do veggie burgers or veggie dogs and I'm cool with that. I'm just pointing out that in our never-ending quest to pretend we're normal, Sonia and I made it a point to purchase and consume some buns and all-beef franks for this traditional kickoff-to-summer weekend—and we sampled a couple in advance for this review.


In addition to good taste and a nice, soft texture, I'm looking for at least one other thing in a hot dog bun: the ability to effectively and securely cradle a hot dog. On the taste and texture points, these buns get near top marks. On that last matter, Sonia and I both found this bread product slightly wanting.

They just aren't the ideal shape for hot dog buns. The buns splay apart and create a sort of v-shape that you can stick a hot dog into, but each side of the bun isn't particularly stable and is prone to breakage. It's like they're too square. It's very similar to eating a hot dog with two halves of a slice of regular bread—something I'm sure most of us have done, since they always put a different number of buns and dogs in single packs. You know, there's 10 hot dogs and only 8 buns. You either have to do some math and find the lowest common denominator and eat hot dogs every day for like a month, or you have a couple dogs left over—and you wind up eating them with hamburger buns, regular sliced bread, or you wind up chopping them up and eating them with mac and cheese or whatever.


But again, they tasted fine. Ours were fresh, pliable, bready, and yummy. They're about as firm as the leading brand's buns, at least in terms of mouthfeel. No complaints there. Decent value, too, at $1.99 for 8 buns. It's just they have that weird shape, and they wanted to fall apart so easily, dumping pieces of hot dog onto the ground. At least it made the dogs happy—and by "dogs" here, I mean the canines, AKA mutts, AKA Alfred and Sadie.

Three stars from the beautiful wifey. Three and a half from yours truly for Trader Joe's Hot Dog Buns.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Trader Joe's Truffle Flavored BBQ Sauce

Apparently my lawn has a lot of moisture in it, because this spring a large patch of mushrooms decided to sprout out. Was eyeballing it the other night when I was grilling out again...which made me question my use of condiments.

Yup, it was Trader Joe's Truffle Flavored BBQ Sauce. 

Sure, whatever fungi is afoot in my frontier is favorited to be funky than fancy and frankly not fit for food, but still. 

Anyways, as for the barbeque sauce, I had mixed hopes. Truffles can easily go either way for me, and sometimes make my mouth itch. Still, I was intrigued enough to give it a try.

As it turns out, I need not worry too much about the presence of truffles here...because there's not much more than a palpable hint of them in this new sauce. Seriously, it's just enough to be tasted, and not much else. The trufflometer certainly doesn't go sky high here. There's just enough of that familiar umamilicious essence to be noticeable and discernible, but not enough to take over. 


The remainder of the sauce seems to be a pretty basic Kansas City-type recipe - a little smoky, a little sweet, a touch of spice. It's kinda thick and rich and a touch gloopy. The truffles do add a nice little touch to the flavor, and it works together well, but some of the sweetness seems to cover up the truffles. Honestly, a little more truffle wouldn't have hurt. 

Or...maybe I'm a mad man...but something like a more mustard-y BBQ base, like Carolina style sauce, with truffle added? I can see that being anywhere from 0 to 11 on the ol' Golden Spoon chart, but I'd definitely have to find out, and would think it'd be a more intriguing choice than the "standard" TJ's went with here. 

Don't love it, don't hate it, will definitely use what I got and see where my hand reaches next time I wander near the sauce shelf. Use as you would with BBQ sauce of course. I think it was pretty cheap for the small bottle - in the $3ish range - so worth the gamble if you can tolerate truffles even a little, because thats about what you're gonna get.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Truffle Flavored BBQ Sauce: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons



 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Trader Joe's The Spice Market


Lucky me. Three fifths of this review is already written. Here are the relevant links:

Trader Joe's Everything but the Bagel Sesame Seasoning Blend

Trader Joe's Chile Lime Seasoning Blend

Trader Joe's Everything but the Elote Seasoning Blend

Apparently the other two spices from this multi-pack are exclusive to this product. They are Trader Joe's Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Blend and Trader Joe's Spicy Italian Style Sprinkle. Let's take a look at both.

First up, the cocoa cinnamon sugar dealie. I like it. It makes a killer cinnamon toast with a twist. Just add butter to plain toasted bread and a generous dusting of this stuff. Cinnamon toast with a bit of a chocolate flair. Beautiful. Sprinkle on plain oatmeal for a sweet breakfast treat. The kids wanted Death By Chocolate brand cereal but you've only got the plain stuff? Trader Joe's Cocoa Cinnamon Sugar Blend to the rescue.


Next, the Italian sprinkles. The base is really just salt and pepper. Pretty safe. But it would also be pretty boring if it stopped there. The medley of garlic, paprika, rosemary, and fennel, among others, really takes this stuff to the next level. It can turn any ordinary savory dish into an authentic Italian cuisine experience. I just had some with a cheesy spinach and onion omelette, and it was decidedly tasty. The spices added more than I expected them to.


$9.99 for three very popular Trader Joe's spices and two that you can't buy outside of this pack. The spices are $1.99 each when purchased individually, so you're not really saving money, but you're not losing any either. The presentation is pretty sweet, and this product would make an outstanding gift, particularly for anyone who cooks a lot but doesn't have regular access to a Trader Joe's store. If scoring the two exclusive blends individually, they'd get 7.5 stars and 8 stars, respectively. If you average out all the scores for all five spice blends, they're a solid 8 stars at least. So...that's it for Trader Joe's The Spice Market Set of Curated Unique Blends.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, May 20, 2022

Trader Joe's Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe's

 

Somewhat disappointingly, no, it's not a first. 

For a hot minute I thought that the Trader Joe's Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe's were the first non-chocolate Joe-Joe's. There's been numerous variations over the years, but they all had chocolate, right? or so I thought before consulting the Google machine. Apparently there's been all-vanilla Joe-Joe's, but let's be honest, how would those be memorable? And a little over five years ago (which seems several lifetimes) there was a matcha variation reviewed right here on this very blog. That sounds....odd. Thanks Nathan for taking on that one.

Huh. Well, okay, let's re-spin this then....how about the first Joe-Joe that I'd be eager to try that doesn't incorporate any chocolate? Unless there's some other type out there from over the years...anyways...

Strawberries and lemonade, a classic pairing. Sweet and tangy, it's a flavor combo that screams summer. Granted, that's usually in a tall icy glass, but here it's the classic sandwich crème cookie form. And not surprisingly, it works well.


Off the bat, the most prevalent flavor by far is the strawberry creme. It's rich and sugary and sweet, just like a good creme for a cookie should be. There could be a little more actual strawberry to it IMHO, but what's there works well. The "lemonade" is all from the cookies. At first bite, it's not all that present and is more overwhelmed by the strawberry, but about midway through first bite is when it begins to really kick in and offer more balance. The end result is a tasty, tangy, sweet little offering of a a delicios drink, but in familiar, comfortable cookie form. Deeeelish. 

No real complaints, except I want to eat more than just two of them, to just enjoy a little bit more of that final taste combo. My lovely bride and I plan to hide the box out of sight and reach from our little never-ending wild pack of little munchers who'd surely ravage the entire box if given the chance...that sounds cruel of us to do. We'll enjoy that, or just grab them another pack for the $2.99 next time we go. 

Summer fun in cookie form. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Strawberry Lemonade Joe-Joe's: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Trader Joe's Pinks & Whites Dark Chocolate Bar

To the tune of Michael Jackson's Black or White: 

I gave my baby a big chocolate bar
It came from TJ's
I drove there in my car

And I do believe in miracles
Even though one didn't happen tonight

(heee)

But if you're thinkin' bout' my candy
It don't matter if it's pink or white

They put my review in the Saturday Sun
I wrote my thoughts down, yeah, but it wasn't fun

And it's only an opinion
It's not like one is wrong or one's right

But if you're thinkin' 'bout my candy
Well I don't like this one pink or white

(uh hee hee)


And I think the clerk agreed with me
when this checkout gimmick entered his sight

He said, "The thing about this candy
is it ain't great, it's just pink and white"

It's pinks, it's whites
It's tough to say it's a good buy
Yeah, yeah, yeah

It's pinks, it's whites
It's tough to say it's a great thing
Yeah, yeah, yeah

That's all I got. I didn't write all the lyrics for that segue in the middle of the song where Macaulay Culkin raps on the stoop in the hood. If anybody feels inspired, please drop a few lines in the comments.

It's a very run-of-the-mill 54% dark chocolate base. There's shortbread and sprinkles fused onto the surface of the bar. It's very pretty and springy. I'll give it that.

That's about the longest ingredients list I've ever seen on a Trader Joe's brand product. $2.99 for the 3 oz bar. I believe it has already been discontinued. This is one I won't be heartbroken over.

Two and a half stars from me for Trader Joe's Pinks & Whites Dark Chocolate Bar. Three and a half from Sonia, who seems oddly impressed with the bites that include a lot of cookie.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Trader Joe's Guajillo Salsa

In almost 1,750 posts, the only other time the word "guajillo" was ever mentioned on this blog was during a review of chili flavored chocolates. I'm not really familiar with this particular breed of chili pepper, but the beautiful wifey is. She grew up with it. Her mom, in particular, would seek out the actual peppers themselves at markets in Southern California and eat them with her meals.

In the same way that chipotle peppers are the ripened, dried form of jalapeños, guajillos are the dried form of mirasol chilis. With significantly lower scoville heat units associated with them than, say, ghost chili peppers, they still pack a significant kick and deliver a lot of flavor in every bite. This salsa is no exception.

While Sonia can to some degree vouch for its authentic flavor, I can only give you my raw, uncensored—and admittedly uneducated—opinion. It's got an earthy, smoky flavor. It's rich and dark, both in appearance and flavor. There's almost something lightly fruity about it, too. It's easy to see how this flavor blended so well with chocolate. Plus, the medium heat level is just about perfect for Sonia and me.


Texture-wise, there's a smooth base with a moderate amount of chunks. Pretty sure most of the chunks are tomatoes. Still, they give the salsa a welcome heartiness and thickness.

I think this salsa shines brightest when mixed into Mexican or Tex-Mex dishes. It's adequate for a simple "chips and salsa" snack, but there's something about the flavor that enhances the taste of everything around it. It goes especially well with beans. We made turkey tacos with black beans, sour cream, and this salsa, and they were amazing.


While this isn't the first salsa I'd turn to for a stand-alone snack, I must admit it's great for adding flavor to Latin cuisine. Sonia loves it in every application, including just "chips and salsa." $2.79 for the 12oz jar. Perfect five stars from the beautiful wifey. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Trader Joe's Papadums

Ever kinda bite your tongue and try to hold back because you know whatever you have to say is gonna be unpopular but you kinda have to say it anyways.

That's where I am when it comes to Trader Joe's Papadums, with one key exception: I'm biting my fingers, not tongue, cuz I have to type this all out instead of just saying it, hoping it goes unnoticed. 

I......do not like the TJ's papadums. Not at all. 

This is completely contrary to every other opinion I've seen on them online. I kinda get it. The idea behind them is wonderful. From what I can tell, papadums are a traditional Indian snack, with some variation, but a lot are crispy, crunchy, crackery chiplike guys made from lentils and chickpeas. Texturally, they're a lot like sweet potato tortilla chips. So far, so good. Flavorwise, there's not much except the natural lentil and chickpea flavor, with a small dash of cumin and salt. Again, we're off to a good start here...

...it's just...

...there's something about the taste. Upfront there's no offensive or wrong, but after a crisp or two, the flavor "turns." I don't know how else to describe it, but it changes from a pleasant earthy crispy crisp to something I can only liken to dirt. Just...gross dirt. Like dried up, bottom of the soccer cleat kinda stuff. No, I don't actually know what that tastes like. But it's just so off-putting.

I tried, really, I did. I ate multiple papadums in multiple sittings, just to see if it was my mood or something else. Nope. Each bite was worse. Can't take them any more. 

Now, sure, I'm sure some of you will say you had to try them with a dip. I'm sure that'd cover up some of their unpleasantness. But to me, for a product to be good, it has to stand independent from anything else, and not be reliant on something else to make up for what it lacks. That's not where I am here with these.

I don't know, maybe this papa is dumb for not liking the papadums. Everyone else does, including my lovely bride, so that means more for you all I suppose. Enjoy for me, I'm gonna be sitting these out from here on out. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Papadums: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons
 

Monday, May 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Organic Poppy Seed Dressing

I want to throw this question out there for our readers: is canola oil healthy or not? I mean, I don't know. I don't have a horse in this race. I know at least one or two of our readers have expressed concerns over it in the past, stating that they would not purchase any products containing canola oil. Well, it's the first​ ingredient in this product.

I know there are other controversial substances that I do have an opinion about: high fructose corn syrup, for example. My sensitive system tells me that stuff is a no go. I can have a small amount once in a while and not suffer any major consequences, but regular fountain sodas are absolutely off-limits for me these days.

My body seems to be fine with canola oil, but that doesn't mean there aren't some kind of long term consequences going on behind the scenes. I found a number of "alternative" sites claiming that canola oil can cause everything from inflammation to cancer. On the other hand, it seems like all of the "official" state-sponsored, Ministry of Truth-approved sources say that canola oil is just hunky-dory—organizations like Mayo Clinic and Harvard University. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.


Normally, that alone would make me automatically suspicious of the substance in question, but since my body isn't sensitive to it...I just don't know. So if you, our readers, have an opinion about canola oil one way or the other, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. That said, let's look at this poppyseed dressing.

It's surprisingly sweet. It's a tad tangy. If I were trying it in a blind taste test, I might think it was a honey mustard dressing of some kind. You can see, feel, and taste the poppy seeds. They add some texture and nuttiness to the equation. The mouthfeel here is medium-thin, smooth, with a relatively low viscosity. It coats nicely.


It worked well with our kale and cabbage salad. I think Sonia liked it a little more than I did. $3.69 for 12oz. Organic. Don't consume before taking a drug test. We're on the fence about a repeat purchase. Four stars from Sonia, three from me for Trader Joe's Organic Poppy Seed Dressing.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup


 Let's see....great, interesting stories of some time in my life where kimchi and tofu came through for me when nothing else could? Some fond memory, me as a young boy, kimchi in one hand, tofu in another? Anything really relevant in my life with kichi and tofu?

Well...I've tried making kimchi once or twice when I went through a fermenting craze two years ago....and my lovely bride has taught my meatarian self to enjoy a little tofu every once in a while....well, that's about it for me, so nah. 

But put the two of them together in a product like Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup, and I'll be intrigued enough to buy for a $4 lunch pickup. 


There's not a lot I can say here. In some ways, it was a bit of a letdown. First, the tofu was way too soft for my taste. If I'm going to have it, I need it to be firm. I'm really not sure how well tofu is supposed to hold up to being cooked, then frozen and reheated, but I was hoping for better than the soft crumbly mess we had here. The bite wasn't enjoyable. Secondly (and I may be completely in the wrong here) everything seemed more kimchi-flavored than actual kimchi. Sure, there's plenty of gochujang spice, and some complex notes of garlic and spice, which all in all is pretty tasty, but there wasn't much in the way of cabbage and everything else. What was there was pretty soft and uninspired. The spice could've been a little more vibrant too.Instead most of the bite and texture came from an abundance of black rice.


The soup itself wasn't overly bad, but was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I'm used to the few small batches I made of kimchi and that being how I like it. Kinda like pierogi or pizza even - it's getting hard for me to enjoy getting those from other sources, unless truly magnificent, because in my own mind I make them perfectly darn well, at least according to my taste. I realize that's pretty selfish/arrogant and probably inaccurate, but I know how to make things the way I like them. I'm pretty sure if so inspired I could make a better tofu and kimchi dish than this TJ's soup, but I'd love to get an "authentic" one from somewhere. 

Eh well. Sandy wouldn't touch this - she just wasn't in the mood the day I heated up some for lunch. So all me. I'll be nice and double three's it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda Cheese

Okay. Time for some real cheese. Vegans and lactose-intolerants, thanks for tuning in today, but you may want to sit this one out.

Where's a good place to start? The label, maybe? Note that it says "caramel washed" rather than caramel-infused or caramel-flavored. In fact, there's not a ton of caramel taste here, much to my chagrin. I mean, there's almost something innately caramel-esque in other gouda cheeses I've had, and this variety doesn't seem to be head-and-shoulders more caramelly, if that makes sense. There's still just a whisper of caramel.

The cheese is nutty and creamy, and perhaps a bit bolder than other goudas I've tried by virtue of this one having "aged 5 months." It's rich and ever so slightly sweet. Yes, I do wish it were a tad sweeter.

Although just now as I'm writing this, Sonia has used the remaining portions of our block of gouda to make grilled cheese...and it tastes sweeter than I remember. It actually makes a very decent, exotic-tasting sandwich. I much prefer it this way to room temperature, served on crackers. It's almost like the heat woke up the flavors, including the sweetness. The texture is better this way, too.

Sonia points out that it's not as oily as other goudas, which is a big plus in her book. It's nice and thick and creamy, texture-wise, but not super greasy. She gives this cheese a solid four and a definite thumbs up. I might have been tempted to go lower, but after having it as a grilled cheese sandwich, I think it's easily in the "would purchase again" tier of cheeses, so I'll go with a respectable three and a half. Apparently Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda has been around for at least seven years or so. "Better late than never" applies here.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies

Generally when consuming Cheetos, the less digits you can get involved in the whole matter, the better. All that orange dust caking on everywhere? Ugh. It's even worse with the kids. 

Well, skip the kids and make sure to at least prop the pinkie, here comes Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies. They fancy!

Sort of, anyways. I cracked open the bag and nearly gagged at first smell. Trapped up truffles can do that, I guess. Just smelled...musty and kinda stank. I don't know how else to describe it, and the first bite or two tasted like dirty feet to me. 

So yeah, not off to a good start.

Fortunately, I persisted, and by maybe the fourth bite, the real flavor of these new crunchers too effect. Instead of unnaturally glowing orange cheddar, these corn snacks are dusted with a mix of parmesan and black truffle pepper. While initially off-putting, the flavor grew on me with each passing bite. It's a little delicate and mild, with still a funky bite. I've never been able to get a truly good grasp on truffle flavor, mostly because I need to take a quick drink after or my mouth gets all itchy, but it's got that umami-licious funk that for those who enjoy it, they probably will here. 

Texturally, if you come into this expecting something akin to a Cheeto, that's what you got. There's only so many ways to conjure up corn meal and veggie oil, I guess. From the crunch I can't quite discern if they're baked or fried, but I'd presume baked given the overall lack of general greasiness. Could be wrong, won't be the last time here for sure. 

Overall, I'd give these a solid not bad. I can't see my kids liking them, though I've been proven wrong over and over with them, so that's a hearty who knows. Same with my lovely bride. I'm not 100% sure I'd rebuy them, mostly because of my mild truffle allergy and that I'm reasonably sure no one else here would eat them, but I can recognize them a little bit for what they are - a solid, not bad, slightly different, somewhat fancy spin on an old standby classic

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons