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Monday, January 27, 2020

Trader Joe's Vanilla Flavored Baton Wafer Cookies

When I was a kid growing up in the 80's, for some strange reason my friends and I thought smoking was cool. We weren't the type of kids to actually go behind our parents' backs, obtain cigarettes, and really start smoking, so we used our imaginations. Candy cigarettes were readily available at the local convenience store, so we'd often ride our bikes there and pick up a pack or two. 

For those of you unfamiliar with the product, they were sticks of mostly flavorless sugary candy with bright red or orange tips and some powdered sugar at the end. If you'd blow hard enough on the other end, a little puff of white would float off the tip, thus simulating the smoke emanating from a genuine Marlboro or what have you. Stupid, I know. But we thought we were very cool with these counterfeit cancer sticks. In lieu of candy cigarettes, we'd use pretzel sticks, French fries, or even baby carrots as make-believe stogies.

I've been old enough to smoke since the summer of '97, and yet I've still never smoked a real cigarette. I'll have a cheap cigar here and there, and I've tried hookah numerous times, but the whole emphysema thing doesn't really appeal to me, so I generally steer clear of tobacco products. And yet, for some silly reason, I can't stop myself from imagining these batons are somehow oversized cigarettes or skinny white cigars. I'm probably walking a thin line between child-like and child-ish when I, at 40, pretend to smoke these baton wafer cookies, but if that's the worst crime I'm guilty of, my 2022 run for Congress is still within reach.


In addition to making great kid-friendly "cigarettes," these batons are pretty snackable, too. There's a nice, crispy, wafery quality about the cylindrical shells, and the flavor is moderately sweet and distinctly vanilla. I really enjoy the "vanilla flavored cream" filling in the middle. It's not too thick, not too sugary, but it tastes like actual cream. Each stick is the perfect size for a between meal snack, and as the cover art would suggest, they'd go great with some vanilla ice cream as a dessert. They're pretty good for dunking in coffee or hot chocolate as well.

I'm not sure if this flavor was available back when the coffee cocoa and petite cocoa varieties were reviewed on this blog, but I'm pretty sure these are my favorite so far. Sonia liked them even more than she liked the coffee ones. She said they reminded her of those popular flat vanilla creme wafer cookies. She grew up on those and thinks the taste of these is very similar but even better quality overall. I think the flavor of these vanilla ones is much more pleasant and appealing than either of the other baton wafer cookie flavors we've tried. 

$1.99 for the container. Four and a half stars from Sonia for Trader Joe's Vanilla Flavored Baton Wafer Cookies. I'll give 'em the thumbs up, too, but maybe with a little less enthusiasm. Three and a half stars from me. The fearless flyer website shows them as "archived," but they were definitely available just yesterday, January 26, 2020, in a Minneapolis area Trader Joe's.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Uncured Pastrami

Some years ago, on a whim on some post on here that I can't seem to find right now, I referred to myself as a "meatatarian." Obviously it's a dumb word, and normally such an offhand statement would be shortly lodged in the memory and forgotten, much like the balance on the last ATM withdrawal. But it kinda stuck, I think a person or two called me out on the stupidity of the word, saying I should have used other more commonly accepted and appreciated nomenclature like "carnivore" because apparently the wide expanse of the English language has only enough room to allot one word for one's affinity and/or love and/or fondness and/or general pleasantry towards and/or preference and/or infatuation and/or passion and/or craving and/or enthusiasm and/or fancy and/or favor for meat.

I digress. I still love me some meat. And for Christmas I got a shirt that has a sectioned-up hog with the word "MEATARIAN" proudly displayed up top. It's a word now, haters. I may have lost any royalty-rights battles but I won the war.

One such way I show my love: on occasion, for any easy, tasty, just for me lunch, I'll get something like Trader Joe's Uncured Pastrami and just have me a go with it for lunch. Especially at work. No one there judges me, especially not the dude who eats Spaghetti-O's straight from the can unheated. Ugh.

Is TJ's pastrami the best pastrami in the world? Hard no. I'm quite partial to my dad's homesmoked, and have had some out at various smokehouses. I'd love to smoke my own but have been too intimidated as of yet - this shall change once weather warms, I hope.

But it's there, easily accessible, reasonably priced at $4.99 for a half poind of thin sliced goodness, and when there;s an itch that only a few cuts of pastrami can scratch, it'll do for sure.

Smoky, a little garlic, a little peppery...all the goodness, all the usual spices. It's pretty much a textbook pastrami. I mean, what else can be said? The goodness of the beef shines thru and is well accentuated by the spices and prep, and it's so easily and convenient to pick up. If it weren't any good, it'd be shuffled out of the TJ's rotation by now, right? Can't argue with that logic.

Be like me and eat straight up. Or put on a sammy with a little mustard if you will, or sneak into an almost Reuben. Still gotta go corned beef for that but life it short and it's close enough.

 P is for pastrami and this one's good enough for me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Uncured Pastrami: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Toasted Coconut Granola Bark

I feel bad. I really do. 

Apparently the past three products I've reviewed, like the antipasto vegetables, have already been discontinued at Trader Joe's. In fact, they were discontinued at the time I posted the reviews. Furthermore, all three of them had already been discontinued at the time we purchased them. They were just part of that leftover batch that hangs out on shelves for a month or two after TJ's gives them the axe. If you ask the friendly employees, they'll kindly check the computer to see which products are going the way of the dodo, but I certainly never think to do that. When I'm shopping Trader Joe's these days, it's usually a rapid deployment-rapid extraction type of operation. 

I mean, I get it. They need to make room for newfangled stuff like this. But it's getting to the point that you'll never know what you can find in the store. Or if they'll discontinue your favorite product while you're not paying attention. Just ask reader Bruce W. about his Black Toad Dark Ale. It's almost like a game shopping at Trader Joe's. You've gotta admit, they keep it interesting.


This new product is like the long-awaited sequel to the pumpkin spice version, released in 2017 and only available seasonally, of course. This one has coconut chips replacing pepitas and pumpkin spice and still contains rolled oats, dark chocolate, and maple syrup. I believe its predecessor came in random shards while this one comes in uniform snackalicious rectangles, which I prefer.

Flavor-wise, you can taste the coconut more than I expected, since it only represents a small percentage of the surface area of the bark bites. If you hate coconut, you ain't gonna like these, by my reckoning. Sonia was pleased that they didn't go crazy with the chocolate coating. It's thin and it's only on one side of the bark. Of course, I would have preferred a milk chocolate coating to push it ever so slightly in a desserty direction. The overall taste is slightly sweet, nutty, filling, and pretty well balanced.

Down sides: crumbs. I hate crumbs. Kinda silly. There are crumbs in life. I guess that's why we have dogs—although Alfred and Sadie aren't particularly diligent when it comes to their vacuum cleaning duties these days. Also, dogs shouldn't have chocolate.


I digress. Sonia liked this bark just slightly more than I did, and we'll continue our streak of thumbs up-ish reviews. Granola + chocolate + coconut. Kinda like a cereal but in a bar form. $3.99, organic, gluten-free, kosher. Sonia gives Trader Joe's Organic Toasted Coconut Granola Bark 4 out of 5 stars. I give it 3.5.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.