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Wednesday, October 23, 2019

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bisque

I've whined enough times about the discontinued tomato bisque. Amy's brand is pretty darn close, so I won't harp on about that in this post. But I will say I'm always on the lookout for a bisque experience on par with that superb—ahem, "soup herb"—tomato version.

This offering comes close in terms of quality and taste, but it's really a whole different animal altogether. It's not like tomato bisque with pumpkin instead of tomato. It is what it is, if you know what I mean. No?

Let me describe it for you. This bisque is smooth. There are no chunks of squash or pumpkin. There are tiny flecks of something—pumpkin puree I assume—but nothing to really add any body or texture. I really don't like perfectly smooth soup unless I have something to dunk into it...or crackers to crumble into it.

The flavor is shockingly sweet—honey sweet. Almost too sweet for my taste. There is a savory aspect to it, and you can definitely taste the squashy pumpkin flavor, but it needs something to balance out its sweetness in my opinion. It's creamy, and there are plenty of secondary herb flavors to keep it interesting: garlic, tahini, and onion to name a few.

Fat content? Oh my. One jar has well over a day's value of fat, saturated fat, and sodium. If this isn't one of your favorite fall items, it might not make your shopping list every time you head to TJ's just because it's on par with an indulgent dessert as far as those stats are concerned. And I should point out that this jar is more like two servings instead of the three they're claiming on the nutrition label.

After trying it by itself, I decided to mix it with some leftover potatoes O'Brien. It worked for me better than the plain bisque did. The taters added some starchiness and firmness to the texture and the flavors blended pretty well, with both elements featuring garlic, onions, and salt. It might seem an odd combo to some, but I'd prefer a potato pumpkin bisque to something totally void of veggie chunks.

Overall, it's good. It's not what I expected. Crazy sweet in my opinion. Sonia liked it a lot more than I did upon first impressions. She was torn between four and a half and four stars, but opted for the latter in the end after she glanced at the nutrition info. It took me quite a while to decide how I feel about it. I was torn between three and three and a half, and I went with the lower of those two since it's just so cloyingly sweet, especially when eaten by itself. But I must admit, it's a unique flavor: sweet pumpkin that's nothing like pumpkin pie or traditional pumpkin spice. I'd say a more fitting name for this product would be "Honey Harvest Bisque." $3.99 for the jar. 

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili

There's nothing quite like making homemade chili. I love it all...chopping veggies, browning the meat, tasting and adding spices while it simmers in a crock pot. It's so relaxing and one of my favorite cold day activities.

Unfortunately I don't make very good chili.

Or so I gather. No one else in my family touches mine. I've put forth a great amount of effort into various chili cook-offs over the years and have always come in last, or close to it. I don't know what anyone else's problem is, it's perfectly good...but it leaves a lot for one guy like me to eat.

Fortunately, when the chili bug hits me, I now have Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili.

Oh, I'll still make my own, no doubt, if for no other reason than spite all you haters. But for a quick, ready to heat, no hours of preparation needed bite, this stuff'll do just fine.

Let's see, what's to like here....pretty much everything. Angus beef is the number one ingredient, so there's plenty of meat here, in small soft pieces. It's not quite ground or's just pieces. And it's delicious. Lots of beans, beans, the magical fruit too to really fill it all out. And it's all a pretty smooth, go down easy blend, without any big chunks of anything. Most of the beans seem to have disintegrated into the final product which is alright by me.

The pepper spice indicator on the side says this is about medium heat. Seems accurate to me. It could be spicier, but I didn't need to add anything to enjoy the chili, either. There's plenty of peppery garlicky tomatoey spicy goodness as is, which blends well with any fixin's like cheddar or cornbread. Heck, one morning last week when it was just me around I hardfried a couple eggs and had this over top. Delish.

Plenty filling. Plenty warming. Plenty good. The tub says it's a two serving container....seems low to me. I could have made this into three or more meals. Good stuff. And at a decently reasonable price (either $3.99 or $4.99) it's a good buy for when I don't need a crockpot of literally my own jamming up the fridge for a couple weeks. It's just me here grading this, so I'll go double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Angus Beef Chili: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, October 18, 2019

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Alfredo Sauce

Ah, there's nothing like the savory flavors of fall...squash, pumpkin, spices. Each year, we enjoy them all season long, from the first chilly autumn evening until well after Thanksgiving. They're delicious by themselves or all mixed together. Throw them all in a white pasta sauce and what do you get?

A disappointing bland paste that'll coat your dinner with sadness.

I'm sorry, but that's just how I feel. Sonia was thoroughly disappointed, too. There's very little in the way of squash flavor here. Simply eating an actual squash is far more flavorful. Absolutely none of the flavors come through the way they should. Parmesan and gruyere cheeses? I mean, parmesan, pumpkin, and squash can all be subtle essences, but, I mean...they're usually not THIS subtle.

This product isn't even that creamy. It's not super thick, it doesn't taste like milk, cream, or cheese. It's just a medium-thin, smooth pasta sauce with minuscule granules of butternut squash throughout. They're too small to be called "pieces." I mean, I know the word "pieces" doesn't really carry a size value innately, but a term like "bits" would seem a little more accurate somehow.

Salt, shallot, parsley, nutmeg, and black pepper should yield something with a little more flavor. We served it with brown rice pasta. We cleared our plates, but it was one of the most unsatisfying pasta dishes we've had in a long time. Not that we'd purchase it again, but if we were ever to try this sauce in the future, it might go with spaghetti squash better than any actual pasta. At least in that case, you'll taste squash.

This product should not be confused with the delightful red autumnal pasta sauce. That one's as surprisingly good as this one is surprisingly not.

On the upside, there's nothing particularly offensive about the taste or texture of this sauce..It's not rancid or gag-worthy. They just need to amplify the flavors a hundred-fold. $4.99 is way too much for this tub, in my humble opinion. Two and a half stars from Sonia. Two from me.

Bottom line: 4.5 out of 10.