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Friday, November 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Almond Nog

Sonia's first words after taking a sip of this beverage: "WOW! I definitely like this better than regular egg nog."

If it's not obvious already, I'll go ahead and tell you she's not a true lover of traditional egg nog, while I most definitely am.

My first words after trying this drink: "Hmm. Yeah. I definitely don't like this as much as normal egg nog."

They should have called this Trader Joe's *Almost* Nog. Only two letters' difference. 

Surprisingly though, I didn't hate it—but it's absolutely within the realm of possibility that other egg nog connoisseurs won't even tolerate this almond-based nogoff.

Now I'm fine with almond milk in place of dairy. Flavored almond milk? Sometimes it works in my opinion, and sometimes it doesn't. Sonia and I were similarly divided when it came to last year's pumpkin spice almond beverage, with the wife giving it a solid thumbs up, and me, not so much.

I'm not nearly as enthused about egg nog-flavored things as I am about egg nog itself. Even egg nog ice cream pales in comparison to the real deal in my book.

Here, we have not a true alternative to egg nog, but a beverage that is merely egg nog-flavored. I mean, for vegans, the lactose-intolerant, and people with egg allergies, this must be a dream come true. For the rest of us...meh.


The texture is far too thin to compare with traditional nog. If you look at the picture, you'll see the myriad tiny bubbles that result when you "shake well" as per the instructions on the carton. It's just a tad thicker than water. Flavor-wise, it's distinctly egg noggish, but with a greater level of nuttiness, and less of...pretty much everything else. I think they could have stepped up the spice game a notch here, which would have not only offered a bolder flavor, but perhaps masked what I perceive to be other slight weaknesses in the taste department. Of course, if one were so inclined, he could add his own spices...not to mention other additives of the "spirited" variety that might help cover up said shortcomings of this seasonal potation.

And to those of you who think we're jumping the Christmas season gun by reviewing this overtly Yuletidey product before Thanksgiving, I'll just say this: I associate egg nog not only with Christmas, but also with Thanksgiving. Sure, the whole Christmas thing encroaches on earlier months more and more each year it seems. I mean, we did a bit of Black Friday shopping this year a full two weeks before Black Friday, because now there are "pre-Black Friday sales," which promise great deals with only a fraction of the physical confrontations and full-contact shopping experience. But I digress. What I'm trying to say is that we're trying to give you our opinions now so that you'll be informed before you make those holiday TJ's runs.

Just for kicks and giggles, I compared the nutrition info of this product to a carton of actual egg nog. Yeah. Ordinary nog has nearly four times the calories and six times the fat. So...there's that to consider.

Sonia gives this almond nog four stars. I'm torn between two and a half and three—but I'll go with three for the benefit of those who cannot or will not enjoy actual egg nog this holiday season. It's absolutely worth a try if you're not into milk, eggs, the thick texture of traditional nog, excessive fat and calories, or the joys of seasonal obesity.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Trader Joe's Hasselback Potatoes

Now for something completely exciting...potatoes.

When packing a lunch for school for our kindergartner M, either Sandy or I like to draw her a little note for her to see at lunch time. A little something to make her laugh or think is cute or whatever to let her know we're thinking about her. And by either Sandy or I, I usually mean Sandy, because I can't draw worth a crap. Recently, we've been on a Thanksgiving theme kick, and just so happened that I had to do one for her last week on a particularly busy morning...

I drew her a potato.

I mean, kinda cute one, maybe...or at least recognizable as potato, with haphazard Kawaii style eyes, a smile, with the words MASH ME. M at least said she liked it and smiled when I asked her, but yeah, she was not too excited about her potato.

We're not all that excited about these Trader Joe's Hasselback Potatoes, either.

It's not that it's a bad potato. It's....just a potato. I don't get it. I don't understand what the deal is. Maybe I'm unenlightened and all that...but seriously, these hback taters seem to be nothing more than a spud half-slashed by Wolverine and stuck in a box and frozen. Sure, a little butter and salt, but the outcome tastes not unlike a regular baked potato that you may or may not want to dress up a little more yourself.

Unlike other prepared veggie side dishes, you can't even really make a convenience argument here. Here's how to make your own for a fraction of the cost. That...doesn't really look complicated at all. Granted, these TJ taters take about half the time, so they must be at least partially baked before getting iced over...which reminds me. If you do buy these, bake for a little longer than the instructed 30 minutes. My spuds had some ice-cold nether regions on them still after half an hour. No bueno.

Kids liked them, we liked them...we're partially Irish, of course we're gonna like potatoes. But there's nothing special or cool or Trader Joe's-y or anything about these taters. Not even like a funky/cool spice blend. They're just partially baked/partially sliced potatoes, in a freezer box, and I'll be darned if their existence didn't make me try to think of potato/David Hasselhoff puns for at least half an hour and I can't think of a single one. Do you understand how frustrating that is? There's got to be at least one. Please. Help me.

Not a complete failure, but far from a success. Between all of us here, can't muster any excitement or a higher score. Matching 2s.

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


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Stelle Di Notte

If you "Search This Blog" for the word "cookies," you'll get 10 pages of results. Granted, those results include items like cookie butter, which aren't actual cookies per se—but I still counted in the ballpark of FIFTY types of actual Trader Joe's brand cookies reviewed on this blog. And for those of you who know your Joe, you'll know that we're barely keeping pace with the new cookie varieties as TJ's rolls them out.

That's especially true this time of year. In case you haven't noticed, there's an international conspiracy to make us Americans fatter during the holiday season. 

Even the Italians are in on the action. So they exported these Stelle Di Notte (stars at night) cookies just in time for the season of overeating.

They have a nice cocoa-ish flavor. I thought maybe the stars would function as marshmallows "floating" in the cocoa, but they're basically just there for decoration.

These cookies are crispy, light, and brittle. There's a dryness about them that just begs for a complimentary beverage. I've had them with both cold milk and hot coffee, and they go great with either.


There's absolutely nothing wrong with these chocolatey treats, but there's not much to set them far ahead of the many, many other cookie offerings we've tried from Trader Joe's, either. If you like cocoa-flavored crispy cookies, check these out. They seem somewhat festive, as there's a nice wintry theme going on here, although as far as I can tell, it's not particularly attached to any one religious holiday. If I worked for TJ's marketing department, I might have named them "Trader Joe's Jovial Non-Denominational Winter Cocoa Dunkers" 

...which is probably one of the many reasons why I'll never work for Trader Joe's product marketing department.



Sonia and I give these cookies three and a half "stelle" a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.