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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trader Joe's Mexican Style Roasted Corn with Cotija Cheese

The spiel on the back of the bag here claims this dish is inspired by elote, a style of Mexican corn often sold by street vendors. Every time I've seen it sold on the street, it's been on the cob. I had my first ear of elote some eight years ago when I lived in Southern California. Delicioso. There are definitely some similarities here and maybe a few differences. Let's take a look.

First of all, each kernel of corn is pristine: whole, plump, robust. They're far more perfect than anything I've witnessed on the streets of L.A. It is kinda fun to eat corn straight from the cob, but you can scoop the niblets into your mouth at least twice as fast with this Trader Joe's offering, provided you have a big enough fork and spry enough food-shoveling hand. And the kernels are all in various states of roastedness—some are deeply charred and black, some are yellow and barely scorched at all...but most are somewhere in between, not unlike traditional elote.

With the TJ's Mexican corn, there seems to be a lot more oil and sauce. With traditional elote, you might have butter, chili powder, hot sauce, lime, and a few other seasonings. The overall flavor is very similar, but I prefer the texture of the traditional seasonings to the unusual dissolving pellets of sauce that come with this product. I didn't dislike them by any means, but I'd still prefer to administer my own personalized amount of seasoning from the shaker(s) of my choice.

But by far the most disappointing aspect of this product is the exceptionally tiny packet of cotija cheese. It provides a delightful zip to the dish, but there's simply not enough of it to go around. I immediately found myself zeroing in on the clumps of corn that had the most cotija within them and quickly depleted my dish of the coveted cheese while more than half of my corn remained. The corn isn't terrible by itself. The sauce/seasoning alone makes the dish enjoyable, but the mixture isn't nearly as memorable without the cotija cheese. In my humble opinion, at least twice as much cheese is required here.

Sonia likes the corn and says it reminds her of her childhood, but she insists the sauce isn't spicy or flavorful enough. She agrees that more cheese is needed, as well.

Three and a half stars from this gringo. A meager three from a Mexican-American woman that grew up eating elote on a regular basis.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pizza Crust

At this point, I think we all gotta admit it: The world's most versatile vegetable is cauliflower.

Who woulda thunk it?

Sure, some others deserve credit/honorable mention. Like, say, carrots, especially in light of their incredible noodle impersonation. Never saw that coming. Zucchini can do a similar trick, too, of course, and is tasty in all sorts of preparations.

But cauliflower? Maybe because it's otherwise so bland and nondescript, it's too easy to adapt into healthier versions of a lot of stuff. Cauilflower rice is a good thing, as is stuff like kung pao nuggets...

...but now pizza crusts? You can do that? That seals it right there. Please see Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pizza Crust. Took me a minute to comprehend it myself.

Advantages: gluten-free, if that's a concern you have. Less carbs. More fiber. When covered in toppings of your choice, the inherent caulifloweriness of the flavor kinda fades to the background and makes an almost believable bona fide pizza crust.

Disadvantage: See picture. Flippety-floppety, soft and bendy.

We followed the "for a crisper crust" prep method on the box by placing the frozen cauli-corn disc directly on the oven rack. To my amazement, it didn't disintegrate and leave a crumbly Superfund-level disaster zone on the oven floor. The thought of scrubbing out scorched pizza remains definitely crossed my mind, but thankfully it did not come to pass. It browned a little, but remained soft and floppy....if this were a regular crust I'd say soft and super-doiughy, but that's not quite right. It did, though, stay intact.

All that being said, both Sandy and I liked it, as did the kids. Both kids didn't believe us that the crust was made of cauliflower, so this might be a way to sneak some extra veggies in your youngin's. We'll probably pick it up again and see if baking the crust by itself first before adding toppings makes it a little crisper to our liking. Cost $3.99, which sounds like a lot until you consider how involved it would be to make your own. Use for pizza or making flatbreads or breadsticks....all without the bread, of course. More power to the cauliflower.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cauliflower Pizza Crust: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, May 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Boatswain Chocolate Stout Bar

Sonia thought this chocolate bar was from Botswana.

It sounds silly, but if you don't read the type carefully, the two words are only a couple letters off, so it's an easy mistake to make. And I mean, how many of us really use "boatswain" in our daily lexicon? Not I, certainly. Indeed, I had to Google it. It's the dude that maintains the equipment on a ship, apparently. What he has to do with stout and/or chocolate, I'm not sure.

Now, I've had chocolate stouts before. But this here's a stout chocolate. And I'm a stout man. And by that, I mean both that my body type is somewhat thick currently, as well as the fact that I do enjoy a good pint of stout or porter from time to time. It's a double entendre. Get it? Funny? No? No you don't get it, or no you don't find it funny? Whatever.

Anyway, on with the review. This chocolate is dark. 70% cacao, as we've seen quite often before at Trader Joe's. It apparently goes well with stout, coconut, black sea salt, and bacon, among other things. And at least in this case, Sonia thinks it's the perfect choice. I always prefer sweeter chocolates. If people aren't scolding me, telling me my chocolate isn't really chocolate, then I probably don't like it that much. Except in this case, there's a vague stout-ness about the product that keeps it interesting—but overall, it's just too dark for my tastes. Yes, I know that stout tends to be bitter as well, but somehow that works for me. I like my beer bitter and my chocolate sugary. But I'm weird like that.

Even the caramel here is dark and slightly bitter. It seems thinner than most caramels, as far as consistency goes. It's comparable to the caramel in the cara cara caramels in that sense. The thinness makes it even more messy, since it wants to run out of the chocolate bar quickly—almost more syrupy than caramelly.

The bar is made of eight big squares of chocolate. It has a very low profile. I want to say it's less than an eighth of an inch thick, but I don't have a ruler on me, so...don't quote me on that. It's thin enough that most bites will dissolve on your tongue in short order.

Sonia loves the flavor and would buy it again, although she claims she doesn't taste much stout here. Four stars from her. I think the way the subtle stout flavor blends with the chocolate is the most unique and noteworthy aspect of this product, but it's just not really my thing when it comes to desserts. Three stars from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.