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Showing posts with label beverages. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beverages. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter Beer

I was beginning to think this stuff didn't exist. I mean, sure, the internet is full of hundreds of pictures, reviews, and opinions about it, but every time the beautiful wifey or I tried to procure some at our friendly neighborhood TJ's store, it "wasn't in stock" or it "wasn't in season." It seemed like a cruel trick being perpetrated by Trader Joe's corporate offices, the friendly clerks at each and every location we stopped at, and even the online food and beverage reviewing community.

Either they finally all agreed that the joke was wearing thin and decided to brew the stuff for real just to gaslight me further or we finally just got lucky and wound up at the right place at the right time to get some. I'm not sure which. Occam's razor would suggest the latter case is true rather than the former, but reductionalistic logic has its weaknesses too, you know. I digress.

I love cookie butter and all its many wonderful derivative products. I also love beer. How could I not love cookie butter beer? Pumpkin ales have their place, but there's something autumnal about speculoos spices that seem equally appropriate for this time of year, and I think I'd lean toward something like this over virtually any pumpkin ale or even Oktoberfest beer I've ever had. This is much sweeter and more dessert-ish than any typical ale, so the comparison is really apples and oranges, but nevertheless—this is my new favorite fall beer. I consumed it this past weekend while watching my Nittany Lions beat the Auburn Tigers for the second year in a row, and I enjoyed every sip of it.

The can mentions vanilla beans and toasted coconut. Vanilla is there, yes. Coconut? Hmm. Well, I'm not saying they didn't use coconut flavors. But I don't think cookie butter tastes like coconut and I can only taste coconut in this beer if I really use my imagination. There's a good bit of cookie butter spice flavor, namely cinnamon and nutmeg. Overall, it's a light, smooth taste that's refreshing and satisfying. It's definitely a beer, though, in both texture and flavor. It's not like an alcoholic milkshake or a super sugary liqueur.

The can says to pour it into a stemmed beer glass. That's technically a red wine glass in the pic, but it's got a large round bowl and I think it opened up the flavor of the beer nicely. Also it looks fancy.

At 9.5% ABV, it's on the stiffer end of beers. I think I've had wines with lower alcohol content. It's $15 for four 16 oz cans. Apparently this is the first iteration of the beverage in aluminum cans. It's been available exclusively as a $6 glass pint bottle for the past two years or so. Definitely not the cheapest brew at Trader Joe's, but worthy of a purchase or two in our opinions. Four stars a piece from Sonia and me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit


Seems there was a brief moment in time that boba or bubble tea was all the rage, somewhat nestled between my college and not quite married years. Before she would come to be known as such, my lovely bride and I would occasionally go grab one after her work somewhere near the Carnegie Mellon campus. Pretty sure there was a place on Craig Street, probably still is, but it always seemed packed full of college kids happily slurping away on these kinda oddball milky tea drinks with these goofy balls of whatever in them. Whatever, I kinda liked 'em too. 

Must still be a semi-popular thing, as now if the mood hits for a boba, we don't have to deal with a bunch of runty AirPod-wearing jaywalkers half our age. Naw. We just need to hit up our freezer, with the new Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit. 

It's a weird concoction of sorts. Inside the boz there's four indicidual pouches, each with some flavor mix and those famous tapioca pearls, as well as an appropriately sized paper straw. Nuke the pearls and stuff for a minute, add some ice and milk, and voila, it's a boba tea, all right in the home, no real skill or even effort involved. 

That being said, it ain't the best.

For me, maybe it's just the flavor choice. I love brown sugar and all, but when mixed with the milk it just tastes like leftover cereal milk. Which is still kinda delicious, not gonna lie there. But then when paired with the tapioca balls, it must be a mental trick or something as I swear the boba tastes a little molasses-y. That and the pearls aren't as firm, and instead are somewhat rubbery and sticky. It's kinda close to the real deal, and does an admirable job for a freezer DIY concoction, but it still seems a little too nopticeably off.

Maybe that's just me. Sandy loved it. It was late at night when we finally made one to sample. She took one sip and asked if we really had to share. yes, dear, please. After two or three, i had my fill. Just not quite right, or maybe I've left all my crazy boba days behind me as I've just hit 40. Kinda makes me happy to see Sandy enjoy it then, maybe this'll be something all for her. 

Oh well. Maybe a different flavor, something kinda fruity, would've hit me different. Brown sugar just didnt do it for me this time. I'll be nice and toss out a few spoons for it, whereas my lovely bride will ring it up as perfection. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Boba Kit: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, August 22, 2022

Trader Joe's Decaf French Roast Instant Coffee

During high school, I had a paper route at a large retirement home in my town. Many of the newspaper clients resided in the assisted living and mental health wards of this grandiose, upscale "old folks' home." I remember one lady in particular who'd ask me for something each and every time I'd deliver her paper. "Coffee!" she'd say. "Bring me coffee."

Some days I'd try to explain that I only delivered newspapers, other times, I'd just smile and place the paper on her nightstand. Still, without fail, she'd ask me for coffee six days a week for nearly three years. It was at once comical and a little sad, but also, perhaps, profound in a way. This was a woman who had likely lived through both world wars, the Great Depression, the advent of the telephone, television, and automobiles, and at the end of her long and ostensibly eventful life, she found herself in a tiny room in a retirement community pining for one thing and one thing only:

Coffee—the second most-traded commodity on earth and a staple in so many people's daily routines. It's something you don't ever want to be without. And say what you will about instant coffee, but it's more shelf-stable than ground coffee. It can last for decades if stored properly. It might not be a coffee connoisseur's top pick, but if other forms of coffee become scarce or overly expensive, a bunch of instant is way better than nothing.

Likewise, say what you will about decaf. There's still a small amount of caffeine in decaf, and it might actually be a decent way to slowly wean yourself off of caffeine addiction...I mean, if one were so inclined to do something crazy like that.

At 3.5 oz this product is hardly a long term supply of instant decaf, but it's worth a try in our opinions. I'm no coffee expert, but I honestly don't think I'd be able to tell this beverage from fresh-brewed. It's dark and rich, flavor-wise, and it doesn't take much of the mix to make a potent cup. I'm not sure what's so French about it, but again, I'm not exactly an aficionado.

Five bucks for the container. I'm sure it's not everybody's cup of tea—er, coffee—but if they bring it back again next year, we might pick up another one. Three and a half stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 12, 2022

Espada Pequeña Mezcal

Like my wife's extended family, mezcal is from the Mexican state of Oaxaca. I haven't been there yet, but it's on my bucket list for sure. Shortly after we married, some of Sonia's cousins gifted me a bottle of authentic mezcal straight from southern Mexico, as well as a milky, creamy beverage made with mezcal. Imagine Bailey's Irish Cream but with mezcal instead of Irish whiskey. Yeah, I wasn't a fan of the creamy stuff, but the straight liquor quickly grew on me.

At first, it felt and tasted very harsh—like tequila but much more intensely smoky. It burned. It almost tasted like it had been set on fire. Over time, though, I got over the intensity and learned to appreciate the complexity of the flavor. There's a subtle earthy bitterness with an even subtler sweetness underneath it. I wish I'd made a note of the name of the brand, but alas, it's been 12 years or so and I no longer remember.

Since that first bottle from Mexico, Sonia and I have tried a few brands we found here in the States. They just weren't the same. There was always smokiness there, but instead of faint agave flavors, they all tasted more like gasoline—harsh burning for the sake of harsh burning.

Like tequila, mezcal is made from the agave plant, although there are apparently dozens of varieties of agave, and certain ones are more commonly used for tequila and others are cultivated specifically for mezcal. In this case, it's made from a plant known as Espadin.

Since that first bottle of mezcal from my cousins-in-law, this is hands down the best version I've tried. It's not as smoky as that first bottle, but there's still a charred essence floating above all those complex planty, tequila-esque flavors. This bottle, too, is from the state of Oaxaca, and yes it is Trader Joe's in-store brand just like Josephsbrau is their own unique brand name for beer.

I prefer it straight, but it does go with certain beverages like ginger beer or hibiscus tea. Thanks also to reader Heather for that great tip about mezcal and sparkling pineapple juice together.

About $21 for the fifth. Two thumbs up and four stars a piece for Espada Pequeña Mezcal Artesanal. Would buy again.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Trader Joe's Sparkling Pineapple Juice Beverage

There's a raging debate in both cyberspace and IRL over whether pineapple should ever be put on pizza. The proponents of pineapple pizza will routinely cite the Hawaiian as a viable topping combo. The opposition will state that they find such a pie offensive. I myself have become a big fan of the Pizza Ranch Sweet Chili Pizza, which contains pineapple among its many ingredients. I've received credible threats of violence over my support of pineapple on pizza. Who's right? Which side are you on? Will pineapple pizza haters ever find common ground with their unconventional counterparts? The controversy never ends.

Fortunately, I've never met anybody that would challenge pineapple juice as a legitimate ingredient in a delicious, sweet, refreshing summer beverage. How could anyone be against it? Pineapple juice and sparkling water? Yes, please. The sweetness of pineapple tempered by cool, refreshing bubbly water? The only way one could possibly screw this up is if it's way too sweet—or less likely, if it's not sweet enough.

Luckily it's just about as sweet as you'd want it to be. If anything, it errs on the side of not-too-sweet. They list pineapple juice above water on the ingredients list, but my taste buds might have assumed otherwise. might just be me...but I swear I taste a hint of fermentation in our batch. I'd blame it on the ridiculous heat, but we've had our box sitting down in our cool basement since we bought it. Sonia does detect it, too, but it's not an overbearing fermented flavor and we'll probably consume the remaining two cans with something fermented anyway...

I'm sure this would mix well with a whole bunch of different types of liquor. I'm thinking coconut rum and this stuff would make a nice cocktail. Vodka would work, too.

Let's see...Product of Vietnam? Maybe Hawaiian pineapples were too pricey for Mr. Joe. About four bucks for four 8.45 oz cans. I'll do three stars on this one. Put Sonia down for three and a half.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade


Let's get one thing right outta the way here. 

We're gonna talk about pureed jalapeños. In a beverage, namely Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade. 

Ho. Lee. Crud. 

Now, c'mon. Jalapeños can carry a little kick, but they're far from the spiciest pepper out there. How many Scovilles are they? Too lazy to look it up, but it's nothing compared to a habanero or Scotch bonnet, much less the infamous Merciless Pepper of Quetzalacatenango. I get that, and I get it completely. 

But man....

Maybe it's because it'sin an otherwise cool, refreshing beverage form. Maybe the lemon and citrus amp up the heat a little, or mango just so happens to be a natural capsaicin amplifier, or maybe I'm turning into more and more of wimp as my 40th birthday creeps ever so closer....

But this stuff is HOT and SPICY. Real kick. No false advertising or faux bravado. Hot dang. 

I was prideful at first and took a big gulp. Big mistake. If my tastebuds were Super Mario, the heat was some pretty big league Thwomps, maybe world six level. It can be navigated, for sure, but you best get yourself prepared. Don't know why or how, but man - just HOT. 

I'm sure you can cut down the heat a bit, by mixing in some fizzy water or some booze even. Tried it that way, and it worked extremely well. 

Aside from the heat, there's plenty of sweet hits from the mango and citrusy sour notes from the lemon to really fill out the flavor in a rather enjoyable way.  There's no pulp or anything, just smooth juice. Want some lemonade with a kick? Here's your shot. 

That being said, the jalapeño limeade from TJ's seems to be a touch more refreshing and palatable. My theory is that limes and jalapeños just kinda go together better than jalapeños and lemons and mangos. Or perhaps it's just a little more familiar.

Anyways, the spicy mango lemonade is worth a pick up if you haven't tried, but consider yourself warned. Can you beat the heat?

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Spicy Mango Lemonade: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, June 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Non-Dairy Oat Creamer

Sonia is the designated coffee drinker in our household. I'll partake of the stuff out of necessity, or just once in a blue moon to change things up a bit. By and large, though, I'm an energy drink guy. 

Despite the wife's affinity for java, she's never really been a "black coffee" girl. She's gotta have her half and half or at least some type of non-dairy substitute. If we wake up in the morning and Sonia discovers we're out of coffee creamer...well, let's just say that's not a good start to the day for our family. As American women go, Sonia's among the least pampered and non-divalike I've ever known, but woe unto you if you used up the half and half the night before and didn't make a late night convenience store run to replace it.

So it's good we had some of this Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Non-Dairy Oat Creamer on hand the last time that happened. Sonia says this version is both sweeter and creamier than any other oat-based creamer she's ever had. She's tried at least three other brands: Califia Farms, Elmhurst, and Coffee Mate Natural Bliss. I'm sure I've tried at least one of those others, but it certainly didn't stand out as super-delicious or life-changing in any way. Sonia says other oat-based creamers seem much more watery than this Trader Joe's selection.

There really is a whisper of actual brown sugar flavor in this creamer. Mostly, it's just sweet, but there is some brown sugar in the ingredients and you can taste it ever so slightly. It's also got that faint nutty oaty wholesomeness that other oat creamers do.

As far as the creaminess is concerned, some extra thickness might be due at least in part to the presence of pea protein and/or the controversial ingredient: sunflower oil. I keep hearing from more and more sources that sunflower oil—and all seed oils in general—are carcinogenic and shouldn't be consumed at all, or at least not in large quantities. If you do an internet search, you'll find plenty of articles about the potential dangers of seed oils, along with dissenting opinions, and there's at least one piece about this product in particular. I'm no food scientist, and Big Seed Oil hasn't sent me any "financial incentives" to promote their products just I'll just leave it at that for now.

We're looking at about two bucks for 16 oz of vegan-friendly creamer. Possibly a repeat purchase for the beautiful wifey. Four stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie

 "Ugh. Enjoy your salad dressing drink."

So sayeth my lovely bride. As if I wasn't already somewhat apprehensive enough about giving Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Cucumber Avocado Smoothie a try, though in retrospect, drinkable salad dressing does sound more appealing than gulpabe guacamole, though maybe only slightly. 

I like healthy things, generally, and using something like a banana as base for a smoothie like this sounds perfectly appealing. But...avocado? That throws off everything. 

Texturewise, it works, even better than expected once realized that cucumber was the base liquid. That took an extra second or two, but cucumbers are like mostly water, right? So it should work, and it does, albeit with definitely a lot of cucumber taste - believe it or not, right? There's enough other stuff to fill out the drink, like mango and spinach, that make the avocado literally blend right in. It's almost not noticeable except as a thickening agent and slight flavor contributor, emphasis on slight.

What IS noticeable is the lime. I mean, holy guacamole. Add a little touch of salt or spice and this would be practically a watery guacamole, with extra lime. It's so limey that the risk of scurvy probably just got kicked ten years down the road. If you don't *love* limes, this won't be for you. It's lime city, baby. There's a whole lime in here, and it tastes more like a whole grove.

There is a little sweetness which I presume would be the cherries, as it's not quite of the mangolicious persuasion. It..kinda works but kinda clashes with the overt citrus overload at the same time. And ginger? Not really there but seems more of an aftertaste, which is too bad as perhaps it'd be the ginger that pulls and keeps everything together.

In all, it's an okay drink. I'll definitely be full for the next couple hours. For what it is, and prices these days, it's not awful at somewhere in the $3 to $4 range. That being said, not sure I'd get it again. Too weird as a drink. Maybe more as a sald dressing would be the right idea. Apparently, according to my wife, there's some chatter elsewhere on the web that using this on chicken is pretty good? Maybe that'd work, I dunno. 

Double threes sounds two high, double two too low, so one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cold Pressed Avocado Smoothie: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Ornaments

Well these look fun. Clearly each pack of hot cocoa mix comes in a plastic ornament you can put on your tree after you empty out the cocoa mix. Wait. What? You put the whole thing in your milk and let it dissolve like hot chocolate bombs? They're too big. They'll never fit.

Fortunately, Sonia has an oversized coffee mug that reads "I'm not a morning person." She's not. It's true. Ah, good. The ornament fits in there. And I'll let you know as an aside: these would have just barely fit into any of our normal size mugs too, however, I'm not sure if there would have been any room left for milk.

So first we nuked a bunch of milk and got it nice and piping hot. Second, we dropped in the ornament. Nearly immediately, the gold coloring from the ornament began to melt off and slide onto the surface of the milk like a metallic oil slick—reminiscent of the One Ring dissipating in the lava flows of Mount Doom, or if you prefer a different nerdtacular film reference: the T1000 destruction sequence at the end of T2 featured some nearly identical shots to what I saw going on in my mug of milk, but with Trader Joe's Hot Cocoa Ornaments maybe making fewer scary faces than the liquid metal terminator.

After about 30 seconds, there were a few puffs of air from the ornament, bubbles from its underside, and an audible "pfft" or two. At one point, the ornament let out a gasp so violent that a bit of scalding hot milk jumped out of the mug and landed on my hand. Ouch. Anybody else? Maybe we should organize a class action lawsuit against TJ's. Just kidding. It's the holidays. And as much as it burned for a second, I don't think I'd be able to prove damages in court.

After a few big bubbly emissions, the ornament capsized and succumbed to the milky recesses of the very large mug. I waited, eagerly anticipating the arrival of fluffy, buoyant mini marshmallows... waited... waited. But they never came. I grabbed a spoon and began stirring, dredging the bottom of the mug for any sign of my missing marshies. All I found were a couple wads of thick semi-melted, syrupy chocolate. What happened? I guess my milk was too hot and the marshmallows dissolved before even floating to the surface..?

The taste is like a very sweet milk chocolate hot chocolate. There's nothing dark about it. Practically no mint flavor at all. It leaves a funny aftertaste, too. Some of you might remember how I feel about pork gelatin. We've got that going on here too. Nothing like a bit of pork in your Christmas cocoa.

$6.99 for four ornaments. They really do look and feel like real plastic Christmas tree ornaments. Unfortunately, neither Sonia nor I were blown away by any other aspects of the product. Would not buy again. We'll be a little grinchy and throw out only two and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Trader Joe's Ginger Bread Cream Liqueur

Of course I love my kids. And I love holiday cookies. Heck, I even kinda love baking holiday cookies, but...

You ever try to make batch after batch after batch of holiday cookies with small kids clamoring to being 'helpful" each step, with limited space and tools,, what, with turn taking and problem solving and different abilities (sure, the nine year old knows how to crack an egg or accurately measure flour, but the three year old? Lololololol), with diminishing interest, the mess multiplied, with the only assistance in cleaning up afterwards is when it comes to licking clean the spoons and beaters?

Ay. It's a fun combination.

Want to know another fun combo to toss into all this, to make it all a lot more tolerable?

Grab your coffee mug, pour in a little Trader Joe's Ginger Bread Cream Liqueur, skip any other cream or sugar, and pour your coffee over. You're welcome. 

At only 29 proof, it's not gonna knock you down. Heck, if I were to drink the whole bottle, I think I'd be more buzzed from the sugar than the booze. Not gonna even attempt that though. Way too much dairy...

But anyways, this ginger bread liqueur is remarkably tasty. It's ginger infused vodka mixed with decent quality dairy cream that results in a cool, smooth, milky beverage that actually offers a pretty respectable gingerbread-esque flavor. It's mild yet fullbodied and plenty well balanced in all aspects. No boozy burn at all. It just flows. 

It is a bit too sweet and rich for me to entirely enjoy as a stand-alone drink. That's just me and my usual drinkable dairy aversion more than anything else - the gingerbready booze would make a killer ice cream flavor. Aside from  mixing in coffee, a small glass over ice would likely be an enjoyable after dinner/cookie time treat as well. 

Thanks, Ohio, for having cool laws that made this available in your TJ's stores. Wish we stocked up more. Get on board, Pennsylvania. 

Really good. My lovely bride was in love at first sip. Not gonna lie, we half contemplated playing hooky from all responsibilities just to make another road trip to procure some more. At less than $15 a bottle (I'm thinking $12.99 but I may be wrong) I cannot recommend picking up the TJ's gingerbread liqueur as a little holiday treat any higher if you see it. Tis the season to maybe be a bit generous double fives. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ginger Bread Cream Liqueur: 10 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Trader Joe's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Cream Liqueur


What makes existence possible is a good supply of beverages, right? I'm not talking about just hydration needs...I mean, who drinks a half gallon of high quality H2O daily, right? But for basic enjoyment in life...the what helps you get through or get over your day. Know what I mean?

My usual go-tos: Coffee. lots of coffee. Fizzy water. Regular water. Occasional kombucha. Then at night, a beer or two, or maybe some bourbon. mm, straight up bourbon the rocks. Hits the spot almost every time, and best not to mess around with that too much...

...except, yeah, sometimes a little change-up is needed. Something like Trader Joe's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Cream Liqueur. Saw it at an out-of-state TJ's and had to nab. Rock on, Cleveland.

A few years back I reviewed the regular TJ's KY bourbon, to pretty solid marks. To the best of my tastebud's memories, the bourbon flavor here is very evocative of that same bourbon - basic, not overly amazing or with deep character, but solid in its own right. Of course, in cream liqueur form, there's a cool milky smoothness flowing here as well, with more cream forward and bourbon on a backsided humble burn. Naturally, there's quite a bit of sweetness here - perhaps a touch cloying and almost syrupy sweet at times - but overall, it's a very smooth, balanced beverage that manages to highlight the oaky notes of the bourbon well enough. 

To note: it's only 30 proof, not anywhere close to normal bourbon levels. I'm guessing that's how it slid into an ohio store, as they sell beer and wine but not the real hard stuff. That ABV probably juuuust slides under the permissible in Ohio. Would never see this in a PA TJ's. Thanks Quaker heritage. 

It's tasty. Sipping some straight as is or over ice can make for a cool, rich after dessert drink, or for something not too hardhitting when just a dab will do ya. Probably putting some in a hot cup of coffee would work well, too. Is this gonna be my new favorite drink? Nah. At the end of the day I'd still prfer a regular straight up bourbon, but I can appreciate the bourbon cream for what it is. And yes we may or may not be plotting our next out of state run to TJ's soon enough to restock...

Good price at $13.99 for the 750mLs. Tasty, creamy, fresh, somewhat festive, and boozy. These are all good things. Huzzah! Now drink up.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kentucky Straight Bourbon Cream Liqueur: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, December 10, 2021

Boatswain Hazy IPA


Have you seen this meme? Ugh...I mean, I can't argue, really...but that doesn't mean i like it. At all. 

Sometimes the truth is tough.

Love me a good IPA and I'm always eager to try a new one, especially of the unfiltered/"hazy"/New England style variety. That's my jam. So, I was pretty excited when I spotted a new-to-me can of Boatswain Hazy IPA at an out-of-state TJ's last weekend. Didn't see a full sixpack so i just slid one into a make-your-own sampler...

Thank God.

Ugh. Straight up not good. it's...I don't know...lacking too much. There's no real full body or anything. Instead, it's just like watered-down bitterness that funkifies itself into some sort of ghastly brew. First sip to last, it's straight up not all. I can't even explain how bad it is, it just is.

The can boasts it's supposed to be fragrant and offer notes from mosaic, ella and citra hops. That's uusally a good thing. But the hops used must be last year's or something. It's all...not vibrant and stagnant, and, for lack of a better word, bitter, but not in the good bitter way that an IPA is supposed to be. It's bad bitter. Really bad bitter. 

Managed to drink it all, though I was tempted to pour it all down the sink. 

For what it's worth, I think the can cost a nice price of 69 cents. So, well, there's that. But if you see this TJ's exclusive branded Boatswain Hazy IPA, spend the extra buck or two and get yourself a local or regional brew instead. You'll be much happier.

Bottom line: Boatswain Hazy IPA: 1 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, November 29, 2021

Trader Joe's Sugar Plum Sparkling Beverage

Plum just isn't a part of daily life for most people. It does come up each year during the Christmas season once or twice. I guess they put it in Christmas pies..? There's that nursery rhyme everybody knows. I think it goes something like this:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Drinking his sparkling beverage
It had real plum
So he thought he'd gift some
To his boss for maximum leverage.

Or maybe not. Some people might not even like this stuff. In which case, the rhyme might be more along the lines of:

Little Jack Horner
Sat in a corner
Sippin' on sparkly plum drink
It wasn't that sweet
He thought it tasted like feet
So he spat what was left down the sink.

Or for those who like to get festive with adult beverages:

Big Jack Flair
Sat in a chair
Chugging his Christmas bevvy
He poured in some rum
To mix with his plum
And said, "Man I can't drive my Chevy."

That's right folks. Drink responsibly if you do decide to add something stiff to this sparkling beverage. I'm not even sure what would go with it, honestly. I think it's pretty decent as it is. I immediately thought of cranberry while tasting it for the first time. Sonia thought of raspberry. Now that I think about it, raspberry might be a better comparison. It's not quite as intensely tart as either cranberry or raspberry. It's subtler than that. Just a hint of sour tang and it's also pleasantly sweet, bubbly, and refreshing.

It's festive and Christmassy because it's presented well, and since plum is such a rare ingredient in our food and beverages, it just makes this product seem even more distinguished. This year, it was sort of our toast to the kickoff of the Christmas season. We'd buy again next year and save for Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Three and a half stars from me, four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Trader Joe's Maple Espresso Black Tea Blend

It's getting to be that time of year when chugging ice cold beverages all the time simply isn't practical. I'll still pound those 8 oz of Red Bull first thing in the morning, but if I go outside for any significant amount of time during these colder months, I'll start to crave something hot.

I'm not really a coffee guy, so tea is the obvious alternative. Wait a minute. Isn't espresso a type of coffee? 30 seconds of research indicates it's actually a brewing method. Don't get me wrong, I have had espressos before, but I would have just described them as "coffees that are fancier than regular coffees with also maybe some froth." Shows how much I know.

As soon as you open up the box, you can smell something mapley. It's a nice rich fragrance. On its own, it doesn't really taste as good as it smells, however. The maple flavor is barely there and the tea packs far less punch than Earl Grey or English Breakfast or any of the other black tea blends I'm familiar with. Doubling up on the tea bags helped intensify the flavor.

The mellowness of the flavor does allow it to be mixed with milk and sweetener for a decent latte type beverage. It's much tastier that way, and the beautiful wifey agrees. I liked adding milk and maple syrup to my makeshift latte for a little extra mapliciousness, while Sonia experimented with numerous additives including half and half, almond milk as well as syrup, sugar, and stevia, but finally settled on honey as her sweetener of choice.

Despite containing the ingredient "espresso coffee" I don't think it tastes much like espresso or any other kind of coffee either, with or without fixins. Nevertheless, $2.69 for 20 cups of warm, mapley caffeination isn't a bad value. Sonia would definitely purchase again.

Four stars from Sonia. Three from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage


Let's all go back to middle school real quick for a dab of eight grade grammar.

Homonyms: words pronounced the same, with different meanings, whether spelled the same or not. Like "to bear arms" versus "two bear arms." Peace and piece. Band and banned. So on and so forth.

The concept is relevant here with Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage. See, there's the word "punch", and it's presence and prominence, along with he possibly redundant word "beverage" afterwards, led me to believe that this particular potable would pack a potent pomegranate punch. Pomegranates seeds are delicious! That sour/sweet, kinda tart taste, in a cool canned convenient form? Yes please!

Sadly, thats not really really the case. Sure, it kinda tastes like pomegranate, but just as much if not more like the other mixed in flavors - pineapple, apple, orange, even ginger. Really, the pomegranate doesn't pack a's instead part of a punch. 

Tasty? Sure. My lovely bride made the offhand comment that it tasted like Hawaiian Punch but quickly backtracked the statement - it's got a similarish vibe, sure, but not nearly as sickly sweet. It's a little classier, with a little fizz of course, but there's not the sour or tart notes I'd be hoping for to reel in the sweetness even further. So it's good but not pomegranate-y enough.

The four pack of mini cans set us back about $4. Not an mazing value but not a ripoff either. I'd file this as a possible rebuy, as we do enjoy variety in or beverage rotation here, but I'm squarely in the middle to a little disappointed here, as is my lovely bride. Let's call it double twos. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Pomegranate Punch Beverage: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee

Coffee demands honesty, so let's just get right to it:

Is there any truthful way I can persuade you that Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee is, somehow, miraculously, an an actual legitimately good coffee option that'd make you want to either skip the drive thru, walk by the neighborhood shop or stash away your Mason jars and clear that shelf in your fridge?


It's not great coffee, by any stretch. To complicate things, it's not like there's an actual, tried and true recipe for success here. It's: grab a spoon, throw a scoopful-ish into 12oz of cold water, stir, sip. Too weak? Add more coffee. Too strong? Add more water. Sip. Repeat as necessary. I mean, sure, that's a way to do things, but when I'm tired and in a rush that necessitates resorting to instant friggerin' coffee, I have neither the time no the mental facilities to go full out Bill Nye and experiment my way into something resembling a passable cuppa joe. And pardon me for assuming, but that's likely a statement we'd share. Reliable, decent coffee is what we want and demand, and while there's probably a way to figure out how to make one with this particular cannister of powder, is it really worth the effort? 

I will give it this, though. I am somewhat of a cold brew snob. Why add to these hot, humid summer by swallowing down a steaming cup of coffee? Ugh. Many cold brews I have tasted, whether from a shop, a chain, or a prepackaged type deal, have had this unnecessarily bittersweet bite. Some even taste like tin. Yuck. The TJ's instant cold brew possesses none of that. It's just plain ol' boring coffee, kinda earthy and flat. But not flat earthy cuz that's just weird.  It lacks much of any description and is neither bold nor weak, neither sweet nor overly bitter, neither here nor there. I mean, it's not like that great cup of nitro cold brew from the neighborhood coffee shop, but it's not dirt and water either. It's just coffee, admittedly closer to Sanka than Starbucks, but still. Doctoring it up with cream and sweeteners may help if you're into that kinda thing. I'm not, so your mileage may vary. 

I'll keep it stashed away at my work desk, because if there's a true affront to coffee here, it's the work pot. Yikes. Need a change up every once in a while and this, not entirely unfortunately, will have to do. My lovely bride isn't going to bother with it and I don't blame her. I'll be nice and not completely trash the coffee - I mean, it is instant coffee, it's not like those Arabica beans chose this destiny for themselves, I'm not gonna hate on their existence, and at the end they still give me caffeine. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Instant Cold Brew Coffee: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons


Monday, August 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Lemonade

Few things are as refreshing as lemonade on a hot summer day, especially after a strenuous activity like mowing the lawn. You wipe the sweat off your brow, walk into the air conditioning, and fire up the kettle to boil a nice piping hot cup of lemonade, or in this case, sparkling lemonade.

Oh, but wait... This particular product is subtly recommending that you consume it cold. Isn't that odd? The box plainly reads "Best Enjoyed CHILLED." Remove one of the slim cans from outer packaging and it too reads "Best Enjoyed CHILLED." Glance at the spiel on the reverse side of the can, and there's another line reminding consumers to "Keep it cold..." Even the website says "We recommend serving Trader Joe's Sparkling Lemonade ice cold..."

Does this stuff spontaneously combust if you heat it up like a normal mug of summer time lemonade? If consumed at room temperature, will it cause internal hemorrhaging or something like that?

Alright, alright. Fine, I'll take the advice of the experts and put these in the fridge for a while. Maybe I'll even throw in an ice cube or two. It's apparently vitally important that this product remain absolutely frigid.

And you know what, it's not bad that way. It's almost as if I've been drinking lemonade wrong all these years. Cold lemonade. You heard it here first, folks. Way better than hot lemonade, even with marshmallows on top.

Okay, I'll tone down the sarcasm for the rest of this post. Promise. With only three ingredients, it's not hard to imagine what this product tastes like. There's carbonated water, sugar, and concentrated lemon juice. It errs on the side of "not too sweet" at least compared to most other lemonade beverages I've tried.

It's mildly tart and lemony, as you'd expect. It tastes very natural. The carbonation is a nice touch. I wouldn't have minded it with a tad more of the sweet and tart elements. The flavor's not particularly intense. It's more in the direction of "light and refreshing," which isn't a bad thing at all.

I think it was $3.99 for four cans. Might be a repeat purchase. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water

 On a hot summer day, what's better for refreshment than an ice cold slice of watermelon?

Not much...except maybe a tall cool glass of lemonade. 

Or, for you Bobby Boucher Jr-inspired purists out there, just some simple sips of water will do. 

Let's make everyone happy and combine 'em all into Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water. Ahhhhh. 

My beautiful bride and I are slamming thru a lot of "fizzy water" as of late. I mean, it's hot. So we're gonna be guzzling case after case, because let's face it. Regular water, while refreshing, gets kinda old after a while. 

In the overarching order of different flavors and brands tried as of late, this TJ's offering falls squarely in the middle. We're getting to be connoisseurs, apparently.

The big issue really is the flavor. While not tinny, harsh and abrasive as some, the flavor just doesn't stick out enough. Not really. There's certainly a mildly sweet hit of watermelon that comes and goes, with a small secondary surge of something kinda like lemon...kinda. It took several sips and "warming up" of the beverage to really taste anything like lemon, and then, it's not really that close to be lemonade. And the watermelon part, while definitely suggestive of watermelon, just isn't quite enough to stand all on its own. 

And I can almost hear it: "how much flavor can you expect out of sparkling water?" Go try a key lime from La Croix. You tell me. 

All that being said, the carbonation is pleasant and on point - not too much, not too little, just right. It adds a nice little something-something for a little extra fulfillment out of a drink, and hits one of soda's satisfaction points without really any of the pop pitfalls. 

An eight can case is less than $3 and will keep ya going for a few days, so there's that. I'm sure we'll buy this again in our never ending rotation. Double threes. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Watermelon Lemonade Water: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Organic Sparkling Ginger + Lemon Apple Cider Vinegar Beverage

Sonia got me into the habit of drinking a bit of Bragg's apple cider vinegar each day. You know, the kind with "your mother." Or maybe it's "the mother," but I prefer to say it incorrectly on purpose because I like to keep it comedic like that. Anyway, I must admit, I feel better when I have it than when I don't. There's a definite cleansing effect, and I feel more energized and balanced, and I'm pretty sure it helps keep my system alkalized.

The only problem with ACV? The taste. It's awful. Sonia likes to mix hers with a full glass of water and slowly sip on the concoction for the better part of a half hour, puckering a couple dozen times and wincing repeatedly, dragging out the displeasure as long as possible. I simply pound my shot of ACV in one giant gulp and chase it with a can of sparkling water. I might squeal like a whiny child for a few moments, but I do my best to get it over with as quickly as possible. You might have guessed it already, but I'm definitely a "rip the band-aid off" kinda guy, and the wifey is a "pull it off slowly" kinda gal.

So obviously, my apprehension about this product is that it's basically mimicking Sonia's method of drinking ACV. It'll be less disgusting than drinking actual ACV, but that doesn't mean it won't know, kinda disgusting. Now, I'd never consider ACV a beverage. It's more of a homeopathic medicine if you ask me. So something like this should at least be drinkable and palatable if they're going to put the word "beverage" on it. Otherwise, I'd more heavily factor into the equation the health benefits of such a product. 

The very similar Apple Cider Drinking Vinegar reviewed by the Shelly fam looked more medicinal by virtue of it coming in a glass bottle, rather than a slender pop-top aluminum can. That one looked more like Trader Joe's Drinkable Snake Oil. This one looks just like a Trader Joe's brand Red Bull, or one of those fruity sparkling beverages that comes in a four pack from TJ's. 

I must admit, it masks the intense sourness of the apple cider vinegar pretty well. The ginger and lemon combo is a great choice. Ginger adds a wave of rooty spice that covers up the underlying medicinal flavors, and the lemon adds a more pleasant sourness than that of ACV. Both the ginger spice and lemon sourness are bordering on "too intense" if you ask me, but neither crosses the line. There's apple juice in there, too, to balance everything out with a little sweetness. Also, carbonation always makes beverages more fun for some reason. This wouldn't be nearly as enjoyable if it were flat.

$1.69 for the can. It's probably not something I'd buy to chug alongside my lunch or anything like that, but considering it packs a full tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, we were both surprised with its agreeable taste. Three and a half stars from me. Four and a half stars from the beautiful Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Trader Joe's Golden Vale Irish Cream Liqueur

Ah, Irish cream. I can remember the first time I tried it. I couldn't tell you the exact date for sure, but I want to say it was right around St. Patrick's Day, probably in the late winter/early spring of 2001. Two of my PSU flatmates and I traveled to a local state store in Centre County, PA to grab a bottle of Bailey's. Since we were all on a college budget, we split the cost three ways and spent the remainder of the evening sitting around in our living room, sipping on the smooth, sweet liqueur on ice. We measured each glass ounce by ounce, making sure none of us got too much more than the others. To us, that stuff was pure gold.

Speaking of gold, I had to look up "Golden Vale." Apparently, it's a region in southwestern Ireland. I'd love to visit someday. Those rolling hills and green pastures look so peaceful and placid. And hey, they apparently make some Irish cream there. Also, I wonder what St. Paddy's Day is like in Ireland...

See there I spelled it "St. Paddy's Day." I got yelled at by some proud Irish folk for calling it "St. Patty's Day" a few years back. They insisted that "Patty" with "t's" is always a girl's name, and that the version with "d's" is the boy's version, signifying Padraig. If that's the case, then why not call it Saint Padraig's Day even here in America? It's more authentic that way, right? I'm all about authenticity.

And on that note, it's time to point out that this Irish cream liqueur is, in fact, from Ireland. I like buying American when it's practical, but there are some goods that should be imported. This is one of them. I've had other brands of Irish cream liqueur from the good ol' USA before, and they fall decidedly shy of Bailey's and this offering from Trader Joe's. Another advantage of this version: it's one of the cheapest offerings I've seen, significantly less pricey than its name-brand counterpart—this one's $10.99 for the 750ml bottle. Bailey's is often $25 and up for the same size.

The taste? Exceptionally smooth and creamy. It's similar to other Irish cream liqueurs, but this one's a bit more in the direction of caramel. It looks and tastes just ever so slightly more "golden" than other Irish creams. It's still sweet, and there's a milky flavor to it, and the 17% ABV gives it a hint of an alcoholic harshness, but that caramel undertone makes it unique and very tasty. Sonia and I both agree it's just a tad better than Bailey's.

There's only about a week left until St. Padraig's Day. What will you be drinking? I don't know if I've ever seen Guinness at Trader Joe's, but I'd whip up some Irish car bombs if there's any of this Irish cream left over next week. I suppose a TJ's brand stout would do.

Four and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.