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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Coffee

In the past, Trader Joe's has demonstrated an uncanny knack for nailing all things gingerbread-ish. Case in point: the cookie butter. It's not really gingerbread, but it is "reminiscent of gingerbread." Also, the gluten-free ginger snaps, the lemon triple ginger snap ice cream, and the pfeffernusse are all TJ's gingerbread (or at least gingerbread-esque) classics.

I believe this is the first gingerbread beverage I've ever had. It's quite drinkable. Not chuggable, in my opinion, but very drinkable.

I guess I should mention, in case you're a new reader, that I'm not a coffee person. I have the palate of a semi-sophisticated and relatively adventurous 12-year-old. And I like my beverages to taste like candy. So for caffeine, I drink energy drinks. Yes, they're bad for you...however, I've only been drinking ones without high fructose corn syrup, and have been feeling much better since cutting that out of my diet. But that's neither here nor there. My point is that recently, I've been attempting to plunge head-on into adulthood and become addicted to coffee instead of energy drinks.

It's a difficult transition for me—even with coffees that taste as delicious and unique as this one. I put a fair amount of sugar and milk in it when I drink it, though most coffee drinkers might put in less. But I guess gingerbread is intrinsically dessert-like in a way, so the presence of milk and sugar might be a welcome additive even for coffee purists who would only drink this stuff on special occasions and holidays.

This coffee has a mild cinnamon taste, but there really are hints of gingerbread in it, too. It's not a harsh or bold taste at all. This product strikes me as a gentle winter morning wake-me-up beverage. It's nice. Kind of a peaceful flavor, if that makes sense. Sonia likes it, too. She doesn't think there's anything particularly wintery about it, though. She hopes to ration her canister and enjoy this coffee well into the spring...which, apparently, is coming next week. Philadelphia isn't supposed to be in the 50's in the middle of January.

Sonia gives it 4 stars. I give it 3.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Pie Bites

So, my last review was really negative. And the one before that was pretty negative, too. I was beginning to feel like Scrooge. Granted, the most recent review wasn't really even food. And the Shrimp Bao nonsense wasn't even close to December holiday food. But this stuff could arguably be the perfect Christmas party hors d'oeuvre. It's just similar enough to pumpkin pie that I can pretty much just go ahead and make the sweeping generalization that if you like pumpkin pie, you'll like these tasty little morsels. Plus, they're topped with candied pecans. There's something decidedly Christmasy about certain candied nuts. Walnuts, almonds, and pecans would top my list of Christmasy nuts (but only when candied). And maybe macadamias, if you play that Don Ho song "Mele Kalikimaka" while you eat them.

But anyway, these little fellas can quickly be heated in the oven. 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Ours came out awesome. They were crispy and crunchy around the crust and nuts, and they were smooth and soft in the filling department. They're like little miniature pumpkin pie desserts. So much so, that we grabbed the whipped cream and topped them with little tufts of the confection. Delicioso. Seriously, we downed the entire box in a matter of minutes, just Sonia and me.

I'm just happy that I broke my little streak of Scrooge-like Bah Humbug-ness. Tasty little bites. Hmmm, what else should I tell you about them? Buy them. I'm gonna go ahead and give them a 4.5. I'm feeling happy right now. Serve them at a party with some high-quality eggnog and maybe some Christmas cookies and other finger foods.

Sonia was just as enthused with them as I was. She absolutely loved their taste. She thought that they weren't too sugary...just naturally sweet. She liked their texture, too. Nice and flakey. She's gonna go with a 4.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Trader Joe's 24 Chocolate Days 'til Christmas

Busted. This isn't really a food item. Well, part of it is. Chocolate. Well, really, if you've tried this product, you'd know that the "chocolate" involved here isn't really even food.

The chocolate in this advent calendar is quite probably the most revolting chocolate I've ever ingested during my 33 Christmases. (I'm 32 years old, but you have to count the one Christmas I lived through before I was a year old). And, yes, if by some strange chance I had worse chocolate at 6 months of age in December of 1979, I would have remembered it. In fact, I would have been so scarred by the incident, that I would have written off chocolate for the rest of my life and been one of those rare souls that dislikes chocolate for reasons they can't fully explain.

The chocolate in this advent calendar tastes like a combination of plastic and cardboard, with an emphasis on the cardboard...with an extra dose of the weird glue that holds the particles of board together as a solid substance. The graphics on each window are fairly cute and well-designed, but really, they have nothing to do with Christmas at all. Not secular Santa-style Christmas. Not the true Jesus-inspired Christian Christmas. There's a baseball on there, for crying out loud. This might as well be a countdown to Labor Day.

Granted, there are other versions of Trader Joe's Advent Calendars, but I'm reviewing this one...which very well could be four years old or so. The chocolate tastes like it's at least that old...which reminds me of the time my grade school friend and I handed out 5 year old chocolate at Halloween. It was white. And I don't mean it was white chocolate. I mean it was traditional brown milk chocolate that was so old that it was turning back into sugar. We gave it to a group of cheerleaders that went to our high school. They returned a couple hours later and threw the half-eaten candies at us. It was hysterical. It was worth it.

It seems that karma has seen to it that I am now the brunt of such a joke—a cruel joke perpetrated by my old friend TJ. Good one, buddy. This stuff tastes like butt, and you tricked me into paying you for it. With other advent calendars, we would generally fight each other over who gets to eat the chocolate, but with this top-shelf quality product, my wife and I bicker about who has to eat the chocolate each day.

TJ's could have at least thrown us a bone and put Bible verses with the Christmas story behind each window, or maybe individual lines to The Night Before Christmas. But no. Everything is just blank. The chocolate isn't even good for you...not even a little bit. All things considered, I'd rather be eating carob.

And I hate carob. Well, except for Sunspire Unsweetened Carob Chips. Those are yummerific.

I give this stuff a 1. Way to go, Santa Joe. I'm'a have the fire going Christmas Eve, buddy. Don't try to enter through the chimney. Sonia gives it a 2. I don't feel bad. Call me Scrooge. Merry freakin' Christmas, TJ's. 24 Revolting Chocolate Days 'til I Puke My Face Off.

Bottom line: 3 out of 10.