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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Trader Joe's Coconut Water Fruit Floes


An apartment in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania isn't supposed to be ninety-five degrees in May. And yet, thanks to Climate Change, a broken air conditioner, and living on the top floor of a six-story building, here we are—my wife and I, basking in our underpants on the day after Memorial Day (God bless those who paid the ultimate price for our country) sweating our butts off, crowding next to our brand new tall, skinny fan (didn't fans used to be round?) and wishing it were January again, pining for some relief from the heat.

Thank goodness for Trader Joe's. In the past, we've reviewed a few other fruit floes, discussed the meaning of the term "floe" and sang the praises of TJ's other frozen delights. Today, it's all about the coconut.

These frozen treats taste like Goya's Coconut Cream. Which, if you're familiar with it, is the nectar of the gods. A fattening nectar of the gods, to be sure, but absolutely worthy of the term. And if you're like me, you're fine eating the coconut cream plain, straight out of the can. But most people would consider that weird, desperate, and /or socially unacceptable. I consider it delicious.

And now, thanks to the wonders of hippie, underground, independent grocery store magic, that same taste can be found in a widely-acceptable bar/floe thingy. It tastes like real coconut. It has real coconut in it. It's not totally bad for you. It's highly refreshing when you're on the verge of heat-stroke (as I am right now).

Probably mostly due to the excessive heat and delirium that comes with it, Sonia gives it a 4.5 star rating. I'll go ahead with a 4 star rating, because it's such a beautiful balance of coconut-milkiness and coconut-wateriness. Trader Joe's Coconut Water Fruit Floes are magical coldness in a world of red hot death and sixth-story "hot-air-rises" in a "science sucks when applied to reality" kind of way. I love you. It's too hot here. It's only May. Abandon all hope, ye who plan to be alive in July '12. Eat lots of these.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Trader Joe's S'mashing S'mores

Hope y'all had a good Memorial Day Weekend! Obviously, there's some deeper meanings to the holiday, but probably like a lot of you, I was flat out busy doing stuff around the house for the bulk of the weekend. How busy? Well, let's just say that if such a thing as a human male nesting instinct is ever discovered, I might be considered Patient Zero for it. It's a just a few more weeks before our kiddo arrives, so it was clean the oven, stain and assemble the baby furniture, do this and that and this and...you get the point. I spent entirely too much time (and too many dollars) at Home Depot. I'm just glad I had the chance for some quality time with the wifey, a couple cookouts with friends and family, and also, finally, got the grill working again in time for some tasty grilled mahi mahi the other night. All in all, I can't really complain about the weekend, especially since I also have today (Tuesday) off, and plan to mainly kick back and relax.

Anyways, maybe some of you went camping this weekend. I'm not jealous of you either. I got my camping fix out of the way a few weekends ago with my dad and brothers. Plus, as we all know, one of the best parts of camping is making s'mores, and if I wanted to get a reasonable facsimile of a s'more, all I had to do was run over to Trader Joe's, pick up a carton of his S'mashing S'mores, and stick them in the microwave...

Yeah, okay, I'm a little jealous, and all that mularkey about nuking a S'mashing S'more was definitely an overstatement. There's always something about a pre-fab s'more-related product that just doesn't hold up against the real thing. These were no exception, except I can't quite place my finger on it. My best guess would be the marshmallowy part - I've never been a fan of marshmallow fluff or Mallo-Cups as they've tasted "too fake" to me. I kinda feel that way about the mallowy parts of these guys, and they definitely lack the toasted taste the every good s'more needs. I guess the marshmallow's okay but just not quite good enough. The chocolate's good, and the graham cracker part is decent, and I like how both parts are layered in there. As a whole, I certainly don't mind eating them, but they just don't cut it fully for me. And microwaving them, as the package suggests? For me, that basically just made another small mess to clean up and improved them only marginally.

Sandy, though? She loves them! I had to tell her on more than one occasion that the s'more bites were not an acceptable breakfast alternative. These turned out to be one TJ treat that she undoubtedly ate more of than I did, which is kinda rare. Sandy gives them a good solid thumbs up with a "3.5 to 4" Golden Spoon rating, only saying she wished there were more of them. As for me, well, if they make her happy, I'll continue to buy them and sneak a couple here and there, but all in all, I'm not nearly as enthused. I kinda wish I liked them more, as they're something that I should devour, but as is I'm sticking with a 2, maybe a 2.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's S'mashing S'mores: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds

Last summer, I posited the question of what a truly American food might be. Looking back, I wonder how I could have overlooked the obvious answer: peanut butter! Granted, my international travel experience barely challenges Sarah Palin's, but I've never seen peanut butter anywhere else. Going to Peru with about 40 fellow college students back in the day, we literally packed an entire suitcase or two full of big ol' Sam's Club PB jars to last us for the week. You don't get much more American than that. Even in the remote mountain villages of Mexico I can guarantee there'll be at least two or three shops where you can buy glass-bottle sugary Coca-Cola for barely a few pesos (I know because been there, done that), but never saw PB in even a large Mexico City groceria. When Sandy and I were in Portugal for our honeymoon, there'd be a wide assortment of Nutella-esque spreads but no peanut butter anywhere to be seen. And I've been to my fair share of ethnic groceries, and never once seen Polish, Italian or Chinese peanut butter. I kinda wonder why the US has the market cornered on peanut butter, but honestly I don't mind. It's kinda like a good secret we're in on that no one else is, and as long as I can get my fix, I'm good.

So, yeah, like pretty much any good redblooded American, I love me my PB. I've kinda evolved with it over the years, though. As a young ginger kiddo, Jif or Skippy or whatever was just fine. Not so much anymore. I mean, not that those brands are horrible, but peanut butter is capable of so, so much more than those.

Like Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds, for example. It's such a simple product, with literally three ingredients - valencia peanuts, flaxseeds, and sea salt. That's all there is, folks. It's so basic it reminds me somewhat of the grind-your-own PB you can do at some health food stores/co-ops. But man, what a combo it is. Each bite is full of roasted flavor from the nuts, and there's some little bits and pieces here and there for a little crunch action. The flaxseeds and sea salt do their job, too, though they can be a little heavy without a good stir beforehand. Texturally, it's a marvel of sorts: it's crispy, and no, not in that "crispy PB in a candy bar" kinda way. Those flaxseeds in there, aside from helping me hit homeruns like Barry Bonds, are all roasted and toasted and cannot help but be all crispied up, in every bite. Yet the main peanut portion is that deliciously stubborn kinda goop that sticks everywhere it can on the roof of your mouth. I cannot think of a single wrong thing to say, and I would use this in anything I'd put peanut butter in.

This isn't Sandy's kinda thing, though. She still likes the aforementioned basic brands enough to not move on from them. That's okay, we all got our hang-ups and guilty pleasures. For me, I have an unnatural affinity for anything resembling a fastfood breakfast sandwich, which I'd be getting much more often if I didn't smash together a PB sandwich almost every morning for the drive in. Anyways, she's giving it a pass. More for me, so I win. Like I said, I can't think of anything I'd change, but I'm not giving it a perfect score. I don't want to make too much of a habit of unilaterally granting something Pantheon-level status, and the one time I did, the product in question was promptly discontinued, so I'm not gonna tempt the powers-that-be in the deep, dark world of TJ's here. Let's just "say" I'll give it a nine, but, well, interpret as you will.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Valencia Peanut Butter with Roasted Flaxseeds: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons