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Monday, April 22, 2013

Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte

Loyalty. Listening. Attention to detail. A cursory Google search mentions all these qualities as the difference between being merely good, and being great. I can see these when talking about people and their roles and whatnot, but for certain things and inanimate objects, I'll confess I really don't know what the difference is. Like cigars, for example. I know the difference between a bad gas station cigar and a moderate to good one. That's pretty plain to sense. It all depends if you can tell the difference between cardoard and actual tobacco. But the difference between a good cigar and a great cigar? No idea. I know what I like, and that's about it. My choice of adult beverages usually falls in this category as well.

As does tiramisu. Now, I've had tiramisu plenty of times. I'd wager that I've had some not-so-good, some average-to-good, and some absolutely fabulous tiramisu. I haven't too many that look like the ones on the tiramisu Wikipedia page, which I'm sure would fit in the "absofreakydeliciosomazing" category.

So where does Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte fall on the spectrum? Well, you can probably figure from my intro where this is going. This particular adaptation certainly purports itself to be fancy. The package proudly proclaims "Handcrafted in Italy" and they slapped Giotto's name on it, after all. It's yet another frozen dessert to thaw out for a few hours in the fridge before consumption. When it came time to slice it up, well, the picture above tells the basic story. There's the thin layer of espresso sponge cake at the bottom, with a thick layer of mascarpone and a solid dusting of cocoa powder on top. The mini choco-bits that float around amidst the mascarpone aren't terribly noticeable, but that's okay as there's plenty enough flavor and richness abounding. There's not too much that I can say about it that differentiates it from most other tiramisu - everything tastes just about right. It's the usual rich, creamy, semi-decadent fare that my tastebuds have come to expect over the years. It does seem to have more cocoa powder than most, which I'll consider a plus. Other than that, there's not a whole lot to say.

It's $6.99 for the whole shebang, which isn't too pricey for this type of deal.  If we were to purchase a slice or two at a restaurant (whch would probably cost like 5 buck each), and this were on our plate, I think both Sandy and I would be reasonably happy. Actually, Sandy liked hers quite a bit. "Ooo, you'll hate this. You shouldn't even bother eating your slice," she said in her usual tone that means "I want your piece, boy." Then, when I dared mention that it was merely "decent" as my first opinion she shook her head, rolled her eyes and I think even growled a little. "You don't like anything, do you?" Well, enough that I went for seconds, based mostly on the fact that the label says a serving is 1/7th of the torte (how you cut something like this into sevenths, I have no clue) and I had only about 1/8th. Sandy gives it a four, while I'll go a smidge lower.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Tiramisu Torte: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Trader Joe's 6 Chocolate & 6 Vanilla Coconut Macaroons

Yeesh. It's been one of those weeks. Maybe you can relate. Baby M's been up pretty much all night every night screaming unless she's been held. I guess I'd be the same way if I had a passing tummy bug while (probably) teething and a much-worse-than-usual diaper rash. For a recent three night stretch, I got a total of maybe about 7 hours of sleep, which I'd complain more about except that's more than my poor wife, who also doesn't have the luxury of sitting in a cubicle sipping coffee for a living like I do. Combine that with this being the week that we're beginning to get serious about getting ready to put our little house on the market, so there's a whole list of things to do and stuff to buy from Home Depot. I get lost in there, which only adds to the time. That and work and family in town (great to see you, Aunt Alice et al!) and yeah...I guess we shouldn't be too terribly surprised that Sandy and I forgot we even had these from a shopping trip a couple weeks back, until we decided we needed some sugary motivation for yet another late-night-baby's-maybe-sleeping cleaning rampage. Most normal weeks, we'd be all over these.

So, Trader Joe's 6 Chocolate and 6 Vanilla Coconut Macaroons. No, there's neither six types of chocolate nor six types of vanilla contained in each macaroon. That'd be a record. The macaroons are another one of TJ's frozen sit-and-thaw dessert types which have a little bit of mixed success with us, and honestly, I'm not up on my macaroon maintenance methods and whatnot, so I'm not sure why they're frozen to begin with. Seems to me they'd be shelf-stable enough. Anyways, as a concoction requiring thaw time, the macaroons are finally fit for consumption after forty minutes of sweating it out at room temp. Fortunately, that gave us a set deadline for fiddling with our bedroom laundry again. That part's the worst.

So, finally it was time to scarf them down. And yeah, we did. But to be honest, we weren't too impressed by them. As a helpful guide, the nutrition label states a serving of these consists of one chocolate and one vanilla macaroon....have mercy if you ate two of one flavor, apparently. So that's we each had. I liked the chocolate one a little bit better - they're not exactly straight-up dark chocolate, but the flavor tilts more that way than milk chocolate, for sure. Maybe it was the novelty of probably my first-ever chocolate macaroon. Conversely, Sandy enjoyed the vanilla a little more, which pretty much taste like, well, vanilla. Naturally, each had plenty of shredded coconut, and probably too much sugar, and were fairly soft and texturally pleasing, if still a little chilly. They're certainly rich enough that I was pretty satisfied with stopping at two.  


Sandy and I "playfight" as we call it. We rarely argue, but if there's a point we want to be made to one another, we usually get a little sarcastic, make fun of each other, say whatever it is, make more fun of each other, and usually laugh along the way and work it out. That was kinda our night while cleaning our room (adding in gently throwing a Beanie Baby platypus at each other), so it wasn't surprising that before I had a chance to ask my lovely wife her score, she looked at me and started doing her "Russ impersonation" - namely, making a stupid looking face, lowering her voice and mumbling something. It's surprisingly accurate. In her Russ-voice while making her Russ-face, she mumbled something like "Oh they're okay I guess, they're not bad. I've had better...uhhh...maybe I didn't really like them....uhh, maybe I did...uhhhh, since you know all about macaroons and (stuff), what did you think?" She settled on a 3.5 for them, adding that she likes the plain ones with maraschino cherries you can find at most grocery stores better than these. I'm not swayed one way or the other by them, so right down the middle for me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's 6 Chocolate & 6 Vanilla Coconut Macaroons: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trader Joe's Banana Chips

As Sonia tore into the bag and began crunching voraciously on these banana chips, she exclaimed "Oh my gosh, these are so good! They're amazing!"

Puzzled at her uncharacteristic enthusiasm, I replied coolly, "They're pretty much like any other banana chips I've ever had."

"Well, I've never had banana chips before. These are brand new to me," she explained.

How someone—a self-proclaimed banana fan nonetheless—can go for 34 years in this country without having a single banana chip, I'm not quite sure. But that's the thing with marriage. Years into the journey, you're still discovering new things about your spouse that surprise you. Admittedly, the surprises tend to have less impact the longer you go—you get the big surprises out of the way in year 1. "You've never had banana chips before?!" carried fewer long-term implications and prompted a much more civilized discussion than "You've got how much credit card debt!?!?" did.

But as usual, I digress. Let's get back to the banana chips. As I implied above, I've had them many times before. Mostly in trail mixes. I'm not a particularly big fan of them by themselves, although they're pretty good just dipped in peanut butter. They're a close relative of Trader Joe's slightly-more-exotic Plantain Chips.

And just in case you're wondering, the ingredients list didn't get cut off in that pic on the right. That's it. That's the whole thing. And that's what we like to see. 4 ingredients total. No hydrogenated oils like the ones I used to eat as a kid.

By the end of the bag, Sonia's enthusiasm for the banana chips waned. I'm pretty sure her initial score would have been a 5. But she downgraded that to a respectable 4. I'm really not a huge fan of banana chips like I said, but considering the simplicity of their ingredients, their convenience, and their snackability, I can't go lower than 3.5.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.