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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Brooklyn Babka

Yes, yes...I know. Another mango product review. Believe me, I'm SICK of mango stuff. It's part of the gig - Trader Joe's leads a mango onslaught, it's my job to figure out what's good and worthwhile, and what simply isn't. Way too many products have been middling at best thus far. Seems even the TJ's employees I've talked to, informally, are tired of mango everything.

Well, here's a proclamation: I (Russ), as of the completion of this review, am DONE with any mango-related review from now on until eternity. Pretty much the only exception would be IF (and it's a big part two-part IF) something truly amazeballs would debut, like, say, mango cookie butter, and I drove to South Jersey first, and chloroformed the Rodgers clan to make sure I got to it first. That's...probably not going to happen, Pennsylvania turnpike tolls being what they are.

But I'd be absolutely derelict in my duties if I didn't tell you about Trader Joe's Mango Brooklyn Babka. Hands down, it's our absolute favorite TJ mango concoction we've had yet. And this is coming from a very mango-weary man. It's been multiple-purchase worthy, which for a treat and non-staple, is very, very high praise for our establishment.

It must be said this babka is my only frame of reference for babka - I've led a sheltered life. It's a large, weighty pastry loaf which I'd liken most closely to a danish - it's chewy and layered yet kinda flaky. I guess there's a certain denseness to it, but not as much as what I've heard re: the chocolate babka ("condensed brownie" are the words I recall). No, a slice will practically fall apart along the dough spiral lines, with a sweet, sugary, but not overkill mango puree swirled in, with extra mango flavor coming from the faintly orange dough. A little light mango glaze on top adds just that little extra oomph as well.

A little look at the ingredient list offered a surprising insight that might explain this product's overall success: that "mango puree" I mentioned? It's apples, followed by apricots, and then the mango. It's odd, because it is decidedly mangotastic...maybe the apples offer a suitable base, while the apricots seamlessly boost the flavor...I don't know...but it works. No question about it.

A slice of babka with a cup of coffee makes a nice little morning treat, or skip the coffee for some dessert. I've heard there's ways to grill babka slices (which would be awesome here, I think) or get a scoop of vanilla ice cream to go alongside. Lots of good possibilities here. If even half the mango stuff out there, in its own context, tasted as good as this babka does, there's no doubt that the Summer of Mango would have been a blockbuster.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mango Brooklyn Babka: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Trader Joe's PB&J Bar


Trader Joe's isn't quite as adventurous with peanut butter and jelly as they are with say, oh I don't know, MANGO perhaps. But they have done some interesting things with the classic sandwich combination in the past, including Greek yogurt and chocolate bars. And quite frankly, this is by far the best PB&J product I've tried from TJ's thus far. Plus, it has the added benefit of being gluten free, by virtue of it being made with oats and oat flour instead of typical wheat flour.

Unlike the previously-mentioned PB&J chocolate bar, which featured raspberry jelly, TJ's went with strawberry jelly in this particular snack. I'm not sure what they have against good ol' grape, but strawberry has always been my second-place choice for pairing with peanut butter, and it totally works here. The bars flaunt a very nice balance of peanut butteriness and fruity jelly sweetness, although I wouldn't say they taste like peanut butter and jelly sandwiches precisely. I think using wheat flour and grape jelly might have helped push them in that direction. As they stand, there's a definite breakfast bar/cereal bar vibe about them—but I, for one, would certainly not hold that against them.

There's plenty of sugar in them, but if you're having them for breakfast like I am, it's easy to justify: you've got all day to burn it off. Plus, there's eight grams of whole grain in each serving and the ingredients look relatively natural and healthy to me, but then again, my English and film degrees didn't require a whole lot of food science courses...so when rambling on about the "healthiness" of various ingredients, I should always put forth the following disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. 

But my taste buds don't lie, and furthermore, I have a very sensitive system. And I can confidently state that these bars made me feel happy, energized, and properly-nourished. And yes, they're tasty. Not exactly like a PB&J, but certainly PB&J-inspired.

I give these bars four and a half stars. Four from Sonia, who adds that they're not too sweet and not too dry, although she wishes they made a version with almond butter instead of PB.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce


Do I even have to say it?

Yes, it's 100% mango-free.

Thank God.

Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce has a lot of other things in it, though...namely, bourbon, which adds a nice earthy, smokey, maybe even slightly oaky little flavor flair. It's a little more noticeable in this saucy incarnation, then, say, the apple bourbon barbecue sauce. This particular baste-worthy bastion is also noticeably less sweet and more strongly BBQy than its applicious compadre. The ingredients list pineapple (not all that strong) and caramelized onions (oh yeah) as well as the usual spices that make a strong, layered, yet not overly complex sauce that was welcome to the wide spectrum of flavor palettes around our usual dinner table. Not too spicy, not too sweet, not too anything one way or another...instead it straddled the line just right for all.

Although we've only made pulled pork with it, I'm under the strong impression that this is a versatile enough sauce for a variety of needs. Burgers, ribs, chicken, fries...I just got a craving to start dunking a bunch of onion rings in here. We may have our summer sauce of choice right here. For $2.99 for a large bottle, it's an absolute must try.

You can check out the nutritional stats here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kentucky Bourbon BBQ Sauce: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons