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Friday, August 5, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Margarita Mixer

After slowly weaning myself off mango over the past month or so, I fell right off the wagon after spotting this exotic margarita mix at the local TJ's. Sonia and I weren't able to make a Princeton run (the closest Trader Joe's store that sells alcohol) for TJ's brand booze, so we made due with an off brand, and we whipped up a batch of blended margaritas to help beat this summer heat and humidity.

Unlike quite a few of the offerings we saw earlier this summer, this is a product that actually should be mango-flavored. It's a sweet, candy mango taste that blends well with tequila. Margaritas are a uniquely-summery beverage, and they lend themselves to uniquely-summery flavors like mango. To me, it seems much fruitier and juicier than its lemon-lime predecessor. Of course, both flavors are good, but in a way, I think this one works even better. Who knows? This product may actually pre-date the recent onslaught of mango insanity at Trader Joe's. Somehow it just doesn't seem as forced as products like mango sandwich cookies and mango chia pudding.

Also like the previously-reviewed traditional flavor, this margarita mixer uses simple, natural ingredients. If there's anyone else out there who enjoys margaritas and also tries to avoid high fructose corn syrup, I'm sure you've discovered that it's virtually impossible to find margarita mixer at a normal grocery store that uses actual sugar in its ingredients—and in the rare case you do find it, it costs an arm and a leg. This stuff is only $2.69.

By itself, the mixer is very thick and way too sweet. It needs to be diluted significantly. I think four ice cubes and one shot of tequila per two ounces mixer works best, but it's also decent as the base for virgin cocktails with only water/ice and maybe a lime wedge, as suggested on the label—so, yes, the kids can enjoy this one, too.

Mangoritas taste like summer. Double fours.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Trader Joe's Blueberry Poppy Seed Cookies

Ever have something that's good in it's own right ruin something else that's perfectly good?

For whatever reason, I'm struggling to think of a great example of this. Must be my lack of imagination, or the heat getting to my brain - I mean, dangit, it's hot. But this has to be a thing...right? Maybe this is somewhat vaguely related to my chocolate gum/Bowie-Jagger theory that two things that are good separately aren't good when put together.

If you can think of any great examples, please, by all means, fire away.

For some fairly weak evidence, I'll put out there Trader Joe's Blueberry Poppy Seed Cookies.

Blueberries, even dried ones = yum. Cookies - obviously great. Even better when they're soft, crumbly, buttery, melt in your mouth shortbread ones, perfect for pairing with any variety of beverages. I love shortbread cookies. This can't fail...

It doesn't. But these cookies don't entirely succeed either. The taste is right. That aforementioned buttery shortbread is spot on, and the poppy seeds don't seem to add much one way or another (unlike those blueberry digestive biscuits a little while back). The blueberries seem right too, and while certainly sweet with enough added sugar in all sorts of various forms, the cookies seem to be right in line flavor wise.

Really, it's the texture. It's so disappointing when the chompers actually hit a blueberry, because it gums up an otherwise perfectly crumbly bite. It's a chewy interruption. Perhaps some other form of blueberry would be more ideal, or heck, even some blueberry extract...but as is? Not a huge fan. Oh well.

Otherwise these bite-sized berry buggers are pretty tasty - we'll happily eat them up, and could be persuaded to buy again for the few bucks they set us back. Purely on taste, they're nearly perfect - but again, so disappointing when striking that berry. Probably more than it should be since the cookies are so good otherwise. Life is hard, I guess.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Blueberry Poppy Seed Cookies: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, August 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Sweetened Dried Orange Slices

We've seen plenty of zombified fruits from Trader Joe's before: applesbananasbaby bananas, and even other oranges. For the most part, I think those dried fruit snacks have been successful. They're sweet enough to be desserty, but natural enough not to wreck most diets. In all those previous cases, they seemed to capture the innate essence of the fruit and candy-ify it—in some cases without even adding any sugar.

Not only is there plenty of sugar here, but these don't really taste like oranges. I mean, I know they're made of orange slices. And they're definitely citrusy. But I think what throws me off is that they left the rind on. And I've mentioned before that I'm not huge into eating orange peels. I don't know many people who are. 

Perhaps there's a reason why Trader Joe's suggests you do things with this product other than eat it. The back of the packaging recommends using them as garnish on cocktails or as decorations for cakes and cookie platters. On that front, I can't really argue with them. Orange is my favorite color, and I've never minded splashes of it here and there. The write-up on the wrapper also insists that you can consume the attractive little slices, but it does so quite unconvincingly. "This stuff's non-toxic, we promise!"*

Once opened, the package gives off a bizarre fermented fragrance—not unlike what I'd imagine marmalade left in the sun might smell like after a day or so. The taste is a little more pleasant than the aroma in my opinion, but again, the bitterness of the rind spoils a good bit of the sweet flavor of the fruit itself. The slices are sticky with sugar, somewhat difficult to chew, and bits of the candied fruit cling tenaciously to your teeth once you've begun masticating.

Orange is the new blecch!

Sonia was even more repulsed than I was. She literally exclaimed, "Oh God! That's awful!" upon first bite. I think this is her first time giving ZERO stars to a product. I'll give them a generous one and a half, mostly for their decorative value. This might be a return here. Or we might throw a cocktail party and put them to use as garnish, as mentioned above. If the drinks are strong enough, some of our guests might even get crazy enough to eat them.

Bottom line: 1.5 out of 10.

*That's not actually written on the packaging.