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Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Chicken Sausage & Cornbread Stuffing


Ah, this looks Thanksgivingy enough. Novembery enough, if you will. No Turkey Day dinner would be complete without some stuffing. And of course, since this has chicken in it, you could theoretically stick this inside the duck part of your turducken and still have turducken without an actual chicken as the inner layer. But I digress.

Overall, this stuff is bready and moist, the way stuffing should be, but I have some pretty big reservations about giving it a stellar score. Firstly, the whole Scarborough Fair thing is in full effect here. Yep. I checked the ingredients as I've done many times, and this product does indeed contain parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme, although the front of the packaging only mentions sage and thyme. I think this is the first time I've consumed anything that contained all four. So yeah. Simon and Garfunkel would be proud. Or maybe not. Because there's too much of it in here. I'm not sure whether it's the thyme or sage, but one of those herbs is a little overpowering to me. After Sonia's first couple bites, she grimaced and said, "This tastes like an old woman's house."


I was hoping to taste more chicken, cornbread, and cranberry flavors. There are plenty of cranberries in there, it's just that they don't do that much for the flavor. I wanted some of that sweet-tartness, but alas...The Scarborough Fair Effect.

Texture-wise, I already mentioned the pleasant amount of moisture—even after heating in the oven. If anything, the product came out a tad too mushy for us. Bits of celery add a nice delicate crunch. And the cranberry pieces feel pretty nice, even if their flavor isn't coming through in a big way. I was also hoping there would be large chunks of actual chicken sausage. There aren't. 


In the end, I'd probably turn to good old Stove Top over this dressing. It's not a complete abomination, and we won't be returning it for a no-hassle refund or anything like that. It's just a different, very herby take on classic filling, and a little disappointing to both of us. 

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee

Like most semi-functional adults I know, I need coffee every day. In multiple doses.

Preferred methods of intake primarily include: a relatively leisurely French press pot at home, plunged by either my four year old, my just-turned-two-year-old, or, when the girls ask just sweetly enough, the dog (all with my assistance, of course). Or when the chance allows, a cup from a good, local coffee shop.

Preferred methods of intake do not include the work coffee pot or vending machine, or a tepid tankard of brown water from the gas station on the way to work. Though that's what I settle for far too often.

So, Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee can be a nice little mix up. Someone please explain why TJ's is debuting this cold brew can-to-go in November, though. In my little world, there is an inverse relationship between coffee temperature and the five day forecast. Hot weather : cold coffee. Cold weather : hot coffee. Simple, right?

Speaking of simple...so's this slim can o' cold caffeine. Unlike most cold brew or iced coffees I have tasted, this TJ's one doesn't try to be extra dark or roasty or overly robust or anything. So many of them can be so bittersweet that the taste nearly veers towards offputting. Not this brew. It literally tastes like regular coffee....except purposefully cold. Which isn't that wonderful.

I've been a black coffee drinker for nealry two years now, which I like to think has helped cultivate a discerning coffee palate. Even after waiting for the can to warm up a smidge to see if the temperature had any flavor locked up, when I tasted again, still, not really anything there. Fans of this website may appreciate the flat earthiness of the taste...eh. Doesn't do much for me, but not that I minded

For the record, there is a vanilla flavored version of the cold brew coffee as well, which my wife Sandy tried, but I didn't. From what she said, it's not a creamy coffee, but rather like a flavored oil (or however one makes flavored coffee beans), so it wasn't what she hoped for or expected, but tasty enough.

A can runs $1.79 a pop, and it's one of those fashionable little slim dinky cans, too. The price stikes me as fair enough of a value, but not one I'll go for terribly often either. the eight ounces got me just enough caffeine to last for a few hours at work, and I enjoyed more than the work options, so it's not horrible either. Just all kinda meh. Like me without enough coffee.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Black Cold Brew Coffee: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Hat Trick Trio of Bitters

I've learned several things as a result of purchasing this product: (1) I missed my true calling in life as a bartender. (2) When they say "bitter," believe it. (3) It's nearly impossible to squeeze 1oz of juice from the average lime with your hands. (4) If Trader Joe's wants you to pay upwards of $15 for something, there's a reason for the premium.

We made all three drinks described on the packaging: Joe's Whiskey Sour, The New Daiquiri, and the Citrus Grove Gin Rickey. To be honest, I've never had a whiskey sour or a gin rickey ever before in my life. And the daiquiri in this case was nothing like the strawberry daiquiris I've tasted. Yes, I know. Haha. I've only tried the girliest drink out of the three. To be fair, though, I don't think I've ever actually ordered my own daiquiri. I've simply tasted my dates' daiquiris. Honestly. What? Don't believe me? Fine.

And I also poured the bitters right onto my tongue. Guess what? They're bitter. And potent. They cost so much because they'll last you five years longer than it takes for the earth to crash into the sun...or until you decide to move out of your house and into a new dwelling for the fourth time in seven years and you pass the little bottles along to friends as part of your downsizing efforts. But who would do a crazy thing like that?

The recipes call for five "dashes" of each bitter in its respective drink. How big is a "dash" exactly? I'm pretty sure that's not a universal unit of measure. But whatever. I think I erred on the side of "more than five dashes," because I genuinely appreciated the flavor they contributed, although I added a bit of extra syrup as well to balance out the bitterness. We used an agave syrup we had on hand rather than the called-for "simple syrup."

I think I liked the whiskey sour the best, mainly because I love lemon. But the other two beverages were nothing to sneeze at. Sonia liked the rickey drink the best. It really did have a nice citrusy vibe, and the grapefruit bitter probably had the most interesting flavor in and of itself. We both enjoyed the daiquiri, but to me, the spicy bitter/white rum combo was the weakest of the three concoctions.

If you're not into the whole drinking scene, the package gives a few other suggestions for enjoying these bitters. It mentions using them on fruit or ice cream. I must admit, we did NOT try them that way, and we couldn't really see how that could possibly work. If you have tried the bitters that way, please let us know in the comments whether you liked it or not. 

The box also mentions using the bitters in non-alcoholic beverages. That we did try. But after adding them to several different juices, fruit-infused sparkling waters, and sugar-free energy drinks (okay, that last one was just me) Sonia and I agreed that nothing worked quite as well as mixing them with good old-fashioned booze. Also, it's curious that they're 40% alcohol themselves. Yet they can be sold at TJ's that don't sell alcoholic beverages. I guess that's because nobody could ever drink enough of this stuff straight out of the bottle to get any kind of buzz without plastering a permanent pucker-face on his ugly mug. And in case some of you are wondering—no, I didn't try to do it myself. I only drank a dash or two straight from the bottle. I just look that way naturally.

Anyway, score-wise, we know this product won't be for everybody. It's a relatively small amount of liquid for a relatively high price. But if you look up comparable gift packs of three bitters, most other brands will run you in the ballpark of $50 instead of $16. For that reason and for the quality of the product, I give it four and a half stars. Sonia will go with four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.