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Monday, May 8, 2017

Trader Joe's Birthday Cake Bar

White chocolate lovers, rejoice! All others, go about your business as usual.

All three of us in the world that appreciate white chocolate—no, wait...we did get a comment recently from a gal who loves white chocolate, so there must be at least four of us—should totally try this bar. It's great quality white chocolate, very sweet and creamy. What else is going on here? Not a whole lot. But simple is good. Let's take a look.

In addition to delectable white chocolate (I'm not a white chocolate supremacist, it's just my personal preference) there are colorful sprinkles and cookie crumbs which give the bar a fun appearance and crunchy texture, although the cookie crumbs are especially hard to detect visually since they're white on white. But make no mistake, they are there. And not only do they add a crispity-crunchitiness, they add a subtle amount of birthday cake flavor, too. 

The sprinkles just add that magical unicorn rainbow happiness that tends to make grown men smile and giggle. No? That's not a thing? I meant a magical unicorn rainbow happiness that grown men tend to be completely indifferent to. Ahem. <Clears throat and continues narration a full octave lower than before.>

There's no kale in here. No bacon. Nothing super weird, although TJ's—or TJ's third party supplier, as the case may very well be—did find a way to work in some interesting ingredients like beet juice and turmeric for color in the sprinkles (or "jimmies" if you prefer) and rice and potato flours in the crumbs. I guess the overall effect is vaguely birthday cake-ish, but mostly, it's just white chocolate.

The bar comes in six squares, perfect for breaking off a piece and saving the rest for later, although the product isn't particularly large to begin with. I could have easily polished off the whole thing by myself in one sitting. I did share with Sonia, however, even though she wasn't as impressed as I was. She doesn't like white people that much—er, I mean white chocolate that much at all. She prefers dark and occasionally milk chocolate like most of you silly humans.

I would have been tempted to push this product into at least the "really darn good" category just by virtue of it being made of white chocolate, but in light of its relatively small size and price tag of $1.99, it's not the best candy value in the store. I still give it four stars and an enthusiastic thumbs up, but my take on it will be offset by my wife (and 99.999% of humanity) with her lackluster three star rating and a thumb not down but sorta in the middle somewhere.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Trader Joe's Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl

Let's have some fun here and talk guilty pleasures.

C'mon, what's yours? I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours...

Okay, fine, me first. Let's see...fast food breakfast sandwiches. "If I Could Turn Back Time." Jackie Chan movies. Meatloaf. No, not the dinner classic, nothing to be guilty about that. The singer. No one can deliver such hokey lyrics with such powerful conviction as he. Sandy chimes in with Babysitter Club books.

I bring this up in reference to Trader Joe's Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl, because, well, look at it. Looks ridiculous. Perhaps borderline genius. But really, whose name would you expect to be on such a concoction, Trader Joe's or Guy Fieri's?

Thought so. Note: Guy Fieri is decidedly not a guilty pleasure.

Anyways, take another look, this time at the product picture. Looks like the cheese and pepperoni slithered off the crust of an average run of the mill pizza and on top of a pile of mac and cheese. And that's really more or less how it tastes. There's some faint cheese flavor to the mac and cheese, and I'm sure it's actually pretty decent stuff underneath. But the pizza portion kinda overwhelms everything, with the greasy marinaraesque mozzarella making up the bulk of the flavor. Not that there's anything necessarily wrong with that. The pepperoni is pretty average and nondescript, a little wimpy in my opinion. I would have loved some thicker chunks over the skinny slices.

Mash up a freezer pizza with a box of Kraft, and that's more or less what the outcome is. That might be a slight under-evaluation, but not by much.

All that being said, I really enjoyed this more than I should have. Two classics mixed into one. There's so much comfort food vibe going on, and that's even from nuking it - baking it would have been even better, almost undoubtedly so. Sandy and I could both eat the whole tray ourselves, it's a good thing we shared.

In all, for two all time greats in one go, it's not quite Bowie-Mercury, but certainly not Bowie-Jagger either. It's a guilty pleasure, through and through, and every once in a while, is that such a bad thing? Nah. Between the two of us, Sandy and I appreciate it enough to give it a score a tad bit higher than it probably deserves. Don't judge too harshly, and dig in.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pepperoni Pizza Mac & Cheese Bowl: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Trader Giotto's Misto Alla Griglia

A couple things about this product mystify me. The first is the defrosting instructions. They say to defrost from frozen at room temperature for two hours, and then to serve. I'm not sure if we just keep our home a little on the chilly side, but after two hours, these vegetables were still very much on the cold side of room temperature. Even at the two and a half hour mark, they still wanted to crunch a little from the ice crystals left within them. 

Another thing I don't get is that they recommend serving these at room temperature in the first place, rather than hot. After having tried them both ways, I still greatly prefer them heated—while Sonia preferred them as the instructions specified.

Sonia thought maybe that heating them in the microwave would be detrimental to their texture—that they might get more leathery or chewy in the microwave. And while I wasn't a fan of this product's texture in either case, I must admit the veggies, most notably the eggplant and zucchini, were slightly less chewy when not heated in the microwave. But something about eating them hot, particularly when served with pasta, made them just barely palatable. My gag reflex wanted to kick in when attempting to consume them lukewarm or cold.

The best thing about this product was the marinade of vinegar, oil, and spice, which gave the mixture a nice savory flavor and enhanced the natural flavors of the grilled vegetables. When eaten with pasta, the herby tang of the misto alla griglia spread out beyond the vegetables and served as a nice subtle dressing for our linguini noodles as well. No other sauce was needed—although we did throw in a bit of the 21 Seasoning Salute.

But still, I preferred each bite to contain very small bites of the veggies and plenty of pasta, because otherwise I found the texture unbearable.

There's always the possibility that we got a bad bag and that your eggplant and zucchini will simply melt in your mouth. We've already seen eggplant from Trader Joe's go both ways. Click here for a big eggplant win, or here for a big eggplant fail. At $3.99 for the bag, Sonia thinks it might be just as cost effective to buy and grill your own vegetables. Of course, it would be a bit more work, but grilling your own eggplant, zucchini, and peppers might be more fun than thawing this nonsense for a full day in your fridge or half a day on your counter and still not knowing if it's the right temperature. I'm pretty sure this won't be a repeat buy for us.

Three stars from Sonia. Two and a half from me.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.