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Thursday, March 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Almond Butter Cups

Among all my many allergies, food and otherwise, I was never cursed with one to peanuts. But I truly sympathize with those of you who have. The other day I was walking past a Burger King inside a Walmart and noticed a sign next to the counter that said something to the effect of "any and all of our food may be contaminated with peanut residue." Really? They're cooking burgers and making fries on the same equipment they use to cut slices of peanut butter pies? Probably not. They're just covering their behinds. They might as well put up a sign that says, "Hey look, people with peanut allergies—if you die in our restaurant, it's not our fault." All that to say, you folks have my pity.

Not long ago, sunflower seed butter cups were one of the most buzzed-about new items at Trader Joe's. In my review of them, I compared them to classic Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, because, you know, you have to have a reference point for these things, right? So now, I'm tempted to compare these almond fellows to their sunflowery counterparts.

First of all, are these even new? I feel like they've been there on the candy shelves for years, mysteriously eluding a review on our blog. I know they have multiple different kinds of peanut butter cups and cookie butter cups, but why do I feel like almond butter cups have been there, too? The sunflower dealies were so obviously new, with their bright yellow wrappers and Reese's-esque presentation. But these guys? They just sorta blend in with all those myriad Trader Joe's brand candies that come in a tub.

Price-wise, we're looking at $3.99 for "about" 18 pieces versus 99 cents for the two sunflower cups. They're being marketed less as a "buy this at the checkout and eat it on your way home to curb your immediate craving" kinda snack, and more of a "buy this for your family with peanut allergies and have them on stand-by at all times" sorta treat—either of which is fine by me. 

As far as vegan-ness goes, this option definitely contains milk products. We had several readers indicate that the sunflower cups were indeed vegan because, despite the presence of dark chocolate, there was no dairy. Not so here. They don't taste any more milky to me. I just wonder: if you can make decent dark chocolate without milk, why include it? If anything, I slightly prefer the chocolate in the sunflower cups.

Nut butter-wise, I think I prefer the sunflower seed variety to the almond one. Sunflower seems just ever so slightly sweeter, and possibly a bit thinner. In the case of these dark chocolate covered cups, I feel like the almond butter is not as consistently creamy. It's still nutty and works with the chocolate, but I feel like it lacks a certain pizzazz just ever so slightly. Also, I think there's just a bit more dark chocolate here. The chocolate to nut butter ratio is off by a bit, favoring chocolate too much.

The overall effect of these cups is still sweet, dessert-like, and relatively satisfying. I'm certainly not hating on these puppies. I just prefer the sunflower seed butter cups in the end. Sonia thinks they taste basically the same. It's been a while, but I remember being wowed by Justin's brand almond butter cups a little more than this TJ's offering.

In the end, this is a perfectly valid desserty treat from Trader Joe's, particularly for those with peanut allergies, but I'd generally go with another choice over this one, personally.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus

Back in my bachelor days of yore, it wasn't uncommon for me to totally toss whatever from the pantry or fridge together and totally make up whatever I was gonna eat for whatever meal. It was a total choose-your-own-adventure mixed with horrible amateur Food Network show type deal. My motto always was, worst to comes to worst and it was awful, I'd just put some hot sauce on it.

Now I'm older and more refined and married and stuff like that, and I enjoy things like hummus a lot more than I did before.

Still, back then and even up to now, I never considered mixing hot sauce and hummus...but here we are with Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus.

Simplistic genius, as I've come to expect from TJ's. Nicely done.

Really, that's all there really is to this product. Hot sauce and hummus. It works...kinda. The heat profile does stray a little bit towards vinegar to my taste. Also the creaminess of the hummus seems to subtly suggest a phantom presence of ranch dressing-like substance which is surely inaccurate and undetected by my better half, but it seems to be there to me. The consistency is also a little off, as the hummus is a little thinner with less body than normal hummus. Of course, with my own consistency being off, I can say the exact opposite about my gut right now. Dang hummus.

All that being said...yes please. I dig this completely. I want to dig the hummus with some chips. Or veggies. Or falafel. Or pita. Or...well, you get the idea. Although imperfect, the buffalo hummus is a perfectly adequate marriage of two great condiments that's about the equal of its parts. It's not a life changer but that doesn't mean it's not good.

Sandy said she liked that were was a certain "buffalo chicken dip but healthier-ish" vibe going on. I can see what she's saying and I know better than to refute her too strongly. This'll be our snacky time go-to this week, and at $2.99 for the tub it's not an awful deal. Though I will say the tub seems smaller than other TJ hummus..oh well. Double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Buffalo Style Hummus: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, March 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch Cereal

I must admit, I'm not much of a cereal guy anymore. Those Saturday mornings I spent straddling the piano bench in my parents' living room, bowl after bowl of milk and sugary grains sitting in front of me, watching everything from Smurfs to Saved by the Bell well into the afternoon, are nothing but distant memories. 

But every once in a while, I'll have a bowl of delicious cereal that's so good, so tasty, that it'll take me back to those days when I only took pause from shoveling a series of spoonfuls into my face to sing along to the Muppet Babies theme song...

This is not one of those cereals.

This is like a cereal from a sad parallel reality where bowls of spherical chocolate aren't sweet treats, but are, rather, disciplinary tools employed by overzealous parents. "That's it young man, it's a bowl of Trader Joe's Cocoa Crunch for you, and then a time-out in your room to think about what you've done!" 

It's potentially a version of Cocoa Puffs for the gluten-free, wheat-free crowd, I suppose. But even gluten status aside, there are quite a few key differences between this offering and classic Cocoa Puffs. The pieces here are slightly smaller, not quite as rigid, and in my opinion, not nearly as chocolatey. 

Personally, I'll take Cocoa Pebbles over Cocoa Puffs any day of the week. I just like the texture better, and I feel like they yield a nicer flavor of milk at the end of the bowl. Also, Cocoa Pebbles are completely gluten free and always have been. I know you Cocoa Puffs fans—my wife included, cuckoos that you are, will fight me tooth and nail on that assertion, but I think, for once, we can set our differences aside and agree on one thing: this Trader Joe's cocoa cereal is vastly inferior to either Post's or General Mills' classic offerings.

The taste of rice, sorghum, and corn all challenge the slight cocoa flavor for dominance. It's barely sweet. It would have been better to simply avoid cocoa or chocolate taste altogether and market this product as a healthy, multigrain cereal. It might not have been any more exciting, but at least it wouldn't have been so disappointing.

Both Sonia and I are leaning toward returning this one and taking TJ's up on their no-questions-asked refund policy once again. We don't do it often, but if a product just doesn't work for us, we won't force ourselves to eat it...and we certainly won't just throw it out. 

I can imagine somebody out there likes it—somebody who wants a grainy cereal with a very subtle chocolate taste, but two and a half stars a piece is as generous as Sonia and I will be on this one.

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.