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Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn

Random amazing facts:

Both Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery were almost in the Lord of the Rings movies as Aragorn and Gandalf, respectively. That woulda been interesting, especially if somehow the famous quote from The Rock (kinda NSFWish) got referenced...

Actually, no, my mind is too blown at that to really go on too much more down that rabbit hole, but let's just also mention that somehow, corn is not the number one ingredient in the new Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn. 

Naw, fam, it's good ol sugar. 

More sugar than corn in popcorn - what? Does that technically make this a candy? Can this legally be labelled as popcorn? Who knows? 

At first thought, lime and popcorn seem odd bedfellows, especially key lime for a more dessert-y take than, say, a Mexican-style. But, really, it works. Must be all the sugar. The basis, of course, is a crunchy, fluffy, good ol' fashioned kettle corn kernel, which admittedly I was too busy shoveling into my mouth to snap a pic of...yet again...sorry, fans. The kernels themselves have this somewhat odd looking coloring, almost like a green fluorescent highlighter than may or may not be glow in the dark. But apparently that's all the key lime, because it hits - bright, citrusy, very lime, and super delicious. It's important to note that this is not key lime pie flavor, so don't expect hints of pie crust or cream topping or anything - nah, just good ol' lime. It works, it really works, and in my opinion really oughtta be tasted to have it make sense. It will. 

All the descriptors on the packaging work. Sweet? Yes, obviously. Salty? Of course. Tart? Heck yeah. Tangy? Sure thing. One thing to note: coconut oil is used as the popping oil, and while that doesn't add any obvious flavor, it's something to be aware of for allergen reasons.

We got one bag for our family to take on a picnic dinner to an outdoor concert in the park in the other night, and within seconds each of us were clamoring for the bag and trying to horde as many handfuls as we could. Kids loved it. We loved it. Absolutely we're going to have buy more, and my lovely bride even did some recon on buying a case - it's something like 64 bags, and while that seems a bit overkill, I don't think I'd be terribly upset about it either, long as it got eaten. Hate wasting food. 

Sandy will give it a four, only because she's "not the biggest fan" of kettle corn in general. C'mon now....ok, yes dear. I'll have to go above that. We're gonna have to try our best to bring some more back home and have at it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Key Lime Kettle Popcorn: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 28, 2021

Trader Joe's Red Curry Thai Noodles

Time to break out something from the back of the pantry. Red curry Thai noodles. The name sounds appetizing enough. The packaging? Not so much. I've had some truly awful noodle offerings in big paper bowls that look very similar to this one. Hopefully it's just a trick of the eye and this will be on par with or better than the other instant curry options we've seen from Trader Joe's over the years.

After a quick glance at the heating instructions, something stands out to me: there's no mention of adding water. Huh? You mean these things are already full of their own moisture? Or maybe they'll have enough just from the sauce packet mentioned on the packaging..? Not adding water to this big bowl of noodles goes against my every instinct. But I'll be a good boy this time and follow the directions.

Preparation involves opening two big pouches, one full of noodles, one full of sauce and veggies. Then you simply nuke for 90 seconds. Simple enough. No water involved.

Things came out perfectly after following the heating instructions. I stirred the elements around a bit, since the noodles are so tightly packed from being smooshed in their vacuum sealed pouch for goodness knows how long.

The noodles are nice and thick, almost like udon. They've got some body to them. They're nothing like cheap ramen noodles. They're more like soba noodles in terms of thickness, though they're not as dark as buckwheat noodles. Although it's not apparent in the photo I took, there's the perfect amount of sauce to coat all the noodles, which is good because the noodles don't bring a whole lot to the table in terms of flavor just by themselves. There are peas in the mix and also bamboo shoots, which remind me of carrots in terms of texture and maybe even a little in terms of flavor.

The sauce steals the show. It's coconutty, sweet, spicy, and flavorful. I'll almost always want more heat in a product like this one, but I'm honestly surprised just how much spice there is in this bowl—more than enough to keep it interesting. I'm not saying I didn't crave a little more of that Thai red chili spice, but the amount I got was acceptable. I really expected this product to be bland and unappetizing, but I was pleasantly surprised.

I'd ask for more peas, bamboo shoots, and maybe some other veggies in the mix. A little more heat never hurts a dish like this. All in all, not a bad lunch for $2.49. Shelf-stable, pescatarian, easy to prepare, and surprisingly good as far as taste is concerned.

7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons

After perhaps straying a little bit out of their lane with vegan pork rinds, here's a return closer to the TJ's wheelhouse for completely animal product free products with Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons. 

Seriously, "porkless" pork rinds? Still can't wrap my head around that. 

But hey, a tasty icy cold ice cream-like treat made from coconut milk? I am 110% behind that. 

That's the good part about this (new?) offering, from the same folks behind some other brilliant frozen non dairy desserts. That "ice cream" is on point - firm, not too melty, the right consitency, hits all the flavor marks without being too weird. There's a part of me that always expects coconut milk-based stuff to taste like, well, coconuts which depending on the prodcut can be either disappointing or inspired, but it rarely works that way. Even if there is a faint coconut taste here, the nice chocolatey enrobing adds a rich cocoa flavor, decidely on the darker side, with a good candy coat crunch. An informal survey of our bon bons revelaed that some of them even happened to have two distinct shells - all the more flavor and fun! Delish. Think of a pretty tasty Klondike bar, in somewhat of a dome form, and that's what we got here. 

Unfortunately, though, there's a couple shortfalls. If this product were simply named "Vegan Vanilla and Chocolate Bons Bons", I think that'd be a pretty apt description. But, alas, they're not. They're supposed to be "cookies & creme" and "vanilla bean." Let's look at those two alleged descriptors. First off, the easier one - vanilla bean. That says to me a richer, more decadent version of vanilla - not getting that here. It's decidedly a pretty basic taste here - nothing wrong, but not memorable either. Second, "cookies & creme'? Please. A few of our tidbits had nothing resembling any cookie in them. Like, it was just empty "ice cream" with no swirls ors crumbles or chunks. The ones with anything though? The cookie dough was soft and grainy and really nondescript for any sort of flavor - it was hard to taste them at all. Like, nothing, and it's not like cookies and cream is a difficult ice cream flavor to nail down. Bad execution there. 

But yeah, overall, we liked them, and the bon bons were about the right size for a small little cold treat, which will be great this summer. Even nonperfect sweets can be enjoyed, which is how I'll think we'll go with these. Would buy again for sure so let's just hit that bottom line. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Vegan Cookies & Creme Vanilla Bean Bon Bons: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons