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Thursday, April 7, 2022

Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki


 Here's another periodic reminder that I am a complete amatuer foodie-hack, not overly familiar with many great dishes and treats from around the globe, but always willing to try. 

So, Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki...can't say I've ever even heard of them before they plopped into my grocery cart. Thank goodness for the 'murican-'splained "Korean spicy stir-fried rice cakes" in the banner, because that, I can hold a concept of. 

These are, at first bite, interesting. There's a few ways to make them, I opted for what purported to be the crispiest option by inserting these oversized frozen rice poogs into the airfryer, while seperately simmering the almost glowing red sauce. I'm not sure if crispy is the right word, because there's still plenty of soft mochi-like chewiness to each bite, but the outside layer  did have a faint crispness, so there you go I guess. It's an unusual to my palate yet pretty fun bite. 


That sauce though...it never really thickened up the way I hoped it would despite following the instructions, far as I know. That being said, I almost didn't mind. It's vibrant and rich with plenty of red pepper and garlic kick. Man, if sold separately, I'd pour it over any number of things. Delicious stuff, and highly recommended as long as you can take some spice. 

Here's one of the times that TJ's really succeeds if looked at from a certain vantage point. Sure, I'm far from a tteok bok ki expert, but I'm gonna go out on a limb and wager that the TJ's version isn't the best in the world. Heck, how authentic it really is (or isn't) is above my pay grade here. But...now I know I'd stand a pretty excellent chance at enjoying the real deal, so if ever granted the opportunity, I'm gonna go for it without hesitation. That somewhat harkens back to the OG TJ's business plan of introducing new tastes and experiences to their customers. For me, it succeeds here. 

A good sized bag, enough for a big side dish or appetizer for two or more, was only around $3 or $4. Absolutely worthwhile in my opinion. If you got a more expert take than I do, fire away. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tteok Bok Ki: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, April 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Pain au Lait Chocolate Chip

This product was absolutely screaming our names from the breads section at Trader Joe's. We enjoyed its predecessor so much, we were both excited to see a version with chocolate chips. Chocolate chips make everything better, right?

Well, in this case, maybe not—at least in our humble opinion. Chocoholics may disagree, but this product made Sonia and I realize that we are milk roll purists. At least in my case, I'd never had an honest-to-goodness French milk roll until I tried the plain pain au lait from Trader Joe's. That was some amazingly special bread: the soft texture, the milky flavor just absolutely wowed us. Other than fresh-baked, that might have been the best plain bread I've ever had. And this bread flaunts the same flavor and same texture. Still amazing. Still top-shelf. But the chocolate chips don't really add anything.


At first, there's something novel about it. I mean, it's candy baked right into the bread. What a great idea, right? But after a few bites, we both found ourselves pining for the pure, unadulterated taste and texture of the delicious bread without anything detracting from it.

Get your hands on the original stuff if you can. If not, this product is still pretty freaking tasty. If we'd tried this version first, I'm sure we would've been a bit more impressed. We didn't see the original pain au lait at our TJ's on our last visit, but I hope that doesn't mean it's been discontinued.


$2.99 for the bag. Four stars from Sonia. Three and a half from this guy. We'd buy again, but only in the absence of the plain pain.

I suppose it's pronounced more like "pan" or "pon" than the English word "pain," but to quote the Princess Bride:

Life is pain, Highness.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars

There's a lot of power in preconceived notions, right? 

I'm going to use the possibly new Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars as an example. 

See: I grew up not far from Hershey, PA, the self-proclaimed chocolate capital of the world. I've grown to realize their particular brand might not be the absolute best that's out there. Still, their chocolate is fairly ubiquitous, right? It's easily identifiable and serves as an easy standard to which one can easily compare all other chocolates too, , even if only to say how much better whatever the chocolate is compared to Hershey's. There's a reason we often use Hershey's as a comparison in our reviews as our yardstick. 

Welllll....one small bite of these TJ's oat chocolate bars, and I was ready to toss it and find me a Hershey's.

There's something just "off" about them, on first bite, that I didn't like. It tasted...grainy, and more than perceptibly so. Just off, and not "like what a milk chocolate bar should taste like." I stray more towards dark chocolate, but when going the lighter route, I guess I want the fullness and comfortable richness that regular ol' dairy milk helps afford and things like oats can't quite replicate. 

I ate the rest (I mean, it's chocolate, after all) but that initial impression, formed by years of my own experience, didn't change much. 

Then it kinda hit me: "my own experience." What about others? 

My lovely bride originally bought these as a small snack for herself and a friend who's vegan. It's a three pack, so two for them and one for me. Perfect. Anyways, if someone was vegan or dairy free, whether by choice or by need...I guess the TJ's is a pretty decent "milk" chocolate bar. There is a certain smoothness and even a touch of creaminess that the bar replicates reasonably well. Everyone deserves a chance at a good milk chocolate bar, right? 

In the end, this still won't be my chocolate of choice, but that's okay. I'm glad it's out there as an available option for whoever it would appeal for. Choices are good, and what doesn't work for me will probably work for someone else. It's all good. 

Anyways, I'm not a huge fan, but my wife and her friend were, so I'll lean more on their judgment than mine and say it's worth a shot, especially if traditional milk chocolate just isn't for you, for any reason. Double fours? Sure. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Oat Chocolate Bars: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons