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Friday, May 6, 2022

Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup


 Let's see....great, interesting stories of some time in my life where kimchi and tofu came through for me when nothing else could? Some fond memory, me as a young boy, kimchi in one hand, tofu in another? Anything really relevant in my life with kichi and tofu?

Well...I've tried making kimchi once or twice when I went through a fermenting craze two years ago....and my lovely bride has taught my meatarian self to enjoy a little tofu every once in a while....well, that's about it for me, so nah. 

But put the two of them together in a product like Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup, and I'll be intrigued enough to buy for a $4 lunch pickup. 


There's not a lot I can say here. In some ways, it was a bit of a letdown. First, the tofu was way too soft for my taste. If I'm going to have it, I need it to be firm. I'm really not sure how well tofu is supposed to hold up to being cooked, then frozen and reheated, but I was hoping for better than the soft crumbly mess we had here. The bite wasn't enjoyable. Secondly (and I may be completely in the wrong here) everything seemed more kimchi-flavored than actual kimchi. Sure, there's plenty of gochujang spice, and some complex notes of garlic and spice, which all in all is pretty tasty, but there wasn't much in the way of cabbage and everything else. What was there was pretty soft and uninspired. The spice could've been a little more vibrant too.Instead most of the bite and texture came from an abundance of black rice.


The soup itself wasn't overly bad, but was a bit of a letdown. Perhaps I'm used to the few small batches I made of kimchi and that being how I like it. Kinda like pierogi or pizza even - it's getting hard for me to enjoy getting those from other sources, unless truly magnificent, because in my own mind I make them perfectly darn well, at least according to my taste. I realize that's pretty selfish/arrogant and probably inaccurate, but I know how to make things the way I like them. I'm pretty sure if so inspired I could make a better tofu and kimchi dish than this TJ's soup, but I'd love to get an "authentic" one from somewhere. 

Eh well. Sandy wouldn't touch this - she just wasn't in the mood the day I heated up some for lunch. So all me. I'll be nice and double three's it. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Kimchi & Tofu Soup: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda Cheese

Okay. Time for some real cheese. Vegans and lactose-intolerants, thanks for tuning in today, but you may want to sit this one out.

Where's a good place to start? The label, maybe? Note that it says "caramel washed" rather than caramel-infused or caramel-flavored. In fact, there's not a ton of caramel taste here, much to my chagrin. I mean, there's almost something innately caramel-esque in other gouda cheeses I've had, and this variety doesn't seem to be head-and-shoulders more caramelly, if that makes sense. There's still just a whisper of caramel.

The cheese is nutty and creamy, and perhaps a bit bolder than other goudas I've tried by virtue of this one having "aged 5 months." It's rich and ever so slightly sweet. Yes, I do wish it were a tad sweeter.

Although just now as I'm writing this, Sonia has used the remaining portions of our block of gouda to make grilled cheese...and it tastes sweeter than I remember. It actually makes a very decent, exotic-tasting sandwich. I much prefer it this way to room temperature, served on crackers. It's almost like the heat woke up the flavors, including the sweetness. The texture is better this way, too.

Sonia points out that it's not as oily as other goudas, which is a big plus in her book. It's nice and thick and creamy, texture-wise, but not super greasy. She gives this cheese a solid four and a definite thumbs up. I might have been tempted to go lower, but after having it as a grilled cheese sandwich, I think it's easily in the "would purchase again" tier of cheeses, so I'll go with a respectable three and a half. Apparently Trader Joe's Caramel Washed Gouda has been around for at least seven years or so. "Better late than never" applies here.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies

Generally when consuming Cheetos, the less digits you can get involved in the whole matter, the better. All that orange dust caking on everywhere? Ugh. It's even worse with the kids. 

Well, skip the kids and make sure to at least prop the pinkie, here comes Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies. They fancy!

Sort of, anyways. I cracked open the bag and nearly gagged at first smell. Trapped up truffles can do that, I guess. Just smelled...musty and kinda stank. I don't know how else to describe it, and the first bite or two tasted like dirty feet to me. 

So yeah, not off to a good start.

Fortunately, I persisted, and by maybe the fourth bite, the real flavor of these new crunchers too effect. Instead of unnaturally glowing orange cheddar, these corn snacks are dusted with a mix of parmesan and black truffle pepper. While initially off-putting, the flavor grew on me with each passing bite. It's a little delicate and mild, with still a funky bite. I've never been able to get a truly good grasp on truffle flavor, mostly because I need to take a quick drink after or my mouth gets all itchy, but it's got that umami-licious funk that for those who enjoy it, they probably will here. 

Texturally, if you come into this expecting something akin to a Cheeto, that's what you got. There's only so many ways to conjure up corn meal and veggie oil, I guess. From the crunch I can't quite discern if they're baked or fried, but I'd presume baked given the overall lack of general greasiness. Could be wrong, won't be the last time here for sure. 

Overall, I'd give these a solid not bad. I can't see my kids liking them, though I've been proven wrong over and over with them, so that's a hearty who knows. Same with my lovely bride. I'm not 100% sure I'd rebuy them, mostly because of my mild truffle allergy and that I'm reasonably sure no one else here would eat them, but I can recognize them a little bit for what they are - a solid, not bad, slightly different, somewhat fancy spin on an old standby classic

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fancy Cheese Crunchies: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons