Last week, Sandy and I headed out west to California for our annual vacation. Let me tell you, what a trip, with all the sites and sights...Disneyland (fun as all heck)*, Joshua Tree National Park (stunningly, starkly beautiful - what a landscape), and all around San Diego (a zoo well worth the admission). Fantastic week, and when I woke up on Saturday, our last day of vacation, I seriously contemplated not jumping on the plane back to Pittsburgh. It was too much fun, and too great of an area to ever want to leave. Nathan, Sonia, why did you ever move to Pennsylvania from SoCal again? Moving closer to family and having four distinct seasons, was it? Bah. I'd never leave. Between all those fun things and as many animal-style double-doubles I could ever eat, I was trying to figure out how I could convince my work to relocate me to their nonexistent San Diego facility and if someone could ship our pooch out to us.
There's another thing that amazed me about California, and only to a slightly lesser extent: the size of your Trader Joe's. I mean, dang. They're the size of actual grocery stores out there, if not larger, with a much larger selection of foodstuffs that get shoehorned into our little teeny tiny almost afterthought of a shop here in Pittsburgh. Some of it has to do with being allowed to sell all types of booze (including a great price on Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale - only $3.99 for a bomber? It's twice that, easily, here) but there's so much more. For instance, at the Costa Mesa store we visited, it's a whole literal wall section of tortillas in all sorts of varieties I've never seen here on our one lonely shelf. I'm jealous, very, very jealous.
And there was something else there I'd never seen at our store: these Sea Salt Brownie Petites. Sandy, who had heard about them from a friend who lived in the area, started rummaging around in a frenzy as soon as we entered the store. "I HAVE TO FIND THEM!!!!," she practically wailed. "WHERE ARE THEY!?!?!?!"** I don't blame her for being so, um, enthusiastic to seek out and destroy a pack of them. Previously, we've had some tremendous luck with a TJ chocolate/sea salt combo that was pantheon-level great, and sweet/salty is generally a winning tandem for us, and since we needed some inexpensive snacks for all our adventures, I was all in.
I wish I could say the same for these brownie bites. First one I had was definitely a lot more sodium than brownie taste. How much more? Well, if the chocolate were Kate Moss, the salt would be Jabba the Hut - simply way out of ratio. Other ones weren't nearly as bad, and were actually pretty decent and full of cocoa-goodness, but others were way too reminiscent of the original. The sea salt was just too dominant and not enough of a complement, overall, I think. Also, all of mine were pretty dry and crumbly to the bite as they practically disintegrated into my mouth. That might not be a deterrent to some, but generally I'm much more of a moister brownie fan, and was hoping for something not quite as arid. Sandy, though? Loved them. Absolutely loved them. "All of mine tasted about right, and I loved the texture, too," she said. When I mentioned the dryness of mine, she said she had no such problem at all, and only wished they were a little bit bigger. Hmm, maybe she goldmined all the good bites to herself and left me with most of the undesirables.
I'm going to have a go a little low for my score and go with a 2. They were simply too much of a mixed bag for me - too many of them resembled dried-up brown salty cakes for me, and if I saw them again***, I'd say "Na" (get it?). It's another product that I'd totally get if others like more than I did, so when Sandy said she'd give them a solid 4, I shrugged and didn't argue. Somehow, perhaps because of my slight distaste for them, some of them survived our week and stayed with our friend Ashley in San Diego, who I think enjoys them, too. "If only there was enough room in our luggage..." Sandy grumbled. Well, between all the goodies we got at the 99 Ranch Market and Sandy's new little friend, there just wasn't the space. Oh, bother.
Bottom line: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* Congrats to Sandy on her best half-marathon yet (2 hrs 43 mins) she ran at Disneyland! Proud of ya, babe.
** Okay, an exaggeration. But only slight.
*** Might have seen them Sunday at the local shop. Seems like we get some stuff on rotation and whatever sells sticks, so if you're in the 'burgh and wanna give them a try, hurry up!