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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites

Gotta give my wife Sandy credit.

Not just for putting up with me for nearly 10 years now. Although that's quite a feat in and of itself. Believe it or not, I'm not the easiest guy in the world to put up with. You shoulda seen the other morning when we had a hissyfit over Tupperware, namely the collection I had at work and the corresponding lack thereof for home supplies. Not pretty. We're still trying to abide by the marriage rule we established of "No talkie before coffee."

But also....she's changed. Quite a bit. In a good way. She's so much more adventurous now for food than she was when I first met her. I distinctly remember one of our early dates (maybe our fifth?), back when I had to really worry about impressing her, so I wanted to make her dinner....and was so worried she wouldn't like homemade chocolate chip cookies. Seriously. It was valid concern.

Not all that long ago, a product like Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites wouldn't be on her radar at all. Something-something "looks too saucy", "meat on bone", or some sort of anti-meat sentiment would stop her from giving them a try. But because of my slow, persistent, and carne-abiding ways, I've finally gotten over to the world of enjoying things like meatloaf and smoked meats and sausage and such. Heck, she even tried scrapple on account of me.

And as of a few weeks ago, she was really excited about these pork bites and couldn't wait to try them. So she picked up a couple boxes for our crew and brought them home and planned a nice little meal around them and everything. Thanks, love.

Unfortunately, the piggy poppers would have been best left on the shelves.

Maybe a bit harsh, but I was not a huge fan of them. The problem wasn't the sauce - as you can see, there's ample amount. It's mild but smoky, with some depth - a good, decent Kansas City style sauce that would appeal to the masses. Think of a decent generic BBQ sauce and you'd get a close approximation to the sauce splattered all across the bites. it's the meat itself. It's....just not great. Granted, rib meat isn't always the best and choicest cuts, but even by those standards, it was gristley and chewy with some definite hard-to-chew bits. A lot of the bigger bites were dry once getting past the saucey outer stratospheres. The boned part took up at least half the meat chunk, leaving me with the impression that the price point ($5ish for the box) wasn't a great value.

The meat deficiencies were at least probably partially due to the fact that the bites are fully cooked, but requires 25 minutes or so of heating in the oven. Seems overkill. But I did as I was told.

And the packaging...ugh. There's the big box on the outside, with a much smaller plastic baggie inside holding the bites. There's no reason for the outer box at all except to make the purchase look bigger than it actually is. Common practice, I know, so I hesitate to call it deceptive,  but it is something to be aware of.

Sandy actually seemed to enjoy them much more than I did. Maybe I'm turning into the picky one. But I would have been happier, personally, buying a package of raw ribs and grilling and basting them with another sauce (on the recommendation of many readers, would definitely try the new Yuzu sauce!) then buying them again. I guess there's a "convenience" factor here, but still, I'd pass. I can't give them more than a two, at most, if only because the sauce was pretty decent for what it was. My ever-tolerant spouse, though? She's happy doling at a perfectly middle of the road three of them. As always, she's more gracious than she oughtta be.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pork Rib Bites: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, January 27, 2017

Trader Joe's Organic Tricolor Quinoa

Let's play a fun game called "What Random Old TJ's Thing Will The Rodgers Pull Out Of Their Pantry Because They're Not Close To A TJ's Store Right Now?"

You guessed it! Quinoa!

I was actually surprised at how many times the WG@TJ's team has seen quinoa as a prominent ingredient in Trader Joe's products. Just check out the "Search This Blog" results: salads, veggie burgers, tortilla chips, pasta, burritos, popcorn chips, and even chocolate candies that flaunted quinoa. But we've never really explored quinoa as the main attraction of a dish.

It's a nutty, nutritious seed that eats like a grain but technically isn't, and it's only found naturally and cultivated on a large scale in a narrow strip of western South America. Thanks, Wikipedia. Then I checked our bag of Trader Joe's quinoa to see if it was consistent with my internet research. Sure enough, it says "Product of Bolivia."

Well, gracias, mi Bolivian amigos, for this tasty, feel-good product. We added canned corn and sliced jalapenos to our quinoa and made a happy little makeshift salad that was actually pretty yummy hot or cold. Quinoa by itself is paradoxically both soft and crunchy, and in my opinion, really lends itself to being eaten this way.

I've had quinoa plain like this before, but I think I prefer this variety because of the tricolor-ness. It's not only more appealing visually, but the three kinds of grain yields a better texture and taste. Quinoa still isn't the most exciting thing I'll eat this week, but it's great for a little step-out-of-my-comfort-zone adventure (as if my whole life hasn't unwittingly become that recently.)

For those of you worried about this quinoa wrecking your diet (it won't), here's a link to the nutrition information.

Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Trader Joe's Yuzu Hot Sauce

Who knew about yuzu?

Not me, naturally. C'mon, you expect that by now. And now, as expected, here's the Wikipedia link describing what a yuzu is and how common it is in Japanese and other Asian cuisine that doesn't necessarily cross the ocean so well, at least in the suburban bubble I grew up in.

Didn't stop me from being excited about Trader Joe's Yuzu Hot Sauce. It's Trader Joe's. It's hot sauce.  You know I'm all in.

And...being not acquainted at all with the world of yuzu until now, I'm really hopeful that this was a great intro.

The second the lid lifts, this fierce, aromatic, super citrusy scent wafts up and hits your nostrils like a sniper shot. It'll knock back the unsuspecting. No kidding, it's strong. I can't recall a more fragrant hot sauce in my nearly 30 years of regular consumption. far it's all citrus. Where's the heat? It's there, in a seamless transition after the upfront citric hint. The first few bites tasted more orange-like, but after a more thorough shaking and resplashing of the sauce over my dinner, it's decidedly more lemony. But regardless, the heat  - it hits. It hurts. And it's pretty stellar how smoothly the possibly divergent senses of sweet, sour and heat flow. It's really something to taste.

Not to say it's perfect. I'm not a huge fan of the consistency - think medium pulp orange juice - and I have my doubts on how it'd work with burgers or steaks. It's more of a pouktry/fish/maybe pork kinda sauce, which isn't bad, but not all purpose either. That's the other point - it's strong enough, and perhaps different enough, that I'm not evenly remotely tempted to supplant my usual other go-to hot sauces.

But it's pretty delish for what it is, and I'm always up for a good culinary experience and education that's willing to meet me where I am. Especially for a fairly affordable price - price check anyone? Sandy picked it up and misplaced the receipt, but she recalled it being right around $3 for the TSA-compliant sized bottle. She's a huge fan of it as well, too. Double fours? Sure, sounds great.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Yuzu Hot Sauce: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Trader Jacques' Vanilla Eclairs with Chocolate Fondant

Why is it that eclairs seem so haughty? Just the name itself rings out with an air of froideur. It's almost as if eclairs are making some kind of assertion that they're the aristocracy of the dessert world. 

E-clair. What's an electronic Clair anyway?

Perhaps it's because we're grumpy that life is beating us up right now: flat tires, broken windshields, collapsed awnings, and lots more issues I'm not even going to touch on this food blog, but neither Sonia nor I were blown away by this dessert.

And we know eclairs. We've had restaurant eclairs, casino eclairs, dollar store eclairs, and even other Trader Joe's eclairs. This selection isn't the worst of the worst by any means, but...well, I think we've been spoiled by those bargain basement eclairs from Dollar Tree. I'm not kidding. Do you know the ones I'm talking about? Dolce Tuscano Mini Custard Filled Iced Eclairs. Six for a buck. Sonia says they're hands down better than this TJ's offering.

I don't know if I'd go that far, but I will admit the Dolce Tuscano brand gives these guys a run for their money. And to be fair, value-wise, TJ's offering is only $2.99 for four servings, and there's at least twice as much eclairage in the box since Jacques' pastries are full-size—but it still doesn't beat sixteen and a half cents per surprisingly-edible mini eclair from the freezer section at Dollar Tree.

These eclairs just didn't stand out. Not one element of them was rave-worthy. I felt the bread was stale. Sonia said it tasted freezer-burnt. The custard wasn't particularly decadent or smooth or creamy. And the "fondant" seemed like run-of-the-mill chocolate icing to me. We tried one at the short end of the suggested thawing interval and then another at the long end, and both results were the same: an edible, but not particularly memorable or outstanding eclair.

We finished the box but probably won't be purchasing these again. Three stars from me. Two and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Trader Giotto's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites

"You wanna taste something truly amazing?"

I'm not asked that question nearly enough.

But forgive me for being a skeptical when my lovely bride Sandy asked me that the other night while motioning to the half-eaten bag of Trader Gitoo's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites on the shelf. I've heard from other folks that they're pretty tasty little snackers...but truly amazing? I'm in favor of not cheapening our language, so to me, those words should not be carelessly tossed about. These bites better be something else.

"You know when we make, like, real homemade mac 'n cheese and there's those little pieces of slightly burned or crispy cheese? They're just like those. Promise."

Well, that's definitely a good step towards being truly amazing.

Giotto's cheesy tidbits are something else. Yet not. That's the thing: the only ingredient is cheese! Well, technically two cheeses. There's the mysteriously labelled semi-aged cheese (now that sounds like a gamble) and grana padano cheese. Never heard of grana padano? Me neither. I'm a sheltered 'murican.  But apparently it's at least somewhat akin to parmigiano reggiano if you're familiar, a really good parmesan if you're not.

I'm going to presume that it's the grana padano from which the cheese bites derive much of their flavor, because there's a definite strong parmigiano/parmesan vibe to them. Very strong. This isn't quite right, but the words "pleasantly pungent" come to mind. The taste also strays a bit towards salty for me - after a few I really wanted a tall glass of water - but it's a very cheesing and pleasing taste that makes it hard to eat just one.

It also helps that even though oven-baked, there's a crumbly, slightly greasy comfort food vibe. But so crunchy! Very, very crunchy. I'm not sure of the all the science into baking nothing but two types of mysterious cheese into a crunchy shelf stable form without adding anything....but here it is. Sandy said that the crunch form also held up very well when she tossed a handful into her black bean soup at lunch. Crunch retained, no sogginess even after several minutes. Nice.

Sandy loves these. Most times I have to tease her opinion out a little bit for my reviews. Not this time around. "Five. No question. Five. Pantheon worthy." Well...I'm not entirely certain of that. I'd be inclined to go more of a four (that aforementioned saltiness is a bit much) but...apparently in the last six months or so I've spontaneously developed this amplified crunching ability which rattles my wife's eardrums to no end. Like, it's really loud. I don't know, sounds the same to me, but apparently this newly bestowed gift was on full display with these cheese bites. I had to apologize, and part of my retribution, I'll bump another half point. Not sure of cost, but inexpensive enough that Sandy bought two bags without feeling guilty, so not too much. Check 'em out...if you want to try something truly amazing.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Oven-Baked Cheese Bites: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Okra

Ah...dry, salty, crunchified plants. America has a love/hate relationship with you, doesn't it? 

Just look at the raging debate in the comments section below our Trader Joe's Kale Chips review. "I loved these!" "I hated these!" "Great review!" "Terrible review!" There's no "These were moderately enjoyable" comments. People are passionate when it comes to their opinion about kale chips. Broccoli florets, too—which I also enjoyed. Heck, I'm a pretty big fan of Trader Joe's Contemplates...Inner Peas for that matter. 
Also see: chiptastic parsnips and beets.

But now, it's okra's turn to get snackified. 

Appropriately, Sonia and I are still meandering around the Dirty South, where okra is a popular ingredient in many local and regional cuisines. Also known as "ladies' fingers," (not to be confused with ladyfingers) each of these plants is about the size of...well, a lady's finger. They're green, full of seeds, and normally somewhat slimy on the inside. But in this case, they're delectably crisp, arid, and brittle.

There are plenty of suggestions for ways to consume these crispy little fellows on the packaging—but I'll be honest, I never got a chance to try them any way other than popping them directly from the bag into my mouth. 

Sonia only had a handful, and that was plenty for her. She said, "They don't taste like anything!" After pressing her for more details, she mentioned that she thought they tasted like green beans, but even more bland. I can understand the comparison to green beans, but I think their flavor is slightly more squash-like than that. Plus, they're salty, and the tiny bit of rice bran oil gives them flavor as well.

I didn't enjoy them quite as much as the kale chips or the broccoli florets, but I did like them and would consider purchasing them again. At $1.99 a bag, they're the least expensive of the three, and they pack plenty of vitamins, protein, and fiber along with their salty snackability. I give them four solid stars. Sonia can't give more than two. It's a definite thumbs-up from me, thumbs-down from her. Fair enough.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Trader Joe's Soft Licorice Twists

I hold these truths to be self-evident; that not all licorices are created equal.

There's the common licorice currency of Twizzlers. Chances are, it's the first brand you think of when you think licorice. But...c'mon. You even been satisfied by a Twizzler? No? Me neither. Those chewy, mostly flavorless wax sticks always made better straws than snacks, IMHO. Then there's the mystery plastic baggies at candy stores - could be decent stuff, could be (speaking from personal experience) harsh, salty, impossible to chew hard rubber nuggets.

So when Trader Joe's introduces not one but two new sacks o' licorice - Trader Joe's Soft Strawberry Licorice Twists and Trader Joe's Soft Black Licorice Twists - it's worth the ol' college try.

Naturally, they're both pretty similar in appearance and texture. It's a medium single cable style, cut up in roughly one inch sections. The chew feels a lot like, well, Twizzler Pull 'n Peels, except in singular strand form. That's been the sweet spot for licorice squish, personally - harder is too much a struggle, any softer feels too mushy. So, both bags got that going for them.

For flavor, though, there's a decided difference, that's more than black and red. Both Sandy and I preferred the black. It's a very mild, pleasant flavor, with a decent amount of anise, like a good black licorice should. It's enough to get the point of the flavor across without being offensive to the masses. Even if you're not a fan of black jelly beans, like my wife, it's an agreeable taste. The strawberry though? Not as good. The tart edge of strawberry comes across but doesn't have enough sweetness to really back up and fully develop it. It's only a halfway flavor, if you know what I mean.

Regardless of flavor differences, I like the lack of preservatives, the natural coloring, and the fact that even after sitting out opened overnight, each bite I just partook off was just as soft as when the seal was first cracked. And the price was pretty agreeable too: a half pound of decent candy for $2.49. Didn't have the little kiddos try it, it might still be a little chewy for lil chompers. It won't be an every time purchase by any stretch, but as long as these are on TJ's shelves, Twizzlers will never be on mine.

Bottom lines: Trader Joe's Soft Black Licorice Twists: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons and Trader Joe's Soft Strawberry Licorice Twists: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Greek Spirals with Leeks and Feta Cheese

Many of you have probably heard of the Norway Spiral. In the minds of the very sober and scientific-minded, it was obviously an interdimensional portal of some kind, ushering otherworldly beings onto our planet to initiate the apocalypse. That point isn't really up for debate. The apocalypse is just a bit behind schedule due to some unforeseen political circumstances and a few mathematical errors and omissions in the Mayan calendar. 

Then several years later, we learned of a Greek Spiral, whose purpose was quite obviously to usher five different cheeses into our reality, and to disappoint Russ and Sandy, thus temporarily distracting them from their true purpose and role in saving humanity from the aforementioned apocalypse.

Similarly, Sonia and I have recently been made aware of a swarm of smaller Greek spirals featuring only two cheeses, but containing leeks as well. These leaky leek spirals leaked Greek grease cheekily onto streaky sheets in our oven, but the final product was not particularly greasy in my opinion—at least not when compared to other similar Greek phyllo dough-based products.

The true purpose of this miniature Greek spiral swarm has not yet been uncovered as of the date of this food review's publication. 

It may have something to do with the leek's "unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients" healing this food reviewer from his current ailment, which may, in turn, be fueling some more-imaginitive-than-usual musings about this fairly run-of-the-mill Trader Joe's pastry.

The dough is somewhat flaky and soft. The filling isn't particularly cheesy, but there's a mild feta-esque flavor present. And the onion-ish hints of the leek are most definitely in there, too. It's not an overbearing flavor—it's subtle, like all the truly great powers in the universe tend to be.

Three and a half interdimensional portals out of five from me. Three and a half from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar

"Candy World! Dada, let's go play Candy World!"

Every night, right before bedtime, that's about all I hear from my four year old. She means CandyLand, of course. But Candy World sounds much more fun, doesn't it?

I think so. I think I'd like to live in an actual Candy World, like some Wonkified version of reality where everything, on a whim, could be candy. Sounds great. Love candy. Love chocolate. Love Trader Joe's, too. So if TJ's comes out with a chocolate bar, no matter how large, goofy, imitative of a classic, or potentially combustible, I gotta try it.

All that does not mean I have to love the new Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar.

This is not my first go-around with a TJ's spiced chocolate product. Admittedly, this new particular bar is a fair amount more successful than those caramels. But it shares some of the same pitfalls. Namely, ginger and chocolate are two flavors that need to be carefully combined for optimization. With this bar, toss in a healthy dose of cardamom, too. And I mean healthy. It's the first thing I smelled when I opened the wrapper, like Hershey-fied potpurri.

And honestly, it's kinda how it tasted, too.

The ginger and cardamom weren't overpowering per se, as I could still taste the milk chocolate enough to determine it was of fairly good quality. But the other spices - curry? Pepper? Heck, even the coconut? Nope, nada, none, except for a small bite I had that seemed particularly salty. None of that "warming" that the label speaks of on the front. The crisped quinoa did add a nice little gritty bite, a la crisped rice but a bit smaller, but in the end, I wasn't that happy with the bar.

Honestly, this chocolate bar may have been trying to do a little bit too much, but ended up not really excelling at anything in particular. It's okay, not great...perhaps I lack the proper sophistication to truly appreciate it and should stick to my Butterfingers like the plebe I am. Sandy enjoyed more than I did, noting her affinity for anything with cardamom. Still, even she could offer it only a lackluster three.

Eh well, just as I remind my four year old when we play Candy World, you can't win them all.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Golden Spiced Milk Chocolate Bar: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, January 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Korma Fish Curry

A handful of you might remember that not all that long ago, Sonia and I had been living without a microwave. We purposely neglected to replace it mainly to see how we’d do without it. But now that we’re living in our RV and traveling, we are now, once again, endowed with the ability to irradiate our foods from frozen to ready-to-eat in a matter of minutes—when we’re hooked up to shore power, at least. Oh, how I’ve missed you, nuked foods. May our romance blossom once again. For our reunion date, you prepared a delish fish dish for me. How sweet of you, Samsung MC1015BB.

This blog has explored quite a few different frozen, microwavable Indian products over the years. In my opinion, this is one of, if not the most consistent line of products Trader Joe’s has to offer. No, they can’t compete with a really good, authentic Indian restaurant, but considering the price and convenience, I’ve never found anything that compares.

This dish was no different. It’s the same basmati rice we’ve been seeing with most of these Indian meals. And of course, TJ’s curry is pretty consistently good. And the fish? Well, that was the wild card. Some TJ’s fish is spot on, and some…not so much.

But here we had a delicious white fish with a great taste and texture. Swai? It was soft, but not mushy, and it blended quite well with the thick, spicy curry. The packaging made the fish look like two or three “sticks,” for lack of a better term, but we got a large, triangular filet instead. If anything, it was more fish than I expected, just based on the picture on the box.

There’s a surprising amount of heat here, too, which Sonia and I both appreciated. The curry is potent, yet sweet, smooth, and coconutty. All three elements worked beautifully together, and we devoured our entrees quickly, wishing we had purchased another box or two to enjoy another day.

At $3.49 per single-serving package, it’s one of the pricier microwaveable Indian products at TJ’s, but it’s worth it if you ask Sonia or I. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese

Truffles. Not the candy kind. The fungi kind. They fancy.  Super fancy. I mean, they can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for a pound of them...but as far as I am concerned, they're just hoity-toity mushrooms. That *might* because I don't have much experience with them. See: that aforementioned price.

But mac 'n cheese? Please. I got two kids under the age of four: we live on that stuff. I know mac 'n cheese. So do you. So, when high class fungus meets everyday toddler fare, what do you get?

You get Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese.

Welll....not quite. Let's start with the noodles. Ain't no elbows around yeah. Nah, it's cavatappi. Yeah, it does kinda taste the same...but not really. It's heavier, sturdier, bitier, firmer, and all around just, well, more fancy. These particular noodles are definitely more towards al dente too, which is perfect.

And cheese. Ain't no weird orange powder packets here. It's a blend of five cheeses -  gouda, sharp cheddar, asiago, parmesan, and romano. All primo cheese, and unlike other five cheese concoctions, I can actually taste all five - the smokiness of the gouda, the sharpness of the cheddar, the impeccable tastiness of asiago, the mildness of the other two. Which is fairly impressive, because with my first visual impression, it looked like a watery mess, but after stirring and letting it set for a minute after nuking, the sauce settled into a decently thick creamy base. Not like your Italian grandma's, but it'll do for a frozen entree. The crimini mushrooms added a little touch of fungus among us, which I didn't mind one bit - Sandy however avoided. More for me.

So for the comes to us in form of "truffle extract" as the last ingredient. There's more rice starch and salt in here than any actual truffle substance. Is that like a drop or most? I don't know. But, in perhaps a mind trick in trying to convince myself that this is some fancyish fare, there does seem to a little extra oomph to the cheese sauce that is otherwise unexplained. Perhaps it's some of that semi-mysterious umami  potency that truffles are purported to have.

In short: a good dish. It just may be the best frozen mac n cheese I've ever had. I just wish it came in the two separate white ramekin-type deals that are pictured on the front, instead of the typical black plastic microwave tray, because, you know, fancy. Regardless, you can feel free to raise your pinkie with this one, folks. And it won't raise your budget at only a few bucks ($3 or $4), so go truffle hunting...and dig in.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Truffle Mac & Cheese: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Trader Joe's Crunchy Cinnamon Squares Cereal

"Cinnamon Toast Crunch Light." Or "Diet Cinnamon Toast Crunch." Take your pick. That's what this is. I mean, sure, there's still a good bit of sugar and calories here—in fact, calories per serving is identical in both cereals. The TJ's version will save you from about a half a gram of fat, but it's basically the same concept as the classic name-brand cereal from General Mills, except Trader Joe's specifies "cane sugar" rather than the slightly more vague "sugar" in GM's version.

Taste-wise, though, this offering doesn't offer quite as much flavor as actual Cinnamon Toast Crunch. I was expecting a much greater difference in the ingredients and nutrition information just based on the taste of this product. It's not a bad flavor. It's just not as pleasant as the classic cereal in the opinions of both Sonia and me.

Like classic CTC, both wheat and rice flour are used in the flakes, and the texture is pretty similar as a result, although I feel like TJ's version might be ever-so-slightly less dense.

Sonia noted that the particles of cinnamon detach from the flakes and distribute themselves throughout the milk and around the perimeter of the bowl. This might have something to do with the perceived flavor discrepancy. Does General Mills know the secret to stably fusing cinnamon particles to cereal flakes? Has Trader Joe's research and development team simply missed this fundamental principle of cinnamon particle physics? 

Is this Trader Joe's cereal just the General Mills cereal in disguise, and all perceived differences and discrepancies are simply in our heads?  Are our taste buds just messed up? Are we being too critical of this cereal? Are you being too critical of our review of this cereal?

The answers to these questions may never surface on this blog, but one thing's for sure—both this cereal and classic Cinnamon Toast Crunch pair up well with a nice ruby port.

Three stars from Sonia, three from me as well. (Just as a reference point, we'd give Cinnamon Toast Crunch four stars a piece.)

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Buenalba with Paprika Cheese

Well, somehow, we all made it to 2017. 2016 was kinda a doozy of a year, wasn't it? As far as anything I had some semblance of control over, it was good...but you can't exactly blame the sentiment behind things like this fairly believable fake move trailer. And if you're someone who's pretty glad to leave 2016 behind, just remember to take what's good and keep moving forward. It's all we can do.

Like...*scrambles for an example*...a ha! Trader Joe's Buenalba with Paprika Cheese! Sandy just picked this up, on the second day of 2017, yet this particular cheese was Trader Joe's spotlight cheese way back in October 2016. And, like Betty White, fortunately it has survived into the new year.

Coming to us from the exotic stomping grounds of Don Quixote (La Mancha, Spain), TJ's buenalba cheese with paprika is raw milk based, from both goats and sheep. I've had other cheeses of similar origins, and have a wide variety of experiences from soft and mild to bordering on what I'd call "viscerally pungent." Definitely place this on the milder, not wilder, side of that spectrum. It's soft yet a little waxy, with a fair amount of creaminess after a few bites that still leaves a little graininess. Almost like bleu cheese, but a little different. That makes for a pretty interesting bite, in my opinion, and one I had to try a couple times to try and get the hang of.

The vibrant orange hue, along with the promise of paprika, makes for a pretty spicy looking appearance. Let me assure you: not the case. It's smoked "sweet paprika" (whatever that means) which, honestly, I didn't notice at first, it's so mild. And, this is gonna sound a little weird maybe, but...instead of tasting it, I more felt it. yes, I felt the paprika. There was this soft, gentle warming I felt after maybe my second bite had gone down the hatch that really, on a decently cold winter night, was very welcome.

Sandy and I enjoyed our bites by their lonesome, without an accompaniment. We're not enough into the pinkie-raising crowd to be able to suggest a good wine pairing, but you're into that kinda thing, you're probably smart enough to not take whatever some goofball TJ's blog would say about it anyways. For $10.99 a pound, it's a pretty decent cheese to take a flier on if you haven't yet. It certainly won't be the worst cheese you eat this year.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Buenalba with Paprika Cheese: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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