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Friday, July 31, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Cold Brew Black Tea Concentrate

July is such a long month. After the Fourth, it's pretty anticlimactic: no big holidays or festivities to look forward to. Sonia and I don't even have any birthdays among our immediate family or close friends. Also, it's the hottest month. It's like the summer version of January. Thirty-one days of extreme weather. Even before lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it was a time for me to hide inside and enjoy the air conditioning.

Last year, we spent most of July in the Pacific Northwest, where the temps weren't so bad. Highs in the 70's through this part of the summer? Yes, please. But this year, it's not as easy to galavant across the country with reckless abandon, so inside in the AC is where we've spent most of the month. And any refreshing cold beverages that can help beat the heat are most welcome.

This isn't the first TJ's brand tea concentrate we've tried, but it's the first one with plain black tea. I think it's new. But then again, I think everything I see at Trader Joe's that I haven't noticed before is new, and in some cases, it's a product that's been there for a decade or more. So you tell me if it's new. I'll believe you either way.

This particular product comes in a single pint bottle that makes "up to one gallon of tea." So let's break this puppy open and add some sugar and lemon juice and see what we get...

First impressions: it's good. Just how good it tastes to your palate is going to largely depend upon how you prepare it. How much water did you use? How much sugar or agave syrup did you add? Did you add lemon juice?

In light of that, I'm pretty sure that anyone who likes iced tea is going to find a way to tailor this stuff to their own personal tastes. I once had a conversation with a Southerner who, as many Southerners are, was a sweet tea aficionado. In my Yankee ignorance, I posed the question: "Couldn't you just, you know, like add your own sugar to unsweetened tea?" 

His response: "Or I could just stab your mother."

I think he was joking, mostly. But the takeaway was that you can not simply add sugar to iced tea in order to make true Southern style sweet tea. So you Southern folks might not be super enthused about this product. Me? I guess ignorance is bliss, because I like it quite a bit. I made mine on the strong side and added a good amount of sugar and lemon.

Sonia likes it, too. She used agave and didn't make hers quite as sweet or as strong. I really think that's the biggest strength of this tea: its versatility. It's about $5 for the little bottle, but as it states on the traderjoes website, you're getting organic cold brew tea for about 31 cents per cup. That's darn cheap. I think we're looking at four stars a piece here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Trader Joe's Roasted Barley Tea

"Cheerios water."

For better, or for worse, or for whatever reason, those were the first words out of my mouth after my first sip of a new icy cool Trader Joe's Roasted Barley Tea.

"Ch...Cheerios water? What the heck are ya talking about, and how would you know what Cheerios water would taste like? You tryin' that out on you own time or sometime?"

"Heck no. But like...if I had a bowl of Cherrios, but instead of milk poured water over it, ate the Cheerios, then drank the water, I think this would taste like that."

"Okay, weirdo. It's..." pauses for another sip "...more like coffee. Like a really weak coffee, like what I'd imagine emergency ration coffee would be like, all watered down and everything...which I hope we won't find out what that'll be like..."

"Thanks for the stark assessment, love."

Well, there ya have it. There's a little slice of life between my lovely bride and I the other night, after making a quick stop at TJ's after a long hot day capped off with a family bike ride to try and save some of our collective sanity. Left us parched, and I figured no better time to give a new beverage a try.

For a first time tryer of boricha (the actual Korean name for this type of drink, though I make no claim to this TJ's version's authenticity), it's so simple a drink, yet one that leaves me intrigued. I mean, literally, it tastes like nothing but grain, kinda, and water. There's no sugar, no other flavors or spices or anything to "liven" it up. It's barley...and water. Part of me wants to be all wiseguy 'merican and say to add malt and hops and then we might really be on to something, but that's not what we have here.

It's light but not overtly crisp and I waver on calling it refreshing or not. I'm sure some folks could consider it that, but I'm not quite on board. It's not awful, by any stretch, and I definitely enjoyed it the more I drank it, but I didn't finish the bottle entirely overjoyed, either. Yet I wish to try it again, and for $1.19 a bottle it's a low priced gamble.

I just noticed on the bottle it said it the barley tea can be served hot or cold. If it ever cools down, I'll definitely have try a heated up version - honestly I think I'd enjoy it more that way, but not when it's in the mid 90s and I have no AC, thank you very much.

Not overly in love, but I'll try it again for sure. That warrants a three in my book, subject to change with further experience. Despite our exclusive to ourselves oddities, my wife shares in this assessment with a three of her own.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Roasted Barley Tea: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, July 27, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Cucumber Kefir Dressing

It's been over nine years since we last looked at a Trader Joe's kefir product. Granted, that one was more of a beverage and this one is a condiment, but still, these are the only two products we've seen that contain the name "kefir" through nearly a decade of reviews. All I know about kefir is that it's basically a drinkable yogurt. I'm still not even 100% sure how you're supposed to pronounce the word. Fortunately, I won't have to say it out loud any time soon. Sonia and I have simply been referring to this dressing as, "you know, the cucumber stuff."

I'd say all things considered, we're fans. It's oddly thin for a milk-based salad dressing, but we're both fine with that. We think the thinness makes it more summery. Thick stuff is for fall and winter. This is like the warm weather version of ranch, at least texture-wise.

It's super tangy, cucumbery, and refreshing. Pretty much every ingredient is truly organic, so that's a plus. Calories and fat count are very reasonable. It's always a shame when you choose a salad thinking you're being good and then you do some math and realize you're actually getting just as many calories and often more fat than if you'd gotten a sub or a hamburger. Ah well, at least there's more roughage and fewer carbs, right?

Flavor-wise, it's not too far off from a Caesar dressing, but way more sour. There are numerous types of oils and vinegars, as well as real cucumber puree. The blend of spices is noticeable but it doesn't overshadow the tangy dairy flavors or the subtle notes of cucumber. It's almost like a thin American tzatziki. Sonia thought the sour power was a little intense—not that she disliked it, but she used significantly less dressing than I did so as to not overpower her taste buds.

I, personally, don't think this condiment works as a veggie dip so well, since it doesn't coat as much as other dips. If you've got all your greens in a bowl, it works as a classic salad dressing. I've tried it as an alternative condiment in a sandwich, but it tends to slide off the edges of the bread and drip down onto your plate. You can always try dabbing your sandwich into the little puddles of the dressing to recover some of the escaped portions, but that can be frustrating and tedious.

The price is $3.49 for a bottle that won't last long. A larger family might go through the bottle at a single meal—and I mean that as a testament both to the diminutive size of the bottle as well as to the quality and uniqueness of the product. Says there's 12 servings, but I think it's more like six the way I use dressing. Three and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Trader Joe's Sparkling Black Tea with Peach Juice Beverage

There's some pretty ridiculous things to read out there these days. Most comment sections of anything, depending on your definition of ridiculous - it's not always haha funny but often times facepalm inducing. Except here, of course. And there's things like the Birds Aren't Real conspiracy theories - the whole quarantine thing going on is to change their batteries - or Letterkenny scripts so you can read what you mighta missed...and on, and on, and on, with all the time we got on our hands these days.

And there's some little, smaller, more subtle gems like Trader Joe's Sparkling Black tea with Peach Juice Beverage.

It's tea...with juice...that's a beverage.

I mean, how many redundant synonyms must we go through to get the idea that this is in fact a drink?

One could argue that the terms black tea and peach juice are more adjective than noun
. but just calling it "Sparkling Black Tea with Peach Juice" is perfectly adequate without tacking on beverage. Heck, you could likely squeeze out the juice too.

There's another little gem on the package as well: "Once can is opened, keep refrigerated and consume within 1 day." C'mon now. these are packaged inside those teeny tiny little cans, the ones that seem so trendy these days. It's not all that difficult to drain all contents in one go if one were to feel inclined. The only scenario I can envision not finishing a can of this size is sheer forgetfulness or neglect, in which case it will likely not end up in the fridge anyways...which is how everyone else in my house aside from me seems to operate.

Anyways, all that aside, I love this new addition to the TJ's summertime lineup. If peach tea is your thing, you'll love it. It's fun to drink - I thought, going in, that fizzy tea might be a bit odd, but nah, it works. All those happy little bubbles floating their way on down adds a great little touch. For flavor, the classic black tea taste is complemented nicely and crisply with the peach, and from the looks of things, real peach too, none of that from concentrate stuff. It's light and sweet but never sticky or overbearing or has the feel of being fancy-shmancy sugar water. Nope. it's just good honest liquid refreshment for this horrid summer months.

A four-pack will set ya back about $3, or maybe it's $4. Once again, I lost the receipt. How many times have you read that on this blog? Ridiculous. I'm a sucker for home brewed sweet tea, so i'm not gonna say this is my new summer drink of choice (especially because I have my doubts of how well it'd mix with anything boozy) but it'll be a repeat buy for sure. Double fours.

Bottom line:  Trader Joe's Sparkling Black Tea with Peach Juice Beverage: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Trader Joe's Tabbouleh Style Hummus

Although I've long been a champion of hummus, at least when served with warm pita bread or as a condiment alongside other delicious Mediterranean food, I'm not nearly as familiar with tabbouleh. I've only ever had it from a proper Lebanese restaurant once that I can recall, and then there was this cauliflower-based stuff from TJ's we had a while back. It's a tasty Middle Eastern salad with a bunch of vegetarian ingredients and some interesting stuff like mint and lemon juice.

This hummus seems to be missing a few key ingredients that are apparently integral to typical tabbouleh, most notably bulgur wheat. So it's not like Trader Joe's—or their supplier, as the case may be—just took some tabbouleh and stirred it into a tub of hummus. They formulated a special type of hummus that would flaunt a few of the flavors customarily associated with tabbouleh. In my opinion it's still much more hummus than it is tabbouleh, hence the name "Tabbouleh Style Hummus" as opposed to "Hummus Style Tabbouleh."

So it works just fine in just about any application you'd want to use regular hummus. It just has some tomato bits, parsley, and tahini stirred into the mix. The lemon and mint aspects are fairly subtle. All in all, it's just garbanzo bean-based hummus with a bit more tang and a few bits of vegetable matter floating around here and there. It's not a far cry from what we saw Trader Joe's do with the recently-reviewed Dill Pickle Hummus.

I wouldn't have minded a bit more of the tabbouleh effect in this product. I don't know if bulgur would have thrown off the texture, but it might be a little more authentically tabboulleh-y. Some chopped up bits of cucumber wouldn't have been unwelcome, either.

Closing thoughts? I wish they would have chosen the alternate spelling "tabouli" because it's shorter to type and also the "i" at the end better approximates the way an American is going to pronounce the word. When we try to say "eh" at the end of the word, it sounds like we're coughing.

$1.99 for the tub. Three and a half stars from this guy. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Cheddar Seasoned Popcorn

Is it worth it? Let me work it. Put my thing down, flip it and reverse it.

Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup.

Thanks, Missy Elliot, for the lyrical inspiration. Turns out that second line never was gibberish...duh. So obvious now, not so much back then.

And thanks, Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Cheddar Seasoned Popcorn, as well as my lovely bride, for the real life inspiration to put that line to use. Time to work it, flip it and reverse it.


Well, for only $1.99 a bag for this new popcorn sensation sweeping TJ's shelves across the nation, I figured it'd be worth to buy two of 'em on our latest trip. You know, for science. Couldn't wait to get back home and give it a try, and when we finally did, I opened the bag atop, in the most traditional of ways, took a hand sized scoop, dumped it into my mouth, and started waiting for that hatch chile cheddar seasoning to wash over my existence and take me to a place I didn't know existed.

And waited..and waited..and waited...and waited...okay, I'm impatient, here's a fresh batch o' hatch...and waited some more...and a little more...ugh.

The issue with the hatch cheddar isn't the flavor itself. Oh no, it's nice - a nice teeny bite of white cheddar, and a great little savory, mildly spicy kick from the hatch chiles which grows a little with each bite. it's wonderful flavor, topnotch. But it's the intensity itself. It's...subtle? Subtler than subtle? I don't know. I was recently reminded how potently flavored the TJ's pickle popcorn is, with its unmistakable bite. If that's one end of the spectrum, this stuff is on the complete other end. It's...milder than mild. Weaker than weak. Wimpier than wimpy. Maybe I'm just too much of a hatch chile guy, but I'd love if the flavor were kept the same but intensified by a factor of at least four or five. It's good I want to taste more of it.

Enter the second popcorn bag, rap lyrics, and my wife.

Second bag, opened a few days after the first to be sure, she said to open from the bottom. That way if all the flavor dust kinda settled down there, we could be hit with a more intense flavor experience upfront. Duh. So obvious yet genius at the same time. Who says we always had to open the bag at the top? What am I, a sheep? No way! My house, my rules, as okayed by my wife! Let's do it!

Yeah...not much different that way either. The hatch and cheddar mix was a bit beefier, but not by that much. Sigh.

It's too bad, really. Everything else is pretty great - good sized kernels, perfectly munchy with ample fluff, not too greasy or messy. The whole experience just has to be "more hatchier" in the eloquent words of my wife. I've read some folks on the social sites when trying this popcorn added some of their own seasoning to liven it up a bit, so it's not just us.

Sigh. The hatch chile cheddar popcorn could have been an all time classic, but instead is relegated to the "maybe rebuy/maybe not" category. The lack of realized potential is really holding it back, and for some reason this kinda hurts but I can't give it much more than like a 2. It's sad, but at least my wife joins me in the grief by giving it a charitable 3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Hatch Chile Cheddar Seasoned Popcorn: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, July 17, 2020

Trader Joe's Pineapple Cottage Cheese

Growing up adjacent to Pennsylvania Dutch country, I was introduced to cottage cheese and apple butter at an early age. I've always loved that combo. My family would frequent the local Bonanza Steakhouse when I was a kid, and I remember hitting up the salad bar repeatedly to fill plate after plate with globs of cottage cheese topped with generous amounts of apple butter. My parents would even scold me and remind me to save room for the main course. I always had juuust enough appetite left to shovel down my child-size portion of fried shrimp with cocktail sauce.

Since then, I've learned that various fruits pair well with cottage cheese. I love it with pears, peaches, grapes...and most recently, pineapple chunks. Up to this point, I've always just added my own, although I'm aware there are numerous other pre-mixed cottage cheese and pineapple offerings.

Since pineapple is so naturally sweet, I was surprised to see both "sugar" and "brown sugar" as part of the pineapple base in this product. There's a total of 5g of added sugars in the tub, which isn't too bad, I suppose, but I honestly prefer cottage cheese with nothing but fruit—apple butter being the one exception.

But if I'm not comparing it to anything else, this combo tastes pretty good and isn't bad for a cheap snack at $1.19. Cottage cheese always packs a significant amount of protein without a ton of calories and fat, and the tub is the perfect size for a single-serving blood sugar booster. 

I'd really have liked a lot more pineapple, though. The bits in the container are miniscule and few and far between. The pineapple base is a thin yellowish jam-like substance, and both the fruit and the pineapple base come on the bottom of the plastic tub and must be stirred in manually, in the manner of fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt. It's definitely sweet and pineappley, but you can still taste the curdy creaminess of cottage cheese, as well.

For the sake of convenience and value, I'd consider purchasing this product again, but if you've got actual pineapple on hand and can add it to plain cottage cheese yourself, I think that's a better option, all things considered. Sonia concurs. Three out of five stars from Sonia, three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Trader Joe's Triple Chocolate Cupcakes

Last week, as is tradition in our family, my oldest daughter got to pick out everything she wanted for her birthday dinner. When driving towards TJ's to get all the necessary supplies, we started talking about what she wanted. And by "we", I mostly meant me trying to gently coax out what her ideal meal would look and taste like. Finally, we got to a full menu...homemade cheese pizza, baby carrots, watermelon and strawberry lemonade. Now that sounds like a pretty good birthday dinner!

But I did skip over one part. All those listed there were after asking what her favorite food, her favorite veggie, her favorite fruit, and so on was. But one thing she mentioned without hesitation, as if it were the only thing she wanted to eat, ever, was this: chocolate. So naturally, when going thru the aisles and past the bakery section and she saw Trader Joe's Triple Chocolate Cupcakes, she did her thing where her eyes light up, eyebrows get raised, a taut little smile, and she bounces on her toes that clearly indicate this is precisely what she wanted, no words needed. With respect to The Eurhythmics, who am I to disagree?

Sorry for the cruddy pic, but I could only snap it real quick before it got ripped into by my daughters and one of their friends who came over. "Chocolate!!!!!" they cried. Well then. There's no denying there is ample chocolate in something called "triple chocolate cupcakes." I barely got a bite, so more apologies if I'm not completely accurate here. As is with most things, I'm doing the best I can with what I got here.

Let's do this one chocolate layer at a time:

- Chocolate cake: Meh. I mean, it's a plain chocolate cake. When's the last time you've been truly impressed by one? It's equal parts spongy and stiff, and tastes really only mildly like chocolate. Definitely not homemade quality, and kinda closer to a regular Duncan Hines cake mix.

- Chocolate creme: Well, okay, here we go. Soft and sugary and sweet, like a good milk chocolate should be. I wish the cupcakes had one of those little creme reservoirs in there, as this creme would taste really great taking up more product space than the actual cake. It's fairly respectable, not amazingly great by it's own, but passable.

- Chocolate fudge frosting: Now, here we go. The frosting is easily the fullest, richest chocolate component. it's thick and kinda buttercreamy and quite frankly straight up delicious. But also quite rich and filling, especially when atop the cake and creme. There's a reason that after a couple bites pretty much everyone was saying "Too much chocolate!" while plowing on anyways, and I'm pretty sure this was it.

All together it's a respectable store bought cupcake, and an okay, not great price at $3.99 for a four pack. I don't think we'll get a hankering again anytime soon for them, especially by when we also finish up leftover birthday cake and cookies.

Unfortunately I didn't get the pics of the nutritional info and ingredients, but they are more or less what you'd expect for a chocolate cupcake. Here's a link for just the facts. My kids loved 'em while my lovely bride and I were more "meh" so I'm hoping I'm scoring with the right balance of youthful exuberance and aged jadedness.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Triple Chocolate Cupcakes: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons. 

Monday, July 13, 2020

Trader Joe's Balela

A certain "source for authentic Latino cuisine" has been in the news lately, and without mentioning its name or getting into divisive politics, I'll just say that Sonia and I have been talking about beans a lot as of late. We discussed our mutual love of beans in general, and in particular, we got into garbanzo beans and black beans, since they're both staples of our ever-deepening pantry.

I made the assertion that garbanzos will be much more convenient when the power grid goes down, since they're generally meant to be served cold or at room temperature, while black beans are only palatable when heated. Sonia disagreed and stated that she'd happily consume black beans cold as well, also pointing out that a particular stereotype about her ethnicity is not only true, but that if anything, her people's reverence for frijoles is understated and only partially understood by los gringos.

All of this discussion took place before picking up this new (?) refrigerated bean salad from Trader Joe's. Apparently Middle-Easterners are nearly as enthusiastic about beans as our south-of-the-border amigos. Also, my assumption that black beans had no place in any cold dishes was dashed to pieces. This balela is chock full of garbanzos as well as black beans, and they both work beautifully in this mixture.

To me, this salad tasted like the two aforementioned bean types, mixed with something akin to pico de gallo, with some oil and vinegar dressing on top. Ingredients-wise, it's really not a far cry from that. There's a hint of citrus flavor and a barely-detectable amount of spice from the chili pepper and garlic. The faint "dried mint" element is perhaps the most uniquely Middle-Eastern or Mediterranean aspect of the salad.

It's crisp, refreshing, filling, and not too shabby in the calories and fat departments. It's perfect for summer. I found it a nice break from typical lettuce-cabbage-spinach-based salads. And obviously, there are far fewer carbs in here than in any kind of pasta salad.

$3.29 for the 8 oz tub. Might be a repeat purchase, or we might try to make our own. Four stars a piece.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers

Don't know about you, but I've been putting on the lockdown pounds, which I'm trying to be better about...but then something like Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken Poppers comes along and somehow falls into my cart and, well, what do you expect?

Look at that picture of the front. Just looook. It's a little wedge of snacky time perfection, from what it appears, right? Oozy filling, deep fried wrapper, the words "buffalo chicken" promising that classic spicy taste...who can resist? Not me.

But wait, there's more! Silly me, calling it just a wrapper. No, friends. No, It's not just any wrapper, it's phyllo dough! I mean, mathematics and philosophy and Yanni are fine and all, but phyllo just may be the greatest Greek contribution to society. All those irresistably thin 'n crispy layers, making these poppers more of a pastry than just another Chotchki's-type deep fried dish...oh yeah, for sure.

Naturally there's only one proper way to prep these: air fryer. No question. If you don't have one, you should, and you'll never look back. That's what we did, and the result was piping hot, not-too-greasy, light and crispy buffalo chicken poppers ready to, well, pop right in our mouths.

And all that phyllo...delicious. I think I'll have another bite of it, and maybe another nibble. Good, but where's the chicken? Where's the buffalo? Where's the whatever else in there?

Oooh...there it is. Sorta.

As always, it's possible we just got a particularly stingy batch of product, but that'd be one helluva unlucky streak. So I'd rather assume that the little perhaps half spoonful of chicken and cheese per popper is pretty representative, and in my opinion it's just not quite enough filling for all the dough.

That being said, the chicken-cheese-hot sauce filling is pretty decent. Personally, I woulda opted for more a classic bleu cheese or ranch to match with buffalo chicken instead of some sort of cream cheese/Cheddar hybrid. But for what it is, it's fairly tasty and proportionate to its components. I'd also add a little more buffalo to ramp up the spice, but that's not everyone's thing, I know.

In all, it's a great appetizer or snack. Pair with a cold 'n frosty IPA for a respectable bar-at-home type experience, or just nosh on for a little classic comfort vibe, and share with a friend. I was pretty happy with just two of them, which is surprising as a serving says it's three of them...maybe I'm beginning to learn restraint once more? Watch it, lockdown pounds. Matching 3.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Buffalo Style Chicken  Poppers: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Trader Joe's Feta, Pepper Drop and Olive Antipasto

This was a very educational purchase for me. Neither Sonia nor I had ever heard of pepper drops before. Apparently, they're native to Peru, they're sweet and sour, and they're teardrop-shaped. Not sure how I've made it this far in life without hearing about these fun and colorful little globs of flavor, but better late than never I always say. Sonia and I both thoroughly enjoyed the pepper drop element of this product. We wish there were a lot more of them.

Secondly, I don't think I've ever come across the word "toothsome" before today. It's right there on the front of the package. It's possible I've seen it before and it simply didn't register, but today is the day I'll add that adjective to my vocabulary and hopefully manage to work it into regular rotation. Although, I may alternate between that and "toothtacular," because why not?

Thirdly, I learned that when something has feta cheese as the number one ingredient, it's going to be absolutely bursting with lipids. Everything's betta with feta! Indeed. And feta cheese is the number one ingredient here. However, there's more than half a day's worth of fat in this single-serving container of antipasto. I mean, I never assumed feta was diet food or anything, so I should have seen it coming. But 54% of your RDA for fat is a little more than I was hoping for. Sonia's the one that pointed this out to me. She's actually far more horrified than I am.

It might not be a bad idea to pick up some bruschetta alongside this product so you don't waste all that good olive oil. The instructions on the container say to drain all the oil out before eating. That makes sense...because there's about a gallon of olive oil in that little 8oz package. If you're not into the whole hyperbole thing, there's apparently like an ounce and a half of olive oil, you know, if you do the math. But in actual practice, just count on a gallon or so. 

There's just lots of olive oil.

Also, there are many, many olives. I didn't mind them at first, but the wife and I were so enamored with the pepper drops that we found ourselves wishing there were fewer and fewer kalamata olives to make room for more of the tiny red and orange drops. Sonia's actually allergic to kalamatas, so I was tasked with eating them all. They are all pitted, which is a big plus. If I had to slow down and remove pits from each bite of this antipasto, it would have been a bummer. The way this year is going so far, I probably would have choked on one of them and Sonia and the dogs would have been left to weather the apocalypse without me. It would have been pitiful. Get it? PITiful? It's a joke.


$4.99 for the container. Three and a half stars a piece on this product.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Trader Joe's Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps

Well, it's pretty plain to see where the inspiration came from here, isn't it?

For all the island vibe that TJ's has and is based on, there's still a little cowboy in there, for sure. Off the top of my head, I can recall Cowboy Caviar, Cowboy (and Cowgirl) Bark, Cowboy Quinoa Burgers, and a southwesty nut mix that I can't quite recall the name of that I likened to Sam Elliot shaking the dust out of his mustache.

So to have a product named Trader Joe's Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps isn't completely anew. Sure, the Beetlejuice-y looking guy riding the chip on the canister looks pretty odd and amused with himself, so maybe it's not quite classic inspiration. Plus, I usually associate  the use of the words "crisps" with British people and/or  Smeagol ("crispspspspspsps") , so perhaps that part is a menagerie of non-associated imagery that doesn't quite follow.

Except it does, because, obviously, it's a Pringles knock off. Can't call 'em that, though. So saddle crisps, because they're kinda shaped like a saddle and you can put some goofy imagery on the tubular canister? Good enough.

It's been a hot minute since I've had real actual Pringles - I've learned I have no control with them, ever - so my comparison is based on a lot of memory. It's hard to draw many differences. Same size, shape, appearance, texture, oily feel, and's almost all there. The *crunch* seems maybe a little different, a little lighter, a little airier. at first I attributed that to rice flour in the mix, but then doublechecked Pringles ingredients - you, Pringles has that, too. All the same ingredients, in fact, as far as I can tell. So there's not much different here - they could infact be one and the same, aside from maybe a different cooking process? This could just be me trying too hard to draw a line that doesn't exist.

All that being said, man, these TJ's saddle chips need some flavor to them, a little something something. I mean Pringles got some nice about elote, or EBTB, or something along those lines? Please? Sea salt is pretty boring, pretty tame, pretty neutral. Do something to set yourself apart, TJ's?

Nothing too much more to say here. Saddle up for nondescript chips if you buy these for the $2ish asking price.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sea Salted Saddle Potato Crisps: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Trader Joe's Lemon Chess Pie

Never heard of chess pie before. Thought maybe it was like a Rosca de Reyes but with plastic chess pieces baked into it instead of a plastic baby Jesus. Nope. Although, you gotta admit that would be fun. You could play a game with just the chess pieces you found in your slice of pie, as a way to introduce an element of chance into the game. But then again, meh. I'm sure the pawns would be a choking hazard. Darn you, chess pie.

So I Googled it. Apparently, it's Southern, and it means "just pie" but with a deep Southern accent. Fair enough. If that's the case, though, then shouldn't it be "chess pah"?

This version of chess pie is super tangy and sweet. It's a delicious, mouth-puckering lemon flavor. It immediately reminded both Sonia and I of lemon bars. We both agree it's a uniquely summery flavor, but we can't really put our finger on why we feel that way. I guess it's still lemon harvest season...?

The body of the pie is a fairly dense lemon custard. It's very smooth and somewhat thick. The crust is dry and flaky, maybe mildly buttery. The crust was a little too broad around the edge of the pie. There's like a half inch where there's nothing but crust and no lemon. I didn't mind eating the crust plain, but then again, I was pretty hungry. I could see some people discarding the excess crust since it's not particularly interesting by itself. How wasteful.

The lemon factor is pretty intense. That is, the coefficient of lemonosity is necessarily greater than the determinant value of the neutrality of the crustal elements when multiplied by pi. Ahem—I misspoke. I meant "when multiplied by pie." Make sense? Get it? Got it? Good.

$7.99 for six servings. I think you can definitely get at least six servings out of this one. It's pretty rich, so a medium-size pie piece is pretty satisfying. Double fours here in honor of 4th of July Weekend.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels

Ah, the good old rule of three. If you don't know it, you know it. Anything grouped as three tends to be more memorable and make more impact in some way, shape or form, very generally speaking. Think about it....

Stop, drop and roll.

Three point shots.

Three point sermons.

Three blind mice, and the Three Little Pigs.

The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Earth, Wind and Fire.

"A cord of three strands is not easily broken."

The Chicago Bulls and their "three-peats."

And so on. These were just off the top of my head. I could likely go on all day, in which case I'd need a snack, and maybe that could be a threesome as Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Pretzels.

Chocolate, peanut butter and pretzels. There you go. Another classic. And true to classic form, there isn't much reinvention here. Sometimes the old standby just works. And when TJ's doesn't lean on one of their traits heavily (innovation), there's nothing wrong with relying on their other two (quality and value), which this product does and does very well.

Admittedly it's been a while since I've had them - I had the pic and my general thoughts stashed away for a "break glass in case of emergency" review if we somehow didn't make it to a TJ's recently in these odd times - but I think I can manage to be fair. As stated, nothing earthshattering here. It's simply creamy milk chocolate, better than the standard Hershey stuff, coating over a crispy pretzel stuffed with kinda stiff, dry peanut butter as is the usual. The whole thing is kinda like a Turducken, another three-inspired classic. It's tough to eat more than a few at a time, simply because they're filling and fairly rich, but tasty enough that once that effect wears off a bit it's tough to resist going back for a couple more.

The only thing I'd change, and this is regardless of brand, is the peanut butter itself. I wish it could be soft and creamy instead of the slightly epoxy-like nut matter that invariably just dries out my throat. That's likely tough to pull off in this kinda snack, and understandably so...but I can still wish it were a possibility.

For the $3.99 they cost, I'd love to buy these pretzels again and again and again but know I likely shouldn't. Invariably, I stash the bag away and eat them all within (you guessed it) three days. Deeelish. Let's buck the three convention and hit them with some double fours.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Peanut butter Snacks: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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