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Friday, July 12, 2024

Trader Giotto's Pizza Margherita

Now here's a product that has really stood the test of time. I can't tell you exactly when it debuted, but I can tell you that Sonia has been purchasing Trader Giotto's Pizza Margherita since before we met circa 2005, so we're probably talking 20+ years on TJ's shelves. That's noteworthy. I've only had it one other time prior to this review, years ago, and it's finally time to give this bad boy its well-deserved day in the sun.

I mean it's nothing fancy. I think its simplicity is its strength. We're talking nothing more than dough, sauce, and cheese—but it's high-quality dough, sauce, and cheese. Just seven minutes at 425°F and you're ready to chow down.

The crust comes out crispy and slightly chewy. It's a relatively thin crust, which Sonia loves and I'm okay with when the occasion calls for it. If it's cold out and I'm absolutely starving, nothing but a thick, oily deep dish breading will hit the mark. But it's summertime and I'm rarely craving something so heavy, so this Pizza Margherita is just perfect for lunch these days.

There's plenty of tomato flavor, of course. The mozzarella cheese is smooth, creamy, and subtle, and it allows the basil flavor in the sauce to come through just a bit. There's also a hint of garlic and onion underneath it all. It's a nice, clean, uncomplicated flavor.

Of course, you can dress it up some if you're feeling frisky. Sonia and I were more than happy to have it plain, but it wouldn't clash with any basic pizza toppings if you wanted to add them a la carte.

$4.79 for the three serving pizza. Product of Italy. It's adequate for two adults for dinner. Will buy again. Nine out of ten stars from Sonia. Eight out of ten from Nathan for Trader Giotto's Pizza Margherita.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Trader Joe's Brown Sugar Cardamom Buns

Fun fact: cardamom is the third-most expensive spice in existence after, presumably, saffron and that stuff they get from the sandworms on Arrakis. It's apparently used widely as a baking ingredient in Scandinavian countries. Those zany Vikings and their cardamom...

But seriously though, I don't think I've had many, if any, pastries with cardamom as a prominently featured flavor/ingredient ever in my life...until now. And if I'm honest, I didn't like it that much, however, the beautiful wifey enjoyed it quite a bit. We haven't disagreed on a product this strongly in quite a while.

We both agreed that there was something fall-ish about this item. Cardamom isn't a far cry from allspice or clove in terms of flavor and intensity. It might not be a pumpkin spice, per se, but it's "pumpkin spice adjacent" in my opinion.

The brown sugar element was nice, providing a sweet, nutty essence to the bun. But the relative bitterness and spiciness of the cardamom was a turn-off for me, while Sonia thought it made the product unique and memorable. The bready part of the pastry was fairly standard, highly reminiscent of last fall's Apple Cinnamon Buns, neither stale nor unusually fresh—passable but not praise-worthy if you ask me.

$4.49 for two big sweet spiced buns, found with the other baked goods. This one will get a thumbs up from the beautiful wifey and a thumbs down from me. We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Nathan's score: 5.5 out of 10.

Sonia's score: 8 out of 10.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Trader Joe's (Refrigerated) Chicken Tikka Masala

I've always been a fan of chicken tikka. It's basically chicken tandoori made with boneless and skinless chicken breast. It's served dry, while its cousin chicken tikka masala is served in a creamy, tomato-based sauce like the dish we have here. Sonia and I have both had some pretty tasty tikka masala in our day, too, so Trader Joe's has their work cut out for them.

This product comes refrigerated, not frozen, so you've only got a week or so to consume it. The heating instructions involved either 5 minutes in the microwave or 25 minutes in the oven. We opted for the conventional bakey box because we were leery of rubbery chicken. 

The texture of the meat was fine, but our basmati rice dried out a bit. It got a tad crunchy by the end of the heating cycle. We've both had tikka masala with thicker sauce, but the relative thinness of this offering didn't bother me, while it did bug the beautiful wifey to some extent.

She also thought the sauce lacked flavor. And though I have had more pungent masala sauce once or twice, again, I was fine with the spice level and taste of the topping here, noting elements of tomato, onion, garlic, turmeric, paprika, and ginger. Nothing to complain about in my opinion.

Still, the dry, crunchy rice, relatively small serving size, and higher price tag will have a negative effect on our score of this product... 

We actually recommend either the frozen Chicken Tikka Masala or even the Vegan Tikka Masala over this refrigerated variety. It's been a long time since we've purchased either of those products, but assuming they're more or less the same as when we reviewed them, they're consistently good and optimized for going straight from the freezer to the microwave with pleasant results.

$6.99 for two servings. Seven out of ten stars from Nathan for Trader Joe's Chicken Tikka Masala. Sonia's score: 7/10 as well.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 5, 2024

Trader Joe's Coconut Macaroons

As a kid growing up with allergies to wheat and milk, my diet was pretty limited especially when it came to baked goods and cookies. Coconut macaroons were one of the first types of confections I was allowed to have that I actually liked since they consisted of not much more than coconut, egg, and sugar.

My parents would routinely get a brand of individually-wrapped macaroons—the name of which escapes me now—for me to have as a snack or dessert since most other treats were off limits. I ate so many coconut macaroons in those early years that I got quite sick of them. Eventually, I grew out of said allergies and once wheat-based cookies were fair game, I seldom looked back to the macaroon.

$3.79 for about ten fresh-made coconut cookies seemed like a fair deal, and they looked tasty enough, so I decided to take a trip down memory lane and sample this Trader Joe's offering. 

Maybe it's nostalgia talking, but if anything, I'd say these exceeded my expectations. Sonia agrees. She's had some decent coconut macaroons in her day, and she was surprised how fresh and sweet these cookies tasted.

They were very soft and supple. The coconut shavings were the perfect size, too. There was nothing stiff or hard about them. I'm not in the mood for coconut macaroons very often, but if I were, I'd buy this product again.

Found in the baked goods section. Kosher. Eight out of ten stars from me for Trader Joe's Coconut Macaroons. Sonia will follow suit.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Trader Joe's Bubble Waffles

Oh I get it now. They're just pancakes with mochi rice cakes baked into them. That's what the big lumps are. They come from Thailand.

At first, I didn't get it. Why would anybody want waffles with egg-shaped bubbles baked into them? I assumed it was just air or something, or maybe like wads of waffle batter. Mochi makes sense. Did I mention this is a product of Thailand? They apparently love mochi over there.

I've seen social media posts with people rolling these bubble waffles up into cones and putting ice cream in them. That's fun. I also saw an Instagram post where they just plopped a scoop of that amazing horchata ice cream right in the middle of the waffle on a plate in lieu of syrup or whatever. I've actually heard they go great with condensed milk, too.

Anyway, the horchata ice cream and bubble waffle combo is excellent. Butter and syrup works just fine. The regular flat part of these treats is crispy and soft and the mochi part is even softer and slightly chewy, just like a mochi rice cake you'd get at one of those frozen yogurt places as a topping, except here, they're baked right into the batter.

I think the mochi makes these waffles even more filling than regular waffles or pancakes. There's a nice coconut and vanilla sweetness about them that's not over-the-top but lends a moderate comfort food vibe to these breakfast treats that could also serve as a snack or dessert. The smell and taste of the batter is reminiscent of funnel cake in a way.

$4.49 for four bubble waffles. Vegan. Would buy again. Put Sonia down for 9/10 stars on Trader Joe's Bubble Waffles. I'll go with 8/10.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Trader Joe's Horchata Ice Cream

I was in college when I'd first heard of horchata. We were at the local burrito place and one of my housemates asked if I wanted to try some.

"What is it?" I asked.
"Mexican rice water," he replied.
"Oh goodness no!" I said with revulsion.

Whoever first described horchata as "Mexican rice water" clearly flunked out of marketing school. It should be described as "a creamy Latin cinnamon sugar beverage," because that's what it is, and it's freaking delicious. Eventually I managed to get over the image of shady cartel members reusing water they'd used to boil filthy grains of rice to resell as a drink, and by the time I married Sonia, I was already enjoying horchata fairly regularly and it became a frequent purchase in our household as well as a fun drink to try at restaurants, parks, and other outings.

And this horchata ice cream is like a top-quality horchata beverage, but frozen. There are little chunks of "horchata flavored cookie pieces" ...!? I don't think horchata cookies are a thing...but I guess they are now. Holy cow. Has Trader Joe's been reading about how I like "stuff" in my ice cream? If any ice cream flavor would have done fine as a smooth, chunkless product, it's this one, but I gotta say the cookie bits only make it that much better.

They're like little pieces of crunchy churros almost. There's lots of 'em, and they're delicious. I might not have minded if they'd thrown in soft churros or soft "horchata cookies," but the crunchy kind works just fine here. They're a little hard to see because they're a similar color as the ice cream base.

The ice cream itself is even better—with the perfect amount of sweetness, creaminess, and cinnamon flavor. It tastes like real horchata and the texture is just about perfect, as well. There's not much in the way of rice flavor, but honestly, even Mexican rice water doesn't taste a whole lot like rice if you ask me.

One of the best desserts I've had in a long time. Even my Latina Trader Joe's cashier raved about it. Put this one in the hallowed halls of the Pantheon. $3.79 well spent. Will purchase again. And again....and again. Kosher. Perfect 10/10 from me. Sonia is down for 10/10 as well on Trader Joe's Horchata Ice Cream.

Bottom line: 10 out of 10.

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