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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Trader Joe's Fat Free Chile Mango Fruit Floes

We were in a very mangoey mood on our last Trader Joe's run—as you might have noticed, yesterday's post also involved mango.

And a few months ago, we reviewed the Caribbean Fruit Floes, which nearly reached our highly elite "Pantheon" status. Very tasty. So, let's take a look at these Chile Mango Floes and see how they measure up:

First of all, let's make sure everyone knows exactly what's going on here... This is a popsicle-like dessert that is indeed sweet and fruity, and thanks to our zany friends to the south, it has chile on it. As in chile in spicy. I lived in Southern California for about 7 years, and let me tell you, I was quite skeptical about sprinkling chile powder on fruit when I first became aware of the practice. Chile powder and corn on the cob made sense: salty and spicy. That works. But spicy and sweet? Mexicanos like to eat chile with their mangos, watermelons, pineapples, and even oranges. Hmmm... It took some convincing.

I was in Disney's California Adventure when I had my first taste of "mango con chile." I remember right where I was standing. Our friend Carlos bought a plate of it and began sharing it with the group. I loved it. First, you taste the mango, and then as you chew, there's this little burst of spice that kicks in later. It's like the clichéed party in one's mouth that everyone and his brother is invited to.

I later tried a vending machine pop with mango-flavored candy, covered in a thick layer of sawdust-like chile powder. It came from our local laundromat in Hollywood, but it was clearly imported from Mexico. Such candies were childhood favorites of Sonia. It was so-so. It got tastier as it went along. I had to suck about 3/4 of the chile powder off before the mango taste even came through, and by then my tongue was somewhat numb, and it made the experience only moderately enjoyable.

These fruit floes are similar. Except in this case, the chile powder cannot be licked off of the candy. It's thoroughly blended with the frozen mango juice. Remember how Sonia and I are always saying that the salsas aren't spicy enough or that they don't seem as spicy as the little chile pepper spice-o-meter would seem to indicate on the package? Not the case with this product! This is quite possibly the spiciest thing I've ever had from TJ's. I'm tempted to take the remaining popsicles, allow them to melt, and use them as a chip-dip instead. I think they overdid it a little in the spice department here. Sonia does, too, and she grew up on these goofy spice n' fruit combos that seem so alien to me.

On the plus side, one can still taste mango through the oddly cold searing pain. There are also a handful of real mango chunks scattered throughout each popsicle—and they're not chile-ified. Chewing them gives one's tongue a moment to recover.

All in all, they're just kinda weird. And that's coming from two people that like chile and mango. Not terrible, but certainly don't get them if you've never had chile and mango or think that that combination sounds a little funky...But if you're the biggest chile-mango fan ever, then by all means grab a box and tell us what you think...

Sonia gives them a 3. I give them a 3.5. Bottom line 6.5 out of 10.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Trader Joe's Heart of Darkness Mango Passion Fruit Blend

This beverage was apparently inspired by the Joseph Conrad novella by the same name. Weird to name a beverage after any literary work, let alone one so bleak as "Heart of Darkness." Though I'm a fan of the film adaptation, "Apocalypse Now," it still hardly makes me want to partake of a drink derived from such a dark work of fiction.

And if there were any doubts as to whether they were alluding to Joseph Conrad's story, the artwork on the bottle depicts a ferry boat in the middle of a wide river, surrounded by thick jungle on both sides.

Although the film version takes place in Southeast Asia, the original story is set in the Congo, and I guess the title of the drink is to make us think of deep African jungles which, I suppose, are where the best mangos and passionfruits come from.

So, with a mental picture of some safari dude plucking mangos from a tree in a dense, humid rainforest in my head, I proceeded to read the label only to find that apple juice and white grape juice were the main ingredients. Hmmm. The mental picture quickly evaporated, but I remembered the last Trader Joe's mango beverage we tried, and I thought that the apples and grapes might actually be welcome, familiar flavors - and I was right.

Unlike Trader Joe's Organic Mango Nectar, this juice blend is highly chuggable and refreshing, but it still tastes like mango. It's much thinner than the mango nectar. I think the apple and grape juices simply serve to sweeten the blend. Mango is definitely more potent than any of the other flavors in here, but not overwhelmingly so. To tell you the truth, I can never taste passionfruit in anything. I'm not even sure it really has that much flavor. I think it's a marketing ploy. People see "passionfruit," they think "passion." Sex sells... you see what I'm getting at.

Anyway, whether you think of it as a sexy summer treat or a bleak ride through the Congan jungle, I think you'll like it. It's a very nice balance of sweetness and real mango taste. Yum.

Sonia gives it a 4. Me too. Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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