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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Trader Joe's Dynamo

When I hear the word "Dynamo," I think of the overweight, opera-singing, lightning-slinging baddie from 1987's The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Played by some unknown Dutch-American fellow named Erland van Lidth, the character was bold, brash, and unfashionably fat. In fact, soon after the film's release, Mr. van Lidth passed away from heart failure in his New York City flat.

I thought maybe this beverage was inspired by the robustness of Dynamo from the movie. Or maybe, I thought, this beverage was dedicated to the loving memory of poor Erland, implying that if he had drunk more fruit juices fortified with vitamins and calcium and cut back on the greasy street vendor hotdogs, that perhaps he would not have met such an unfortunate, untimely demise.

It certainly didn't occur to me that this beverage might not have anything to do with The Running Man or the fictional Dynamo character. I mean, shoot, even the lights on the guy's costume were kinda orange. You expect me to believe that's just a coincidence?

At any rate, we decided to try it. I was somewhat scared. The beverage looked so very orange, I assumed that carrot juice was a main ingredient. I did check the list, and all of the juices seemed pretty safe. No carrot juice at all. Curious. Also, I noted on the product tag that some store employee named Jen recommended it. I took dear, sweet Jen for her word. Mind you, I have no idea who Jen is or whether, in fact, she is dear and/or sweet.

Then we tasted it. First impressions? The biohazard-orange color and the blatant Schwarzenegger action film allusions were way misleading. The first word out of Sonia's mouth was "Weird." We had both brushed our teeth just 45 minutes prior to trying this drink, so initially we blamed the lack of flavor on that. Later on, we tried it again, but same conclusion. The flavor of this beverage was not unpleasant, but was really, really, surprisingly subtle. Sonia declared, "It tastes like lemon juice with a little bit of sugar." I thought maybe I hadn't shaken the bottle enough. I proceeded to manhandle the juice, now with a sizeable pocket of air trapped inside the container, and agitated the beverage into a frothy foam.

There indeed had been a little extra flavor hiding in the form of sediment on the bottom of the bottle, yet still, I wondered where most of the apple, white grape, pineapple, and orange flavors mentioned on the ingredients list had gone. It was almost as if all those flavors canceled each other out.

I can see how this would be a very refreshing beverage after a run on a hot day. It is light, despite its robust name and color. And I'm sure the extensive list of vitamins and minerals would help an athlete regain his or her strength after a workout. Unfortunately, when we tried it, it was raining outside, so it was cool, and we were not in desperate need of deep refreshment.

Sonia's final assessment: "There's not enough flavor. I can't taste anything." But she agreed that it wasn't really gross, just kind of bland. She gives it 2.5 stars out of 5.

If I had been expecting something really light, I think I would have been fairly impressed. I think TJ's Dynamo would be extrememely satisfying after a half hour of jogging in the hot sun. I want to be careful to score it for what it is, and not for what I thought it was going to be. I give it a 3.5 out of 5.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Trader Joe's Pear Sauce

I've never had pear sauce before. I don't think I've ever even seen pear sauce before. Here's another chance for TJ's to set the bar for a previously non-existent commodity. And, if Trader Joe's Pear Sauce is successful, why stop there? Why not take a crack at peach sauce, banana sauce, papaya sauce, or blueberry sauce? I'm getting excited just thinking about the potential of the fruit sauce industry in coming years...

I found myself anticipating the taste of this product more than that of other TJ's products. Let's set up a logical analogy, shall we? The taste of an apple is to apple sauce as that of a pear is to pear sauce, or

apple : apple sauce :: pear : pear sauce.

Or so I thought.

As has been previously established by an older blog entry, I am indeed a pear fanatic. So I know the familiar flavors of Bartlett's, Anjou's, and Bosc's quite well. I thought I knew exactly what the sauce would taste like, however, I should have known that our good friend Trader Joe would have a trick or two up his sleeve as usual.

I certainly can't say the pear sauce didn't taste like pears, because it did. But, there was a thick, honey-like sweetness and consistency to it. Almost maple-syrupy. Now, I'm well aware that the pear is one of the sweetest fruits and that its juice is used to sweeten other 100% fruit beverages quite often, but I wasn't expecting such a blast of dessert-ish confection. It was actually a rather pleasant surprise, and the only thing I can think of to explain it is the presence of both pureed pears and pear juice concentrate. The texture of pears is barely detectable in the sauce, but it is there.

And another surprise was an unexpected, nearly-citrusy tang. As my wife put it, "This tastes a little tarty." I, of course, poked fun at her peculiar choice of words and asked her if she did, in fact, mean to imply that the sauce was late (tardy). Frustrated, she informed me that she meant to use the word "tarty, T-A-R-T-Y." Knowing full well she meant to use the word "tart," I looked up "tarty" in the dictionary and discovered that, according to Merriam-Webster, it means "resembling or suggestive of a prostitute, as in clothing or manner." Now that's some naughty pear sauce.

Along slightly more constructive lines, I also decided to look at the ingredients list on the pear sauce packaging to figure out where the aforementioned "tartiness" might have originated from. Lo and behold, they snuck some lemon juice and lime juice into the pear sauce to give it some tang. But no complaints from me. What could have been an overly sweet cup-o-natural-sugar type dessert was turned into an interesting combo of complex flavors and a good balance of complementary fruit juices.

Sonia isn't as big a fan of the pear as I am, and she gave this one a 4 out of 5. I've gotta say, although it wasn't quite what I expected, it was a pleasant surprise overall. I give it a 4.5, which happens to be the same score I gave to Trader Joe's Organic Apple Sauce with Cinnamon. Do I prefer the pear sauce over traditional apple sauce? Well, that's hard to say, but for right now at least, just because of the novelty factor, I would have to say yes.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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