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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trader Joe's Sugar, Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder

There's some things that hold a lot of appeal for Sandy that, while I understand on a certain level, I'm not really all that enamored by. Take, for instance, gadgets like any e-reader device. I know that as humans we come preinstalled to like anything with a glowing screen as a standard feature, but, to me, if you're gonna read a book, make it an actual book. Not Sandy. She's been researching these and polling friends left and right about the Kindle, Nook, and whatever else is out there these days as she's been saving up her babysitting dollars for one of these and has been talking about them endlessly. We've talked about it, and I get the arguments for, like ease of portability (Sandy at any time can have up to seven books in a backpack, though I believe she can still only read one at a time), but the arguments against are much stronger to me, such as: breakability/durability (like if you were planning to read at a beach, would you really want to take one of these? Think of all the places sand could go), risk of theft (airports, etc), "another screen," and finally, just, there's something about a book and holding it in your hands and turning actual physical pages that make it a more satisfying experience. And don't get me started on the iPad and other tablets. It strikes me as just being an iPhone for old people, kinda like the large print Reader's Digest you see at nursing home versus the regular sized ones. If they could be a viable, versatile-enough alternative to a laptop, sure, I could be on board, but until then they seem like some overall gimmicky marketing ploy to get folks to spend money they don't have on things they don't need. Maybe I'm some old school ornery codger, but I just don't get it. Sandy definitely does, and we've come to more or less a truce about it, and chances are she'll be picking up a Kindle or something soon, and maybe then I'll see the light. Til then, meh.

Of course, this is a bigger example of something that plays out in much smaller circumstances. Take, for instance, Trader Joe's Sugar, Chocolate & Coffee Bean Grinder. Last week, Sandy spotted it on an endcap touting TJ's new products and immediately started this kinda weird, silly, not remotely serious little"gimme gimme oh please please please" dance that immediately said "You better put this in the cart, there, Mister." Since it was something like two bucks, eh, sure. Cheaper than an e-reader. Sandy's little dance was definitely cute and gave me a chuckle, so I didn't mind, but whenever we have a kid and Little Russandra does that, you can bet I won't be so amused.

Okay, so I get the appeal of the sugary chocolatey coffee beany grinder guy. There's a built-in grinder that, instead of dispensing tellicherry pepper or sea salt, grinds up sugar crystals (both brown and white), chocolate bits (dark?) and coffee beans wherever you can dream it can go. Good in theory. The side of the grinder says it goes great with ice cream, coffee, and toast, among other things. Sandy's preferred method of consumption is to hold it high and grind directly into her mouth*, which she did once we got home like a sugar-deprived lunatic, and still does occasionally when she thinks I won't know but I can hear the telltale scrapy-grindy sound from the living room. Anyways, I tried it on vanilla ice cream, which was alright. I could definitely taste the three main elements and it almost made my ice cream not taste like plain vanilla, and added a gritty, crystally texture that though a little odd wasn't completely unwelcome. When ground on top of coffee, it honestly didn't add too much, which shouldn't be surprising if you think about it. While okay with buttered toast, if I wanted something sweet and tasty on toast and have it not be jam, I would have much preferred the timeless classic of cinnamon and sugar. And finally, straight from shaker to mouth...meh. That's a silly, not overly rewarding thing to do if you ask me. Overall, I think it's safe to say it just doesn't tickle my fancy all that much.

If you ask Sandy, though? She loves it. Besides the aforementioned methods of consumption, she's also put some on top of cottage cheese and maybe yogurt, too. She loved it with ice cream and with toast, but agreed with my thoughts about it with coffee. And I hear her grinding away in the kitchen often enough to know that she's happily plotting her next cavity in a way she finds most satisfying. Sandy said she gives it a four, which I thought was low for her but made sense when she explained, "It adds flavor, and it's really good, but it could add more." Me? I think I've made my opinion fairly clear, but to summarize it strikes me as being something akin to parsley for your desserts. Looks good, but doesn't do much of anything worthwhile, a Paris Hilton of the pantry, if you will. I'm going with a 1.5.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* For some reason she wouldn't let me take a picture of this. I can't imagine why.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trader Joe's Peach Pops

As a young boy, I was constantly getting in trouble for moving our family's good pair of scissors from the miscellaneous drawer in the back room. "Nathan MacFarland Rodgers," my mother would shout from down the hallway, "where have you hidden my scissors!?"

During the summer months, it was a sure bet those scissors were either on the kitchen table or the stand next to the fridge. While playing kickball in the backyard in the heat and humidity, I never failed to work up a craving for Fla-Vor-Ice. I'd rush into the air conditioning, sweat dripping off my then-full head of blond hair, make a bee-line for the freezer, snip the end off the plastic pop, and in seconds I was blue-tongued and nursing a nasty brain-freeze.

Well, friends, there's a new reason the people you live with might be searching for the scissors next to the freezer. These peach pops are scrump-dilly. They're just like Fla-Vor-Ice pops, except there's only one color, and it doesn't look and taste like a series of experimental chemicals with a gallon of high-fructose corn syrup crammed in. It's Fla-Vor-Ice for grown-ups (and children with parents who care about their health).

It's like they took canned peaches in light syrup, threw them in a blender, chopped them up for a few seconds (they didn't liquefy them or puree them—there are still chunks of peaches in there) and poured them into those fun little plastic pouches. Not terribly inventive, but peaches don't need much dressing up to taste good.

As most of you already know, it has been HOT here lately on the east coast and throughout much of the country. If TJ's isn't sold out of these things, it's probably a miracle—or perhaps just a bit or foresight on the part of the dudes that decide how many of which items will go on Trader Joe's shelves—which in and of itself might be a miracle. No offense to those guys, it's just that I imagine it's very difficult to predict which TJ's brand products are going to be best-sellers and which ones are going to flop.

So to summarize, Trader Joe's Peach Pops are really refreshing and mostly fruit. Sonia and I both give them 4's. Plus, there's a cuddly penguin on the box. What kind of marketing ploy is that, though, really? If penguins wanted a frozen treat, I would think they'd want a pureed fish pop...but that idea probably wouldn't fly.

Get it?

...'cuz penguins can't fly...


Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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