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Monday, January 16, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Frites

I love fries. Fries, fries, fries. Here they go down, down into my belly...

Let's cut straight to the matter here: Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Frites. $2.29 a bag. Worth it. For your greenbacks you get a pretty sizable bag of tasty orange starchy sticks, more than plenty for two people. Last night for our weekly dinner with my brother, his wife, their toddler, and a mutual friend, it was a stretch to finish off two bags. And what a tasty couple basket-worths those were. Just a little bit of time in the over, and the frites crisped up great, a little greasy on the outside, good and kinda mushy on the inside just like a good sweet potato fry. Tastewise, they're definitely a little sweet, a little salty, and right on par. Some of our comrades doused theirs in a little ketchup (ugh, but that's a story for another day). For me at least, the TJ fries were good 'n tasty enough to munch on down just as is.

I'd say they're just about perfect. Really, for a good snacky bite, it's tough to beat some good sweet potato fries, and I have to say, unless these are brand-spankin' new, I'm kind of embarrassed that it's taken me this long to discover them. The only ever-so-slightly negative thng I'd say is, perhaps they're just a teeny teeny bit pricy (by like *maybe* a few dimes) if for no other reason that I know plenty of spots around Pittsburgh to get a hot bunch of sweet potato fries for $2.29, at least after 10 p.m. or so. But that just won't be as much of a constant possibility soon...

You see, Sandy's been craving fries like mad recently. She's always been a fan, but the past couple months have really kicked it up a notch. If the two of us had to run out to the bar every time she wanted some good tasty restaurant quality sweet potato fries (which, make no mistake, these TJ treasures certainly are), well, we'd run up quite the tab (for me, at least). And Sandy would be a little tired for that anyways after a long day of work...hmm, while craving fries...I guess that's what happens when you're expecting a baby at the end of June...well, must be true because I just wrote it! Needless to say, it's very exciting and a little daunting for us, but I'll try to keep it contained here.*

In that light, I can see these fries being a repeat purchase for here on out. It's probably a good idea to keep an emergency stash for when her munchies hit, and believe me, I'd be glad to help out with a couple sympathy handfuls. Sandy was definitely enjoying these fries the other night (especially the ones that got a little burned for a little added crunch) and kept reaching for them, so I was a little surprised when she said she'd go with a four for them. Just a four? Really? All things considered, it's probably best not to argue about it, so I'll compensate by grading them a little more generously than I would otherwise to give them a five. It's teamwork. I think that's how this all has to work.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Potato Frites: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* I have a very limited soapbox (read: practically nonexistant) in the Trader Joe's world but...why not offer some type of babyfood line? You can even brand it Trader Joey and put a kangaroo on it. Boom! I should be in marketing.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trader Joe's Sweet Bites

Because I'm a lazy fool, for one third of this review, I'm simply going to refer you to this link. It's our review of the Raspberry "Macaron aux Framboises" Cake, one of the constituent parts of this Sweet Bites product. I like how TJ's uses the words "raspberry" and "cake" in the title of the product on this Sweet Bites box. Framboises means raspberries, and I'm pretty sure Macaron is a type of cake, so for those of you who are bilingual, speaking both French and English, you're probably reading that product name as "Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake" or some other such redundant nonsense.

I'm sure there aren't that many bilingual French/English speakers reading this. I just wanted to write "Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake" because it makes me giggle. For those of you who are as lazy as I am, I know you aren't going to click that other link, so I'll just go ahead and let you know that we gave that cake by itself a bottom line of 9 out of 10. Not too shabby.

Next: the tiramisu. Er, no wait. They call it "Chocolate and Coffee Opéra Cake." But it might as well be tiramisu. I'm not a huge fan of tiramisu. It's overrated. So's this stuff. Pffh, "Opéra Cake," how arrogant. Maybe my tastebuds just aren't refined enough to appreciate it fully. Don't get me wrong, it's not awful. But when it's up against two big winners, its flavor is a bit too subtle—a bit too understated. And I'm not terribly into coffee-flavored desserts, anyway. Sonia gives the "tiramisu" 2.5 for being too soft. I'm not sure what she means by that, but I give it a 3 for being...not as good as the other two. Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Finally, we come to the Caramel and Chocolate Cake. Sonia says she didn't taste the caramel, and that apparently made her angry. I guess she feels that TJ's jilted her out of some tasty caramel. I agree. I didn't taste the caramel, but I don't really care because the cake was freaking awesome. It was soft and sweet and full of some kind of yummy, creamy something. It wasn't quite a tres leches cake, but it was reminiscent of that level of deliciousness. Certainly, it was drier than a tres leches. By the way, tres leches is my favorite kind of cake. If you've never had a real tres leches cake, drive to the nearest Mexican bakery and buy one...even if it's in another state. Go! Seriously, it's worth it. You won't regret it. Sonia actually made a really good one this past week for Three Kings' Day. Sonia's cake actually overshadows all three of these Sweet Bites (I am writing that right now for the brownie points I'll get with my wife, but it really is true). So all of our scores may be a little low. But anyway, Sonia gives this one a 3.5. She says it would have been higher if she could taste the caramel. I give it a 4.5. I liked it just as much as the Raspberry Cake of Raspberries Cake. Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

And for our final score, I just average out all three of the sub-scores.

Trader Joe's Sweet Bites bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Trader Giotto's Butternut Squash Triangoli

What did one triangle ravioli say to the other triangle ravoli?

You have *acute* personality and I like your stuff!

Oh, goodness. My puns may have reached an all-time low. Believe me, that says a lot.

Assuming you're still reading this and not groaning any more, you're probably wondering about this particularly pointy pasta product and just good it may or may be, so let's bid arrivederci to the jokes and get on with the review of Trader Giotto's Butternut Squash Triangoli.

It's decent enough, I'd say. You'll find this in the fresh pasta section of the store (which for Sandy and me, it's too easy to skip over, which is a shame). Each bags yields a fair amount of the shapely shells for two pretty hungry adults, and cook up as fast as it takes to boil some water. The pasta portion is the yellow-kinda waxy and thin-semolina variety which is nether good nor bad - it's just kinda there to hold its supposed treasure, the butternut squash filling. And that part isn't bad either - it's texturally on par and lightly sweetened with crumbled amaretti biscuits (read: sugar and apricot) while remaining completely dinnertime appropriate. I kinda wish there was a little more than the dark little circle of it that remains throughout the bag-to-pot-to-plate process. Appearancewise, each triangoli is perfunctory shaped, with a roughly equilateral triangle of pasta dough filled with a perfect circle of filling right in the middle, kinda as if IKEA designed them (I still imagine they'd be called Triangoli, except with an umlaut somewhere). Regardless, they're pretty tasty and Sandy and I enjoyed them.

We could've liked them better, though. For one, they taste all exactly the same, which by the last few ones, the savory factor kinda wore off. This could've been remedied by some sort of good sauce to go with them, but the package doesn't really make any great recommendations: butter, olive oil, or "your favorite sauce." Well, Frank's Red Hot wouldn't be a good choice, methinks, and neither would any tomato-based ones, so Sandy and I opted for butter. Not a bad choice, but still pretty plain.

Regardless, for a Monday night dinner, the butternut squash triangoli weren't a bad option. Sandy chomped away on them while finishing up some work-y work nonsense for her job and I deliberately ate each one, slowly and carefully, as I continue to recoup from quadruple wisdom tooth removal. Ten year old me would have loved having nothing but milkshakes for a week...not so much when you're old enough to have a mortgage and emerging bald spot. Anyways, Sandy gave these Italian imports a "three, maybe three 'n a half....okay, three 'n a half" for their squashy pasta ways. I concur but, unlike the pasta itself, round down.

Bottom line: Trader Giotto's Butternut Squash Triangoli: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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