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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Trader Joe's Popcorn with Herbs and Spices

The popcorn in this bag looks like it fell on the floor—all covered in little flecks of dark matter and hair-like strands of oregano and other herbstuffs. It also tastes like it fell on the floor—that is, if your floor happens to be covered in delicious salt, spices and tasty flavorful plant matter.

It's pretty much your standard popcorn fare, with a nice little kick. Similar to other TJ's popcorn products or products like Smartfood, it tastes and feels "lite." Not lacking in flavor, just easy on the heavy, buttery, oiliness that bogs down some major national brands and movie theater popcorns. It tastes lightly salted, and it stays crunchy enough, even though it's pre-popped and sitting in a bag for who knows how long...

But of course, it's the herb and spice flavor that sets this popcorn apart from anything you might have had in the past. There's a perfect amount of spice, in my opinion. It's not enough that it should scare anyone away from trying it, except those who are ultra-sensitive to spiciness. It's really not a hot spiciness, it's a flavorful spiciness. But by that same token, if you're looking for a 5-alarm fire, you're going to need to pick up some hot sauce to bring it up to that level. It tastes like pepper, oregano, basil, dill, and maybe a hint of onion. Looking at the bag right now, there is apparently no oregano in it, but both Sonia and I felt like there was some present.

Sonia thinks it's delicious. She says she could eat a whole bag by herself. Considering the aforementioned "liteness," eating an entire bag in one sitting would be entirely plausible. I think I could knock off a bag by myself, too. This stuff is a welcome, spicy twist on a classic salty treat.

Sonia gives it 4 stars. I'll go with a 3.5. Snackariffic.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Trader Joe's ¡Mango! ¡Mango!

Seeing as that Trader Joe's, despite their otherwise healthy-ish vibes, is basically a store jam-packed of all sorts of impulse buys just begging to happen, Sandy and I have made ourselves a pretty simple rule for shopping there. We're each allowed to pick out one snack or treat for ourselves (ideally, we'll share), and if we both behave and keep pretty close to our budget, at the checkout we'll pick out one snacky kinda thing to share for the ride home. I'm sure it sounds kinda silly to motivate ourselves to "be good" in a manner not unlike you'd motivate your toddler, but you know what? It works! Like a charm! I mean, we tend to go there for just our snacks and lunch stuff and the odd ingredient for a dinner (opting to hit up farmer markets for our produce, most of our meat, etc) so it'd be easy for us to get carried away, especially when walking down the ice cream and candy aisle, or as I call it, Temptation Lane. No matter. The stands by the checkouts have tended to have some pretty great finds, from a recent favorite of ours, a dark chocolate speculoos filled bar, which rivals only the caramel/black sea salt bar as the best chocolate slab God has ever bestowed upon humanity, to things like candied squishy penguins. We've almost always been happy with what we find there.

We've kept hearing how good TJ's ¡Mango! ¡Mango! fruit gummies are, and so finally recently relished the chance to give them a try at last. As you might be able to guess by the blue denim covering my wife's knee area that served as this week's photo backdrop, we didn't wait long after loading up the Tucson to bust them out. We love our gummies, and greatly enjoy almost anything Trader Joe's and mango related (like our favorite granola), so, man, we were eager.

And to be honest, the mango^2 chewy guys were a bit of a disappointment to us. That's not to say they were completely bad. First off, each gummy wasn't, in fact, all that gummy. Instead they were tougher, much chewier, and very firm, despite the packaging claiming that they were going to be soft. That's not necessarily horrible, but I think that the texture kind of added to the general lack of flavor. I don't need a cavity cavalry's worth of sugar to make something taste good, but mango can be (and in this case, is) a relatively subtle flavor, and so having to put a few good, hearty chomps before any flavor starts leaking out is not optimal. It wasn't just that, but in our bag of about 40 candies, only seven had any yogurt parts on them, and maybe that many had passion fruit on them too. That's just not enough, even though the ones that did were only marginally better.

Overall, both Sandy and I just weren't all that impressed, especially after our pretty good experience with those penguin-themed Gummy Tummies. I think Sandy was kinda hoping the ¡Mango! ¡Mango!s would be a bit more like them, as she said she wished these were softer and had a liquidy part to them to add a little more flavor. I agree, although I would have settled for a wee bit more mango-tinged goodness. They weren't bad overall, but we'll be looking for another treat next time at the checkout before we reach for 'em again. If you're a fan, that just means more for you. From here, though, we're gonna split things right down the middle.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's ¡Mango! ¡Mango!: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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