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Monday, June 11, 2012

Trader Joe's Bistro Biscuits

I'm generally not big on hard, dry cookies...or "biscuits" if you must—but these crisp caramelized treats are one of a handful of exceptions to that rule. My initial impulse was to compare these cookies with Barnum's Animals crackers, which everyone knows are the creme dela creme of the animal cracker kingdom, far superior to even those with nifty pink frosting that come in giant bags. These biscuits reflect the quality and good taste of the Barnum's Animals, but possess a slightly more complex flavor. There's an essence of gingerbread present—and the word "caramelized," used on the packaging, has a certain propriety in this case, so long as you're not thinking of caramelized onions as I unfortunately do whenever I hear the word "caramelized."

After trying several of these dessert-ish biscuits, I was overcome with a shameful impulse... I wanted to put Speculoos Cookie Butter on them. And I did. For those of you with a severe simple sugar deficiency, that combo may well just be the cure that you're looking for. It's intensely sweet and gingery, and it'll send your system into sugar shock in the blink of an eye, and will cause a four-alarm fire in your mouth that only a good glass of milk can put out. Hours later, independently of me, after just a bite or two, Sonia was struck with the same impulse to slather her biscuits with cookie butter. Like me, she quickly satisfied both her contemptible culinary craving and her recommended weekly allowance of sugar in one fell swoop.

Flavor-wise they're winners, but again, their dryness begs for milk or coffee or tea. Did you ever, just sheerly out of curiosity, try a dog biscuit in your youth? I know I did. And it was never the taste that revolted me, it was always the texture—the dryness. It's like that with these Bistro Biscuits, except that they're way better than most dog biscuits. Both texture and flavor. Way better. I guess the dog biscuits are a really bad comparison to make. Nevermind that then. Please disregard this paragraph.

Sonia liked them a lot. With or without cookie butter. She gives them a 4. They remind her of actual British biscuits. She's had the real thing. I'll give them a 3. They're tasty little buggers, but again, I don't think they're particularly great as a stand-alone food. Check them out if you're into the whole "dunking" thing. And definitely try them with cookie butter, but have extra insulin standing by.

P.S. - These biscuits are vegan.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Trader Joe's Maine Whole Cherrystone Clams

There's an old adage for us scribes that's been passed down over the generations: Write what you know. That was drilled into my head while getting a journalism degree at Penn State, and it obviously makes a great deal of sense. If you don't know anything about the subject matter you're writing about, it shows as blatantly as a glass of wine spilled on a white sofa. As proof, you should see the articles I wrote covering collegiate rugby for Penn State's Daily Collegian.

Or you can just continue reading this review about Trader Joe's Maine Whole Cherrystone Clams. I'm not sure how many times I've had clams in my life, but it's probably in the single digits, and almost assuredly every other time they've been deep-fried. Plus, my history with canned seafood is more or less restricted to tuna fish, which I'll admit, I absolutely hate. The smell kinda grosses me out, and when growing up whenever my mom opened a can our kitty cat would run up begging for a bite, only to barf it up two minutes later. I'm sure there's a lot worse things to put in a can (oh yeah there is - viewer discretion advised) but it's not how I'd choose to get my seafood. The way I figure it, though, is if Trader Joe's can reasonably impress (or at least not totally gross out) a canned clam rookie, that must mean they're reasonably good. Alternatively, of course, they could be absolutely terrible, but if I don't know any better, then I'm completely off-base. Readers, you're going to have to be the judge here.

On to the clams. Hmm. So that's what a whole unbreaded/unfried clam looks like when the shell gets shucked. Umm...interesting. Gulp. At least it's kinda hard to make out where the face is, so I feel less guilty. To me, the clams kinda taste how they smell, which I mean as a compliment. I grew up going to Maine and visiting the coast there, so the gritty, salty, briny, mineral-ly, rocky aroma that permeates each bite is actually fairly pleasant in its own way. Yeah, they kinda taste like Maine, and I freakin' love that state. To keep with my theme of ignorance, I'm going to assume that the "cherrystone" part of the name refers to the dark center of gutsy matter that's in the clam's main body, because in no other way to me do these remind me of either a cherry or a stone. As I kinda suspected they would be, the clams are a little chewier than I'd like, but then again, it's a whole skeletonless animal.

Sandy and I had these with dinner with a box of lemon pepper clam linguini we unearthed a little while back while tearing apart and putting our kitchen back together. I think at first I pushed to make it with shrimp instead, but since the pasta box said "clam", Sandy insisted we couldn't. It had to be clams, thus forcing our purchase ($1.99 a can). In a way, that turned out to be a good thing, as we've found out we need to be a little more intentional about iron in her diet in the last couple days/weeks/however long before our lil' baby decides to make his/her appearance (due in just a few weeks! We're getting our hospital bag packed!). Anyways, both Sandy and I feel about the same about them - decent enough, but no strong feelings one way or the other, mostly because we don't know any better. We'll be fair and give it a solid "not bad."

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Maine Whole Cherrystone Clams: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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