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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Trader Giotto's 'Spearean Risotto

My dear Giotto,

Bongiorno. It was nice to see you on your most recent visit to the U.S. of A. And we were happy to taste another one of your Italian dishes. But as a foodie-hack of sorts, I have to be honest—I'd really prefer pizza or pannacotta again next time you visit.

First of all, when I look at the picture you show on your bag, all I see are asparagus tips. But all I saw in my actual dish were the bottom parts of the asparaguses...or is it asparagi? And let's face it, the asparagus "butts" simply don't have the taste or texture of the top part—the "spear" that you so prominently feature in the title of your entree. So give us more top parts. I may not be good at math, but one would think that for every bottom part, there would be one top part. Where did those go? Did you use them all in the photo shoot for the art on the packaging? Did you eat them all yourself? Giotto... were we not gracious hosts? Why would you hold out on us like that?

Furthermore, they seemed unusually rubbery and stringy—even for the bottom parts. Overall, your dish lacked flavor. There's a bit of butteriness, but it's not enough. Your risotto was soft and your sauce creamy, but it tasted like I was eating something off of the "lite" menu. I know that we Americans are fat, but when we eat Italian, we expect a treat, Giotto! Mama mia!

And I must say that your rice dish would greatly benefit from a few more ingredients. Add different veggies, add sausage, or heck, add bacon! Adding almost anything would have helped hype this dish up a bit! Sonia fully shares my sentiments on this matter. Sure, we could add more stuff in ourselves, but you're the chef, Giotto. And furthermore, we're lazy.

It's not that we're ungrateful for the dish you cooked up for us. It's just that we know you can do better. After all, if your American cousin can make a good Sicilian Pizza, shouldn't a real Italian be able to nail an Italian dish? If we were going to score your risotto on a scale of one to ten gondoliers, we'd have to give it only cinque.

Your American pen pal,

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Trader Joe's Almondictive Bits

Context, I remember my middle school English teacher saying. Context. That's one of the best ways of trying to figure out what an unfamiliar word means. Read the other words around it and more times than not, it'll give you a good idea, and that exercises a couple more brain cells than running for the nearest Merriam-Webster's.

With that in mind, I stumbled across a new word for me during our latest Trader Joe's word: almondictive. Now I'm not above pulling a new word from where the sun don't shine (I think I once used the word "meatosaurus" in an article I wrote), so I don't necessarily mind that. At first glance, I was pretty sure it was a cute little combo of the words "almond" and "addictive", especially with the other words like "compulsively compelling"* on the package, but then a dark thought crossed my mind: What if instead of "addictive" they really meant the word "vindictive"? The "nd" in the middle there kinda derailed my thought train that way, not that there's anything I can think of that a chocolate-covered caramelized nut would have to be all angsty and vengeful about (certainly hopefully not me after I ate them). But I figured, just to be sure, Sandy and I would have to give them a try...with one eye open, of course.

Well, after a couple small handfuls of them, I'll vouch that they're definitely more addictive than anything else. The Almondictive Bits are pretty darn tasty and hard to put down. I'm not sure if it's more the rich, dark chocolate coat or the crispy crunchiness of the almond. Maybe it's the subtle caramel undertone. I don't know. But altogether these are a pretty remarkable little snack that's rich and satisfying after only a few nuts, yet are tasty enough that both of us wanted to eat even more of them as the flavor lingered in our mouths.

There's only one or two small complaints Sandy and I have about these decadent little dudes. I, for one, would like just a wee bit more caramel and Sandy would like just a wee bit more almond, as the chocolate coating definitely seems to be the predominant flavor that could use just a little more balance. But no matter. The only way these could turn even remotely vindictive is if one of us happens to hog all the nuts for ourselves, but that'd be more between the wifey and I than us and these nuts. We're not above such things, and with her home on maternity leave, we both have an even chance at being the greedy one. She'd probably say it's for the baby somehow...I think I may go count them now. Sandy gives them a good, solid four, and since these are my favorite chocolate almond treat from TJ's I've found thus far, I'll see that four and raise half a spoon.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Almondictive Bits: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

*Please excuse my omission of that blatantly gratuitous comma.

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