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Monday, January 21, 2013

Trader Joe's Speculoos Crunchy Cookie Butter

Well, if you want the short story, I'll just say this: if you like the original cookie butter, you'll like the crunchy stuff, although you shouldn't expect the crunchfest of the century. This product is still pretty smooth.

For those unfamiliar with cookie butter, I'm gonna go ahead and tell you it's awesome. And then I'll continue to overuse the word "awesome" for the rest of this blog post. How awesome is cookie butter, you ask? So awesome that our review of cookie butter is by far the most read post of all time on this blog...out of 362 posts! That's partly due to Russ' epic write-up on The Daily Meal and partly due to the fact that cookie butter is just friggin' awesome.

And this crunchy stuff is automatically friggin' awesome by association. In my review of the smooth version, I mentioned that there was really no evidence that the product was ever actually in cookie form. It's "smooth like butter." But the crunchy variety actually feels a little like biscuits—pulverized well beyond recognition.

So it's still pretty smooth in my opinion. There's a much greater difference between smooth peanut butter and crunchy peanut butter, if you ask me. And I guess I was expecting the cookie butter equivalent of crunchy peanut butter, which I certainly wouldn't have minded. But considering I don't have a dental plan at the moment, I suppose it's a blessing in disguise. I wouldn't want to chip a tooth on a giant chunk of speculoos biscuit while devouring a piece of toast slathered with crunchy cookie butter.

And if you're wondering—yes, the taste is exactly the same. It's that same sweet, scrumptious, gingerbready deliciousness that we've come to know and love. Someday I'm going to fill the bathtub with cookie butter and jump in and put it on our YouTube channel. Stay tuned.

Since this product could have been a tad crunchier, I'll have to dock it half a star. Other than that, it gets the same score as the original cookie butter. 4.5 stars from Sonia. 4.5 stars from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10 stars.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Trader Joe's Organic Grade B Maple Syrup

Interesting info-burst: Did you know it takes approximately 43 gallons of maple sap to produce one gallon of maple syrup? That's amazing to me. According to this website from the University of Vermont, a single tree produces about 10 to 20 gallons of sap per season, depending on all sorts of factors, and, well, if you're all that interested and want to learn all about, click the link and knock yourself out. We'll be here when you're done. Anyways, using very rough math, this 12 oz bottle of Trader Joe's Organic Grade B Maple Syrup is the byproduct of about 4 gallons of maple sap evaporated/boiled/steamed (everywhere I look uses different terminology), which is a sizable proportion of a tree's given annual yield, no matter how you cut it. There's two thoughts that come to mind: 1) Whoever came up with the process that makes maple syrup is an absolute genius and 2) the $7.99 price point for this bottle is put into a little better perspective.

And then there's all this info out there about maple syrup grades. A lot of it I saw refers to Grade B syrup, like this bottle, as best for baking, and Grade A best for your pancakes and waffles. Despite the allusions to your report card, A vs. B isn't really meant as a judgement on quality but rather on the color and sweetness. Grade B, harvested later in the season, is darker and less sweet but more maple-y than Grade A. To make a rough analogy, think of Grade B as dark chocolate and Grade A as milk chocolate - both are great, and whichever one you like better, go for it.

Okay, that's enough of that. How does it taste? Deeeeeeee-lish. I cannot tolerate any of the crap like Aunt Jemima masquerading as maple syrup, but man, the real stuff? Love it. This particular TJ's find is thick and rich and uber-maple-y. Sandy cooked up some homemade blueberry almond wheat pancakes last night while I made us some sausage patties from a pretty decent local farm. The syrup was amazing on both of them. It was so good, in fact, I had to refrain from channeling my inner Super Trooper, but I couldn't resist pouring out just a little into a shot glass and sipping it down, just for a little unadulterated taste. This is the strongest maple-tasting maple syrup I've had yet, and I love it. For the money (there's a Grade A that Trader Joe's carries, but for $9 more a bottle), it's tough to beat, at least on the local grocery shelves around Pittsburgh. It's certainly better than that weird MexiCanuck concoction TJ's had a while back. Much better.

Sandy's a fan too. "Better than Aunt Jemima, and Log Cabin, too," she said, as if it were a bold statement. Well, yes, love, this is the actual real stuff, not the high fructose corn junk that actually cannot legally be labelled as "maple" syrup. We're planning a Vermont vacation this year (I've been there a few times, she's never been) so hopefully she'll broaden her maple syrup palate soon. This is far from a bad start, though, for sure. She gives it a four. I'll up that by half a spoon.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Grade B Maple Syrup: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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