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Friday, March 8, 2013

Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar

There's a few random things that spring to mind when I think of the product name "Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar." First, for whatever reason, I can't recall right now what exactly real caviar is, so hold on just a moment...alrighty, well, honestly, that sounds kinda gross. A "cowboy" version of that woulda be even more gross, considering what we know of "Rocky Mountain oysters" and all, so, first, there's some gladness that this isn't something a little more literal. Secondly, there's the vision of actual cowboys eating actual caviar. I've always thought that the only people who eat caviar are people like the Grey Poupon gents, though it seems a little beneath them to randomly stop alongside another car and beg for condiments. So it's tough to think of grizzly, musty old booted cowboys enjoying some fine salt-cured fish eggs. It's a "tough meets classy" juxtaposition that's as comically out of place as Chuck Norris at a tea party (note carefully the capitalization of what I just said).

And third, well, despite the goofy name and all, Sandy and I were pretty glad there's a new salsa sheriff in town for our samplin'. Here's the actual verbatim exchange that transpired last Monday night between the two of us in the salsa/chip department. Unlike other conversations I've let you eavesdrop on, this one is not made up at all.  Me: "Want some chips and salsa?" Her: "Hrrmmmm...nah. There's nothing we haven't had." Me: "Yeah....wait... Cowboy Caviar? What the eff? Let's try it." Her: "Oooooooo I'll find us some chips!!!"

So, how does it stack up? Purdy darn well, amigo. Obviously, from the label and a quick peek at the jar contents, the base of this salsa is comprised of black beans, corn, and red bell peppers. Those just happen to be three main staples in our house that we seemingly never get sick of. There's nary a trace of tomato, except for a little puree that's the base for the chipotle adobo sauce that gets mixed in. Mmm, adobo sauce....that's the primary taste here. It's deep and smoky with a sneaky little kick to it that'll rattle you like a snake in your boot if you're spice-adverse. Despite that, though, you can still taste everythng...the citrus bite from the lime, the little flames of heat courtesy of the jalapenos, even a little sweetness, with the flavor of the beans and corn and peppers still poking through without getting too muddied up. This is certainly tilts towards chunky, with everything in it, but man, it works well. I misplaced the receipt so I can't tell you the exact price offhand, but it's about the price of a typical jar of salsa there, somewhere around $2.49 to $3 or so.

I'm not sure how the jar survived three nights between the two of us. It must be some newfound restraint Sandy and I have, because in the good ol' days, I could see this being polished off in a night. Seems to me the Cowboy Caviar would pair well with most any chip, but it was especially good with the veggie flaxseed tortilla chips we picked up (which may just be the most uncowboy-like ones available. Regardless...). It's a much better, taster spicier and truer salsa than the Corn and Chile Tomato-Less Salsa we tried way back, though Sandy loved that one too because of its lack of, well, tomatoes. This one had her fooled, too. "Four it up!," she exclaimed. Four it up, indeed, and tack on an extra half spoon just because. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Cowboy Caviar: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Trader Joe's Loaded Fruit & Nut Gluten Free Granola

It's been quite a while since Sonia and I reviewed a Trader Joe's brand cold cereal. The Shellys were thoroughly impressed with TJ's Mango Passion Granola about 2 years back, and I recently reviewed Archer Farms Pecan Sticky Bun Granola and Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti cereals on my other blog. But I figure it's high time we check out another TJ's breakfast food—one that's gluten free!

It's a bag of granola that's not necessarily intended to be eaten with milk. The bag suggests trying it on yogurt or eating it straight out of the bag, both of which we did. But I think Sonia and I agreed that neither of the two latter cases would be regular occurrences in our home.

Most of the mixture was made up of dime-sized, corn-based, circular flakes, many of which had bits of nuts, fruits, and sesame seeds fused to them, presumably with honey or evaporated cane juice. The flakes were very dry and super-crunchy. They were actually kinda hard, too. They ripped up the tops of our mouths a bit when we ate too much at once. At the bottom of the bag, underneath layers of the aforementioned flakes, there was nothing but free-floating seeds, nut-bits, and crumbs.

The overall taste was that of corn flour, walnuts, sesame seeds, and raisins. The ingredients mentioned hazelnuts, almonds, coconut, apricots, and Brazil nuts, too, among other things, but I felt like many of the ingredients didn't really contribute as much to the product's flavor. Both Sonia and I thought there were way too many sesame seeds. They're potent enough in limited quantities, and I wouldn't have minded TJ's removing them from the mix altogether. We both thought there should have been more fruit, too. Raisins are the only fruit we noticed in any significant numbers, and even they were sparse compared to the corn flakes and sesame seeds.

I feel like Trader Joe's wanted to make this a sweeter product. They included coconut, honey, cane juice, and some dried fruits. But they didn't quite commit to that end. I don't think it was intended to be a candy-licious kid cereal, but if they would have left out things like sesame seeds, flax seeds, and Brazil nuts, I think they could have made this a better, more dessert-like breakfast food, while still maintaining the overall wholesomeness of the product. If you're on a gluten-free diet, by all means, try it. It's definitely not a thumbs-down, but Sonia and I feel like it failed to live up to its full potential. 3's from both of us.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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