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Monday, July 8, 2013

Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese

Well, hello there. The past few weeks for the Western PA half of the WGaTJ's team have been, in a word or two, a little nutso. Start with my old laptop dying literally as I pounded out the final words of my last review a few weeks ago. Add in putting on the final touches of getting our house ready to be put on the market (which it finally is!) and driving a little over 2,000 mostly soggy miles in about 8 days for a little vacation up to Vermont and back. Then it was enduring a couple atypically crazy weeks at work and needing some funds to procure a new laptop and....well, yeah it's been a while since posting. Sorry for the lull, but I've found some great little TJ's goodies in the past few weeks, so I'll be making up for that. Thanks, Nathan, for holding down the fort. It's good to be back.

One of those goodies I came across, courtesy of my baby sister (a recent TJ's convert), was Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese. My goodness. "A grilling cheese." I've never heard of such a thing. There's grilled cheese, of course. I'm almost 31 years old, and that's still almost a weekly staple. And then there's one of my favorite things, which is melted then crispied cheese, like the slighty burned edges of homemade mac 'n cheese. But a grilling cheese? Can't say I've heard of it.

But maaaaaaaaaan is it good. As you can see, the halloumi in fact grills up and gets a little browned and charred with minimal (if any) melting. By what power of Zeus is such a thing even possible? The Cyprus folks who invented this are pure men/women of genius. It's a very mild tasting cheese, fairly similar to mozzarella, but certainly isn't as soft. It's tougher, heavier and meatier, with a touch of crumbliness to it. Alongside our burgers, cold beers and grilled peppers, onions and eggplant, the halloumi was a perfect part of a terrific dinner we had on an overnight pit stop at my parents' house as we trekked back to Pittsburgh. My sister, who is pastry extraordinaire by day and an excellent all-around chef, says she picks this up quite often for either grilling big hunks of it (like ho we enjoyed it) or frying some up to put in some salad or pasta. I'm thinking that it would be a great match for a dish with sundried tomatoes and fresh herbs. Sis, if you're reading this, leave a comment or two with some of your recommendations.

There's only one sad thing I can say about the halloumi: like too many other good products that most of the TJ's-lovin' world gets to regularly enjoy (ahem, especially those alcohol related ones), it's not freakin' available at the East End Pittsburgh shop I frequent. Believe me, I scoured the otherwise rather expansive cheese selection for it, high and low, and didn't see it. Being a guy, I was too prideful to ask, but this really needs to be available locally, because I'm craving it again. Until then, I must dream sweet, cheesy dreams about a cheese that chars and doesn't melt. As will Sandy. "Mmmm, cheeeeeeeese...." is about all she could say until the expression on her face switched to one of pure, transfixed serenity as she recalled the fond tasty frolics she and the halloumi had together. I'm kinda surpised she gave it only a four. I'm going 4.5.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sliced Halloumi Cheese: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

Friday, July 5, 2013

Trader Joe's Chocolate Chip Brownie & Oat Bars

Along the same lines as the Peanut Butter and Oat Bars or the Fiberful Granola Bars, these are pre-packaged snack bar thingies that come 6 in a pack. They're filling, chocolatey, and a good size for an in-between meal morsel.

The actual product is pretty moist when you first unwrap it, but it's a texture that instantly makes your mouth dry. If you're the type that loves to drown chocolatey things with milk or a coffee-type beverage, these little bars would probably be alright for breakfast or some similar situation. On the flip side, if you're hiking or walking around in the summer heat, I personally would think these would be the last things you'd want to eat. They cause thirst. And not just thirst, but they leave this sensation in your mouth that begs for something more than water. There's still an aftertaste even after a few swigs of H2O.

Sonia thinks the chocolate tastes a bit like carob in this case, and I agree. It's a "healthy" chocolate taste. It's "oaty." Which, of course, isn't that bad if you're a fan of carob and oats. The icing drizzle on the top of the bars is sweet and tasty, and both Sonia and I wish there were more of it.

All in all, because of this product's heavy, oaty chocolatiness, I think this is more of an autumn/spring pseudo-healthy morning food than an indulgent, refreshing summer afternoon snack. But not bad in a pinch. Just be sure to have some milk or creamy coffee on standby. 

Sonia gives these bars 3.5 stars. I give them 3.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

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