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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Trader Joe's Chicken Parmesan Lollipops

What's the deal with meat on sticks?

Sorry, that was me channeling my inner Jerry Seinfeld.

But really, what's the deal? I have a theory: Our ancestors used to have to run around and club animals with sticks then roast them over a fire to eat. But no, not our modern selves. Nowadays, we put meat on a stick for fancy occasions (say, hors d' ouevres at a wedding) or at mass gatherings of civilizations (like county fairs) or in the case of these Trader Joe's Chicken Parmesan Lollipops...well, I'm not sure why there's a stick in them. I guess it's just to remind of us of how far we've come. We're ahead. We're advanced. We're the first mammals to wear pants.

Sorry, that was me channeling my inner Eddie Vedder.

Let's talk about these inner chicken on a stick thingies. I'll try to be careful about how I refer to them, because calling them certain things sound a little, um, phallic. Use your imagination if you so choose.

Channeling my inner Abraham Lincoln, I'm going to be straight out honest with you, to perhaps a fault: I have not been this sorely disappointed by a Trader Joe's product in a long, long time. The best way I can think of to describe them is, imagine you're eating some breaded chicken parm, and some of the breading slips off and gets all mixed in with the sauce and cheese, with maybe an itty bitty teeny weeny bit of chicken in it. Taste good? Yeah, sorta. Would you pay $5 for a box of 10 McNugget sized pieces of that? No? I sure wouldn't....except I did when I bought these. I'm almost tempted to tag these as vegetarian, because I truthfully cannot verify if any actual chicken is used in these, because whatever was included was so scant it was pathetic. As one of the very few "meat cheats" I make as a roughly 85% vegetarian, it's even more disappointing, and honestly I'm feeling a little bit ripped off and cheated..

Sandy was even more enthusiastic initially about them then I was, and as I pulled them out of the oven, she excitedly ran to the fridge, curiously yanked out her self-proclaimed "favorite condiment" and then as she picked up her first chicken stick, dejectedly exclaimed "Ugh! Why's there red stuff in it?" I was very confused about this sequence of events until I realized she transposed the words "chicken" and "parmesan" and was expecting slightly cheesy chicken nuggets ideal for dipping into mustard, not infantile quasi-Olive Garden knockoffs. She harrumphed the rest of the night away. "They'd be okay for appetizers but that's about it," she said. She also noted the complete absence of discernible clucky parts, so it wasn't just me. Sandy's giving them a two, graciously, I think. Me? When the best thing you can say about a product is that it comes with it's own toothpick, that's not really a ringing endorsement. Perhaps I'm just unreasonably grumpy about the whole thing, but I'm channeling my inner Richard Dawson. Survey says....

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chicken Parmesan Lollipops: 2 out of 10 Golden Spoons     

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Trader Joe's Pomegranate & Blueberry Cereal

When it comes to Trader Joe's cereals, we've collectively only found one worthy of the Pantheon so far. And each half of the WG@TJ's team has found at least one offering that we can't wholeheartedly recommend, like the Twigs, Flakes, and Clusters or the Loaded Fruit and Nut Granola

This Pomegranate and Blueberry cereal is the only one in recent memory that falls right in the middle of those two categories. I highly recommend you try it if you're into pomegranates and blueberries, but I can't give you my personal guarantee like I might something in our Pantheon.

The flakes are hearty, rigid, and very crunchy—even more than I expected. They're borderline "scrape up the roof of your mouth" style flakes, and they're surprisingly sweet, coated in what I guess is "milled cane sugar." There was a decided lack of blueberries in my box, which is unfortunate, because they were my favorite part of the cereal. They're dried and slightly shriveled, but they taste like lightly-sweetened real blueberries...because that's what they are.

But the most pleasant surprises in the mix were the delicious crunchberry-esque wads of purplishness that I'm guessing are supposed to be pomegranate-flavored. To me, they tasted more like cherry, but either way, they were tasty. And yes, if you read the ingredients list, you'll note that there is both real freeze-dried pomegranate and cherry puree in this cereal. These lavender bunches crunch like clusters of granola, and they're both sweeter and more tart than you'd expect. Plus, unlike the elusive dried blueberries, these fruity chunks were omnipresent in the box.

The cereal stays crunchy until the end of the bowl, and while your milk won't turn super-purple, there are hundreds of flecks of dark blue floating around, and there's just enough sweetness to make it worth reliving your childhood, putting the bowl up to your lips, and chugging it dry.

Sonia gives this cereal 3.5 stars. I give it 4.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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