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Monday, October 7, 2013

Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl

This is Shandra. This is not an awesome (or even "passably good") picture, courtesy of my new cheapo cellphone, but Shandra, and in fact the whole Salt Lake City Trader Joe's, is pretty awesome. As is our habit when we're out of state, Sandy and I were strolling thru late Sunday night, hoping to see anything new or different from our Pittsburgh base, and just as we sidled up to the sample station for a little cherry cider, she came running across the store to her coworker manning the slab, jar of Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie and Cocoa Swirl in hand, positively shrieking "OHMIGAWWD THISISNEW OHMYGAWDD WEGOTTATRYTHISRIGHTNOW OHMYGAWDD!!!" She cracked it open right in front of us and said "You guys want to try?" It's like she knew who we were! Except, ummmm.... she didn't. Anyways, I'll skip some of the nittygritty play-by-play, but the jar she grabbed was the last one and since it was opened we couldn't buy it but she asked her manager, the very nice impressively bearded Greg, who personally climbed thru the truck that was in the middle of being unloaded just to procure us a jar that we could, in fact, purchase. It kinda helped that he had heard of us, but no matter, we appreciate it all! I, for one, also appreciated the two women who were wandering around the store in knee high socks and what I'll generously call a two piece bathing suit. "Poor girls, having to choose between food and clothes," Sandy said. You never know what you'll see or experience at Trader Joe's, I guess. It's all part of the fun.

So.....Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl. The very existence of such a product begs the question: "How much awesomeness can one jar contain?" Unfortunately, neither has the English language coined the proper words to describe nor has the technology been invented that can compute such things can adequately attempt to answer. It's.....just go. Right now. Go get your own. You'll see.  

For those of you still here, let me flail and fail at trying to describe. It's a perfectly unparalleled union of two of the greatest inventions the junk food industry has ever produced: the mega-nommerific speculoos spread and Nutella, of which I can sing its praises all day. It's almost liked I wished this munchie matrimony into existence, because I've spread both cookie butter and Nutella on the same piece of toast before, and had the thought in the back of my head, "wouldn't it be great if these were combined into one thing?" It's mostly because I'm too lazy to use and/or wash two knives. And by "Nutella", I mean legitimately the real deal, hazelnuts and all. If it's not actual Nutella in this product, then it's pretty much the most convincing knockoff/imitator ever this side of Frank Abagnale Jr. Except for the occasional crispie here or there, it's a smooth mix that perfectly straddles the balance between the gentle gingeriness of the speculoos and the dark, decadent tones of the cocoa portion. My goodness. It's....again, just go. Trust me.

It's tough to imagine a more perfect condimental match than these two tasty lovebirds mashed into one. I've previously posited a "chocolate gum theory" that states that two things that are good separately are not necessarily good when combined. That is far, so far away from being the case here. Maybe it's just my sweet tooth going into overdrive but man....this is just a perfect product. Sandy agrees. After one taste she knew exactly what her score was going to be, and I could tell it just from the look in her eyes. A perfect five from her, and you can count on a perfect five from me as well. I almost feel like I'm shortchanging it, but ten's the max and them's the rules. For something like three bucks for the jar, you simply cannot beat it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie & Cocoa Swirl: 10 of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Trader Joe's Country Pumpkin Spice Granola Cereal

Five little pumpkins sitting on a gate:
The first one said, "Oh my, it's time we ate!"
The second one said, "There are spices in the air."
The third one said, "And lots of TJ's fare."
The fourth one said, "Let's munch & munch & munch."
The fifth one said, "Let's have something with crunch!"
OOOhh OOOhh went the wind
And out went the lights
And the five little pumpkins rolled out of sight.

Then the five little pumpkins came upon a bowl of country granola. The first one said, "Hey, let's eat this stuff." 

And the second one was like, "Yeah, and let's put some pumpkin in it!"

"Pumpkin makes everything better," said the third one.

The fourth pumpkin added, "Especially around fall time!"

But the fifth pumpkin shook his head and said, "Dudes, I'm not into cannibalism. In case you hadn't noticed, we are pumpkins."

"True that, Number Five," replied pumpkin Number One, nodding.

Just then, pumpkin Number Two spied some innocent raisin people nearby. They were a deep purple color, had wrinkly skin, and were very tiny, even compared to little pumpkins. Number Three had a sinister look on his face. He knew what Number Two was thinking. Suddenly, Number Four said it: "Let's throw them in instead."

...And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how this granola came into being.

I recently made the observation that pumpkin-flavored products can taste very similar to cinnamon raisin products. That certainly applies here, where "raisins" are one of the main ingredients, and we see "dried pumpkin" after "vegetable oil" and "coconut" on the ingredients list. There's more coconut in this product than pumpkin, folks. It's not a terrible granola and raisin cereal, but I didn't find that happy homegrown harvest flavor I was looking for. There are hints of allspice, nutmeg, and ginger...and maybe just the subtlest ghost of actual pumpkin, but I personally wouldn't have minded a tad more pumpkin and nutmeg.

Sonia agrees about the pumpkin, though overall, I think she enjoyed the hearty oats and wheat base of the cereal even more than I did. She gives this product another 4. I give it another 3, and the five pumpkins are just happy they didn't have to sacrifice one of their own.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Coffee

Maybe it's because I don't like coffee that much, or maybe it's because my taste buds are overloaded with pumpkin, but I wasn't particularly thrilled with this coffee. Sonia enjoyed it, however, and insists that this product is the first Trader Joe's pumpkin item this season that does have an adequate amount of pumpkindiculous flavor. 

I feel the opposite. I was happy with the pumpkinicity levels of our previous selections, but not with this one. We recently tried a Krispy Kreme pumpkin coffee beverage that was really sweet and really punkinny. It was a hit with the whole family. It tasted like candy. This coffee...well...tastes like coffee.

It reminded me a little of the Gingerbread Coffee we tried one chilly Yuletide long ago. Neither selection tastes bad, but both need a fair amount of sugar and milk to be palatable, in my opinion. There's a hint of pumpkin spice, but other than that, I just taste normal old coffee, complete with bitter earthiness and a bit of acidity.

But I'm no coffee connoisseur. I'm slowly earning my stripes as a pumpkin-flavored-thing expert, but I'm not sure how that will help me in life outside of this blog.

A few weeks into this fall season, and I think Sonia and I have overdone the pumpkin thing a bit. I'm starting to wish there were more fall-themed items that did not involve pumpkin. There are always harvest apple type dealies. And apparently, some sausages are associated with autumn. So maybe on our next Trader Joe's trip, we'll look for more stuff like that. But you folks who are jonesin' for more pumpkin, don't worry, we've still got a couple more pumpkinlicious product reviews coming down the pipeline. Plus, apparently Sonia is not ready to give up this nasty pumpkin habit. Even as I compose this post—I kid you not—she just sent me an email with the subject line: "Made with Real Pumpkins!!" Apparently Yogurtland is jumping on board the pumpkin bandwagon.

Sonia gives this coffee 4.5 out of 5 stars, stating that she likes the way the pumpkin spices and the medium roast flavor blend together. I give it 2.5 out of 5 stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 stars.

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