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Friday, October 25, 2013

Trader Joe's Scary Sugar Cookies

I was once again ensnared by clever, festive packaging at the Trader Joe's checkout display. Also, this review is a desperate attempt to keep my promise to stay away from pumpkin products for a bit. Halloween theme? Yes. Pumpkin? No.

Not to be confused with Halloween Joe-Joe's, these terrifying cookies are shaped like bats, ghosts, and...well, pumpkins. But the pumpkins aren't pumpkin-flavored, they're just pumpkin-shaped, so this still doesn't count as a pumpkin product.

But let's get down to the review, shall we? We have fairly run-of-the-mill sugar cookies here. They aren't particularly bad for you compared to other desserts, but there's nothing very special about them either. I'd say these are on par with every other store-brand sugar cookies I've ever had. They aren't exceptionally rich or buttery, and they don't have any special zing: no fruit-juice sweeteners, no cookie butter or cocoa swirl filling. They're just sugar cookies. And not even particularly good ones.

The bats have a hint of chocolate flavoring. They were my least favorite. I couldn't really tell a difference between the ghosts and the pumpkins. They were all a shade on the bland side. Each frightening cookie has a couple dabs of icing for eyes, mouth, etc. But the icing adds virtually nothing to the flavor of the cookies, although I do wish there were more of it, because it would have added a welcome variation in texture and made them slightly less boring. 

If it sounds like I'm being critical, it's because I want TJ's to go above and beyond any other grocery store, because I know they can, and they routinely do. Most people, especially folks who might be new to Trader Joe's probably won't be so disappointed with these cookies, because honestly, they're not bad. They're soft enough, sweet enough, and spooky enough for any average seasonal dessert food. But in the end, I just want more for my money. If I wanted to pay $4 for painfully average sugar cookies, I would have gone to Giant or Ralph's.

I give these scary cookies 2.5 stars. Sonia gives them 3 stars, stating that their taste is fine, but that they're too crumbly.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10 stars.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Trader Joe's The Bagel Spinoza

Benedict de Spinoza was a Portuguese-Dutch philosopher. I'm going to pretend I sort of knew that before I wiki'd it. I only took the intro to philosophy course in college to fulfill my gen ed requirement, and on the final exam I simply regurgitated the limited tidbits they had shoved down my throat over the previous 3 months and somehow wound up with an 'A.' Perhaps it's another result of my philosophical ignorance, but I'm not sure why this man has bagels named after him. My guess is that it's because he was Jewish, and bagels are pseudo-traditional Jewish cuisine. Funfact: Spinoza was later expelled from Judaism because of his controversial ideas about God and the Hebrew Bible.

Who knew that centuries later he would make up for his heresy by offering the world these soft, delicious bagels? They're actually much softer than most bagel brands I've tried. Although, I must say that some of the best bagels I've ever had have been somewhat rigid. Not these. They're fluffy. Good, but fluffy. They're plain, just the way I like 'em. Check out Everything Bagel Slims and Everything Bagel Chips if you're looking for something with a bit more complexity in the flavor department. In this case, though, I think their simplicity is their strength. Nothing but a scrumptious white-bready flavor.

Even though I've made a promise to avoid the topic of pumpkin for a few posts, I must at least mention that these are the bagels we ate with the pumpkin cream cheese. They were a great combo. Recently, a reader mentioned that he was not thrilled with the pumpkin bagels from TJ's, so I must recommend these, coupled with the aforementioned pumpkin cream cheese, as an alternative. But don't worry, that's it for least for now. I haven't been able to make it back to TJ's lately to be tempted by their plethora of palatable pumpkin products, although my last visit to Target involved the purchase of Pumpkin Harvest Salsa. It's a conspiracy, I tell you.

Sonia says she liked these bagels because they were soft and fresh, but she wonders if maybe we just got a bag that happened to be brand spanking new. The bagels didn't last around our place long enough for us to find out if they got much stiffer over time. She gives them a 4.5. I think they're worthy of 4 stars.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trader Joe's "this pumpkin walks into a bar..." Cereal Bars

Why did the pumpkin roll into a bar? It fell off the wagon.

Why was the jack-o-lantern scared to enter the bar? It had no guts.

Why did the pumpkin walk into a bar and then divide its circumference by its diameter? It wanted pumpkin pi.

These jokes are even worse than my strawberry walks into a bar jokes. And those were pretty bad. Plus, if any of you are like me, you're getting sick of pumpkin already. Thank goodness Russ's most recent review gave us a brief reprieve from What Pumpkin Products Are Good at Trader Joe's? But hey, this will be the last pumpkin review for a bit. Promise. Unless of course we see a really cool pumpkin product at TJ's that we've never had before. In that case, all bets are off.

So let me just cut to the chase here. These are pretty typical cereal bars. I think they taste like pumpkin, Sonia does not. She thinks they smell like pumpkin, probably due to the presence of pumpkin spices, but says they could just as easily be fig or apple. I totally disagree. They're just as sweet as a figgish flavor, but again, we have cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and allspice present; unmistakably pumpkinesque spices. 

And unlike any other pumpkin product we've reviewed this season, the main ingredient of this product is actually "pumpkin filling," which in my opinion virtually guarantees a satisfactory pumpkinosity level. (Special thanks to reader stevenp for allowing me to steal the word "pumpkinosity.") Granted, the main ingredient in the pumpkin filling isn't "pumpkin," but pumpkin isn't the main ingredient in anything. "Pumpkin" isn't even the main ingredient in a pumpkin! Water is. And that's your science lesson for the day, kids.

For her perceived lack of pumpkin, Sonia only gives these 3 stars. But then, Sonia smells like a giant piece of pumpkin pie this time of year. No, she doesn't have pumpkin spice perfume. There's just enough pumpkin in her system that the excess is coming out of her pores. I can't give this a lower score than I gave to the other "walks into a bar" bars. It's still a moist, bready, snacky, yummy breakfast bar, and this one has a fun, seasonal theme. So 4 stars from me.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10 stars.

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