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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Trader Joe's Chocolate Raspberry Sticks

This was a silly purchase. I was stuck in line at TJ's, and the lady in front of me had an enormous cartload of groceries—a fact I didn't notice until after it was too late to switch lines. I was in the queue for a good three or four minutes just staring at the little table full of goodies next to the checkout. The stuff they have sitting there is pretty slick when it comes to ensnaring unsuspecting victims. My usual strategy involves picking a line with little or no wait and just breezing past them without a glance. But I was stuck. And sure enough, these little guys got me.

Sonia and I rarely eat chocolate, and as I've mentioned before, I'm not really a huge fan of dark chocolate. Plus, in the summertime, you have to keep chocolate in the fridge or it gets melty and messy just sitting on the counter. Our AC units hit the bedroom and living room pretty well, but the kitchen tends to be steamy. Furthermore, for some reason I was thinking these were like crunchy sticks somehow. When I hear the word "stick," I think "crunchy." You know, like a stick from a branch on a tree. But these sticks are gummy, which of course makes them even more slimy, gooey, and sticky in this June heat. I could have just gone ahead and read the label on the product I was buying, but well...woulda, coulda, shoulda. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that I wasn't really thinking when I bought these and they were kind of doomed from the start. Popsicles would have been a much wiser purchase.

There's a ridiculous amount of raspberry goo on the inside of these things. And I personally don't feel like this particular dark chocolate blends very well with the sweet raspberry jelly nonsense within it. But on the flip side, I must admit that it does taste like raspberry. Not like super sweet fake Jolly Rancher blue raspberry, and not like actual raspberries fresh off the vine, but maybe exactly halfway between the two. Something like a Chambord-flavored jelly candy if you will, but not as rich. It's not bad, it's just not my thing—though I've had higher quality raspberry cordials that I did enjoy significantly more than these candies. 

Sonia does like dark chocolate, although it's a very infrequent indulgence for her, and when she does eat it, it's in very small amounts. She's less than enthused about these candies as well. She's also not a huge fan of raspberry flavored candy. This is one of those instances where our take on a product might be completely different from someone who loves dark chocolate and raspberry candy, so we invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below. I give these "sticks" two and a half stars. Sonia's gonna go with three on this one.

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars II

Wait....there's the Roman numeral two? As in, like, Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars...the sequel? More fruit, more frenzy, more bars, or what? I've been a fairly observant Trader Joe's shopper over the past few years, but either I've been extremely sheltered in these Pittsburgh area stores (it happens!) or I've been completely oblivious (also very possible, ask my wife!), but I've never even heard of or seen the original Fruit Frenzy Bars that the existence of this product implies also existed. I was very excited to try these, even though, let's face it, the sequels almost always suck compared to the original. Prime example: any Matrix movie after the first (I'd be much happier never seeing Keanu Reeves pulling a Kevin Bacon and showing us his butt ever again). Although, sometimes the sequels are good, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy. If only the ending of Return of the King didn't end six times before it actually did, finally, end. This scene was officially where the the climax jumped the shark.

Yes, I went to college in the early 2000s, how can you tell? Also, do people still use the phrase "jump the shark"? Maybe I'll ask my years-younger-than-me coworkers when I'm not bothering them with computer questions because anything beyond Windows XP confounds the crud out of me.

Anyhow, once these frosty fruity frenzi-ful frisky frolics were found, I knew right where they truly belonged: in my belly.  Once summer begins roaring with heat rising and humidity spiking, any icy cool treat I can ingest to aid with chilling my body from the inside out, I'm down with.

To me, these are not disappointing in the least. As the picture suggests, there's three different flavor levels to work through. First up is grape. Starts off a little weak, if you ask me. I mean, it's not bad, but it doesn't taste overly grape-y. Granted, there's not a lot of added sugar (at least compared to the typical ice cream truck treat), so maybe that's why it tasted a little toned down. Sandy said the grape kinda reminded her of iced tea - in fact, she was a little surprised when I informed her it was, in fact, grape. Not that it really tastes like tea, just kinda like watered-down sweetness, which is what a lot of the local dairy swill masquerading as iced tea tastes like around these parts. Give me Rosenberger's over Turner's any day. Still, the Grape Level tasted alright, and not an awful way to start.

Next up: Tangerine. Light and citrusy. Otherwise, a little nondescript,but yummy nonetheless.A palate cleanser, almost, if you will, in order to make way for the truly great part: the blood orange. Oh man. This is where it got truly good, the flavorful finale, the citrusy climax, the orangey apex. Loved it. Powerfully sweet and a little tart, just like a truly great orange, delivering icy cool refreshment with a taste that pleasantly lingers. Loved it. 

Sandy actually liked the grape most of all, and didn't care for the tangerine or orange all that much; then again, she's not a citrus addict like me. Weirdo. Technically, I suppose we could share a popsicle and each get the parts we like without too much grumbling. After all, these are kinda mammoth. In case the picture doesn't give you a good sense of scale, they're about the exact same height as an iPhone, and while a couple smidges narrower on the width, the popsicles are much thicker on the depth. This wouldn't be a treat to give to a young kid and expect them to finish. Also, you'd have to have some OxyClean on stand by. I see what my toddler can do with a single M&M and am amazed. For something like $3 for the box of four, it's not a bad bargain at all. Sandy's lowballing with a two, so I'm overcompensating with my score, but only slightly.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Fruit Frenzy Bars II: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa

That's my hand in the picture to the left. Don't you think it's attractive? I figure out of all the thousands of people who read this blog each day that at least one or two of you must know a good talent agent that represents specialty models. I don't have any experience, but I think I'm ready to start moonlighting as a hand model, a la George Costanza, Ray McKegney, or J.P. Prewitt. I currently live in the Philly metro area, but I'm willing to travel. Just click on my name in the "Contributors" section in the right side bar for my contact info. Thanks for your help, everyone. Maybe your talent agent friend will slip you a little finder's fee or something.

Actually, I was trying to make the jar look more full by holding it over my head and shuffling the little bit that was left toward the front of the jar. Sonia and I pretty much polished it off over the weekend and we forgot to take a pic of the jar until just now. But anyway, I figure it adds a bit of visual variety to our blog, right? I mean, we have great outdoor shots of TJ's foods, courtesy of Russ and Sandy. We have shots with cool tile backgrounds, and shots with hardwood backgrounds, but up to this point, I don't think we've had any featuring our hands. Now we do.

But anyway, moving along to the food review...

This is a great sweet salsa. I think the biggest problem I've seen with other sweet salsas is a tendency to either taste too much like fruit and neglect the salsa-y part of the product, or the exact opposite of that. I'm always looking for a balance. And while this product didn't taste super pineappley in my opinion, it did have a nice balance of traditional salsa flavor and sweetness. The spice-o-meter on the jar makes this salsa look medium, but it's most definitely mild. We ate it with the Longboard Chips, and they paired up quite nicely. This stuff would be great for a luau-themed pool party or some other such tropical-type gathering. Break out the leis and coconut bras!

My only complaints are: not enough heat and not enough actual pineapple flavor. Also, we went through this $1.99 jar really quickly. It would be great if there were a larger size. But in its favor: it's nice and sweet, yet it still tastes like salsa and it pairs up perfectly with white corn tortilla chips. Four stars from me. Same from Sonia.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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