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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Trader Joe's Just the Clusters Ginger, Almond & Cashew Granola Cereal

There are certain bites of this cereal that taste like delicious gingersnap cookies with a dusting of cinnamon and spices and a few choice cashews. Other bites taste like pungent, raw ginger root and not much else. The discrepancy between those two types of bites is harsh, and it grates on your taste buds the same way a glob of horseradish might after a few pleasant sips of root beer

I'm guessing the bites are inconsistent because there are chunks of actual ginger floating throughout the cereal, but not enough that you get one in every bite. Or, perhaps, certain bites contain only small bits of ginger and others contain large chunks. Whatever the reason, it's difficult to
avoid while eating the cereal since each ingredient is more or less the same beige-ish color. I suppose one could inspect each spoonful meticulously before shoveling it down, but it would take a great deal of time, care, and effort to do so. It's much easier to make the following generalization: The only people who should consider buying this cereal are people who are madly in love with the taste of raw ginger.

I was skeptical when I saw this box on the shelf. Could ginger really work as the centerpiece in a breakfast cereal? The Ardmore, PA Trader Joe's was a madhouse on my last TJ's run, and it provided the kind of full-contact shopping experience I hadn't seen since I braved the hordes of colorful characters at 3rd and La Brea in L.A. There wasn't much time to linger there in the aisle staring up at the cereals, and much like my last review, I made a hasty decision. I'm a fan of certain ginger products: ginger beergingersnapsginger ice creamand even ginger wontons. But when it comes to ginger candy or raw ginger root, that's where I draw the line. As a spice, ginger should be used sparingly. It's simply too pungent when it shows up in abundance.

Sonia liked this cereal even less than I did, pointing out that the bites with excessive ginger kind of ruin all the other bites. That stuff lingers. She only gives this breakfast cereal two and a half stars. I think I'll be slightly more lenient and go with three and a half since there's definitely some potential here. I think this could be a really decent cereal if they toned the ginger down a couple notches.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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

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