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Monday, October 6, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Seed Brittle

And now, it's time for something pumpkin. Puuuumpkin. <shamelessly drools and makes Homer Simpson-like gurgling noises> Orange autumn harvest-time delectability. I could link each instance of the word "pumpkin" in this blog post to a different pumpkin-flavored product review...but alas, I shall be lazy. You'll just have to type the word "pumpkin" into the search bar if you're really that interested. I think we have 18 or 19 posts about pumpkin at this point, and by the end of this season, we may have double that. 

Near the end of October last year, I received several death threats via email from readers who were sick and tired of pumpkin reviews. So I took a brief reprieve from the pumpkin-mania, only to receive an even larger number of death threats from fans who enjoyed the pumpkin reviews and demanded that I persist in writing them. I told those pumpkinophiles "Sure, but you have to protect me from the pumpkin-haters." They agreed. This Pumpkin Protection Agreement (PPA) carries into Pumpkin Season 2014 by default, just FYI. By reading this blog post, you agree to do everything in your power (which, realistically, may be nothing) to protect me from the pumpkinophobes.

Mmhmm. And on to the review. This really isn't a pumpkin product, strictly speaking. There's no pumpkin "fruit" in it. Just pumpkin seeds. And pumpkin pie spices. I'm sure this product would be absolutely revolting if it had significant amounts of actual pumpkin in it. But as it stands, it's a pleasantly sweet, salty, and spicy snack. If you're into pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie spices, you pretty much can't go wrong with the taste. The pumpkin seeds are salty and crunchy, the way they should be. The pumpkin spices are definitely there, but not overpowering. There's enough nutmeg and cinnamon to pick out both of those flavors in the mix, but this treat is sweet more than anything else. You folks who are into "salty and sweet" should dig the essence of this pumpkin seed brittle just fine.

On the down side, I wasn't a huge fan of the texture of this product. It's crunchy and brittle, the way this stuff's supposed to be—and the seeds were perfect as far as I could tell. But the candy part was just a little too sticky, if that makes any sense. When touching it with my fingers, there was a noticeable stick-factor. And while chewing the product, that stickiness was even worse. It almost felt like biting down on a piece of hard candy like a Jolly Rancher or something—like it wasn't intended to be chewed. It stuck to each and every crevice in between my teeth and prompted a massive tongue workout as I tried to dislodge the wads of partially-chewed candy from my molars. If I'd had any exposed fillings or dental work, this snack would have certainly instigated an emergency trip to the dentist. If you have caps, crowns, or shoddy fillings, take heed! I realize all brittle candy is like that to some extent, but I felt that this stuff was particularly sticktastic.

But other than the risk of incidental oral calamity—and an overwhelming desire to immediately brush my teeth after consumption—I enjoyed this product. I give it 3.5 stars. Sonia gives it 4.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Trader Joe's Salt and Pepper Pistachios

"I eat because I'm unhappy. I'm unhappy because I eat. It's a vicious cycle." - Fat Bastard

Well, for me, that's not entirely true...but I definitely still "stress eat," one can say. Recent case in point: the other night, sitting in Section 315 at PNC Park, having plopped down  a couple days' pay for the wifey and I to witness the NL Wild Card Game, our beloved Pirates vs. the San Fransisco Giants...just to watch our Buccos go down in flames. Not long after Brandon Bleepin' Crawford hit his fourth inning grand slam I grabbed the half pound bag of gas station pistachios I bought on the way to the game and promptly pretty much demolished them. Then I was so desperate for a beer I gave a vendor $9 for a Miller Lite (which I rank as only slightly better than this swill). If only that Yuengling hawker came by 5 minutes sooner...

Did it make anything better? Of course not. Pirates ended up losing 8-0, with half the crowd leaving in the seventh inning (excuse me, but that's seriously lame, Pittsburgh). And to much a smaller and less disappointing extent, those pistachios, although tasty, weren't Trader Joe's Salt and Pepper Pistachios.

These TJ pistachios are awesome. Although I must warn you right out front: you must really, really, really like-a ze pepper to stand a shot of being able to ingest these. It's not a light little sprinkle of some table variety pepper; it's more like this kinda thing being pushed on your taste buds. The first couple nuts I had, I thought I just picked a particularly strong few by chance - nope. Each pistachio is handily sea salted and black-and-red-peppered with a powerful spicy dose that will clear sinuses and knock out the unsuspecting. Heartburn warning. Yet, despite the potent spice, the taste of the pistachio still shines through in all its natural nutty glory.

Gotta pick a small quibble, though. The 13 ounce bag cost $7.49, which if my math is right (we've never really hit it off) equates to a little over $9.20 a pound. The aforementioned convenience store pickups I wolfed down? Four bucks for the half a pound (so $8 for a full pounder). Granted, the TJ's were better, but if you'd assume a more reasonable price at a historically inexpensive grocery chain versus the gas station mark up, you'd be wrong here. Pepper isn't that it? Seems like other TJ nut prices have gone up - don't think I didn't notice that extra buck this past time, cashew butter.

"These get kinda intense," Sandy said as we both munched a couple handfuls down, noting how they made her tongue burn. "It's not exactly what I think of when I think about pepper - it's just really, really strong." Ah, but it's a burn so good, I say. She's going with a three, while I'm going for just a notch below perfection.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Salt and Pepper Pistachios: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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