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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Rolls

Back in the summer of 2011, Sonia and I were involved in an embarrassing debacle involving a tube of aggressive cinnamon rolls. We were accused of being inexperienced, un-American, and unintelligent. Admittedly, I did erroneously state that there were six rolls in the tube, rather than five, multiple times throughout the post. But the comments on that review weren't just typical trollery. Maybe they hurt my pride so much because they actually pointed out legitimate criticisms along the lines of "Why were you and your wife expecting to store some of the rolls in the tube after opening it?" and "Why did you run out of frosting when most people have a bunch left over?" Perhaps I don't feel the proper amount of shame for my gluttonous frosting hoggery. Perhaps I should have paid more attention in Home Ec when we baked pre-packaged biscuits in the oven—an assignment for which I received an S- for "barely satisfactory." The look of scorn shot at our group by our instructor should have been sufficiently severe castigation all by itself, but she also forced us to eat our culinary abominations in front of the rest of the class. I should have learned my lesson then. 

But in our defense, Sonia and I really didn't grow up baking these things—Trader Joe's brand, Pillsbury, or otherwise. Sonia's family was a family of immigrants. And they chose to spend their hard-earned dollars on more familiar foods like churros and conchas, neither of which involve perplexing packaging or exploding tubes. My family was plagued with food allergies to wheat and sugar, among many others. So ready-to-bake pastries were unheard of in my childhood home. All this to say, please don't judge us too harshly when I tell you that we experienced the same difficulties with the packaging of this product. That's still Sonia's biggest complaint. She doesn't like the tube dealie.

But at any rate, the product within was good. And there were five little pumpkin rolls, not six. The bread was slightly cinnamony, but not particularly pumpkinny. The icing was by far the most pumpkin-riffic element of the product, with a taste falling somewhere in between melted pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin butter. The texture of the pumpkin icing was not unlike that of the sweet white frosting that came with those notorious cinnamon rolls. And like the original cinnamon roll icing, we used every last drop of it—and probably wouldn't have minded a tad more. It's a product most pumpkinophiles will surely enjoy.

In the end, though, I'd probably pick the original cinnamon rolls over these, while Sonia enjoyed these pumpkin-flavored ones a bit more—and our scores reflect those sentiments.

Nathan: 3.5 stars.
Sonia: 4 stars.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Ice Cream

On several occasions I have declared my absolute love of pecan pie, especially my Aunt Brenda's. And in my brazen youth, I have crowned myself as an ice cream expert, and though I am older, wiser, and not as brash these days, I still think I know what I'm talking about...sorta, at least, anyways.

So a) why was it such a surprise to see a bucket of Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Ice Cream nestled in the freezer? 2) Why have I never tried this? and d) Why, so soon after throwing me a bone, does TJ's have to do THIS to me in the midst of my diet? Arrrrrrrrgh.

Once spotted, there was no question that this quart of potential frozen yummy nirvana was coming home. I locked eyes with Sandy and put up the requisite hesitancy, might have even lightly stomped my foot some in some oddball show of supposed defiance, but no, really, this was going to my freezer and to my belly no matter what.

It's pretty decent stuff. Take your not-so-basic French vanilla ice cream (TJ's is spectacular!), add in some big swirls of pecan pie filling in all its brown-sugary / molassesy magic, and a couple pecans and a small handful of shortbread pie crust crumbles, and there you go. Tasty combo? No doubt. But notice the problem? While the pie filling portions are tasty and appropriately plentiful (so much better than the caramel ice cream reviewed way back in the day), there's just not enough nuts and pie crust for my liking. Realistically, to me, there's about half of what there should be. Digging through a particularly rich filling vein the other night, there were only three, maybe four partial pecans and no discernible crusties. Obviously, nuts are kinda pricey and all, but a few more would really be killer - the ones in there maintained their nutty texture extremely well, offering a great crumbly crunch amidst all the creaminess. It's all possible that with the rest of the ice cream being so rich, with shortbread such a comparatively muted flavor, that only the bigger bits were noticed - in that case, make 'em bigger, TJ's!

All that being said, after it being in the house for a couple nights, with some great restraint there's at least half of the quart left in the freezer, and gosh darn it, I'd love to house every last little bit of right now, then blame its disappearance on the teenage exchange student living with us, who mysteriously drank all of our coffee cream the other day. Apparently I now have this thing called "willpower." Hrmmm. Amazing.

For the wifey's take, she's kinda opposite of me: she thinks there's an acceptable amount of pecans while not enough crust, while I'm vice versa. Maybe we mined the wrong scoops and shoulda switched bowls, I don't know. We both agree that, potential blasphemy aside, the pecan pie ice cream is so much better than any pumpkin ice cream TJ's can offer, except those delicious little cookie sandwiches. Overall, for $4.49, we're fairly happy.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pecan Pie Ice Cream: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

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