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Monday, January 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky

Combine my last product review of 2014 with my first of 2015 and voila! It's like I knew this was gonna happen.

Actually, truthfully, I first became aware of the existence of Trader Joe's Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky through our good buddy Marvo at The Impulsive Buy. How he, on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean enjoying 70-plus degree weather, can be first tipped off about it before I can is amazing. Must be all the time I spend grooming the icicles out of my beard here in the 'burgh. No matter, once I had the good news proclaimed unto me, I immediately became like the dogs in the Beggin' Strips commercials - "Bacon! Baconbaconbaconbacon! Bacon!" - complete with the deep doggy snuffs and all, and as soon as my master, I mean my wife, allowed me to go to TJ's to procure some, I came home with two fresh sacks.

Sandy I just devoured our third. Yes, I made another trip to TJ's just to get a couple more packs, all under the guise of "refamiliarizing myself with the taste before writing my review." The things we have to tell ourselves....truth be told, it's just that darn good. Be aware, you gotta like spicy - really like spicy a lot - to have a chance of ingesting this jerky. This sriracha's coming atcha' and is not playing any games. It's fully, peppery, fermented heat that will warm your insides through and through. Yet there's an initial sweetness that, although shortlived, is enough to ever-so-slightly play off that heat for a little nuance and character that will help convince your brain that your body isn't trying to digest straight napalm.

All of that is in the thicky, sticky, litte-bit-goopy glaze that coats all of the glorious, thickcut bacon. It's meaty, with only a little fat here and there, and is easily chewable - much more like bacon bacon and not actual jerky. The doneness straddles a good line between floppy and crispy, with a little bit of both here and there, like any good bacon should be. Fortunately, even with all the spicy sriracha all over the place, the taste of the meat pokes through as well, which really kind of binds the whole product together.

This is gooooood. Really really good. But, as jerky tends to be, kinda pricey. Most TJ's jerkies are in the $6 range for about 3.5 or 4 ounces. This bacon jerky? $5.49...for a measly two ounces. I mean, really, for that price you can't put in a couple more slices? There's some print on the bag stating "best if consumed within three days after opening." That's silly, TJ's - try making this last three minutes, let alone three days.

I guess, though, judging by my purchasing habits of the past couple days, my price complaint is only pretty minor. Other than that, this bacon jerky is something I feel is made especially just for me. Sandy loves it as well - she prefers her bacon to be cooked to be crispier than these slices were, but she loves that the bites aren't as chewy or stringy as most jerky is, and how this easily could have been. I'm pretty hesitant to start off the New Year with two straight pantheon reviews - that is an honor that's neither taken lightly nor given out often - but sometimes, you just gotta call it as you see it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet Sriracha Uncured Bacon Jerky: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Trader Joe's Cinnamon British Style Crumpets

I'm comfortable enough with my masculinity, or perhaps my 'Murican-ness, or whatever it is I have to be comfortable with, to admit that I watch (and love) Downton Abbey. In fact, Sonia and I recently visited the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Winterthur estate in Wilmington, DE. Fun stuff if you're in the area.

And maybe it's the few drops of English nobility in my blood, but every once in a while I get a thirst for a spot of tea. I've often proclaimed in my best British accent—imitating Lord Grantham—that it's "time for tea and crumpets," but until this fateful first full week of 2015, have never actually had crumpets on hand. Generally, I had to substitute toast for crumpets, but now, thanks to Trader Joe, that's changed.

I'm pretty sure the traditional English crumpet isn't necessarily cinnamon-flavored like these muffins are, but the cinnamon was very subtle in this particular instance. They still tasted good with grape jelly, but I preferred mine heated in the toaster and eaten plain with butter—or even with a bit of maple syrup, which I suppose is more Canadian than British, but hey, I'm international like that.

They were almost like a hybrid of traditional pancakes and English muffins, but doughier than either of those. They were similar to little round sponges, soaking up whatever we put on them very quickly. We ate them for breakfast, served with TJ's Earl Grey Tea, and it was wonderful—enough to keep me speaking with an obnoxious British accent for hours, which by the way, is an excellent way to drive away strangers seeking small talk at bus stops and such, just in case you're tragically introverted and antisocial like I am.

At $2.49 for six, this product is simply brill. Sonia gives them 4.5 stars, and I give 'em 4. Really, really darn good.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Trader Joe's Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce

Talk about starting off the new year with a bang.

Just look at the name of the newest products to hit the shelves: Trader Joe's Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce. Daaaang. The first half is uber-hipster-buzzword-happy ("Trader Joe's," "Organic", and "Sriracha") while the second half just promises to be full of flavor. Add the two together, and it sounds like we got the makings of one very potent, very flavorful, very intense condimental companion to your next dinner time. Tastebuds, consider the gauntlet thrown.

That is not an understatement.

This one very serious, pretty boss sauce. Not any where in my recent memory have I had anything quite like this. There's some burning heat. There's smokiness. Lots of garlic. But even then, there's some tanginess and sweetness that all kind of balls up together in one solid, succinct yet complex flavor wave. It's tough to describe exactly - the first taste starts off relatively sweet enouh, with a little garicky crescendo - must be that roasted garlic goodness. But once the heat hits, it hits - there's no dillydallying here. Habaneros are listed as an active ingredient, after all. Although intense, the spiciness is a somewhat nuanced one, offset by some classic smoky barbeque flavor, with still a little bit more garlic poking through. And naturally there's a lingering hot peppery aftertaste which only grows with each successive bite.

As far as consistency, the sriracha barbeque sauce is a good, thicker, goopier kinda of concoction, with little bits of minced garlic floating around. That was a minus for Sandy - it seemed a bit too weird of a textural offset for her.

She and I are on our second bottle already. Our first go-around with the sauce was on New Year's Eve, when on a last second audible we switched the plan from grape jelly meatballs to simmering said meatballs in the crockpot all slathered up in this instead. Good call. The time in the slowcooker seemed to cancel out the heat a tad, though, while accentuating the roasted garlic - pretty good, nonetheless, and made the second time a pleasant surprise for its heat and potency. Tasted awesome with chicken, terrific with some peppers and carrots dabbed in, although (probably not suprisingly) not so wonderful with pineapple - the heat, yes, the garlic, no. Something independently propelled both Sandy and I to do that, though, so perhaps we're not too crazy.

No question about it: the TJ's sriracha-garlic BBQ is going to end up as a new favorite. It warms our hearts as much as it warms our bellies. Other than the small bits of garlic interfering with an otherwise smooth-as-can-be delivery, there's no complaints here. None.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Sriracha and Roasted Garlic BBQ Sauce: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons    

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