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Monday, January 19, 2015

Trader Joe's Crispy Crunchy Broccoli Florets

It's time to check out Stoner Joe's Crunchy Chronic Cannabis Kernels, rushed overnight from the Denver TJ's. Just kidding. They're broccoli florets. Not quite as creative as "Inner Peas" or anything like that, but I suppose "broccoli" doesn't lend itself to that kind of play on words. I racked my brain for something to prove I'm nearly as creative as TJ's marketing department, Russ, and reader **Tammy**, but all I could come up with is a new kale product that might have Caesar dressing instead of zesty nacho, which of course would be called "Kale, Caesar!" 

Which conveniently brings me to my first actually-relevant point about the product itself—taste and texture-wise, these aren't all that dissimilar from the aforementioned kale chips, the biggest difference being the lack of a "dressing" type flavor in these broccoli florets. And if you go back to that kale chip review, you'll find that it's a highly polarizing, love-it-or-hate-it product. The comment section reads like a death threat followed by a love letter followed by a death threat, and so on. 

So my advice to you now is, if you hated the kale chips, you're probably gonna hate these bad boys and should consider avoiding them. You may still issue death threats via the comments section if you feel they're warranted. Love letters are also appreciated, but do note that I am happily married.

I thoroughly enjoyed the kale chips. And I'm enjoying these happy broccoli bites. I do wish that they had some kind of dressing, as well, though. They're weird, brittle, and crumby. They're also "planty," but they really don't taste or feel like broccoli to me, except for maybe the aftertaste. They're salty, and there's almost a nutty quality about them. 

They're surprisingly fattening for broccoli, which I guess can be attributed to the presence of palm oil. They're chock full of dietary fiber and vitamin C, so I think we can still declare them "healthy-ish." At $2.79, we're looking at a significantly lower price point than the kale chips. Plus the florets are filling and satisfying, so I'd call them a success in the "value" department. 

On the flip side, I'm dubious to declare that they could ever be a staple in our household or a regular TJ's purchase. So I think a 3.5 is an appropriate score. If you liked the kale chips and the idea of dried, crunchy broccoli doesn't turn your stomach, I say give 'em a whirl. Sonia echoes my sentiments with a matching 3.5.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Jumbo Raisin Medley and Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices

Particularly astute readers may notice that thus far in 2015, we've been persistently (perhaps overwhelmingly) positive and glowing in our reviews. I mean, in the four previous reviews this month, there's been not one, not two, but three new pantheon entries? Those are some hallowed halls there, and we don't just hand out that badge to just anyone. For proof, it took three months for Nathan and I to give out our last three crested jackets (which seemed a bit quick then, but for primarily cookie butter-related reasons, we had no choice), and I, Russ, once went over a year between giving out pantheon grades (see here and here - again, the cookie butter!) , so three Hall of Fame passes in four reviews is really quite something.

Of course, look at what we reviewed. Salted caramel gelato - how can that not be awesome? Oh, it is. Sriracha bacon jerky- how can that not be awesome? Oh, it is. And organic sriracha and garlic barbeque sauce...well, you get the drift. Listen, if something sucks, we'll tell you. Like this. Or this. Or especially this. Big Joe isn't paying us to spread his gospel, we just picked a particularly good run of products, is all.

So let's take a step back and focus on something not so flashy - like raisins and mangoes!

I can't imagine how different my childhood would be if I associated the word "raisin" with things like Trader Joe's Jumbo Raisin Medley, and not the smushed up dry fruit shards in a tiny cardboard box that the neighborhood jerk gave out on Halloween, or the sinking "oh wait, that's not chocolate chip" feeling of not inspecting that oatmeal raisin cookie closer. I'd probably like raisins a lot more, because man, these are much different. These raisins are big and full and fleshy and full of bite, and the fact there's three kinds in there - what I'd call "regular" dark jumbo raisins (tastes like a raisin raisin), golden (lighter flavor, still plenty sweet) and then the exotic sounding red flame raisins (the most vibrant of the three) - make them a great snack. They work just as well eating as a small or large handful, one type or all three at a time. For $3.69 for a one pound bag, it's not a bad deal.

And as far as Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices go - listen, obviously, if mangoes are your thing, you'll like them. There's nothing funky added on, unlike that well-intentioned fling while chile powder that didn't go over so great, or any extra sugar or preservatives or weird stuff - it's, as the name implies, just mango slices, dehydrated to a chewy, sticky, state. It's like fruit jerky. And beware if you have some intricate dental work or sensitive teeth - once dampened by saliva, these fruity fellas will find a way to stick to any part of your enamel possible. Have toothpicks on hand for extraction missions, you'll need them. $2.99 seems like an okay price, although I wonder why the other mango slices with stuff added to them are half the price.

The jumbo raisins and mango slices are being reviewed together because I feel basically the same way about them both - I'm not overly impressed by either one, yet I've picked them both up several times to keep primarily as a work desk drawer snack stash. It's fruit, it's healthy, it's easily portable, and a bag of each will last me a week for a reasonable price, so while not overly special, they're worthy enough to be considered a staple, at least for me. Good to know Trader Joe's can do that kinda stuff well, too.

Bottom lines:
Trader Joe's Jumbo Raisin Medley: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
Trader Joe's Just Mango Slices: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Gelato

If I were reading somebody else's review of this product, there is no way—no matter how much praise they gave it, no matter how desperately they begged me to try it—that I would believe it's as good as it actually is. This was the biggest pleasant surprise we've seen from TJ's in a very long time. Make no mistake, cookie butter ice cream and cookie butter cheesecake were like heaven on earth, but it's hardly a surprise when the words "Trader Joe's Speculoos Cookie Butter" are on the product. TJ's does the salted caramel thing pretty well, too, but this one's definitely my favorite so far.

Although this was our first ever strictly gelato product from Trader Joe's, I must note that I've reviewed a number of other delicious gelato flavors. And I should point out that my intrepid blogging accomplice, Russ, was sharp enough to note that those S'mores he checked out years ago were actually filled with gelato rather than ice cream. Still, TJ's brand gelato is relatively uncharted territory for the WG@TJ's team.

Some might say it's strange to review gelato in January—and a particularly cold January, at that. Those people wouldn't be wrong. Truth be told, I never would have picked out this product had it been me shopping on this TJ's run. Sonia found this little gem all on her own, and I sure am glad she did. She thought it would be ironic and weird to review it in this coldest month of the year.

It tasted like butterscotch. Kinda almost like Werther's, but really probably more like those discs in gold wrappers. Now, I know what you're thinking: those butterscotch candies are okay, but they're not that good. Well, really I guess what I'm trying to say is that this product tasted like what butterscotch should the best butterscotch ice cream topping ever, but in gelato form. I guess I can see how salted caramel might be a close relative of butterscotch, but for both Sonia and I...this was most definitely butterscotchishness maximus.

The whole thing was smooth like buttah, which for most folks would probably be a plus. But I'm always craving chunks of delightful and delicious chewy, chunky things, even in the creamiest of ice creams and gelatos. So that would be my only complaint. We experimented by adding leftover Christmas cookies and candy bits, but in the end, we couldn't come up with anything better than the original smoothness.

It still gets 4.5 big stars from me. Sonia gives it a perfect 5. Don't take our word for it. Wait for the spring/summer if you must, but this is a product that needs to be tasted to be believed.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

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