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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Trader Joe's Chocolate Brooklyn Babka

Most of the time when I see this item on social media, it's accompanied by some disclaimer along the lines of "I'm from the West Coast, so I've never heard of babka," or "I'm from the South, so I don't know what babka is." Well, I've lived most of my life in the Northeast and taken many trips to NYC, and although I've heard of babka, I've never actually had it—from Brooklyn or anywhere else. So this will be another fine example of my foodie-hackery at work. I've had plenty of opportunities to sample it during my time in the Big Apple, but it has always taken a back seat to pizza from Lombardi's, soft pretzels from street vendors, hot dogs from Nathan's, cannolis from Little Italy, pudding from Rice to Riches, or dim sum from Chinatown. Next time I'm there, I'll be sure to check it out.

But here are my first impressions (Brooklynites, feel free to chime in and correct my assumptions via the comments section below). This thing is heavy. And chocolatey. And rich. It's another Jewish-American treat that arrived in the states by way of European immigrants—and Trader Joe's is making it accessible to the masses. It's a $5 item here in South Jersey, but it's worth it in terms of size, density, and servings (there are 9 in the loaf).

There's something brownie-esque about both the taste and texture, although it's more bread-like than a brownie, and taste-wise, slightly more complex. It's like marble rye bread infused with brownie batter, layers of cocoa, and chocolate chips. Parts of the bread seem stiff (in a good way) but there's also a good bit of moisture, both in the "cake" part and on top, where there's a layer of chips and sweet, syrupy chocolatiness. It's almost too chocolately, if there is such a thing.

Surprisingly, there are both organic soybeans and organic tofu in the ingredients, along with a few other surprises, although, I assure you—you can't taste much of anything other than chocolate, chocolate, bread, and more chocolate. I suppose that's good for chocoholics. Me? I have to be in the mood for this kind of richness. It's delicious, but at the same time, this pastry could never be more than a once-in-a-great-while treat for me. Have a glass of milk on stand-by when you bite into that first piece. 3.5 stars from me. 3 stars from the wifey.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles

Appropriately enough, my thoughts regarding one of the newer TJ treats out there, Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles, are kinda...well...jumbled.

Follow along with me here, if I can be coherent enough. Imagine you purchased a pint of ice cream (say, vanilla-based) with milk chocolate swirls, pecans, caramel, toasted quinoa (more on that in a bit), and to really kick up the flavor, some sea salt all swirled in. Sounds delicious, right? You bet. Now, think if while digging thru your bowlful you happened to get a particularly thick, concentrated swirl in a rich vein where all the swirled-in flavors converged in one particularly tasty nugget of goodness. Taste jackpot? You bet. But that'd be like a once in a pintful experience, at most, and as good as it is, how many rich spoonfuls could you really muster and truly enjoy to the fullest? Isn't there something to be said for an unintentionally perfect surprise morsel that makes the other bites, the random thisses and thats that converge, that make that one bite even more enjoyable, that if it were to be repeated over and over again, somehow becomes less enjoyable? Talking like Law of Diminishing Returns-type stuff here, I guess. Make any sense? Sandy said I did, but she's also been hanging around me for over seven years now, God bless her, so either she's used to me or it's a coping mechanism.

Anyways, thanks for listening to me make a mumble grumble about these Jumbles. I don't mean it as a complaint, it's just something I thought about a lot while sampling a few of these the other night. They're just so rich, and so nicely balanced, without any variation from bite to bite, that it's almost like they try too hard to be perfect.

Although, I'll say it, they're not. While there is plenty of gritty crispiness from the quinoa (similar in taste to crisped rice but much different texture - gritty is best word I could come up with, it's not meant negatively), the pecans are indiscernible in the crunch or the the taste. I cannot honestly confirm or deny the existence of any nut in this product based solely on my taste test.

Other than that, the choco-jumbles are pretty tasty. Milk chocolate was the right choice here - although I generally prefer darker chocolate, it would have been too much. The caramel is rich and soft and creamy, and the quinoa adds just the right textural touch while serving  as a bit of an initial intriguing oddity - I'll 'fess up, it's one of the main reasons why I bought them. But quinoa + chocolate = YUMZ. And the seal salt on top? Listen, I'm not a salt snob, I can barely tell Morton's from gourmet, but pink Himalayan sea salt: 1) sounds exotic-y and 2) taste right at home on top these candies. Take me to the heights of tastiness, salt sherpa.

They do seem to quite quite rich after the second - a serving size is three and that took some convincing for me to have that many, and these are good enough that I know (my lack of) willpower is not the main issue. Goes back to that ice cream thing I talked about above. Anyways, they're worth a shot overall. Sandy and I both hover around a 3.5 and 4 for them, so we're gonna call it one of each.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Jumbles: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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