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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Trader Joe's To the Power of Seven Organic Juice Blend

Has it really been five long months since our last beverage review? It's high time we checked out some of TJ's luscious new liquids. I'm gonna skip a lengthy list of links to our favorite drinks and just direct you here: our "beverages" label (always available, for your convenience, in the right side bar). By my quick count, it looks like we've collectively reviewed 70+ beverages right here on this blog. With only a handful of exceptions, I would venture to say TJ's brand juices generally receive favorable reviews from us, with their price tag often being the biggest reason we don't make repeat purchases.

But you get what you pay for. This juice blend is no exception. $4 for 33.8 ounces isn't the highest cost:juice ratio we've ever seen, but this is darn close to the best-tasting, highest quality juice I've ever had. Every one of the seven juices is certified organic: everything from the good old-fashioned grape juice to the intriguing "purple carrot" juice.

Most juice blends like this wind up tasting like some variety of Juicy Juice or an Ocean Spray concoction that I've already had. Not this. It tastes unique to my tongue. I assume, like many other products, that there's a third party that produces this blend and most likely markets it under some different label in other stores, but I couldn't tell you who that is (Perhaps some kind reader will enlighten us in the comments).

It's refreshing, sweet, and fruity, but not syrupy. If I had to nail down one predominant flavor, I guess I'd say cherry, but it's much more complex than the other cherry juice products we've seen from TJ's. One can't readily taste the carrot juice, in the manner of a V8 Splash beverage—don't get me wrong, I think the vegetable juices in those V8 blends work, I just think they blend a little more seamlessly in this case.
The texture is medium-thin, smooth, and not at all pulpy or gritty. It's not from concentrate. Even the deep dark red color is beautiful and mesmerizing like a fine wine. There's minimal residue and aftertaste, and it goes down nice and easy. Sonia gives it four stars. I'm giving it four and a half—and an enthusiastic thumbs up.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Trader Joe's Baconesque White Cheddar Popcorn

Here's a recent realization: Trader Joe's is as bad as Target. You know what I mean. You go to Target for some toiletries, some cleaning stuff, and maybe a snack, and instead you walk out with an extra hundred dollars worth of stuff you never intended to buy - that cute kids outfit, the clearance rack finds, the hey-look-this-is-on-sale junk. Happens to us over and over again. There's so no such thing as going to Target for just one or two things, there's at least a couple extra things that will somehow sneak into your cart.

Same way with TJ's. Case in point: I made a quick stop there on Thursday morning last week to simply get some cheesecake bites for my wife's work function that night, and a bag of apples for me. That's it, I said, nothing else. When our shopping list at TJ's is the shortest is when we tend to get the most stuff, somehow, and I was going to stick just those two things, but wait a second....

How can I pass up Trader Joe's Baconesque White Cheddar Popcorn? Look at that awesome packaging! And it contains bacon! Or at least bacon-like substance! And it's popcorn! If Sandy knew I passed this up, boy oh boy, would I be in trouble, right? Fortunately, at $1.99, it's a pretty mild splurge.

And darn it, is it one worthwhile one. Sandy and I cracked this open in the car, and in the less than 10 minutes we spent in transit between TJ's and her work, early in the morning, we ate half the dang bag. No lie. It was kinda strange, though - when we first ripped the bag open and gave it a whiff, hoping to partake in a deep olfactory experience of all that is "baconesque" - we were met with little to nothing. Instead it smelled just like regular white cheddar popcorn, which is a yummy smell, however, by definition is baconly barren. But once we popped in our mouths, that's where the bacon experience began. Granted, it didn't taste exactly like some bacon right off the griddle (it's impossible to replicate that), but it had a lot of the same essence - the smokiness, the saltiness, a little mesquite. Combine that with the white cheddar (typical of the genre) and it makes an intoxicatingly good flavor combo that's balanced out. I for one really enjoyed how the smokiness cut through the cheesiness and added depth to the flavor profile. Although a serving contains a lot of salt, I'm kind of surprised each bite didn't taste saltier than it did, as it didn't taste like sodium overloadium. Each kernel was appropriately fluffy and firm, without too many (if any) widows.

My goodness. This is such a brilliant snack idea - why did this take so long? And it's easy too. About the only better idea than bacon popcorn would be something like popcorn bacon - hey, they have popcorn shrimp and popcorn chicken, why not an easily assessable and mobile munchable bacon? I suppose bacon jerky could fill that void, which if you can stand the heat, TJ's has a ridiculously delicious one. Hmm...maybe if there's a way to get actual bacon in here...I digress.

The bacon flavoring does one heckuva bang up job. And the bonus is - the deeper into the bag you get, the more baconlicious it gets. Trust me, the last handful I dumped straight from the bag into my mouth was close to pure heaven, and it'd be worth all sorts of domestic unrest for me to get it. If a Partially Popped Popcorn version comes out, hypertension, here I come. The Baconesque will be one of those danger purchases for us regardless - it'd take a miracle for a bag to last more than few hours around here, and to put that in perspective, we've had those cookie butter cheesecake bites haf finished in our freezer for over a week now. This is some seriously good, borderline Pantheon-worthy popcorn. Proceed at you own risk.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Baconesque White Cheddar Popcorn: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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