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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Trader Joe's Sour Gummies T's & J's

Ah, Sour Patch Kids. The American standard for tooth-rotting, roof-of-mouth-irritating, zero nutritional value, sugary, soury sweetness—an institution nearly as deeply-rooted in our junk food culture as Coke or McDonald's. As a boy, I'd go through a box of them during the course of a two hour movie at the theater. (Needless to say the local dentist made a fortune off of me). I remember my mouth watering as I'd tear open the packaging. Sour Patch Kids—the paradigm of sour gummy candy on Earth. Until now.

Sweetened with cane sugar and natural fruit flavors, Trader Joe's has offered us these "T's" and "J's" as their answer to the classic sour gummy candy. And it's a stellar effort, in my humble opinion. TJ's has done gummy candy before, and we've reviewed it here at least twice. But this product is truly my favorite. I don't just mean from TJ's...and I don't just mean sour gummy candy. I think this is the best gummy candy I've ever had. Strong words, indeed.

Let's start with the texture. The candy is nice and soft. If anything, I'd say it's just a hint softer and more pliable than your traditional Sour Patch Kid or sour gummy worm. Each piece is coated in the familiar "sour sugar" that graces the exterior of most classic sour gummies. It falls off just as easily—and it still irritates the roof of my mouth, although maybe not quite as much as other sour gummies...? That might just be because I didn't eat the whole bag in one sitting as I did in years past. The letters are nice and flexible, long and thin. If you're so inclined to suck on the candy and get that super tart start and then a sweet finish, I swear that since there's a bit of increased surface area on each gummy, that they dissolve faster and deliver more taste than your traditional Sour Patch Kids, which are basically just oblong slabs vaguely molded to resemble weird little zombie children. All that to say that I think these candies are optimized for maximum flavor-delivery from a geometry standpoint...amiright? Russ isn't convinced.

Flavor-wise, they taste more natural than most sour gummies. That might not be saying much, but there was always a weird glaze and aftertaste that would hang around in my mouth long after the box of Sour Patch was gone.  Also, TJ's choice of flavors is a bit more refined than your average pack of sour gummies: tangerine, grapefruit, lemon, and lime. It took me a while to figure out which flavor matched with which color. I figured out that the deep reddish color must be grapefruit. I think they were going for a ruby red vibe. The orange-ish color is tangerine. The colors of the lemon and lime flavors are nearly indistinguishable from one another, but I think one has a delicate green hue you can detect in certain light.

I really have no complaints about this candy. Sonia loved them too. There's even a resealable bag to keep them fresh (which does help one avoid the temptation to consume the entire bag all at once). If I were comparing this to Cookie Butter Ice Cream or Chicken Tikka Masala, I might not hold them in such high esteem. But I'm comparing them to every other gummy candy I've ever had, so I can't deny them a near-perfect score. Sonia agrees. 4.5 stars from each of us.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Quinoa Cowboy Veggie Burgers

Thanks to the Hawaiian-themed grocery store called Trader Joe's, vegetarian cowboys are now a thing. What vegetarianism and cowboys have to do with the overall tropical island theme of the store, I'm not quite certain. But we've seen at least one other vegetarian cowboy-themed product, not to mention candy fit for cowboys and cowgirls, too. 

I guess there's something earthy about cowboys—and there's something earthy about vegetarians and vegans as well. TJ's is just tying that all together for us. Or maybe they're aiming to challenge that stereotype of vegetarians being weaker than meat-eaters (I don't subscribe to that notion, by the way) by uniting it with the rugged machismo of the old western frontier. Regardless of all that, I'm fairly certain that more urban-dwelling hipsters will wind up eating this product than actual cattle-ropin' cowboys, if only because there aren't many TJ's in the middle of cattle country.

Yet still, it's an amazing product. It's like a spicy black bean burger with chunky salsa cooked right into the "meat." It's not really one of those fake meat burgers that's desperately trying to taste like beef, so if it's a true burger you're craving, I say look elsewhere. But if you're adventurous and wanting something new, I'd encourage you to check this out. It takes the whole veggie burger thing one step further in terms of taste and texture. Not only is there quinoa mixed in with the black bean base, but there are chunks of peppers, corn, and whole black beans in the mix. It's a complex, hearty flavor with a slightly spicy southwestern vibe. I ate mine with a slice of asiago cheese and it blended perfectly. I mused about which condiments, if any, to throw on, and decided to eat it plain in the end. I'm a big fan of ketchup and mustard on almost anything that calls itself a burger, but in this case, I'd add a bit of extra hot salsa, if anything—but that's just my opinion.

We cooked ours on the stovetop in a tiny pool of olive oil. It came out firmer and crispier on the outside than on the inside, and overall, the product was a bit soft. If not held together by a bun, it might have fallen apart very easily. There's more substance in the peppers, corn, and beans than in the base of the burger itself—but still, I can't complain, since the aforementioned chunky ingredients were plentiful throughout.

All in all, it's not a great approximation of an actual beef hamburger, particularly in the texture department, but a delicious vegetarian lunch or dinner nonetheless. At $3.69 for four patties, it's a good value also. I'm always on the lookout for something unique and new, and this burger didn't disappoint. All you rugged vegetarian cowboys, saddle up!

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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