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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trader Joe's Salted Caramel Bread Pudding

It's time for the long-awaited sequel to Trader Joe's Pumpkin Bread Pudding

As Russ pointed out a while ago, other than some notable exceptions, sequels usually aren't as good as originals. And as was mentioned in our most recent podcast episode, bread pudding isn't necessarily what the WG@TJ's team is craving when it's 90+ degrees and extremely humid. This is definitely more of a fall food in our minds. Yet for the sake of our loyal readers, and to be ahead of the Trader Joe's brand food product reviewing curve, we have boldly decided to check it out right now, in the middle of July...because we're intrepid criticasters like that. I just learned that word this morning. Thanks, Word of the Day.

The preparation instructions for this product are very similar, if not identical, to that of the above-mentioned Pumpkin Bread Pudding. There's an optional overnight refrigerator thawing period, and then the preferred instructions have you heating this product in the microwave, although the oven is also listed as a viable alternative. 

I think the microwave is preferred because there's less danger of overcooking, and therefore less risk of drying out the product. On the other hand, it has recently come to my attention that some people prefer bread pudding to be crispy on the outside. I've never had it that way—TJ's or otherwise. I think the beauty of bread pudding is its unique gelatinous suppleness from top to bottom. 

And along those lines, this product was moist, soft, and nearly perfect texture-wise, just like its predecessor. That's probably the best feature of this product—that a period of thawing and a few minutes in the microwave can yield such amazingly authentic texture for a dessert that's fairly easy to mess up. I ate one piece straight out of the microwave, and it was great. It melted in my mouth. But like the pumpkin flavor, Sonia and I both agree that refrigerating the cooked bread pudding and snacking on it straight out of the fridge is also legit.

What isn't as legit is this product's flavor. Don't get me wrong, it isn't bad at all. But neither of us think it tastes like salted caramel. Sonia says it reminds her more of vanilla than caramel. I just think it's a vaguely sweet flavor, comparable to other "plain" bread puddings I've had. Maybe we were spoiled by the delectable pumpkin spices in this product's forerunner, or maybe we're just used to being bowled over by salted caramel flavor with goodies like TJ's Salted Caramel Gelato or Salted Caramel Chai, but we think the name of this product is slightly misleading in this case. We just want more salt and caramel. Is that too much to ask? What do you think?

Each of us gives this product three and a half stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Podcast Episode 4: Unexpected Cheddar

In this episode we talk about Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar, Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt, Salted Caramel Bread Pudding, and a few other new products we’ve seen on shelves. Plus, Russ shares his experience with TJ’s Ghost Chili Grinder.

Download: MP3 (25.4 MB)
Links to the products we talk about are available at
You can also listen by subscribing to Let’s Talk TJ’s on iTunesStitcher, or via RSS.
Opening Music:
Special thanks to Marvo at The Impulsive Buy and thank YOU for listening!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt

On our last TJ's run, Sonia and I wanted something dessert-ish. And who knows—it might have been that very tiny part of me that's Jewish exerting some subconscious desire to be kosher again, but a pork candy bar just didn't sound all that appealing to me. Graham crackers, dark chocolate, and sea salt sounded like a much more promising option, so when we saw this brand new product, we quickly snagged it off the shelves. (But if you're a smoked salt and sweet swine fan like Russ, by all means, knock yourselves out.)

The title of this product says it all, at least as far as constituent parts go—but I think it's the sea salt in particular that rounds out this snack in a very special way. There are large granules on the outermost portion of the cookies, embedded in the dark chocolate, but big enough that you can clearly see them protruding from the otherwise smooth surface. In fact, I believe they're visible in our pic of the product. And flavor-wise, the sea salt crystals are very much a part of the attack. Upon first bite, the saltiness is present in spades, and it provides this beautiful balance to the bitterness of the cacao and the sweetness of the cane sugar and honey graham base. We've seen TJ's do great things with sea salt and dark chocolate before—quite a few times, actually—so many times that it would be difficult to link to each one individually. So I'll throw you guys this bone and link to the "Search This Blog" results for keywords "Sea Salt Dark Chocolate."

Sonia shared this product with her co-workers and got pretty much universally positive reactions. I, on the other hand, work from home and have no co-workers I can share with, unless you count the dogs. And they can't have any chocolate. Just as well. I'm selfish and don't like sharing anyway...particularly when it's something this tasty.

Texture-wise, the product is moderately crispy. Even under all that chocolate, the graham cracker still feels like a cracker. The sea salt actually adds a bit of extra crunch into the mix. Sonia tried an experiment with some leftover marshmallows we had, and she sandwiched them between two of these chocolate covered honey grahams to create a makeshift s'more. She enjoyed it much better than a traditional s'more and liked the added soft texture of the 'mallow.

Maybe it's because they were only sitting out on the counter for a few short hours, but the dark chocolate didn't melt that much in this summer heat. I'm not usually a huge fan of any chocolate in the summertime, particularly dark chocolate—but one thing I do crave is salt. I sweat like crazy and I always want salty snacks this time of year. And along those lines, these unique little cookies deliver.

Sonia liked them even more than I did. 4.5 from her. I'll throw out 4 stars.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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