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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trader Joe's Autumnal Harvest Creamy Pasta Sauce

Very nice use of the word "autumnal" here, TJ's. Very nice indeed. Now let's see if you can work the word "vernal" into the title of one of your Spring 2016 products...

If you guys have been reading the blog for a while, you know that Sonia and I love pumpkin (especially Sonia)—and furthermore, despite a recent review or two, that Russ is a pumpkin-hater. On an upcoming podcast episode, though, he makes the very valid point that there are many delicious non-pumpkin items that appear on the shelves of "Pumpkin Joe's" this time of year. This quality product is a prime example of something that might slip through the cracks if you're wearing those pumpkin goggles too tightly.

But not to worry, there's pumpkin in it. It's not strictly a pumpkin product, though. Similar to the recently-reviewed Harvest Salsa and some other pumpkin salsas we've seen, our favorite over-sized orange gourd is blended seamlessly with tomato and butternut squash, among other things. Despite tomato puree and pumpkin puree appearing above butternut squash puree on the ingredients, I still think this tastes more like butternut squash than anything else. Flavor-wise, it's savory, subtle, and it's absolutely scrumptious. There's a beautiful mixture of spices rounding out the taste, including garlic, rosemary, cayenne pepper, and sage. It's a very mild spiciness, though.

As far as texture goes, it's not too thick, and not too thin. It's very creamy and smooth, but the creaminess doesn't get in the way of those harvest veggies, in terms of flavor. Sonia pointed out that some "creamy" sauces have too much cream or milk, and they wind up tasting like a dairy product instead of a pasta sauce, but not here. This stuff is well-balanced in every way. Sonia thinks it would make a great pizza sauce. I can see where she's coming from—if you wanted to try a do-it-yourself "Autumnal Harvest Pizza," this would be the right place to start.

But for now, I think I'll stick with pasta. We had it with some non-TJ's cheese ravioli. It worked perfectly, with the majority of the flavor coming from the pasta sauce, just slightly overshadowing the mostly-neutral tastes of the dough and the cheese blend in the ravioli. I'm really anxious to get to some pumpkin reviews, but this was a condiment I just had to tell you guys about. If you're into traditional harvest flavors, butternut squash or pumpkin soup, this is a must-try.

Four and a half stars from Sonia. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter

The conspiracy grows!

On a recent podcast, I espoused the theory that Nathan and I are just puppets for the Belgian world domination, by stumbling upon all sorts of delicious cookie butter products from Trader Joe's, enticing all of you to buy them. You know exactly how mind-alteringly delicious it is, with that sweet, numb sense of contented complacency that washes over.

What exactly are those tricksy Belgians setting us up for? Who knows? But get this: Now the Canadians are involved! Canada, America's hat - they're in on it now too!

True story: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter is Canadian. Lest anything be lost in translation (too many "eh"s) or exchange rate, our Northern neighbors are doubling down by combining the irresistible force of "pumpkin pie anything" with the relentless pull of "cookie butter!" to make me drool over the prospect, and I don't even own any yoga pants, Uggs, or Taylor Swift albums. There's a limit to my basic.

And listen: I'm not even that big of a cookie butter or pumpkin pie spice guy...but this is too good. Way too good. Evilly good. Goodly evil. It'''s....very orange. I mean, take a look at it. You wanna know what that is? That's pureed pumpkin, blended right in there, with pumpkin powder to boot, with the classic speculoos spread we've all come to love. Good gourd, y'all. This makes for an even smoother than usual mouthfeel, with a little extra stickiness to linger around a little bit longer, with the crunchy cookie tidbits still very present but a little more sparse. I mean, it's so smooth, I'm almost tempted to see if it'll double as a bath and beauty product.

I'd try that but it's just way too delicious to lather around any other part of me. It's almost surprising how natural the marriage between pumpkin pie and cookie butter really is, if you stop to think about it. There's some spice overlap between the two, but the cookie spread has a good bit of the classic nutmeg/allspice/cloves mix tossed in, with enough pumpkin flavor poking through to have this taste almost like a legitimate pumpkin pie filling. Except it's richer, and cookie-ier, with the unmistakable flavor (shall I say "flavour" since it's Canadian?) of regular cookie butter. This spread strattles the line so close between both classic tastes so well, yet is so balanced and nearly seamless that in a lot of ways it's quite an accomplishment.

Not going to lie: Picked up three jars the very morning this was first available, two for a departmental snacky day at work and one here for the fam. After first taste I wanted to hoard them all to myself. I've eaten way too much of this, either on top of graham crackers or right off a spoon. The unnutritional stats are, well, awful. I don't care. Very, very impressed, and I'm hooked...and I'm usually impervious to this kinda stuff. Not this time.

 I'm sold. Perfect five. Sandy's liking it too, but not to the same extent. "I kinda wish it were more one thing or another," she said. Nope, not me, and I'm hoping that her relative indifference will have her be less mad when she'll invariably discover I left an empty, scraped out jar in the pantry. She can muster only about a 3.5. My only reasonable conclusion: The Belgians and Canadians haven't gotten to her...yet.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons  

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