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Monday, October 26, 2015

Trader Joe's Chocolate Pecan Pudding Pie

It's rare for Sonia to be lazier than I am. That's why it kind of surprised me when the first comment she made about this pie was "You know, Trader Joe's has got to start pre-slicing their pies." 

Now there's a first-world problem if I ever heard one:  that moment when you realize you will have to cut your own slice of chocolate pecan pudding pie. But cut a slice she did—actually, one for herself and one for me—although, I would have been more than willing to cut mine myself.

Because I've been looking forward to trying this delectable dessert since I first heard about it a week or two ago on Instagram and Spotted on Shelves. It has a "this will be your dessert on Thanksgiving Day" kind of vibe about it: the name, the packaging, the $7 price tag. And there's another horrific first-world problem for you:  that moment when you realize you'll have to eat your Thanksgiving dessert a month early because you're an intrepid foodie-hack blogger. Inquiring minds want to know and all.

So I'm here to tell you that if you like chocolate, pie crust, and pecans...GO AHEAD AND BUY THIS FOR YOUR FAMILY'S THANKSGIVING DESSERT. I am not working for Trader Joe's. I am not making any commission off of this recommendation. I'm telling you this because you'll thank me. And even if you're one of those rare people that's somehow not in love at first bite with this scrumptious snack, I can pretty much guarantee someone in your family will enjoy this product.

My dear misguided wife was one of those rare people not in love with this pie. "It's too rich," she said upon her first taste. In my opinion, the benchmark for whether a pie like this is "too rich" or not would be whether you can taste the pecans or not. Well, you can taste the pecans in this instance. They blend seamlessly with the chocolate pudding in a way I wouldn't have expected to even be possible before trying this choice confection.

The chocolate pudding is quite rich, to be fair. But Thanksgiving dessert is supposed to be rich. It's thick, sweet, creamy, and very chocolatey. It's not like they dumped a few cups of Jello pudding in this pie, either—this stuff is disrespect to Bill Cosby...well, okay, I guess we've all lost a good bit of respect for Bill Cosby, but not because of his lifelong advocacy of Jello pudding and its derivative products. What I'm trying to say is that the pudding here is thick, fudgey, and among the best I've ever had. The crust is a typical pie crust—similar to any pre-packaged, store-bought pie you'd find this time of year. It's fresh, flaky, buttery, and delicious, but in a way, it's the only part of this pie that isn't mind-blowingly unique. Don't get me wrong, it's nothing to complain about. At all. And the, don't get me started on the pecans. If you like pecans, there are about a million of them in there. And if you don't like pecans, there are still a million of them in there. So...that might be one reason not to buy this product.

In my mind, this pie might be up there with cookie butter in terms of TJ's scrump-dilly-iciousness. Sonia's score will ensure this pie never sees the light of the Pantheon. My score will make sure it's remembered as better than simply "not bad." 3.5 from her. Perfect 5 from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Trader Joe's Sweet, Hot & Savory Honey Roasted Cocoa & Chili Peanuts & Almonds with Roasted Salted Pecans

Three adjectives. Three major flavors. Three nuts. Three ampersands (a TJ's first?). Three minutes to type out the name, and three breaths to say it all. Can you say it three times fast? Not me, at least not easily.

Yup, Trader Joe's Sweet, Hot & Savory Honey Roasted Cocoa & Chili Peanuts & Almonds with Roasted Salted Pecans. What an epic name. I suppose something like "Triple Nut Treat" sounds a little too, well, oddly suggestive, and I cracked enough "thanks for taking pictures of my nuts to put online" jokes to Sandy to continue down that track, so let's back up and just look at that name in all its 105-character glory.

Even just as an acronym: TJSH&SHRC&CP&AWRSP. Dang. But once you get over the length of it, just look at it al. Don't know you about you, but man - I was intrigued. Honey, chocolate and chili powder, on a perfectly great assortment of roasted nuts. Sounds promisingly, presumptuously and preposterously pleasant, piquant and palatable, and for just $4.99 for a not-quite-a-pound, like a bargain, too.

 Well, I wish I were a little more bowled over, I guess. It's not a bad sack o' nuts by any means. Though predominantly peanuts (as one would expect), there's more than ample almonds and pecans mixed in. Though pecans are further down the ingredients list than almonds, our particular bag seemed to have more pecans than almonds, which I think is a great thing. Almonds have always been the disappointment of the nut family to me - nothing personal, but they don't do it for me as much as a pecan or cashew or macadamia.

Regardless, in case you got lost in the product name (it happens), it's just the peanuts and almonds that are honey roasted then blasted with cocoa and chili powder. Not any of those flavors really stand out though. Instead, the dominant flavor upon first bite really seems to be the nuts themselves - crunchy, meaty, earthy, like any good roasted nut. A few seemed perhaps a little over-roasted but not by terribly much - could have been more a visual deception than actual reality. There's a little sweet twinge from the honey, and the chocolate chili dust is noticeable and it adds a nice taste, but it's more accompaniment than main feature. There's only a slight residual burn too, so if spice is a concern, you're probably okay here unless your palate is super-sensitive.

Of course, this dark dust slips off the peanuts and almonds and makes its way over to the pecans as well as a virtual powder reservoir towards the bottom of the bag. I expected to unearth some potent flavor when I started mining that particular area, but to be honest, not that much more came out. On one hand, I get it - keep a mellow balance, have a great little easily munchable snack, placate the masses, more or less. But on the other, I wish the flavor were a little more bold, with each flavor - honey, chocolate and chili - more amped up to a more distinctive taste. As is, it all tastes a little more muddied than anything else.

I can't debate that these super-long titled nuts are fairly decent as is, though. The wife, without much elaboration, concurs. I probably exasperated her enough with too many offline nut jokes for her to add much more than that. Appropriately enough, though, we both are going with the same score: Three.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sweet, Hot & Savory Honey Roasted Cocoa...seriously, I give up: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

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