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Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Biscotti

Before this pumpkin season is officially over, I wanted to throw a review of this biscotti out there for you. It's not new and it's not exactly a Thanksgiving-themed product, but I really wanted to take a look at it and let you all know about it because it's actually very good and it's never really had its day in the sun. It's one of those "under-the-radar" kind of products.

This stuff makes me wish I were a coffee drinker. It's so good when dunked in any kind of coffee. I mean, the biscotti sticks are perfectly delicious by themselves, but the pairing of these with coffee is absolutely scrumptious. Yes, I did go ahead and pour myself a "cuppa" or two while enjoying these biscottis because no matter how much I tried to enjoy it, they simply didn't pair up well with my usual morning sugar-free energy drinks.

It was more natural for Sonia, because she is a daily coffee drinker. And she loved them just as much as I did—maybe even more. As she observed, the pumpkin spice level in these is just about perfect. The package also mentions real pumpkin puree, which can just barely be detected by the tongue. All the flavors are well-balanced, and the textures are even better than other types of biscotti I've tried...biscotti cereal included. The sticks are firm and crispy, but they break apart easily enough when you go to bite a piece off. They aren't rock solid like some other varieties. Also, they're a good value at $4 for a sizable tub with nine servings.

We're pretty much in agreement about this one—except for maybe the pronunciation. She insists on saying "bis-coat-y," while I say "biz-cott-y." Not that it makes any difference. Four and a half from Sonia. Four from me.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread

Very controversial past couple days here in the Pittsburgh home base, and nothing to do with Starbucks cups. Nope, it's all about Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread.

Let's see: Sandy says I shouldn't have thawed it out by slightly preheating an oven, then turning it off, and trying to let the bread rise...even though that's exactly what I did last weekend while making homemade pizza dough and it worked like a champ. Instead, I should have just sat it on the counter. Directions stated to let rise in a warm place, and the heat ain't on yet (two things I don't allow on before Thanksgiving: furnace or Christmas music), so the counter in a cool kitchen didn't sound great, and it's not like I could tell a lump of frozen dough to put on a layer and run a lap to warm itself up. We've gone back and forth, and back and forth, and back and forth....

...but not nearly as much as we have about the silly little flimsy plasticky bundt pan the monkey bread comes in: To bake the bread in it, or not to? Here's, TJ's really should have thrown us a clue and stated SOMETHING about it somewhere. Take out of box: Duh. Remove plastic film/baggie surrounding it: Check. Nothing about the pan. No "oven safe" label. No "Hey dummy, don't bake plastic" sticker. This is actually a legitimate TJ's question as evidenced by Nathan's Sad Pot Pie Fiasco of 2013. I say we should have baked in it, Sandy insisted we didn't, and we sided with the risk of slightly suboptimal chow versus poisoning ourselves, and went sans the pan. Was this the right call? I have no idea. But maybe you do. Help.

And no great way to really segue this in, but mid photo shoot, our subject box o' bread took a dive off the back deck, about 15 feet down and splat into the withered remains of our tomato plant in our garden below. I guess it just had enough of our shenanigans right then and there. 

Anyways, the outcome, perhaps not surprisingly after all that, was perhaps a little sub-optimal. But I'll do my best to be fair here. Let's see: The idea of a savory monkey bread was pretty intriguing. My only previous experiences have been of the sweet and cinnamony type, so a herbed garlic with cheese one sounded like a worthwhile try. Problem is, very heavy on the rosemary, not so much the garlic. I had to pick out the "weird little green things" for my normally carb-crammin' three year old to even think of touching these, which I don't blame her for (this was after her first bite). So. Much. Rosemary. But doable, especially with the dough, having been rolled in parmesan cheese, getting an outer, crispy, burnt-cheesy bite. Nice touch there.

But for the texture: I'll own whatever portion of the blame is for any of our potential missteps. But when I think "monkey bread" I think light and fluffy, only a little bready...not dense and chewy and grainy. But that's what we had here. Part of the blame has to go to the wheat flour, at least, though. Normally I'm not terribly opposed to it, but it just didn't work here. Another point: monkey bread to me is a bunch of little pull-apart bites all stuck together, not 10 or so dinner roll sized buns to break off one another. So "monkey bread" seems to be a bit of a misnomer.

I think we all, in the end, enjoyed it enough to warrant buying again with perhaps some clarification of the rules of engagement here. Sandy said she wished it came with a little dipping sauce, suggesting some marinara. For the $4.99 price point, I think a little pouch could be included. For all the clamor this product has caused - I doubt a single food item has ever caused as much ongoing debate as this silly thing - it's a sign of our overall union when we both gave it a matching 3.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Rosemary Garlic Monkey Bread: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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