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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Trader Joe's Gingerbread Latte Naturally Flavored Drink Mix

We've never had a stellar gingerbread product from Trader Joe's, at least flavor-wise, but we've never had a terrible one either. I mean, the flavor of cookie butter isn't such a far cry from gingerbread, but it's oh so much better than gingerbread, as most of you already know. It's almost a curse more than a blessing, because I kind of want everything labeled "gingerbread" to taste somewhat like cookie butter. I know, I know, they're two different flavors. Speculoos isn't exactly gingerbread. But that begs the question: why didn't TJ's just give us a cookie butter latte mix instead of a gingerbread one? Who knows?

You'll rarely hear me complain about the texture of a beverage, but I'm afraid I'm going to have to here. There was a strange filminess to the liquid, for lack of a better term. I found it to have this unusual consistency regardless of whether we made it with almond milk or water. Strangely, I liked the mix slightly better with water than with any kind of milk. The milk almost made it too thick. Water yielded a concoction a bit more like a latte than a milkshake—and I guess that's a good thing, since they were apparently going for "latte" in the first place.

The taste is like a bizarre, milky, liquefied gingerbread man. You can taste cinnamoniness and nutmegginess, but there's also some other unidentifiable flavors mixed in there. The whole thing gives way to an unpleasant aftertaste and makes you want to drink something else to cleanse your palate. It's almost like drinking a slightly watered-down, gingerbread-flavored creamer—an additive intended to be consumed as a secondary ingredient in a normal black coffee or tea.

It's not the worst thing I've ever tried, but it's mostly an unpleasant experience in my humble opinion. 2.5 stars from me. Same from Sonia. She says it needs more espresso or coffee flavor—and it's very rare for her to crave more sugar, but she thinks this mix might be a little better if it were sweeter, too. I'm not so sure that's the problem, but I can't really put my finger on what is.

Dare I ask...what did you think of it? Are we being too harsh? Are we being grinches? Did you discover any preparation methods or additional ingredients to make it more palatable?

Bottom line: 5 out of 10.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Trader Joe's Sticky Toffee Cheddar Cheese

Lots of different kinds of cheese in the world, and from the looks of things, Trader Joe's carries a lot of them. There's some good solid favorites, some unusual ones (like a grill-worthy cheese? Inconceivable!), and, well, a few out-and-out bizarre ones like this chocolate-cheddar mash up from years back that was out right in time for Valentine's Day...

...but nothing, to my fairly faulty knowledge, has been quite like Trader Joe's Sticky Toffee Cheddar Cheese. I gotta admit, the name sounded intriguing, even though I wasn't sure exactly what to expect. It didn't make the blog, but not long ago, Sandy and I enjoyed a rather delicious creamy cinnamon toscano that TJ's had out, and if this were anything similar, it'd be a slam dunk.'s not. Maybe I'm just used to good ol' 'murican-style cheddar from the great states of Vermont and Wisconsin, with its solid sharpness, its blocky bite, its wax-covered wonder. And maybe I've narrowed my scope of anything labelled as "English cheddar" to the shelves of TJ's and therefore subject to solely their selections, as perhaps unrepresentative of the entirety of the genre of English cheddar. But, just like another English cheddar we tried a few months back (the ones with caramelized onions, also not reviewed - hey, sorry, can't do it all!) - this stuff seems sad, soft, slightly soggy, kinda like a half-molten candle. It's so soft - almost more like a brie than most cheddar I'm used to - that I was half tempted to find a cracker and a knife to do some spreading. I bet you it would have worked.

Aside from its overall mushiness, the taste doesn't do the cheese all that many favors. The one reason that I ate more than a bite or two was to try and get past some initial bewilderment to try and discern a fair opinion about it. It didn't really work. First and foremost, there's no taste I'd label as "cheddar" or "cheese-esque" or "somewhat akin to a dairy product" poking through. Instead, it's just outright raisin-and-date tinged molasses-y sweetness. Aside from the aforementioned fruits, the taste I pick up more than anything else really sides towards brown sugar. In a different format, the taste could be rather appealing, but in this semi-solid limp waxy form, it just doesn't sit right at all. Which isn't to say I'm disgusted by it, but it's definitely a little out there. If the cheese were firmer, with the "toffee pieces" that the label touts adding a textural changeup instead of melding along with the rest, it'd be a significant improvement.

Sandy feels much the same.We popped in our first taste simultaneously, looked at each other, and made a face. After repeating this ritual a couple more times, we finally gave up. I don't feel as though we necessarily wasted our money on it (sold in various sized chunks for $8.99 a pound), and I'm willing to give another shot, perhaps with some crackers and a dark porter or stout within reach. But as is, we're gonna hit it with some double deuces.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sticky Toffee Cheddar Cheese: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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