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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Trader Jacques' Tarte à l'Oignon Alsatian Style Onion Tart

If you like onions, you'll undoubtedly like this onion tart. Why? Because it's nothing but a boatload of caramelized onions on a bed of buttery bread. Is that a good thing? Yes...if you like onions.

From the moment we peeled back the plastic wrapping, that pungent, oniony fragrance filled our entire kitchen. Even standing five or 10 feet away from the product, it was still noticeable—and possibly even overwhelming, particularly for onionophobes. Good thing both Sonia and I like onions.

We've noticed that the scent of onions on one's breath is vaguely offensive only if you have abstained from the consumption of onions. If you've been eating them too, then it's not so bad. Who wants to kiss someone with onion-breath, except perhaps someone else with onion-breath? Garlic possesses similar qualities.

We heated the product per the instructions, but felt that it came out a little underdone. We were both quite hungry at the time, so we bypassed the option of putting it back in the oven and ate it as it was. It was still delicious, if perhaps a little doughy. We both agreed that the more thoroughly cooked parts were superior in taste and texture. The little bit of browning and crisping we had around the edges and corners was very welcome. So, if anything, I'd say err on the side of overcooking this product just a tad.

The crust is very similar to a pizza crust. There aren't many surprises there. As mentioned before, the onions are caramelized and also fairly creamy. I'm not sure if this would make a great stand-alone dinner just by itself, but as a side dish, it adds a nice, classy international element for under $4 (although TJ's official web page says something about zombies and clowns potentially changing the official price tag). This product is actually imported from France. Sonia and I have both been there, although never together. On our next visit, we will most definitely make a stop in Alsace Lorraine. 

Sonia liked it even more than I did. Four and a half stars from her. I think it deserves a four.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Trader Joe's Mini Cinnamon Sugar Churros

There's a moment in an upcoming podcast episode where I get called out on the privilege of my youth: namely, there being churros in my school cafeteria! In suburban Philadelphia, of all places! Shout out to you, North Penn, because apparently this is not the standard across the nation. Not even for Sonia...and she grew up in SoCal! I had no idea this was such a foreign concept. Mind : blown. Maybe I shoulda checked with Sandy to see what her school did...

Anyways, yes, on taco days, we could buy churros at the school cafeteria, as long as our cafeteria trays were wide. And come to think of it, I remember them more at elementary school, not middle or high school...okay, now that's a great idea. Give a bunch of kids a large sugary stick of fried dough, then expect them to learn the 3 R's. What foresight.

But those churros: I remember them being amazing, and kinda the standard to which I hold all other churros. I've had them a few times since, I'm sure - must have had at least one or two at Disneyland (the standard, Sonia opines).

These Trader Joe's Mini Cinnamon Sugar Churros are right in line with the cafeteria ones I recall. For once, comparing TJ's to cafeteria food is meant a compliment. You can find a big baggie in the freezer section for just $3.99. And they're designed to bake up in your oven for just a few minutes (six or seven) before pulling out and dusting over with the included package of cinna-sugar.

My goodness. Delicious. Churros are usually meant to be fried, but despite their ovenly preparation, the churros still taste and feel and even smell fairly fried. Think of them as small hexagram logs. The pointy peaks get crispy and oily, with just the right bite to them - in retrospect, I should have rotated them halfway through baking, since the bottom pan side of these guys did get slightly burned. But no matter. The middles were fluffy yet chewy like any good funnel cake-kinda concoction. And all the cinnamon and sugar...there's plenty enough cinnamon in the actual churro dough, and there's plenty more to add from the side package. I'd say that side satchel seems mostly cinnamon and not quite as much sugar, but still, plenty of sweetness to offset the cinnamon bite. Muy delicioso.  Each churro is about a bite and a half big.

But...not a perfect item. Like myself, perhaps the fine folks who drew up the back label were to hopped up on churros to learn some third grade math, because it's kinda fuzzy, at least as it pertained to my bag. Listen: if a serving is 10 churros, and there's four servings per bag, there should be 40 churros per bag. Now, I can read, so I understand it says "about 4" servings, not just "4 servings." Still...when I got 36 churros, and not more in the acceptable 38 - 42 range, well, it seemed off. Nathan brought up on excellent point about this, though....which you'll just have to listen to the podcast to find out what it was.

Also: You really don't need to eat ten of these anyways. I think Sandy and I each had five and felt like we had our share. Each churros is about a bite and a half big, which is actually perfect. Portion control! Kid friendly!

We like them. A lot. And we're dreaming of different ways to eat them. With vanilla ice cream, fleur de sel or dulce de leche, and maybe some pineapple? Yes. Have a churro bar with all sorts of different dips, like chocolate and fruit and whatnot? Ooh yeah. Make a churro cheesecake somehow? Oh goodness. Yesyesyes. I'm sure you have some fun ideas too, so fill us in!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Mini Cinnamon Sugar Churros: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

p.s. - Major shout out to Pamela AKA "The Frozen Queen" at the Pittsburgh McCandless Crossing Trader Joe's for tracking down a bag full for Sandy and me - straight off the truck! Folks like you, Shandra in Salt Lake City, and the nice cashier in North Wales who gave my mom some flowers on the house when recovering from surgery are truly what's good at Trader Joe's - the people!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Trader Joe's Lemon Ginger Echinacea 100% Juice

I'm starting to notice a pattern. With a few anomalies, I really like drinks with that raw ginger flavor: those exploding bottles of Triple Ginger Brew, most non-alcoholic ginger beers and ginger ales, and stuff like Crabbie's alcoholic ginger beer. Pancakescereals, and other solid foods with raw ginger flavor? Not so much. And although it's distinctly different from other ginger beverages, this drink is no exception to that rule.

It definitely packs a heavy ginger punch, but the lemon and echinacea add an unexpected softness and complexity to the flavor. Just imagine iced echinacea tea sweetened with honey, mixed with lemonade and a potent ginger brew. It's not for everyone. Sonia was turned off by the heavy ginger flavor. It's especially noticeable in the finish. You're left with a sinus-clearing blast of ginger spice—and I don't mean Geri Halliwell. I liked it for that reason, unlike my sweet wife.

I must admit, there is something "medicinal" about the taste, for lack of a better word. It's almost as if they started with Thera-flu as a base, then sweetened it a bit more and threw in some raw ginger. But along those same lines, it felt therapeutic, too—like it might help ward off a winter cold. 

I'm sure this beverage would work well hot, served steaming in a coffee mug. But neither of us tried it that way. I was happy to chug it down on the rocks. Sonia just wanted more lemon flavor, and less of that vibrant ginger. Sonia will go with a 2.5, and I'll go with a solid 4.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

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