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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate and Salted Butterscotch Macarons

Ah, macarons, macarons, macarons...and macaroons. Not the same thing. Here's a PopSugar article explaining the difference, which was undoubtedly inspired by ignorant blog posts such as this one, written by uninformed foodie-hack blogger types. And now that we know how to differentiate the two kinds of cookies, let's take a look at TJ's latest offering in the macaron—with one "o"—category.

If nothing else, the actual product looks like it does on the packaging. There's an attractive, well-formed flaky pastry with a soft, fluffy center. Plus, the molten part is really kinda fun. While peering into your microwave, you can actually see the pastry's gooey center liquefy and slide down the sides of the product just like a middle school science fair volcano. The only problem with that is, you have to time it right. The box suggests 40 seconds. Our microwave is a little on the old and feeble side, so it took about ten seconds longer. Leave it in too long, and too much of the center winds up sliding down onto your plate; not long enough, and there's nothing "molten" at all. But if you stand there and stare at the product, it comes out pretty well if you yank the microwave door open just as the filling starts to ooze. And even I have the attention span to stand and stare at something for 50 seconds or so.

The texture of the cookie part of the macaron was a bit stiff and crust-like. It wasn't altogether unpleasant, but also certainly not the finest example of macaron texture we've seen from Trader Joe's. The filling was more like the creamy center of a toasted marshmallow, and when eaten with the outer shell, helped to compensate for the comparative dryness of the other component.

Flavor-wise, the butterscotch version was a run-of-the-mill salted caramel kind of vibe, with an emphasis on the sweetness—just a hint of saltiness. And it wasn't a particularly complex flavor, either. To be honest, I'd be slightly disappointed if I were served this dessert in a restaurant. But there's usually some taste sacrificed in a product that goes from frozen to ready-to-eat in less than a minute. Sonia liked the flavor of this butterscotch one more than the chocolate variety since the butterscotch filling reminded her of cajeta, a Mexican caramel made with goat's milk.
As for the chocolate variety, the texture was identical to that of the butterscotch, as far as I could tell. I liked the flavor slightly more in this case, as it was very similar to a brownie. Sonia wasn't as impressed. In the end, she'd just rather eat a brownie.

Apparently Russ and Sandy were not fond of these cookies at all. I don't really blame them. I certainly wasn't as blown away by them as I thought I would be, but as they are, I think I'll score them somewhere in the "not bad" range. Let's go with three and a half for the chocolate version and three for the butterscotch from me. Sonia will throw out three stars for the chocolate version and a four for the butterscotch.

Bottom lines:

Trader Joe's Molten Chocolate Macarons: 6.5 out of 10.
Trader Joe's Molten Salted Butterscotch Macarons: 7 out of 10.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Sriracha Hummus

Sriracha and hummus...simple idea. Never occurred to me for some reason. But brilliant. How can it fail?

The existence Trader Joe's Sriracha Hummus puts another test to my so-called "chocolate gum theory" that two things that are great separately are not so necessarily good together. However, this is an undisputed win in my book. It's so much more Bowie - Mercury than Bowie - Jagger. Instead of having a bright red pool of sriracha in the midst of some basic hummus, the two are blended seamlessly together in this near radiantly muted orangey glowy glop, with the two flavors coming together just as well as the colors. Lots of the typical sriracha heat, but enough tahini-fied hummus bringing up the base that offers a little break from the spice storm. But still, so much bite in its smooth and creamy ways. This dragon hummus is not for the faint.

Too tasty, two bucks...too easy winner in my book. Perfect five. Sandy though? I thought she'd love it, but perhaps it's a little potent for her. After one bite, she made a face, then went right back to our alternate tub of roasted garlic hummus we had for the kiddos (their favorite). I asked why the rejection, but she just couldn't put her finger on it. More for me then! I couldn't be happier.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sriracha Hummus: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons.

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