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Thursday, February 4, 2016

Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger

There's a song a few years old that I really enjoy named "Daylight" by a dude named John Mark McMillan. Go ahead and take a listen if you'd like. Sounds kinda Springsteen-y, doesn't it? Now, I'd be willing to bet that at least 95% of you have never heard of this song, or of John Mark McMillan, which is fine...but pretty much everyone has at least a vague idea of who Springsteen is and can recognize songs like "Born in the USA" and "Hungry Heart" and whatnot. Where am I going with this? Follow me here. If Springsteen were to release a version of "Daylight" that sounded 100% identical to McMillan's, it'd be hailed as a classic, a return to form. Dad rock fan boys (hey, me included) would be buying it in droves and Rolling Stone would probably slobber all over themselves in praise. Instead, because it's by a dude named John Mark and not Bruce, it toils in obscurity.

So what makes something great isn't always the's the marketing and the packaging. Ya follow me?

Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger (why singular?) reminds me of this thought. Sandy, who's keeping calorie tabs, scanned the barcode on the box and instead of TJ's, it popped up as a Dr. Praeger's product on her phone app. Google confirms such a thing as a Dr. Praeger's Thai veggie burger exists, and it's mentioned (although not detailed) on the official site so yeah, probably a Dr. Praeger product. Seeing a Dr. Praeger Thai veggie burger on the shelf, I'd probably pass right on by and not notice. Put the TJ's name and package on it instead, and both Sandy and I couldn't wait to give them a try. Suckers.

All that to say, it's a pretty decent veggie burger. No, it's not going to replace a regular hamburger if that's what you're in the mood for. The patty is mostly rice and carrot based, with some edamame chucked in, so they're not even going for a textural approximation here. Having one of these heated up via microwave and also one baked in the oven, in a rare twist for me, I prefer them microwaved - alittle more moist and palatably pleasing that way. The oven kinda dried them up to a crispy outside, mushy dry inside akin to veggie scrapple. Some onion chunks also add a little character here and there. For taste, it's honestly pretty straightforward, without much complexity or flavor layers like most decent Thai fare. I didn't really pick up any sweet chili flavor from the patty - whatever is there is pretty subtle and would easily be overpowered by any cheese, toppings, or bun. There's a slight bit of residual heat, but not enough to get your knickers twisted. Instead, it mostly tastes like garlic, spices, onion and greenery mixed with rice, which is nice but not quite the kick I was looking for, either.

My ambivalence towards these Thai veggie patties is easily outweighed by Sandy's exuberance. Indeed, they're practically perfect for a reasonably healthy, super easy, and fairly decently priced ($3.69 for a four pack) lunch option. Bonus points for being individually frozen and packed. We had them one night, and was going to review them, fell asleep instead...and when I went to revisit them just a couple days later, I found she had the rest for lunch. There was no twisting her arm to lay down her money and play her part on her return trip to TJ's for more....everyone's got a hungry heart. Four from her, 2.5 from me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Thai Sweet Chili Veggie Burger: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Trader Joe's Sweetheart Bark of the Finest Collection

Following in the footsteps of the Valentine's favorite, TJ's Fireworks Chocolate Bar, and at least one other "Bark of the Finest Collection," this timely slab of candy will kick off the month of February here on our blog. If there's ever a time to eat a bunch of chocolate, it's Valentine's Day...and Easter...and Halloween...and Christmas. Okay. There are lots of excuses to eat tons of chocolate, and nobody really needs another reason to eat more of it. But if you're thinking about gifting this hunk of sweetness to your boo or your bae this V-Day, here's what you're getting into...

It's three kinds of chocolate, heavily dominated by the dark chocolate base. Then, of course, there are the "milk chocolate gems," not to be confused with the ubiquitous "milk chocolate buttons" we've seen in multiple Trader Joe's products, which in turn, should not be confused with M&M's (even though all three are essentially the same thing). And finally, they threw us white chocolate fans a bone and carelessly slathered the product with some seasonally-appropriate pink white chocolate. I mean, the box says they "recklessly drizzled" the bar with "rosy-hued" white chocolate, but what I said basically means the same thing, right?

Right. Back to the bar. That brings me to my next point: this is actually a bar. In the past, Trader Joe's barks have arrived all broken up in chunks. Either they're trying something new, or their former shipping and receiving crews have all been fired and replaced with much gentler, attentive back room clerks. Because you have to break this one up yourself. Or just eat it like a giant chocolate bar.

It's actually a very simple product, which in my opinion, is one of its biggest strengths. I think some of the selections we've seen in the past got a little too complicated for their own good—I'm thinking Cowboy Bark in particular, but also the Cowgirl Bark to some extent. This sweetheart bark is best suited for dark chocolate fans, although it does wind up on the sweeter end of that dark chocolate spectrum. The white chocolate is detectable, but only just barely. The gems add little more than prettiness and a bit of pleasant, crunchy texture, but they can be tasted, too, to some degree.

Being someone who enjoys dark chocolate, Sonia thought the product was tasty, simple, and festive. The nice packaging and visual presentation of the product makes it a pretty obvious gift idea for Valentine's Day. Just don't expect a reinvention of the wheel here. TJ's is just giving you a large, attractive bar of dark chocolate at a fairly reasonable price ($3.99). Double 3.5's it is.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10

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