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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend

 If your household is anything like mine before Sandy and I have any coffee....Lord help you. Getting two kids out the door and me out to work is a slow rolling car crash every day. Plus, we're both so cranky and tired, it's...just ugly. I see you nodding your head in understanding. That's all pre-coffee. Post-coffee, we're all good.

New to our rotation is Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend, featuring beans from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Peru, and Sumatra. To say it's "dark" is a bit of an understatement - taking a whiff of some freshly ground beans, there's this potent pugnacity that hits your nostrils in almost a tobacco-esque way. Once brewed, it's not as concentrated, obviously, but there's still this essence and appearance that says this is a coffee to be taken seriously.

But...the coffee doesn't quite hold up to its appearance. First, it's just kinda boring tasting - bittersweet, a bit tinny, kinda one note or two note at best. For having five differently sourced beans, I was hoping for something a little more complex. And, as with most dark roasts, it's doesn't have much of a caffeine boost, either. It's definitely a two-cupper for the morning, but on the bright side, a reliable afternoon warmer-upper without getting too hopped up.

It's an okay cup at best - better than gas station, cheaper than coffee shop, trustworthier than the company pot - but there's better out there on the TJ shelves. I'll finish up the can at work, but it's not a probable repurchase. Bonus points (as always) for being organic and fair trade, though.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Fair Trade Five Country Espresso Blend: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Trader Joe's Simply Nutty Bars

My goodness...there's like a zillion different granola/ energy /Kind /fruit/ whatever bars out there these days. They're literally freakin' everywhere. At the local non-TJ's grocery store, there's an aisle and a half full of them, all different varieties.

Anyone else remember the good ol' days when there was just the variety pack from Quaker Oats, and not much else? How innocent and quaint.

I guess portable snackage is on the rise with our busy lifestyles. Like a lot of you, I'm sure, I got kids and fairly regular 10 hour work days to make ends meet. Food intake is sometimes completely dependent on what's convenient, but since I want what I eat to be healthy (or at least healthy-ish), as do a lot of folks, but everyone has their different ideas...well, that explains the market maybe.

Adding to the noise is good ol' TJ's with the new line of Trader Joe's Simply Nutty Bars. There's three varieties, of which I've sampled the two pictured, the Dark Chocolate, Nuts and Sea Salt bar as well as the Dark Chocolate, Walnut, Peanut, Fig & Date Bar. Not shown, and not tried, because it sounded the least interesting of them all, is the Dark Chocolate, Peanut and Almond Bar which comes in a orangey box. It's different from the sea salted bar mostly because it lacks walnuts and sea salt from what I can tell, so probably a little plainer.

I'd relate these bars mostly closely to the Kind variety, not just for ingredient similarity but also overall flavor and feel. Crunchy isn't the right word, at least not in the sense of those Nature Valley shrapnel-in-wait planks, but neither is crispy, nor soft, nor anything else. There's elements of all of that present from the toasted nuts, the little white crispy bally things which I never really know what exactly they are (pea protein pearls? Who knows?), and in case of the fig and date bar, from those respective ingredients.

Out of these two, I'd say I probably enjoy the dark chocolate, walnut, peanut, fig and date one more, and it's not just for the always appreciated ampersand. They're not figgy or date-y like Larabars (which I really enjoy, for the record), but instead they get reduced down to a paste that kinda fills the gaps between the nuts while adding a flavor depth, if that makes sense. The sea salt bar is pretty good in its own right, but it sticks mostly to a classic nut and chocolate mix with a trace of salt added. There's just something more to the figs and dates one.

Oh, and chocolate. Oh yes. There's a pretty good drizzling on the topside of each bar, with the backs completely dipped. And, as is custom with pretty miuch anything TJ's with dark chocolate, it's fairly high quality and tasty too - not exactly Belgian, but not Hershey's either. I'd reckon it's in the 60% dark range or so, and there's enough in there to give me the midafternoon chocolate boost I need, with enough nuts and protein to keep me from getting too hangry, that make skipping my cubicle neighbors' candy dishes so much easier.

Sandy and I both like what we've tried. We're suckers for this kinda stuff, and at $4.99 for a five pack, TJ's seems to be selling them at more than fair market price. At some point we'll probably try out the Dark Chocolate, Peanut and Almond Bar, but if you have, please comment away and let us know if we've missed something special (or not) there. We approve.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Simply Nutty Bars: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons (both varieties)

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