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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower

From my childhood, I have what my lovely bride interprets as a bad habit on major holidays: namely, not really eat anything until the big dinner itself. You see, it's not a bad strategy when "holiday dinner" is at about 1 p.m. or so, so skipping breakfast isn't that huge of a deal, and come meal time, you have plenty enough room in your belly to eat your fill, and to be too full for dinner. Totally works because that's how I grew up. But on her side of the family, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners and the like are more towards the evening (5 p.m. or so), making this strategery much tougher to employ. Not to say I haven't tried...but every holiday with a later big meal, I get the speech: "You're not going to starve yourself all day until dinner time! You're gonna eat something! Set a good example for the kids!" and so on.

And so it was this past weekend out here in the 'burgh. Easter dinner, our house, 5 p.m. Got home from church, she started launching it yet again...blahblahblah...yes dear, alright dear, I ran 5.5 miles that morning so kinda hungry anyways...

...and then she pulled out Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower from the freezer. Game, set, match. Stop twisting my arm already, this looks good!

As the name implies, what we have here is a bag of frozen lightly breaded cauliflower florets with some spicy kung pao sauce to stir them all around in. The camera somehow ate the picture we took of the finished product, but the picture on the bag is a more than apt depiction of the vibrant veggie vittles inside. Except...most of the blossoms are freaking huge. Ginormous, probably a whole serving itself. That's not entirely a bad thing, but they do present a textural variant that can be difficult to account for in preparation. Naturally, the stemmy sections retains more crunch and stiff fibrous feel, while the actual "trees" sections are kinda all over the place. Some were done roughly right, with a good bite, while others seemed smooshy and almost creamy due to being just way too soft. If they were smaller, I'd think it'd be easier to prepare them in a more even manner. It didn't inhabit us too much, but I could see it being a potential issue for some.

As for the sauce, I didn't care much for it straight up (yes, I tried it). It seemed a bit too cloyingly soy sauce-y, with a little tang of pineapple juice and a tickle of heat poking out.  However, once on the slightly crispy/greasy cauliflower, a lot of the soy tendencies mellowed out, while the spice amped itself a smidge. By the end of my bowlful, the heat definitely kicked up several notches from where it started. The breading itself is barely worth mention, except to say it was a fairly adequate medium between the sauce and veggie.

Overall, this particular Trader Ming's offering is a go...I'd feel slightly better recommending it if it cost $3.99 or so instead of $4.99...but chances are it'll be a repeat purchase for when the vaguely Asian food/don't feel like paying for takeout bug hits (which is often enough). Sandy offers up a four whereas I'll slide in a little lower.

Bottom line: Trader Ming's Kung Pao Tempura Cauliflower: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Trader Joe's Thyme Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Talk about subtle flavors! This might have the subtlest taste of any TJ's product I've ever tried. The smell of this product is at least twice as strong as its actual flavor on the tongue.

Now I'm down with oil and vinegar dressings, or most any kind of vinaigrette or what have you, but this stuff...I'm not sure where the balsamic part of it is. Or the honey part. Or the thyme part. It's basically just olive oil if you ask me—and maybe not even the most flavorful olive oil I've ever had. It's pretty bland, pure and simple. Sonia and I thought "Hmmm, maybe all the flavors are on the bottom. Maybe we didn't shake the container enough." But even after ample agitation, the trace amounts of balsamic we dredged up from the bottom of the bottle barely produced anything more tangy or tasty than the first few drab drizzles.

It's been a while since Sonia and I busted out a thoroughly negative review, and I always cringe when I have to do this, because negativity typically begets negativity. There are defenders for just about every one of TJ's products, so it tends to be safer to either just stick to stuff we like, or to downplay our negative feelings in some cases. 

If you look back through the past year or so on this blog, the "Meh," "Not So Great," and "Blahhh" categories have been dominated by Russ. He's a braver man than I am. It's not that I've lied to you about Sonia's and my scores, it's just that we've tended to review products we have neutral or positive feelings for, and we've tried to do the whole "silver lining" thing when we can. But every once in a while, we just can't. This is one of the worst salad dressings I've ever had. And to top it all off, there are 21 grams of flavorless fat per serving!

Sonia adds, "I am really disappointed. I definitely won't buy it again." On a slightly brighter note, she liked the texture of it. One and a half stars from her. One star from me. 

Unfortunately, there's an even MORE negative review than this one on the imminent horizon. You might not see it on here tomorrow, but definitely before the end of the week. Stay tuned if you love drama.

Bottom line: 2.5 out of 10.

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