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Friday, April 8, 2016

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Cacao Nibs

Chocolate nerds.

That's a good way to describe these. But they're not sweet milk chocolate nerds. They're rich and dark. From the moment you open the bag, there's a heavy dark chocolatey, almost coffee-esque aroma that hits you. And they taste like that, too.

Sonia likes their crunchiness and is eager to try them in baked goods. She thinks they'd make a great additive to pancakes or muffins. I totally agree. They'd also make an excellent ice cream topping. I think they'd be perfect for making plain vanilla a little more exciting, but you chocoholics might want to try the whole chocolate on chocolate thing.

They're also good just straight out of the bag—maybe for a nice little shot of caffeine and sugar to top off your lunch. Resealable bag, $1.99. Many of you know I'm not really a dark chocolate guy, but I'll easily muster three and a half stars for this little novelty. Sonia will throw out four this time.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trader Joe's Seafood Paella

Sonia has a few quirky allergies that come and go mysteriously. One is to mushrooms. Although, that particular sensitivity didn't apply when it came to the Portobello Mushroom Fries. Another one of her fun "come and go" allergies involves certain kinds of shellfish. Maybe. We've figured out she's okay with crab and lobster. But she usually plays it safe with things like clams, oysters, and scallops...except when my dad orders the fried oysters and she takes a couple bites. Maybe she's grown out of the allergy and maybe she's not as sensitive when the food is prepared a certain way. Who knows? But it took some convincing to get her to try this paella. She finally agreed, but only on the condition that I take all the mussels out of her portion.

That was just fine by me, because I really liked these mussels. They came out nice and soft, but not too chewy. The "calamares" were by far the chewiest ingredient in our bag. I've had squid before that was not this chewy, but really, it wasn't horrendous—just a tad more rubbery than I would have preferred. The rest of the textures were wonderful and blended together seamlessly.

South Jersey is full of fresh seafood, but I haven't seen many places around here that offer any kind of paella. In fact, the only other time in my life that I've had proper paella was in Spain. There was a quaint sidewalk cafe in Madrid where I tried this "national dish" of EspaƱa. It was a while back, but honestly, I remember not being impressed. It was much soupier than Trader Joe's offering, the vegetables were stringy, and I felt it lacked flavor. They might have given me a bad batch on purpose, though. They didn't seem fond of non-Spanish speakers there. <Sigh.> Six and a half years into a marriage to someone whose first language is Spanish, and I'm still trying to learn it.

But back to the paella. It's good. It's complex, flavorful, and not-at-all-fishy. Seafoody? Yes. Fishy? No. I'm not sure how authentic it is, but I certainly prefer it to the only other paella I've ever had. Ironically, this selection is a "product of France," not Spain, according to the bag. Eh, close enough, I guess. Four stars from me. Three and a half from my better half.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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