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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit

As will be discussed in an upcoming podcast, there's something so great about snacks in plastic tubs. I love the act of opening them - especially removing that shrinkwrapped plastic ring that holds the lid on. I have no idea why that is, but in some ways, I guess it feels like opening a present, except since it's a clear plastic tub, you already know it's going to be good (or so you hope). I like the little plasticky sounds and all. Okay, I'm weird.

Also speaking of podcasts and having no laptop sat around untouched all day long. Why it decided to automatically and without warning launch into some hours-long Windows 10-related update literally 30 seconds before Nathan, Sonia, Grand Master Marvo, and I were going to record last night is beyond me. I mean, it was doing nothing all day - why then? Sorry about that, we should have our next episode of Let's Talk TJ's later on next week now because of those shenanigans.

But back to the matter at hand - this time around, Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit. C'mon, this looks like fun - there's the different sized food marbles, in different colors, with different fruits. Opening up the package not only had all the usual tub-popping satisfaction, but also made a huge waft of chocolate came up and smack me in the nostrils. This was going to be fun.

In case you're like me and want to know which colors are which right away, the pinkish ones are the cherries, whitish are strawberries, grayish/purplish are blueberries, and the orangish/tannish are the apricots. There's an -ish for each color, because much to TJ's props, these candies are naturally colored with things like beet juice. Much better than artificial colors, if you ask me, even if the tradeoff is less vibrant coloration. It's not like they affect the flavor anyways.

What does alter the flavor, though, is the composition of those coatings. I expected the usual M&M-y candy shellac, straight into chocolate with a fruit coat. That's not quite right. Instead there's about a few hairs-thick coat of softer white chocolate, before hitting into the dark chocolate. It's kinda offputting. At first I thought maybe it was one of those yogurt-kinda layers, because as compared to the dark chocolate, that's almost what it tastes like - kinda two ends of the spectrum being put right together.

Other than that, the experience is what's to be expected. the cherries and strawberries pop out more in their respective flavors, the blueberries are representative enough, but the apricots? Good idea, I like the theory, but I wouldn't have guessed apricot if I weren't told that's what in there. Instead, it just feels like a dried, chewy, semi-chalky center that gets overpowered by the chocolate. All the other fruits taste they way they ought, with that similar kinda feel.

Anyways, I will say these choco-fruity tidbits definitely hit more of a chocolate spot than a fruit one if you're looking for that brand of sweetness. There's nothing terribly wondrous about them, nothing overly bad either - just curious with that white chocolate layer if you ask me. I snuck 'em into work without Sandy having a chance to try them, so I shared them with a co-worker or two, and got a mostly satisfied "meh" in return. They're deserving of slightly better and to me rank as a fairly solid "not bad."

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Covered Dried Fruit: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, August 5, 2016

Trader Joe's Mango Margarita Mixer

After slowly weaning myself off mango over the past month or so, I fell right off the wagon after spotting this exotic margarita mix at the local TJ's. Sonia and I weren't able to make a Princeton run (the closest Trader Joe's store that sells alcohol) for TJ's brand booze, so we made due with an off brand, and we whipped up a batch of blended margaritas to help beat this summer heat and humidity.

Unlike quite a few of the offerings we saw earlier this summer, this is a product that actually should be mango-flavored. It's a sweet, candy mango taste that blends well with tequila. Margaritas are a uniquely-summery beverage, and they lend themselves to uniquely-summery flavors like mango. To me, it seems much fruitier and juicier than its lemon-lime predecessor. Of course, both flavors are good, but in a way, I think this one works even better. Who knows? This product may actually pre-date the recent onslaught of mango insanity at Trader Joe's. Somehow it just doesn't seem as forced as products like mango sandwich cookies and mango chia pudding.

Also like the previously-reviewed traditional flavor, this margarita mixer uses simple, natural ingredients. If there's anyone else out there who enjoys margaritas and also tries to avoid high fructose corn syrup, I'm sure you've discovered that it's virtually impossible to find margarita mixer at a normal grocery store that uses actual sugar in its ingredients—and in the rare case you do find it, it costs an arm and a leg. This stuff is only $2.69.

By itself, the mixer is very thick and way too sweet. It needs to be diluted significantly. I think four ice cubes and one shot of tequila per two ounces mixer works best, but it's also decent as the base for virgin cocktails with only water/ice and maybe a lime wedge, as suggested on the label—so, yes, the kids can enjoy this one, too.

Mangoritas taste like summer. Double fours.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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