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Friday, August 26, 2016

Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops

"Meh, these taste like Smarties" Sandy said after crunching through her first mouthful.



Those cellophane-wrapped chalky straps of crunchified sugar, that parade candy classic, that stuffer of all things pinata, that cheap neighbor Halloween pass out? Those Smarties? How in the world do Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops taste like that? You crazy?

"No...the other know...the European ones...c'mon now...seriously? Never heard of them? What kind of food blogger are you anyways?" she stated with that slightly smug worldly glance that reflected very nicely off my blank stare.

I am a very 'murican amateur hack foodie, never been shy about it either.

So the natural thing would be to compare these TJ candies to the ubiquitous melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hand empire out there, which I for one have not only heard of but also have sampled of multiple times. To be honest, the first go-around I had with these choco-drops kinda tasted more or less like those to me, close enough for government work. But I have a tendency to inhale and not really taste chocolate, so on a second pickup (courtesy of a coworker who didn't like them), I decided to actually slow down and try to taste.

Aha. There are a few small differences. The chocolate here seems slightly sugarier and as a result a little less "intense" (such a relative term for milk chocolate) than the nationally known. It also seems maybe a tad bit creamier too. And the candy shells - I swear, they seem not exactly tougher but perhaps crispier, so a slight different mouthfeel to them.

Obviously there are also the different colors too - the somewhat muted purple and green and yellow and orange and whatnot. No Red 40 or Blue 82 or whatever here, folks. Naturally colored! With things like spuirilina (which is a health superfood in some circles) and beets and whatnot - hey, does that make this a chocolate salad? Kind of? No? Well, I'll settle for the no artificial colors - can't hurt, might help.

These choc drops are good, not great, but worth a pick up here or there if having a easily transportable choco supply on hand is an attractive idea to you. Certainly is to me. The half pound sack cost only about $3 if I recall right, so not a bad price. Sandy was happy enough with them, and she says they taste like those fancy Euro imports, than so be it. Although she said she likes the most famous brand more...USA! USA! USA! Sorry, Olympics over, still decompressing. Matching 3.5s.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Candy Coated Chocolate Drops: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Trader Joe's Raises the Bar

The birds here in our neighborhood are absolutely ravenous for birdseed. They can clear out our moderately-sized feeder in a single day. It's mostly finches, chickadees, and sparrows—and of course, those ugly, ubiquitous grackles. The squirrels would normally be a problem, too, but the birds eat up the food so quickly that the bushy-tailed, tree-dwelling rodents often don't even get a crack at raiding the feeder before it's empty.

In light of all that, it's pretty obvious that our backyard buddies would love a shot at one of these birdseed bars. It would be gone in minutes, maybe seconds. I'm not sure how good tapioca syrup, cane sugar, and maple syrup are for birds, but I am sure they'd happily deal with the consequences for just a taste of all those yummy seeds and grains.

Channeling her inner-bird, Sonia, too, makes short work of these Raises the Bar bars. I liked them okay, but I think I've had too many other granola bar type selections from Trader Joe's that I liked the taste of better. The Fruit and Nut Trek Mix Bars come to mind—and the much more recently-reviewed Organic Chia Bars do as well.

Appearance-wise, Raises the Bar are very similar to the chia bars but are square, rather than rectangular. There are bunches of seeds and tiny ingredients all smooshed together, united by the aforementioned syrups and honey. The base is most definitely oats, and accordingly, they taste quite "oaty." They're also very mapley, with a significant sunflower component as well.

They're chock full of whole grains and are conveniently individually-wrapped. Five bars for $2.79 makes this a pretty decent value, too. If you're looking for a super simple breakfast option or even just an easy afternoon snack, these bars are worth a purchase. In the end, it all comes down to taste, and Sonia just appreciated these a bit more than I did. Four and a half stars from her. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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