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Friday, September 2, 2016

Trader Joe's Blended Scotch Whisky

There's no such thing as vacation with small kids. It's just taking the show on the road.

I'm not sure where (if anywhere) I got that from, but those were the words I uttered a little over a week ago when my younger, kidfree boss wished me and the family a happy vacation. And that's pretty much how our extended weekend trip to Chicago went - four full days of family fun, sure, but all sorts of little kid hijinks, some with bodily fluids and byproducts involved, frustration, and weak moments. But overall, very good, highlighted by our family's first trip to Wrigley Field, despite the Buccos losing YET AGAIN and us buying tickets for seats that don't exist.*

Coincidentally, when booking a hotel, I didn't aim to find one right around the corner from a Trader Joe's, much less one we had to walk by everytime we hit up the Metro. But as Big Joe have it, there it was. And in an even bteer turn of fate, thank God for the sensible lawmakers of Chicago and Illinois who make buying things like Trader Joe's Blended Scotch Whisky readily available for sale, because man, after a vacation like this, Sandy and I both really needed a drink.

Blended Scotch whisky isn't all too fancy a drink to begin with. I've yet to find one that's silky smooth, sweetly palatable, and not overtly medicinal, like one of their pricier Highland single malt brethren. Such is the case here - harsh, burny, strong, very alcohol-y tasting. Some other quick takes I've read mention noting flavors ranging from apples to gasoline - I can't speak to those specifics, but, well, sure. Even while fully anticipating a strong inital encounter, I had to cough one or twice after the first sip or two. yes, you can clip off the corner of my man card.

I do prefer to drink my hard stuff on the rocks, so I will note there is a significant mellowing out as the ice melts. But there's still a significant residual burn, and perhaps this is now me being officially in my mid-30s...this is strong stuff. 80 proof. I swear I've had just as stiff if not stiffer beverages, but on both occasions I have partaken of this bottle, I feel like I've felt it a little more than I should.

I will mention another plus: it's cheap. Back here in good ol' Pennsylvania, I'm accustomed to paying at least $15 for 750mL's of the cheapie stuff. This? A full, vibrant liter, in all its metric system glory... for only $11.99. Now that's something I can stand behind. I'd pay that for some whisky to sip once or twice a week for sure, even with the tradeoff for not quite topnotch quality.

Sandy took a small sip or two and, surprisingly to me, didn't spit it right out. "Not awful," she said, although she's looking up some good lookin' mixed drink recipes for herself. Me? I'll just keep drinkin' it straight, because it is kinda growing on me a little bit. Not great, not awful, and tough to argue with the price - all for an inexpensive way of getting the job done. That pretty much sums it all up right there.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Blended Scotch Whisky: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons
* I bought tickets from an online broker. Section 509, row 9, seats 13 thru 16. We get to Section 509, row 9...there's no seat 13. They stop at seat 12, and the seat next to it is renumberred (112, I think) denoting it is in a different section. I asked fans, seat ushers...there's no seat 13, 14 15, or 16 anywhere. We ended up sitting in a relatively empty row and no one bothered us so it turned out okay. Still...

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Trader Joe's Smoked Salmon Bacon

For the most part, Sonia and I both love salmon, and we both love Trader Joe's. But when unusual salmon products pop up at TJ's, we've found that they're always a bit of a gamble. The WG@TJ's team has seen everything from two kinds of salmon jerky to bagged pasta with salmon to salmon pastramiand that's just scratching the surface. Some of those products got the thumbs up, and some went straight back to TJ's for a no-hassle refund.

Now I love turkey bacon, and I was quite eager to try yet another "meat" turned into bacon, so this seemed like a logical purchase, despite a spotty salmon track record. No, not spotted salmon...I meant...ugh, nevermind.

As far as traditional bacon lovers go, they're probably not gonna love this. Most "normal" bacon fanatics tolerate turkey bacon, at best. And this is yet a step further from pork bacon.

But on the plus side, it's not revolting. At least we didn't think so. This might be a pescatarian's dream come true.

This bacon has a peculiar texture, both crispy and slightly chewy. Sonia thought it seemed like a synthetic mouthfeel—almost like a plastic intended for eating. The cooking instructions call for heating in a "lightly-oiled" pan, so the grease-factor of the finished product will depend on just how "lightly" you oiled that pan. I may have erred on the side of "moderate" oiling since the fish is significantly leaner than most bacon. If traditional bacon is naturally fatty and greasy, it's far less dependent upon added oils for flavor. I think the couple extra drops of olive oil I added helped the taste and maybe the texture, too. Also, I wouldn't say the product ever "browned" per se like the packaging suggests it might, but rather, it simply turned a darker shade of pink.

The "smoked" flavor in the salmon does approximate that of traditional smoked bacon to some extent. I actually found it quite pleasant. There's not a tremendous amount of fishiness, but I mean, it's salmon, so there is some, particularly at the finish. The product smells like fish, too, but not overwhelmingly so. It's salty and savory and again, in my case, a bit oily.

Sonia said she wanted to try the product raw and treat it like salted, smoked lox and have it with a bagel or something just to see what it was like. To date, neither she nor I have actually been adventurous enough to do this, though.

At five bucks per package, it's not cheap, but then I guess they aren't exactly giving away regular bacon these days, either. Score-wise, I think we'll slap this puppy with double three and a halfs.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

(Projected score for traditional bacon lovers: 0 out of 10)

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