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Monday, October 17, 2016

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Almond Beverage

From the moment Sonia saw this product on Instagram, she was swooning. On her next TJ's run, she searched high and low, but could not find this enigmatic beverage in our favorite Marlton, New Jersey store. She asked an employee if they had it hidden in the stockroom or if they'd be getting a shipment of it soon. The Trader Joe's employee was friendly and polite, as they almost always are, but he replied something along the lines of, "No, people on the east coast don't like gross stuff like that." Actually, his reply wasn't anything like that. However, he did say it was only available on the west coast. We'd heard that before. Remember the Parsnip Chips?

In that case, we just waited like a week, and voila, they were suddenly available on the east coast as well. In talking with Russ, we discovered that just several days after we were told this product was only available on the west coast, it was suddenly available in Pittsburgh. Now unless there was some pretty significant seismic activity that somehow eluded the evening news and shifted The Steel City 2500 miles closer to the Pacific Ocean, there's absolutely no way you could say Pittsburgh is on the west coast. So Sonia still had hope.

Sure enough, a day or two later, this beverage popped up on shelves here in Jersey. Sonia snagged a carton, and soon we were both sipping pumpkin spice flavored almond milk. A happy ending, right? Well...

Sonia and I haven't disagreed this strongly on a product in quite a while. She enjoyed it thoroughly. I did not. You all know I'm down with pumpkin and pumpkin spice stuff for a limited time each year between mid-September and late December, right? And I've always liked plain or vanilla almond milk just fine. But this stuff didn't quite work for me somehow. It's not nearly as sweet and sugary as it needs to be to succeed as a desserty kind of drink. Yet it's not simple and nutty like the regular stuff.

At first, you can taste the pumpkin spices in spades. For a moment, it's almost enjoyable. But then, as the flavor rolls over your tongue, there's a bit of a weird chemical kind of vibe. And I'm not a huge fan of the slight aftertaste, either. The texture is fine—very similar to other almond beverages—but possibly a little bit thicker in this case. To me, the overall essence of this product is that of an unsweetened pumpkin spice coffee creamer, not designed to be a stand-alone beverage. But that's just me.

Sonia thinks it's silky, smooth, and just about right in every way. She likes the flavor just fine and is happy to chug the beverage straight out of the carton, although she does concede that it makes sense to use it as a coffee creamer even more than a drink all by itself. Four stars from her.

Two from me.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Trader Joe's Sacha Inchi Seeds

I'm not really sure how to pronounce the words "sacha inchi." Even less sure how to pronounce the scientific name for this particular plant: plukenetia volubis, which apparently approximates Latin for "cross between starfruit and green pepper with somewhat hairy leaves" according to good ol' Wikipedia. I kinda had to stop reading after that part of the leaves.

But I did read just long enough to learn the seeds of the sacha inchi plants can be referred to also as things like "Incan peanuts." Okay, I can get around that, thank you...doesn't explain how this bag of Trader Joe's Sacha Inchi Seeds came from Thailand, but I'll just roll with it.

I'll admit I never heard of these before, and so while feeling brave enough to try them, I'll admit feeling a bit apprehensive too. I mean, these seeds are huge! Bigger than a shelled peanut, or at least any I'm familiar with. They smell like peanuts, though. And taste like peanuts, and crunch like roasted peanuts...with a healthy mix of balsa wood for good measure. You know, what they make those flimsy wooden toy airplanes out of.

That sounds like an insult, but really, it's not. It's just the only way I can think of describing them. They're lighter and munchier, and kinda crispier in a way, than a peanut, which one would expect from a seed, I guess...yet so much else about them is so nutty that it makes nuts the easier comparative. There's an earthy, roasty taste, accented by a respectful dose of sea salt, with a somewhat muted munch. The center of the seed is hollow which wasn't entirely expected and it definitely affects the bite, though how is tough to quantify.

And...there's an aftertaste. This is going to make me sound crazy, I'm sure, but when I mentioned it to not just Sandy but also a coworker or two, they understood: there's a vague fishy flavor. It's light and not unpleasant, but it's almost like a briny aspect one could expect from a slab of fish is somehow present, too. As I ate more, or quickly chased a handful of seeds with a drink of water, that sensation diminished. Could be taste bud acclimation, Could be me coming to my senses. Not sure which way to say, but there you have it.

This sack a' sacha seeds cost no more than few bucks and is a welcome addition to my work snack drawer. The protein and fiber in there make a good little boast to hold me over til lunch or dinner. There's also some superfood powers ascribed to these particular seeds, so take what you will from that. I'm happy just to have them as is for a snack. Just don't ask me to pronounce it.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sacha Inchi Seeds: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

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