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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trader Joe's Presents The Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets

Ever hear of the Mochi Rice Nuggets?

Man....they rock.

No, not like the band on the packaging of Trader Joe's Presents The Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets. I mean, that's a pretty ridiculous name...though I wouldn't be surprised if a band named that actually existed. There's bands with names like Neutral Milk Hotel, after all. I kinda would want to hear this nugget band though. I bet they could do a killer rendition of "Billie Jean" - you see that bassist with the 'stache and mane? He'd rock that bassline. And I will reward mega Internet points to anyone who can translate what the word bubbles are saying - I assume it's Japanese, because the nuggets are a Japanese product. But you tell me.

Nor are these particular rice nuggets particularly rock-like. Rocks, like stones (and not the Stones). Sandy and I neglected to get a pic of them out of the package, but they do closely resemble the non-cartoony aspects of the bag front - bite sized chunks of rice-type substance. Made from the same kind of glutinous rice paste as most other mochi, these mochi nuggets are crispified and fried. in a way - and this is meant as a compliment - they're more spongelike then the last product I reviewed, its name notwithstanding. Except instead of chewy, it's decidedly more crispy and crunchy while still retaining a slightly springy feel. Add in a little greasy comfort, and it's addictive.

The first time I bit into a nugget, the taste immediately reminded me of something familiar....something distinctive....something I haven't had in a long time. But I couldn't figure out what it was. Crispy, a little oily, definitely salty, with a grain kinda feel to it...ah, there it is. Bugles. Yes, the mochi rice nuggets taste almost just like Bugles, except in a form you can't easily stick on the end of your finger. And yes, I know Bugles are corn based, while these are rice...but the taste is very similar, and it's not just me saying it. One of Sandy's friends tried a few, and unpromptedly said the exact same thing. It's like each nugget was a handful of Bugles that got compacted down into a snackable cube-esque form.

It is worth mentioning that the nuggets are not labeled as gluten-free - according to the back, there's a chance of cross contamination with wheat. And also, of all things...mackerel. I don't even know how to say anything more than that. But there could be mackerel in your mochi. Seems perhaps some quality assurance could be better enforced at the factory, hmm?

I like the nuggets quite a bit. So does Sandy, and our kids too. I'm really hoping these become a thing with some different flavors and varieties coming out. Black pepper would be killer. So would garlic and herb, or even something like cinnamon and sugar. As is, though, the nuggets seem like they'd pair with almost anything, so there's some versatility. At $2.99, they'll be staple in our house for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Presents The Crispy Crunchy Mochi Rice Nuggets: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, December 19, 2016

Josephsbrau Winter Brew

Another Princeton run? Nope. Sonia and I are in the South. And it's way easier to buy beer down here. Back in the Keystone State, you had to go to a specialized beer distributor to get your hands on cervezas. Our part of the Garden State wasn't much easier. No grocery stores carried the stuff—not even the happy Hawaiian-shirt-clad helpers at TJ's could sell you suds in South Jersey. Even Wilmington, DE was similarly prohibitionist. 

But my old stomping ground of Wilmington, NC had an especially alluring wooden shelf well-stocked with Trader Joe's brand bottles, including a "mix-a-six" option, where customers could try up to six different craft beers in one cardboard case, paying à la carte prices for each bottle—most of which were in the ballpark of one dollar each. Merry Christmas to me.

I guess Trader Joe's worked out a great deal with Gordon Biersch—they're mass producing all of the Josephsbrau label beers for TJ's stores. When I used to visit the Gordon Biersch restaurant chain during my time in L.A., I'd refer to it as "Gordon Beer-ish." As in, "That Gordon. He's such a beer-ish fellow, isn't he?" 

Quite beer-ish indeed, it turns out.

This brew was the first one out of the fridge. 7.5% alcohol content, seasonally-appropriate, and a sleek, handsome label? Seemed like the logical choice. 

Now keep in mind, I've only broadened my horizons to dark beers in the past few years. But in that short amount of time, I've discovered what I like and what I don't like, and this beer was somewhere in the middle.

It's got a nice deep brown color, and it pours with a small amount of suds on top. There's a molasses-esque sweetness about it, but it's still dark, malty, and very subtly spicy. It's not super thick or heavy the way some dark beers can be—I'm not a fan of drinking motor oil.

I still don't have my cicerone certification yet, but I'm working on it. When tasting new beers, I always make up my own mind about how I feel about them first, but I like to check BeerAdvocate after the fact to see just how far off I am from, you know...people who actually know what they're talking about. Seems these pseudo-beer-experts liked this brew a bit more than I did in general, but user "HopsAreDaMan" in particular summed up my feelings about this beer when he said, "...although I would happily drink this beer if offered to me, I would not seek it out."

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Trader Joe's Sponge Candy

Candy. It's everywhere, at all times, but especially this time of year. Parties. Stuck inside cookies, which are also everywhere. As small, easy to give gifts. In little thematic ceramic dishes with elves and penguins on them, and if you're lucky, that elf is riding a penguin. Just earlier today, as an unexpected gift, I got a one pound box of chocolates thumped on my desk. "Merry Christmas" it said, courtesy of one of my company's field reps. Could be worse: she's wasn't the one who dropped the remnants of a 4.4 pound monstrosity off at the company table (umm, that'd be me). It's always within reach, it's the holidays, you're supposed to indulge...

...and I'm getting tired of it. Candied out. That's not to say I won't eat more, because I know I will, but man, the end needs to be in sight. Please tell me it is.

So, to be honest, I wasn't exactly anxious to try out Trader Joe's Sponge Candy. Yes, it's a thing, although I've never heard of it before. Don't judge me, I'm just sheltered. But the name kinda conjures up a kitchen sponge covered in thanks. Now a name like honeycomb toffee, I could go with that.

Regardless, does this TJ's candied sponge variant belong in your holiday candy plans?

Ehhhhh....maybe. I took a couple bites, and maybe I'm candyworn and jaded, but it's not that great. Not bad either. Inside the box there's a plastic baggie all filled with various sized chunks ranging from a mousey morsel to a two or three biter. Inside, they're all much the same: a thin coat of reasonably decent milk chocolate, and a light, airy, crispy yet rigid chunk of toffee-like substance. The sponge candy. It's an apt name, seeing as all the little air pockets and layers do visually resemble a sponge. The texture is kinda interesting - think maltball mixed with a wafer, except much lighter - but it's neither compelling nor offputting. The taste itself is, as I said, fairly toffee-esque except a little scaled back. It does make a neat little bite, but after one or two, I've had enough.

Both Sandy and I aren't swayed much one way or another. At least I can say I've eaten sponge candy and no, it has nothing to with Spongebob. A couple bites, and a shrug each. Cost only $3.49 for the package, so seems reasonable enough, in case you really actually needed any more candy. You probably don't. But there's a chance you'll like this stuff anyways.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sponge Candy: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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