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Friday, March 3, 2017

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar Caramels

Salt and vinegar....a winning combo. I've always liked eating as many salt and vinegar chips as possible before getting overwhelmed by stinging lips. Kinda akin to too many Sour Patch Kids, but in a different way. With Lent upon us here in Pittsburgh, I'm looking forward to dumping some on our Friday night fish dinners - we take them seriously out here - just look at this appropriately black and gold map. Oh the sacrifice.

But while salt and vinegar taste mighty good on chips and fish (as well as fish 'n chips)....with dark chocolate AND caramel as well? What in the...I mean, I know that balsamic vinegar and caramels can be a thing, and a tasty one at that, but this? I'd never try that on my own. But TJ's has, with the introduction of Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar Caramels.

It's a mad idea. Possibly brilliant, like the guy who "invented" pet rocks. He made millions. Or idiotic and sloppy, like when I tried singing "Chandelier" at karaoke. One two three, one two three drink indeed.

In actuality, it's somewhere between. The caramels cost $5 for a long skinny boxed tray of seven cubes, so a semi-premium price. Each bite was small, one large or two regular bite sized, with an ample sprinkling of coarse sea salt on top. So, obviously, this is going to be a salty chocolate. And it was, with the sodium being the predominant flavor until striking that caramel reservoir. That was smooth and mellow and sugary, but then it hit. The vinegar. But it wasn't unpleasant at all as I feared may be the case. Instead it came in, slipped in a sweet tangy essence, and almost immediately dissipated. There weren't any lingering after-effects or anything that'd make you gag or run for a drink of water. All of this was held together by the representative dark chocolate - the right call for a muted cocoa variety which I'd estimate at about 65% dark. Not unpleasant at all.

Just one of them is really enough, though. I only ate two to try and get a handle on the taste, as did Sandy. I gave the others to coworkers, who all said the same thing: "I like them, but....I'd never buy them." Which is odd because it's exactly how Sandy and I feel. There's nothing wrong with the caramels, and they're actually pretty good for what they are, but I cannot see a compelling scenario where I'd willingly repurchase them. Maybe for a high-fallutin' pinky-liftin' wine-sippin' extravaganza which, well, I've never been to one and will probably not start now. They're good, and glad I tried, and kinda glad I can say I've eaten vinegar flavored chocolate candy now (sounds straight out of Willy Wonka that way), but if I never had another one again, I wouldn't be disappointed at all.

Seems to me they're a fun novelty type item that aren't nearly as weird as one may think, and certainly make a somewhat unique treat. Chances are if you like salted caramel chocolate combos, you'll have no problem with them. Emphasis on salt. No wonderful or perfect way to score them, so absent of unabashed love or repulsive hate, we're going with a three each. Have you tried? If so, comment away!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt & Malt Vinegar Caramels: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trader Joe's Mini Chocolate Hold the Cone! Ice Cream Cones

These are like little ice cream cones for dolls. Or, if you're a dude, you might prefer action figures. Not that they made food-themed accessories for G.I. Joes... But hey, I just thought of something: what if G.I. Joe actually IS Trader Joe? Like, he retired from active military service and then used his international contacts from around the world to ship various foods to his trading post..? They're both elusive to the media, they stay out of the limelight, they have extensive foreign connections, and they're both named JOE. Coincidence?

At any rate, these cones look and feel like they should be eaten by toys...or very young children...or very small people. But make no mistake, they are made of actual ice cream. And they will melt if you let them. But they won't. Because it takes about three seconds to eat one.

They're snackable, if perhaps a tad gimmicky. The chocolate ice cream is sweet and flavorful. The coating is firm, crisp, and chocolatey, and the cone is nice and fresh for a cone that's been frozen, ostensibly for weeks or months, and heavily packaged. Eight in a box, $2.99 for the set. The vanilla flavor was unavailable at the particular TJ's we shopped at last week, although I'm sure we would have enjoyed them at least as much as the chocolate variety.

These would be great for parties. They're more hors d'oeuvres-ish than your average Nutty Buddy ice cream cone or Drumstick or what have you. And I guess you could make the "built-in portion control" argument if you have a nasty ice cream addiction or something, but they're simply not practical for everyday snacking. For that reason, Sonia gives them only three and a half stars. See the picture above for hand to mouth to cone size ratios. Keep in mind, if anything, Sonia's hands and mouth are slightly more diminutive and daintier than a normal person's—er, I mean the average person's. 

I can't punish these little fellas for not being something they're not even trying to be. They're yum-tastic and perfect for group snacking. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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