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Friday, July 14, 2017

Trader Joe's Puff Dogs

"I want you to review these just for all the Puff Daddy references you could make."

Love ya, sweetie, but Puff Daddy/ P. Diddy wasn't my jam back in the day. I'm familiar enough with the work of Mr Combs, but enough so that I could off a bunch of references in relation to Trader Joe's Puff Dogs? Nah.

I mean, "Puff Dog" does sound like a mid-to-late-'90s rapper. Probably was one, or could have been like a super dup between the aforementioned Diddy and Snoop Dogg.

As the story goes, the only reason we bought these was at the behest of one of the local TJ's employees, who knows who we are and what we do, and we were strongly advised to buy them. Why that is, I'm not sure, as I wasn't there. I personally wouldn't have. I have nothing against a quality hot dog wrapped up in a buttery biscuit type deal,'s easy enough to do on your own if the mood hits. Which for us is pretty rare...I don't think I've done this since college. Maybe even before. Aside from micro hors d'ouevres, of course. Those are tasty.

And yeah...that's what these puff dogs taste like. A fully grown hors d'oeuvres. There's nothing special, unique, or all that interesting about them, to be quite honest. I mean, yes, there's quality to be had here - the smoky beef hot dog in all its uncured goodness is rather tasty, admittedly - but, there's not much to be had otherwise. The puff pastry is standard, run of the mill flaky and a little buttery, and that combined with the beef dog do have a little greasy comfort food vibe that would taste even better after a few beers, I'm sure.

But there's nothing else, really. There's no "Trader Joe's-y" twist to them, like an unexpected seasoning or fancy cheese or some other novelty to them. It's tough to even argue a convenience factor, and at a somewhat premium price ($4.99 for five dogs - a buck per pup), you can get more bang for your buck by buying a pack of frankfurters and a tube of crescent rolls seperately and get much the same result.

Plus - this is probably silly - I hate the picture on the front. That yellow stuff hanging off the bitten-off hot dog? Is that supposed to be nacho cheese or day old scrambled egg? Yes, I know, probably mustard as evidenced by the cutesy mustard bottle up top, but still...there's something unsettling about it to me. Especially with the word "buttery" in close proximity. Yes, I'm weird.

Can't nobody hold me down. It might not be all about the Benjamins, but for the mo' money for these, I don't want mo' problems. Come with me or I'll be missing you...ugh, I can't do this any more. Probably not a repeat buy. They're okay, but what they'd best for is what P Diddy was best at: Sampling.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Puff Dogs: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Trader Joe's Crunchy Nutty Rice Bites with Quinoa & Cranberries

The little description on the back of the bag states: "When a lack of snacks is what ails you, a handful of Crunchy Nutty Rice Bites with Quinoa & Cranberries is the cure." How appropriate after having just watched A Cure for Wellness last night. What a disturbing film—I mean, genius in many ways, but thoroughly psychologically disturbing. What's even more disturbing is that I can readily identify with characters in such films far more than, say, anything that might be considered a normal family film. 

But if you've seen the movie, you'll know why I was immediately reluctant to consume something that a random quack medicine man claims is a "cure" for what ails me. The cover art, featuring one of the crunchy nutty rice bites levitating supernaturally over a pair of hands and radiating some sort of angelic rays, didn't help the case for these mysterious snacks.

But try them I did, and honestly, I'm not sure if I'm relieved at this point, because these things are so addicting, I'm a little worried there's more to them than their constituent parts listed on the ingredients. I mean, I've tried plenty of crispy ricey snacky things before, and plenty of treats laden with cranberries and quinoa, but none have had quite the same appeal as these sweet, crunchy bites—at least nothing in recent memory.

At first glance, some of the nuggets resemble little square pieces of sushi, with multiple muted colors resting on bite-sized beds of rice. But the similarities to sushi end there, as these rice bites flaunt a brittle crispness and surprising amount of sweetness. Tartness from a generous amount of cranberries tends to shine through in most of the pieces.

There's also a nuttiness in the majority of bites which I'd attribute to the pumpkin seeds before either almonds or cashews, or quinoa for that matter. I mean, there's definitely quinoa in there, but the fact that it's mentioned in the title of the snack seems more of a gimmick than anything else. I guess "pumpkin seeds" or "pepitas" just doesn't get the granola crowd riled up like "quinoa" apparently does.

I'm gonna go with four and a half here. 

According to Sonia, they're kinda like "healthy, dry Rice Krispies Treats." That about sums it up. Four stars from her.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Trader Joe's Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate

"This was obviously made by someone who hates coffee."

That's an actual recent quote from my mom, and in what actual context, I forget. Doesn't matter, I may be adopting it to describe any coffee that I don't like. I'm beginning to realize that I need to have my coffee just the way I like it, or I get cranky. This must be one of those signs that I'm getting older, I guess. File it alongside: Realizing I can play Pearl Jam too loud while in the car by myself. Recognizing the need for supportive walking shoes. Not recognizing anything on the radio except the classic rock station.

Anyways, here's yet another cold brew concoction from our main man here. This time, it's Trader Joe's Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate. Well, okay. Flavored coffees aren't really my deal, per se - coffee should taste like coffee, ya whippersnapper - but heck I'd give it a try.

I like the idea of cold brew concentrates, mostly because I don't like the idea of paying three or four bucks from a coffee shop every time I want one. But the trouble always seems to be getting the ratio of concentrate to diluent correct - too much of one or the other throws it way off. Seems to be the same case here. I measured, I tried, I recalled my seventh grade chemistry teacher saying to measure the meniscus...still couldn't get it quite right. So there's a part of the problem I'm willing to own.

But the other issue? It's just not very good coffee.

It's the coconut. In theory, it sounds good, but to me, it doesn't jive. The coconut just kinda clanks around, with almost a tinny or metallic taste to it. Ugh. No likey. It's obtrusive. And it's tough to tell for sure, but the coffee almost seems to rely heavily on coconut for flavor, instead of the natural earthy goodness that actual good coffee delivers. If you need to add flavors to make your coffee drinkable, to me, it's just not that good to begin with.

I realize I may be in the minority here. That's okay, fire at will. Sandy absolutely disagrees with me, noting that she liked making hers with sweetened almond milk and ice. I think I took a sip of one of those, and admittedly it was almost passable. A terrible idea, though, is mixing this with something like a  flavored LaCroix...we tried it, it's supposed to be also tastes awful.  Sandy would buy again happily, while I'd just as happily mumble about it if it were to reappear. Maybe it's made not by someone who hates coffee, just by someone with a very different opinion than me. Bah. My blog, my score. Get off my lawn.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Coconut Cold Brew Coffee Concentrate: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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