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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Trader Joe's Ecuador Vilcabamba Estate Small Lot Coffee

Wanna live forever?

Drink more coffee.

Nah, seriously.

Okay, probably not....but if you're anything like most of the rest of us, coffee is essential to morning survival. I need at least one cup, usually two, and little top-me-off most afternoons in that 2:30 kinda range, too. That's when the p.m. sleepies hit, which aren't that great when sitting at the ol' cubicle with a few hours yet to go before heading home to the real job.

So coffee might not make you immortal...but why take chances?

And why not increase your chances with Trader Joe's Ecuador Vilcabamba Estate Small Lot Coffee?

After all, the village of Vilcabamba is known for the longevity of their residents, although somewhat dubiously. Might it be their coffee?

Maybe...because this coffee is particularly drinkable. Smooth, even. It's a really nice balance with the medium roast hitting some earthy notes without too much acid or bite. Not bittersweet, but not entirely dull either - there's a little depth to the flavor. Must be from the Ecuadoran climate - grown in the shade up in the mountains, subtropical climate, and so on. You can tell the beans had a good life before being harvested. Makes a good cup if taken black as I prefer.

Still, perhaps I'm a bit spoiled. I mean, this Ecuadoran joe isn't bad, but it doesn't compare to the coffee beans my dad roasts. He gets them from pretty much every country that grows coffee and roasts the beans fresh a few times a week. After just being in town to visit last weekend and being reminded of how good that stuff is, and no matter where from, the depth and vibrancy of each variety, well, this just isn't as good.

But it'll do for an at-home cup in the morning fresh outta the bean grinder and French press. And at a pretty decent price tag too - $8.99 for the 12 ounce bag of whole beans. It'd be a stretch to say this would my every day choice for many years to come, however many I may have, but it wouldn't be the worst option in the world by far, either. If this coffee is somehow the fountain of youth, I'd drink to that.

Double fours from the wife and me.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ecuador Vilcabamba Estate Small Lot Coffee: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Trader Joe's Sriracha Seafood Potstickers

Trader Joe's 50th anniversary? A rare total eclipse of the sun over the USA? How spectacular on both counts!

Unfortunately, I picked a relatively lame product to review right after the monumental events of the last few days. How anticlimactic.

Sriracha? Seafood? Asian dumplingy things? Doesn't sound too shabby to me. What's not to like? Hmm. Well...

First of all, I thought this was a new product. It's not. It's been around for a while, though it looks like it may have recently been an unwitting participant in one of TJ's infamous repackaging schemes. Apparently, it used to be green and red? I don't know if I have those facts straight, but I have a sinking feeling that someone will correct me in the comments section if they've got better intel than I do.

Anyhoo, I think I heard one of you ask, "What's not to like about this delicious, exotic appetizer, Nathan?" Well, first off, the texture...but before I go on a little rant, let's cover the positives—er, at least the less negative aspects of the product first.

How about we start with the sriracha? I actually think it tastes vaguely like sriracha and does indeed have a little kick. It's not a big kick. And both Sonia and I are always hankerin' for bigger kicks in these foods that are supposed to be spicy. But the spice-level I can live with here. I could certainly stand it stronger, but I personally didn't find a lack of sriracha to be one of the biggest weaknesses in this product.

Likewise, there were little chunks of shrimp that I would have loved a lot more of. They didn't taste bad and their texture was probably the most enjoyable element of the appetizer.

But the texture of the crab combined with that of the wrappers? Weird. It was just a slimy mush. I heated the potstickers via the stove top method detailed on the packaging. I think it was that final steaming step that threw them off. Or maybe I added too much water. At any rate, I drained the water and then fried the remaining pieces in a little more oil. This made them significantly more solid and somewhat more enjoyable, but there was still a gelatinous element to the whole thing that was a little off-putting to me.

I mentioned before that the shrimp wasn't bad and the sriracha wasn't bad, and I'll stand by those assertions. I guess the flavors that didn't really do it for me were those of the crab and the carrot/red pepper wrappers. It really didn't taste like crab to me. Overall, it was a weird flavor—vaguely spicy and vaguely seafoody, but in general, it didn't work. Both Sonia and I feel like onions, shallots, celery and/or actual carrot bits might have served this product well—any kind of actual veggies would have been welcome.

$3.99 for twelve potstickers. Not super cheap, but not the worst value in the world if you're one of the people who happen to like them. In the end, it's not a complete disaster of a product, but neither of us can recommend it very highly.

Sonia: 3 stars
Nathan: 2.5 stars

Bottom line: 5.5 out of 10.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Trader Joe's Seed & Bean Medley

Seeds and beans...beans and seeds...I love me some beans and seeeeeeeeds.....

No? Don't know that tune? Good, means you didn't hear it bouncing around in my head.

Thank you for not being in my head. It's a scary enough place without you there, too.

Actually, it's just my lame attempt at making a tune for Trader Joe's Seed & Bean Medley. Other products lend themselves to song parody much more easily. There's not much to really sing about here.

And not that much to really say, either. These kinda snacks must have their own little niche market, with a devoted following, because it seems like every couple months some sort of new dried veggie-type concoction comes up and on shelves and then just as suddenly disappear. Some are hits, others....not.

This one falls somewhere in the middle. Really, the highlight here is neither the seeds nor the's the corn. Those big, crunchy kernels are reminiscent of other snacks, and are pretty popcornesque sans any trace of fluffiness. I like them, and the flavor of them blend nicely in with the assorted pepitas and fava beans and other stuff that seem more or less  indistinguishable if you're not looking at them.

The major drawback? Again, neither bean nor seed...but the peas. Silly legumes. Really, they're the morsels that stick out the most - there's an almost earthy sweetness to them that kinda stands out unevenly from the rest of the crowd. Not awful...but not exactly terrific either. I jusr didn't like them.

The oily crunchy saltiness is the overarching flavor, as would be expected. But a little something else to them would have been appreciated - maybe a little ranch or something a little spicy - but na, just salt. And why isn't this labelled as gluten-free? Cross-contamination concerns that bad at the factory? Jeez.

Our fam was split on the snack bag o' beans and peas. Sandy and our oldest daughter thoroughly enjoyed the mix, while our youngest and I kinda took a bite or two before dismissing it. Meh. Not my thing, but could be yours. And at only like $2 or $3 for the bag, it can be...for practically a song.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Seed & Bean Medley: 6 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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