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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Trader Joe's Pain au Lait

It's not unusual for me to devour the majority of a delicious Trader Joe's product before Sonia even realizes it's in the house. But it's very unusual for the reverse to happen.

Yet happen it did with this pain au lait. 

As my wife will attest, those French sure know their breads: baguettes, brioche, croissants, and of course, French toast—which might not actually be French—but we give them the credit anyway because it sounds lame to call it "eggy bread."

Add pain au lait to that list of delicious French breads. And in this case, the "pain" is indeed a product of France, imported across the pond for our enjoyment. Thanks, Trader Jacques—er, Trader Joe.

They're chock full o' milk, sugar, butter, and eggs. That's why they're so delicious. And fattening. They taste slightly sweeter than traditional breads, but not to the extreme that they're doughnut-esque or exclusively dessert-ish. Despite their sweetness and butteriness, they're surprisingly soft, airy, and addictive.

They remind me of one of the complimentary breads they serve at a particular chain restaurant, but I can't remember for certain which one: was it Outback? Cheesecake Factory? I haven't been to any of those places lately so I can't put my finger on it—but it was a bread so tasty, that I'd deliberately eat my fill so that when my meal came, I'd take a few bites and then pack the rest up to take home, thus stretching one meal into at least two. It definitely wasn't authentic pain au lait, but it was reminiscent of this offering in terms of sweetness and softness.

Serving sizes here are relatively small, in case you're worried about portion control. Each piece is perfect for dunking in coffee, or your hot beverage of choice. They went great with the hot chocolate we looked at recently. They're simply awesome with some butter and jelly, or even just butter. And honestly, both Sonia and I were fine just snagging these little guys out of the bag and eating them by themselves like cookies.

Three dollars for eight rolls. This could be a repeat buy. Sonia says she could eat the whole bag in one sitting. She'll throw out her first perfect five star score in a long time. I genuinely liked them too, but perhaps I'm not quite as enthused because I'm waiting for a bread that's optimized for dunking in energy drinks. Just kidding. That would be gross.

...or would it?

But for all you coffee connoisseurs out there, meet your new best breakfast friend. Four stars from me.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Trader Joe's Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee

Come on now, sing it with me!

"Roll out the barrels, we'll have a barrel of fun...."

Wait, you're not singing. What's the matter? Not awake enough and need more coffee? Or not "loose" enough and need a stiff drink?

Well, why not have both? Here's a fresh mug of Trader Joe's Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee.

Of course, this new TJ's boozy barrel inspired brew is non-alcoholic...but man, is that tough to tell from all appearances. Most bourbonic products are plagued by a decided subtlety that leaves hardly a trace of Kentucky's finest contribution to man this side of George Clooney and Louisville sluggers.

But, not here. No, not at all. The beans themselves weren't overly aromatic in a boozy way, but once Sandy and I had our steaming cups...whoa. I'd be scared to make this at work for fear of being called down to HR. One wrong waft sent awry and someone would report it, it's that strong.

Tastes that strong too. I'd say brewing the coffee at suggested strength tasted like a whole shot was poured into each mug. The outcome leaves something to be desired. The coffee itself is mellow and smooth, a little on the sweet side without offering too much if any bitterness that either coffee or bourbon can have. But it's absolutely heavy on the bourbon notes, really heavy, which brings me to my next point...

This coffee's discombobulating. I swear, it plays mind tricks with me. I taste booze, my mind senses it and tells my body I must be drinking booze, even though I'm not...thereby helping negate any positive lift I may get from drinking my coffee. I need my coffee for caffeine, dang it.

At least there's not a decaf version as of yet. That'd be really pointless. Bourbon inspired coffee without either alcohol or caffeine? Pass!

There's a whole write up on the side about how it's a two-year aging process with careful bean rotation to ensure each bean comes in contact with the bourbon barrels...sounds a bit OCD and overboard, but hey, the process worked. I cannot imagine a coffee tasting any more like bourbon, or bourbon tasting any more like coffee. It's a weird, imperfect marriage.

Sandy and I had high hopes, and while not completely crashed, we're both down on the bourbon coffee at this time. There's some potential if we mix some regular coffee beans in, we'll have a more pleasant experience. Also, instead of a morning cup, this has more of an afternoon/after dinner kinda feel to it. More mellow. Made poor Sandy feel a little ill afterwards, though she did say she'd be willing to try again.

Anyways, not an awful speculative buy at $10 for the canister, which is mid-range for TJ's prices. If you don't like it, you can always return, no problem. We are considering it but want to experiment first. Any suggestions, please share. Until then, we're going with some low marks here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Bourbon Barrel Aged Coffee: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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