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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Trader Joe's Lemon Elderflower Soda and Rhubarb & Strawberry Soda


I know you can make a pie from it, though I don't think I've ever had one. I know it's celery-esque and looks like a vegetable. 

And that's about it. That's a comprehensive summary of my personal knowledge of rhubarb up to this point. Sure, I Googled it and informed myself a bit more just now, but I never had any idea what it tasted like until I tried this soda.

Elderflower is a similar mystery to me. I assumed it was a type of flower that perhaps grows on the same plant as elderberries..? I'm apparently correct on both of those assumptions, although I'm guessing a good percentage of our readers could elaborate on the elder bush a great deal more than I am able to—and if you care to flaunt your botanical expertise in the comments section, I invite you to do so to your heart's content.

But evaluating something brand new with few preconceived notions can be a good thing.

First thoughts on the rhubarb strawberry soda: VERY unique. Like strawberry, but significantly more tart. Perfect amount of sweetness and carbonation. Just different enough from a run-of-the-mill sweet soda that it's worth a try simply for the novelty of the experience.

And the lemon elderflower offering? Similarly unique, but not to the same degree. Like a Wink, Fresca, or Squirt type soda, but with more true lemon flavor and an unexpected flowery essence. I'd generally prefer the classic citrus sodas over this Trader Joe's beverage. Sonia thinks there's something guava-esque going on here. I don't know if I'd put it like that, but I do agree that there's an odd aftertaste vaguely similar to that of guava. It doesn't taste like guava per se, but it confuses the tongue in a similar manner, if that makes sense.

We both like the rhubarb & strawberry soda slightly more than the lemon elderflower one. I wasn't expecting that going into it, since I tend to enjoy any and all citrus sodas, and products like Strawberry Fanta are palatable, but certainly not the first drink I'd reach for on a regular basis.

Considering the diminutive size of these cans, I think $3.49 is a bit steep. Each 8.4 oz can is just barely enough to quench my thirst at any given moment. I could easily go through all four in a single day. The quality here is very high. Good ingredients. Interesting flavors. Sonia and I would both consider buying the rhubarb & strawberry again for a special occasion. Sonia will go with four and a half stars on the strawberry and an even four for the lemon. I'll go a full star less than that on both.

Trader Joe's Rhubarb & Strawberry Soda: Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Trader Joe's Lemon Elderflower Soda: Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Trader Joe's Tahini, Pepita & Apricot Slaw Kit

This probably doesn't come as any sort of huge surprise or shocker, but...salad, in general, doesn't really excite me.

Most veggies are perfectly fine. I can eat broccoli, Brussel sprouts, squash, etc all day long. At the continued shock of my coworkers, I'll happily eat plain raw spinach at my desk. Aside from beets, off the top of my head, there's not a single vegetable I can think of that I don't like...still, salad leaves me ambivalent at best.

Maybe it's mixing up veggies. Maybe it's my usual distaste for many salad dressings. Or maybe it's just kinda the boring hum-drum that I find most salads to be, especially of the pre-packaged variety.

All that to say, I was kinda excited to try out Trader Joe's Tahini, Pepita & Apricot Slaw Kit. Don't let the name fool you - slaw? Psshhh. It's salad all chopped up in shreds.

I wish I didn't get my hopes up so high.

There's nothing inherently wrong with the slaw kit. But there's nothing overly right, either. It's the same usual base blend of carrots, broccoli stalks, cabbage and kale in roughly equal proportion to one another. That part is good, but formulaic enough now for TJ's kits that it's not exactly meant as a heap of praise either. It's just kinda a given at this point. Fresh, crisp, crunchy, all that excellent stuff...

...but moving on to what should be the exciting stuff, right? The extras and mix-ins! This is where salads make or break it. First up: dried apricot tidbits! Always a fun add...if there were enough to go around. Not this time. We got only a small spoonful which is hard to split up in multiple meaningful portions. A small nice touch, as were the pepitas, for a little crunch and all, but again nothing too remarkable.

And the dressing? Ugh. "Tahini orange" it says. So sesame, with a citrus flair, so it could work, but there's also this vinegar-y presence that kinda muffs it all up. Much like my three year old when choosing between dinosaurs or trucks for her night-night pull-up, it's just so indecisive and kinda frustrating. Like, it should be good, but instead just gets in its own way. Sandy said it kinda tastes like nothing. I disagree - it tastes like something, just I have no idea what it should be. And instead of tying up the whole salad as a nice cohesive dish, it kinda makes the salad a turnoff.

Oh well. It's not a terrible price at $3, and I appreciate the ampersand in the title for what it's worth. They seem to be disappearing from TJ product names, as are the different Joes from around the world. Times are a-changin' I guess. But my general ambivalence towards salads is not. Both Sandy and I give it a pretty middlin' score.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Tahini, Pepita & Apricot Slaw Kit: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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