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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Trader Joe's Deep Dish Chocolate Chip Cookie

In addition to fraternity hazing deaths, sports victory-inspired riots, and a few other things too heinous to even mention on this blog, my alma mater, Penn State, was well-known at least regionally, if not internationally, for a number of less controversial things—at least while I attended. There was the famous Berkey Creamery, mentioned previously several times on this blog. There was THON, the largest student-run philanthropy in existence. And then there were colorful—although some might use the term "legendary"—long-time residents like Mike the MailmanZam Man the zamboni driver, and Gary the Willard Preacher

And in between painful morning gen ed classes and those mandatory phys ed credits that manifested themselves in the form of underwater basket weaving or, in my case, squash, we'd duck in to the cafeteria at West Halls for some grub. Everybody knew they had the best food of any of the half-dozen or so dining commons on campus, and it was close to many of the larger classroom buildings. The food was always warm and fresh and somehow tasted less "institutional" than the other cafeterias. You'd meet your friends outside Waring Commons and then head in out of the cold for an hour or so to recover your strength and inhale a chicken cosmo or two...and it was all building up to one grand moment:  when the lunch ladies put a tray of piping hot, fresh-baked, ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies out on the dessert window.

Eighty percent of the room would hop out of their seats and rush to claim their cookies. In most cases, students would have prepared a glass of milk beforehand to have on stand-by. In other cases, they'd rush to the soft-serve machine to top their cookies with some vanilla ice cream. For a few minutes, we'd all commune in a moment of pure bliss greater than that following a win at Beaver Stadium, an aced mid-term, or finding out that your favorite band just booked a show at The Crowbar. Chocolate Chip Cookie Nirvana.

This offering from Trader Joe's is the closest thing to that particular brand of ecstasy since those days at Dear Old State. It's got the perfect amount of smooth chocolate chips and soft, chewy sweet cookie goodness. Like the West Halls cookies, this one is best served fresh out of the oven, accompanied by generous quantities of milk and/or vanilla ice cream. The "deep dish" breading is much thicker than any traditional chocolate chip cookie I've ever had, but that's just another reason this confection rocks. The box includes microwave directions...but I'm going to go out on a limb and tell you to just go ahead and fire up the oven for this one.

It comes with an oven-safe tray, and it's very easy to heat, slice, and prepare. Despite its extreme softness, the cookie still maintained enough structural integrity that I was able to pull most of the slices out fully intact. The product melts in your mouth, goes down nice and easy, and would pass for restaurant-quality with flying colors.

The cookie sells for $3.99—a fair price, considering you're paying for quality ingredients and unadulterated scrumptiousness...but good luck getting 10 servings out of it. It's probably more like four.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Trader Joe's Queso Cheese Dip

So this weekend is the Super Bowl!


A couple years ago, I could plop down, turn any old football game (much less the biggest one of the year) and be reasonably entertained. These days? Not so much. Not exactly sure why, but pigskin doesn't have the same appeal to me in the past few seasons. I didn't even watch the Super Bowl, opting for a date out with my wife including going to emptiest Cheesecake Factory ever. I've watched maybe five games over the past three seasons. My guess is, watching a bunch of big guys in tights run around, fight over a ball, smack each other senseless with concussions, only for every play to be dissected in slo-mo for ten agonizing minutes on "instant replay" with continued live look-ins to whatever funny grimace the head coach is making just doesn't hold the same appeal to me, and for my small amount of attention I can give the sports world, I choose to devote it to baseball.

It's kinda the same for Trader Joe's Queso Cheese Dip. I'm not sure how this blog has been around for like eight years and we've never mentioned this product...but it's true. If the TJ queso would have come up in review rotation years back, I'd probably LOVE this stuff. I mean, it's semi-spicy-salsafied cheese, how can it go wrong?

Well, for whatever reason, it just doesn't cut it for me any more. Sandy and I picked up the diminutive jar for a recent taco night in the name of trying something different. Shoulda sticked to the classics. The cheese is kinda runny and gloppy and absolutely needs to be warmed to be palatable. I tried some cold just now to revisit the taste - cold, clammy, and kinda booger-y. Not recommended.

It's apparently some sort of cheese blend that's primarily cheddar according to the ingredient label. I will grant that it's better quality nacho cheese than the stadium standard yellow sauce. But not by all that much. There's still a fake, salty taste to it. The spices and peppers do convey a little warm heat, but is generally inoffensive. If anything, it tastes a little more towards pickled and vinegar than actual heat. Overall, it's just not an impressive product.

Anyways, if you need a dip for the game, go for it. You could do worse, I'm sure. But I'll be looking for something else, as I am planning on watching at least some this weekend. I grew up an Eagles fan and am watching more out of obligation than anything, even though I can't tell you in 100% certainty if Doug Pederson is the head coach or quarterback after that Wentz guy got some sort of big ouchie. Won't have too much feeling about the outcome either way, I'm sure. Kinda the same for the TJ queso dip - mehs abound.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Queso Cheese Dip: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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