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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Trader Joe's Shawarma Chicken Thighs

During my days in Hollyweird, California, a Lebanese restaurant called Roro's was brought to my attention by a co-worker. Not only was it affordable and delicious, but it happened to be situated exactly halfway between my apartment and my place of employment. 

I walked to work in those days, so I could easily pop in and out of the tiny hole-in-the-wall establishment without having to battle chaotic L.A. traffic and the tragically undersized and congested parking lot of the building in question, which I fondly referred to as "Satan's Strip Mall" by virtue of its address at 6660 Sunset Blvd—not to mention the apparently demon-possessed folks who frequented the area. 

It was there I fell in love with chicken shawarma. I never got anything else. I ate it for lunch or dinner at least once or twice a week for a number of years.

Since then, I've tried chicken shawarma from a few other places. Each was tasty, but there will always be a place in my heart for Roro's. And if you live in the Los Angeles area, but have no desire to venture into the Dark Land of Mordor, AKA Hollywood, Zankou Chicken is a close second-favorite of mine for shawarma, with locations conveniently scattered about the Southland.

And then there's this stuff from Trader Joe's. I have mixed feelings, as does Sonia.

Flavor-wise this offering lacks the tang of the chicken shawarma that I'm used to. I'm accustomed to shawarma marinated in yogurt with a good bit of lemony zing. Most chicken shawarma recipes you'll find online include a significant amount of lemon juice, and while this product does include "lemon juice" in its ingredients, I think the citrus flavor gets lost under the rest of the spices. And, alas, no yogurt. There's almost an Indian spice flavor here. Maybe it's the turmeric?

It's not a bad flavor. It's just not quite what I was expecting.

The texture is even further from my expectations. This chicken is much thicker and chewier than any shawarma I've ever had. The instructions do say to "slice" before serving—something we neglected to do with our first serving (pictured above). With subsequent attempts, we sliced it as thinly as we could, and I will say that the product works much better with smaller chunks of chicken, particularly when they're mixed with other Mediterranean foods. But still, there's just enough fat or gristle content in most pieces of chicken (at least in the package that we obtained) that it lacks the melt-in-your-mouth perfection of restaurant-quality shawarma.

All in all, the chicken still went well with Trader Joe's Apocryphal Pita and Roasted Garlic Hummus, as well as some tabbouleh. The meal wasn't unsatisfying at all, despite the product's shortcomings. I think I'd have enjoyed it far more if I'd never had good shawarma and lacked any expectations. It could be that TJ's offering mimics Turkish shawarma or some other regional variant of the Middle Eastern dish, while I'm primarily only familiar with the Lebanese version. 

Our package was $6.69, but price will vary by weight. Ours was one of the lowest-priced that we saw. We were able to get about four reasonably-sized servings out of it.

I'll be generous and throw down three and a half stars. Sonia gives it three and a half as well.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Trader Joe's Chocolate Caramel Yolkies

So if chocolate milk comes from chocolate cows...chocolate eggs come from chocolate chickens, right? That's gotta be how that works.

Don't laugh. Easter is coming up soon, and among many other things, that means it's Cadbury Creme Egg season. They have to come from somewhere. A factory? That's laughable. A chocolate chicken farm must exist, even if only in some Wonkaified version of reality, with those choco-chickens laying choco-eggs, and occasionally one or two of them drop and crack...

...because where else would we get Trader Joe's Chocolate Caramel Yolkies from? It's science, right?

All kidding aside, here's our first somewhat seasonally themed installment of yet even more holiday candy. You know, because the recent gauntlet of Halloween, Christmas and Valentine's Day wasn't quite enough...I digress. These eggies appear to be a fun novelty type item, and hey, it 's chocolate, can't be a bad thing, right? Right?


"Bad" isn't the right word for the TJ yolkies. But "delicious" isn't quite yet either. As you can see, it's milk chocolate exterior, with a pool of white chocolate inside, with a yellow mounded candy melt-type construction atop, all made to resemble some sort of egg/square hybrid. The whole shebang is a little heftier than they look.

Oh, and inside that that yellow dome is a teeny itty bitty squirt of caramel sauce, to be resemble something like a runny egg yolk. It'd work....if there were more caramel. There's barely any! That leaves the whole candy seeming like a big square of, in all, fairly nondescript chocolate. Good chocolate, but pretty plain.

I could see these being a fun toss in for a kid's Easter basket. At $2.69, it's not an awful price for something kinda fun. Most likely though, it'd leave something to be desired for us big kids. Sandy didn't even bother finishing hers and said, somewhat dejectedly, "I feel like I wasted my treat tonight." Ouch. I'm not quite that forlorn, but I'd be okay with them not coming around again, either. No offense to the chocolate chickens, but they definitely did kinda lay an egg here.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Chocolate Caramel Yolkies: 4 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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