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Monday, June 4, 2018

Trader Joe's Gone Berry Crazy!

Ever had Shari's Berries? Delicious, right? They also cost an arm and a leg. I mean, sure, the presentation is fancy, and the berries are near-perfect, but they start at about $20 plus shipping and handling. Also, who wants to just sit and wait, fingers crossed, hoping that FedEx will actually get the address right and not just toss the package haphazardly onto the porch from the street? Not me, that's for sure.

Now you can enjoy high-quality chocolate-covered strawberries for just $2.29 right from your neighborhood Trader Joe's. Heck yes. Remember Trader Joe's Gone Bananas!? Same concept, similar packaging, only guessed it: strawberries instead of bananas.

The berries come frozen, but they're in excellent condition, flaunting beautiful red hues, sweet strawberry taste, and the perfect amount of firmness. They're supposed to be served frozen, and we can testify that they're awesome that way—although just slightly thawed works just as well if you can wait that long to eat them.

There are approximately two dozen strawberries in each box. Most of the berries are relatively small—about the size of the tip of my thumb—but we did find some size variation in each box. A few were quite large. The outer layer of chocolate is fairly thin, but it's more than enough to balance out the taste of the strawberries. It's a dark chocolate, so it's not too sweet.

Back in 2011, when Gone Bananas! were still new, I shared a story about Sonia and a toxic chocolate banana from a shady Southland street vendor. As a result, that product narrowly missed a shot at immortalization in our blog's elite Pantheon of great foods. My wife's never met a strawberry she didn't like. Five out of five stars from her. I absolutely loved this product, but in all honesty, I think I like the chocolate banana combo just slightly more than these. Still, I won't deny them the score they deserve: four and a half out of five from me.

Bottom line: 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Trader Joe's Vegan Cream Cheese Alternative

It's nice when we can tell a certain group of diet-restricted readers that a product that's okay for them is every bit as good as the "normal" version. Sonia will tell you that's almost the case here. I will beg to differ. If I were, in fact, on a strict vegan diet, I would just skip cream cheese altogether rather than settle for an odd imitation like this.

Mind you, I'm not comparing this product to other vegan cream cheese spreads, because I've never had any other plain vegan cream cheese spreads. Yes, I know, I's unfair to compare a vegan product with a real dairy product, especially since I'm not a vegan, but there's always the hope that it'll be a brilliant surprise like the recently-reviewed garlic spread dip was.

Speaking of garlic spread dip, it's remarkably similar in texture and appearance to this product. Come to think of it, the taste is quite similar, as well—minus the garlic, of course. And since there's essentially no flavor at all other than garlic in the garlic spread, what I'm trying to say is that this "cream cheese" is extremely bland—totally void of any true cream flavor. It's just a couple of oils mixed with salt and stuff, as well as "vegan culture." Interesting. I knew vegans had a culture all their own, and that "vegan culture is on the rise," but I didn't know you could pack that whole way of life into a spreadable condiment. Now I know better.

Just kidding. I'm sure that's referring to some kind of bacterial culture, which kind of grosses me out. I guess it's no weirder than cultures grown in cow's milk, though...which is also pretty weird if you start thinking about it too much.

Sonia had this spread with some jelly and bread and really liked it that way. She says she can tell the difference between this product and regular cream cheese, but she thinks the difference is negligible. I must admit, it does knife out of the tub and spread very similarly to traditional cream cheese. I just had it on plain bread, and I felt it added very little in terms of flavor. After consuming, I felt a little goofy, too—like one might feel after consuming too much oil. My stomach was a bit upset and began complaining audibly. That's never something I'm looking for in a condiment.

I think this is about a two star affair here for me. Sonia gives it the thumbs up, though. Put her down for four stars. Any vegans in the house? I'm curious as to how you feel about it. Let us know in the comments below.

Bottom line: 6 out of 10.

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