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Monday, July 30, 2018

Trader Joe's Milk & Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Bits Bar

I really can't believe what I'm about to write here...

...but, skipping all formalities and warmth and fuzziness, don't bother with Trader Joe's Milk & Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Bits Bar. At all. It's completely unenjoyable and will make you question who thought of such of an awful concoction.

No, this isn't some sort of warped attempt to dissuade all potential buyers so I can corner the market and stockpile all of them for myself. I'm serious. Don't' Buy. Ever. I don't care that it's $1.79 and sounds delicious, because that's exactly how Sandy and I got suckered in during a recent trip that we made while bordering on raging hangriness.

I'll give it this much, as it's only postive point. The chocolate, both the milk and dark (as nicely swirled on the bottom of the bar), are delicious. If you know TJ's chocolate, you know it's pretty much always on point. That's the case here, and the milk and the dark meld together nicely in a contrasting tones of creamy and solid, with sweetness and depth. That part is good, but it's what's kinda expected at this point.

Everything else? Awful. Butterscotch bits? Are you kidding me? There's probably more butterscotch bits in Milton Hershey's couch cushions than in this bar. I detected a few crystallized crumbs here and there, but it could be anything in the world, there's not enough to detect any hint of butterscotch. In the half a bar I ate, I encountered a possible butterscotch essence maybe once. It could have been miniscule bits of gravel in there for all I could tell.

But it gets worse. This is one chocolate bar that's actually painful to eat. How to'd be better if we took a picture of it but we thought the bottom swirls were pretty and more photogenic before cramming in the piehole. It's one of those bars alternates in form between divots and chunks. Like plateaus and valleys, so as to segment a bar, or as Sandy more succinctly put it, a beefed-up Toberlone candy bar. That's fine...but the "plateaus" are so tall and steep, yet so small with so little space between them, that biting into one of these is a nightmare. Your teeth naturally go sledding downhill, leaving the plateaued parts to jab your in the gums. I'm not making this up. Sandy had much the same experience. I guess, maybe in retrospect, if eaten one segment at a time and consumed sideways, it could have worked better...but still. it's as if whoever came up with the form of this bar didn't understand teeth or resented poeple who had them. It hurts. And this isn't a case of it getting too hard because of being in the fridge or freezer these hot summer months...we ate it within an hour of purchase, so it was basically at warmish room temperature.

And to top it off, it's a ten segment bar, with the chocolate bar consisting of three servings per the label. "That's not even fair or right!" Sandy the serving-size policewoman expressed dejectedly. 

Not a fan. At all. A little butterscotch could have redeemed the bar quite a bit, but I'm grasping at saying much of anything nice. Quality chocolate can be had very easily at TJ's, with actual other flavors mixed in, and so far not any other one made my mouth hurt. In all, this TJ's butterscotch chocolate bar is one of the most disappointing purchases I've ever made at TJ's, rivaled perhaps only by these failures. Maybe this is just some built up angst and spite, but I'm going zero here, while Sandy chimes in with a one simply because it's chocolate.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Milk & Dark Chocolate Butterscotch Bits Bar: 1 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, July 27, 2018

Trader Joe's Creamy Polenta

Usually, when Sonia's home, she insists on doing the cooking. I'll admit, she's a little more skilled in the culinary arts than I am, but she's so adamant about always doing the kitchen stuff, I'm beginning to think she has serious doubts about my competence. I don't blame her.

For one, she always insists on washing the skillet thoroughly between each meal. But I always make the point that the remnants of the last meal simply yield "more flavor" in whatever's being prepared currently. She disagrees. She says that idea is "just a guy thing." From what we've heard from other couples, there's not much disagreement on that point.

Fortunately, for this meal, I was home alone and was left to run amok, unchecked by my better half and her pretentious ideas about culinary propriety. There were remnants of a makeshift stir-fry in the pan. I left it there. I mean, I took out the actual food—at first. But I left the remnants in there without washing anything. It was mostly bits of onion with a few shards of green bean and a thin coating of olive oil.

I'm sure this polenta would have been delightful without the onions, green beans, and olive oil, but I'm pretty sure they didn't hurt either. In fact, I liked them with the polenta so much, that I later mixed in the actual leftover stir-fry. Delish.

But I made sure to try the polenta by itself for the sake of this review. Thanks to reader Carissa E, who left a comment on this English muffin review from 2014 encouraging us to try this polenta. She says she'd give it an 11 out of 10. Sorry, Carissa. The scale only goes to 10. 

"These go to 11," right?

I must admit, it's pretty tasty, though. It's very creamy, as the name would suggest. When frozen, the "cream" comes in the form of large pellets that look like oversized white chocolate kisses. There's lots of spinach and plenty of carrot bits. The texture is indeed creamalicious. It's thicker than a soup, but still much more mushy than solid. The carrots didn't add a whole lot to the taste, but they lend a bit of substance to the otherwise porridge-like consistency.

It's got a savory flavor, with plenty of spinach taste to it. There's a buttery/milky flavor, as well. It's a nice comforting taste, with an almost homemade-quality to it. I agree with Carissa that it's much better than the Polenta Provencale. Sonia wishes there were a little more pepper and garlic seasoning in this dish, but was very happy with it other than that. It doesn't say gluten-free on the bag, but we're wondering why it wouldn't be. Cornmeal shouldn't have gluten, should it?

Four stars a piece here.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Waffle Cones and Trader Joe's Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream

We haven't crossed too terribly much off the family bucket list this summer, but one thing we've done without fail: go out to a different ice cream shop every week. And not a Coldstone or Baskin Robbins either, but an independent, roadside type place. Without fail...and it's been awesome.

But there's a problem. See, I like waffle cones, a lot. And the Good Lord, when I was born, decided to grace with a tremendous underbite that I have declined to ever get fixed. Surgically breaking and resetting a jaw and being subjected to a summer at home with Mom and Dad eating baby food during college when instead I could be off at campus didn't seem like fun. To help cover this up, and also because without it I look like a 14 year old with an hyperactive pituitary gland, I have grown a fairly large, bushy beard. The wife loves it and won't let me do more than an occasional trim.

As a result, between my wacky jaw and crazy beard, it's impossible for me to eat an ice cream neatly. I've tried all sorts of different techniques...nope. It cannot be done. My three year old is neater than me, and we usually have to hose her off. Strangers gasp. Kids stare. Napkins cringe. It's bad.

Fortunately, bettween Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Waffle Cones, and, say, Trader Joe Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream, I can contain my embarrassment at home.

Waffle cones at first. A good waffle cone, in of itself, is one of life's simple pleasures. Why settle for one of those styrofoam type deals...when you can get a waffle cone? These TJ cones are no exception. They're appropriately thick and sturdy, with enough space to amply hold a couple scoops. That's key. When bitten into, there's lots of crunch-and-munch-ability, with little chance of these guys getting soggy. But then there's an added bonus: there's a sweet, almost creamy, vanilla flavor shining through the batter that adds a really nice little touch. Really, these are pretty greta cones, and at $2.99 for a dozen, not a bad deal. Most ice cream shops charge what, an extra 50 cents (at least) for a waffle cone? These are 25 cents each! Nice!

As for the Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream...meh. It's decent ice cream, don't get me wrong. But chocolate by itself doesn't quite get my motor running. That being said, the TJ's chocolate ice cream is better than average chocolate. The cocoa flavor is rich with depth and is fairly potent, more than a typical chocolate. It's probably a good thing there aren't any mix-ins or added flavors as they would probably be overpowered. And from seeing how hard this ice cream freezes, it's made from good quality ingredients too. Lots of milk and cream and eggs and the like. In all, pretty good, even if it's not all my thing. If you're a chocoholic, though? You'll be all over this.

The waffle cones will be a summer staple, for sure. We do ice cream far more than we should at's hot and we ahve no AC and get tired and cranky easily. Don't judge. As for the ice cream? It'll be in and out, I think. Neither Sandy nor I are huge fans but our kids sure are, and by God, if it'll help them eat anything other than mac and cheese for dinner, we're for it. Waffle cones earn near top marks, while the ultra chocolate ice crwam comes in a little behind.

Bottom lines: Trader Joe's Old Fashioned Waffle Cones: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons and Trader Joe;s Ultra Chocolate Ice Cream: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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