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Friday, August 31, 2018

Trader Joe's High Rye Bourbon

If you ever find yourself passing through Louisville, KY on a Tuesday afternoon with a few hours to kill, and a crew of small kids in tow, and you're a little thirsty either before or after going to the absolutely awesome Lousiville Slugger Museum and Sandy and I found ourselves recently...may we suggest the Evan Williams Experience?

Seriously. Few distelleries are open on Tuesdays, even fewer are kid friendly. EW is the exception. Friendly folks, interactive tour that's fun and informative (will even keep kid's attention for the most part), capped off with a short tasting of different EW offerings at the end. It's really when tasted side-by-side that different charcteristics of different bourbon offerings stand out. It actually kinda hit for the first time the difference between the even keel of a typical base mixed barrel offering versus the milder undertones of single barrel. We picked up a few bottles there for sure...

...then headed over to the Louisville TJ's for even more bourbon, because, you know, Kentucky. Why not? Can't exactly get TJ's hard stuff just anywhere.  We picked up an old favorite but in spirit of adventure also chose Trader Joe's High Rye Bourbon. Not a bad price at $19.99.

And of course for sake of comparision I had to try the two side by side. Did that again just now. So the rest of this review oughtta be fun.

At 84 proof, I expected more burn to be honest. But it's not here in the rye variant. The regular ol TJ's straight sure can, as I semi-coughingly reminded myself. Nah, it's much more even and mellow here, with still a semi-fiery undertone. But man oh man...the rye. There's a lot of it, as one would expect. I'm learning to appreciate it, slowly but surely. I feel like it may be somewhat akin to hoppy beers, in that bourbons high in rye would also be a somewhat acquired taste. The mix mash here is 70% corn and 30% rye, so there's definitely a heavy-handed grainy taste here that I'm not accustomed to. Most bourbons seem to be 10% rye or less. A little ice mellows it out, and blossoms some slightly sweet elements.

And sorry, but I laugh at the label note that says "aged in new charred barrels." That's literally every bourbon. It's like listing Cherrios as cholesterol-free, in that it's a given. It's an actual legal requirement for any bourbon to be considered a bourbon to be aged in a newly charred barrel.

It's a sipper meant to be enjoyed slowly, for sure. If I were still into cigars, I'd imagine the two going well hand-in-hand...but I haven't smoked one in years. I've been working my way thru the bottle slowly, as it does go down easily enough, but at the end I'm not sure I'll make it a point to seek out more rye bourbons. I feel it's a drink I can respect and appreciate for what it is, but not completely savor, if that follows. Sandy does enjoy bourbon but more or less is taking a pass at this one. I'd say it's decent enough for what it is, especially at a fairly reasonable (to me) price. Thanks Pennsylvania and your government-run spirit shops. Gonna go with a seven here overall.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's High Rye Bourbon: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Trader Joe's Thai Tea Mini Mochi

I'm not sure when I was first introduced to it, but I've been a fan of Thai iced tea for a long time now. If you're ever at a good Thai place, definitely try the Thai iced tea. Some restaurants make it better than others, but when it's good, it's absolutely delicious. I'm pretty sure it's a type of black tea, but with plenty of coconut milk and sugar up in the mix. When it's served, there's a cool layered effect with white at the top, black on the bottom, and a nice orange-brown in the middle—check out the photo in this article.

These mochi bites captured the flavor fairly well, but both Sonia and I thought it was a little less sweet than the Thai iced tea we're used to. Sonia was fine with that. Since they're definitely a dessert food, I wouldn't have minded them a little sweeter, but they're still pretty tasty the way they are.

I also thought they overdid it with the flour on the outside of the gelatinous shells. The mochis were absolutely covered in the stuff. At first, I thought it might have been powdered sugar, but it wasn't sweet. A couple times, I actually coughed from inhaling some of it. 

The pic above was taken immediately after our 25 minute drive home from TJ's. They melted a little in the sweltering heat and a tiny bit of ice cream jumped out of their shells—fortunate for the sake of the pic in that you can see the color and texture of the actual ice cream there in the top two corners of the tray.

Other mochis we've tried from TJ's are all significantly larger than these. I guess that's why these are called "mini mochi." You could theoretically pop the entire mochi ball into your mouth in one bite, but you might suffer some serious brain freeze. I preferred to eat them in two small bites. 

With a serving size of 6 pieces and 210 calories, this is one of the more satisfying dessert foods we've seen in a while. Also, they're dairy-free, using coconut milk instead of cow's milk, but they're still nice and creamy. The tapioca and rice-based shells are soft and thin, just like we've seen from other Trader Joe's mochi offerings.

Sonia gives these ice cream treats four and a half stars. I give them four. $3.49 for 15 mini mochi balls.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Trader Joe's Black Licorice Treads

Tire treads can be awfully scary or just plain awful.

Two quick stories: Couple years ago, got on the PA Turnpike. Less than five minutes into a 300 mile drive, an 18 wheeler blew a tire as I was passing them. Tread tore right off and flew right towards our windshield. I thought we were goners...but some real nifty air current wind tunnel vortex-type voodoo (or just maybe the hand of God)  caught it and sailed right over us and onto the empty lane behind us. I don't think I breathed for the next hundred miles.

Another time, not as dire but didn't work out as well: Totally ran over a tire tread on the highway and busted up the whole underside of our car. Stopped at a truck stop for duct tape to make it the rest of the way home. Got "bit by an alligator" in trucker lingo, apparently. Almost $1000 in damage in an instant.

Fortunately, Trader Joe's Black Licorice Treads are of a happier variant. I mean, it's candy. They'd never make a candy version of anything harmful or awful or anything, right? These are totally candy sticks! 

Anyways, think a flattened out black Twizzler plank, and that's about what we got here. I'd approximate each TJ tread at about three Twizzler's worth, maybe four. Biting into a piece definitely gives about the same satisfaction as biting into multiple Twizzlers but is a little softer and less thick overall. Maybe it's the lack of airtube in the middle, which sadly means I can't make double use of them as a straw. Doh.

The flavor is a little different, though. I'd admit I'm used to black licorice being flavored mostly by anise, and there's a little bit of that to be had here. But most of the flavor seems to come more from actual licorice root, with which I'm not as familiar. I wouldn't say it's rich or vibrant or deep or whatever adjectives the packaging uses. It's more subtle and subdued, and it takes a few chews to get really worked out. Maybe it's only because it's a little different from a Twizzler and it has TJ's name on it, but I kinda want to say almost "more refined." Interpret as you wish, I'm an unabashed TJ's fanboy.

Good licorice treads for real. Would have been ideal for our recent road trip, on which we somehow avoided any vehicular shenanigans of any sort. As my family says when it's all good, "No dents, no tickets." Good approach here, as these are pretty good snackers I probably won't tire of. Give them a spin. Hoping I'm not inflating too much when I say double fours. Okay, this is getting worn out...

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Black Licorice Treads: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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