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Friday, September 14, 2018

Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread

A few posts ago, there was a link in there about wine "experts" having their opinion swayed by the label. Product presentation affects perception, right? Seems like kinda no-brainer. Tell me what it is, I can judge adequately. Blind taste tests are tougher (yet perhaps fairer) in that something can be judged on its own merits. And maybe labels can make you "taste" something that kinda isn't there.

Mentioning this in reference to Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread because, honestly, if I didn't know it was trying to taste like carrot cake, I probably wouldn't have guessed it right off the bat. It's kinda an odd concoction...but oddly good.

Let's do this hypothetically blindfolded. First words I would say are chunky, almost like a marmalade. Except it's little bits of matter instead of orange peel or whatever. But there's absolutely a jammy marmalade vibe. Then, sweet. Very sweet. I'd pick up on apples right away, then probably pineapple for a slightly tart taste. Then, spicy. Not overly. I'd say ginger primarily, maybe a little cinnamon too. Then, super sweet, lots of sugar. Almost too cloyingly sweet but it sorta reins it in a smidge.

Blindfold off...hey, what are those little orangey doodads mixed in with pineappley tidbits? Are they...carrots? I guess? Wha?

Makes sense, I guess. Carrots really don't taste like much by themselves, and there's enough other stuff going on here.

Does it taste like carrot cake then? Meh....not sure. When I think carrot cake, my mind defaults more to it being a vehicle for cream cheese frosting inhalation, not a super sugary cake by its lonesome. Indeed, nekkid carrot cake would sway more towards savory in my opinion, while this TJ's carrot spread is undeniably sweet and sugary. So I wouldn't say it tastes just like carrot cake...but seeing the label, a little, I can see what TJ's is going for here. It kinda works.

All that aside, though, it's a good spread. Sandy and I spread some out on graham crackers for a post-dinner snacky that our kiddos turned up their noses at. Sandy's plotting a bagel and cream cheese run to use so we can try that, and she's intrigued by the jar's suggestion to try on pork. All that seems like it'd work to me, so why not? Most other uses you can think would probably work, exccept probably not as the J in a PB&J. I kinda want to mix it up with a can of cream cheese frosting, get a big spoon, and get shameful myself.

Still, I just can't shake that the carrot cake jelly is a bit too sweet and perhaps a little off the mark. Maybe if labelled as Spiced Pineapple with Carrot or something goofy like that, I'd be a bit more on board with the general concept. You see, it's messing with me here...quitting while I'm somewhat ahead.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Carrot Cake Spread: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Trader Joe's 100% Arabica Cold Brew Coffee

That cold brew coffee is so hot right now.

I won't deliver my usual spiel about how I'm not a regular coffee drinker. I'll let Sonia take the helm for this review. By that I mean this post will be mostly me interviewing my wife and transcribing her thoughts, since she's the resident java expert in our household.

Sonia has had cold brew coffee from Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks, and Wawa, among others. As far as brands on our local grocery store shelves, she's sampled Stumptown, Stok, and Califia. She thinks this one is among the best, flavor-wise, but in terms of overall value, she'd put this at the very top of her list, with this one quart bottle running $4.99 at our local Trader Joe's.

The flavor is "smooth," as the packaging would suggest, but it's not particularly "bold" in Sonia's opinion. "The flavor is full-bodied, but it's not overly strong. It says 'bold,' but the taste is actually pretty subtle," says Sonia. "A lot of brands taste a little too earthy for me—they leave an almost cigar-like aftertaste—but this one is nicely balanced, with low to moderate acidity." She's fine with this brew straight out of the bottle by itself, but often she'll add a small amount of almond-based creamer that includes some sugar. 

This cold brew uses 100% arabica coffee beans from Colombia, home of Juan Valdez and, apparently, some other folks connected to Trader Joe who know how to make decent coffee.

Personally, I've always measured the success of a coffee by how much sugar and cream I have to add to make it palatable. I could stomach this offering with no additives whatsoever, but it's still not my very favorite. This is an instance where a hint of some kind of flavor would have worked for me. I'm well aware that most coffee purists would disagree. Sonia was fine with it this way, although she admits she'd try a mocha, hazelnut, or vanilla variety if they offered it.

We both prefer cold beverages in warmer weather, and we've still got a bit of that here in South Jersey, although we'll both welcome fall with open arms whenever it decides to show up. With highs still in the 80s around here, cold brew coffee serves us well. Sonia gives this product four and a half stars. I'd probably only go with three, but I'll let Sonia's opinion temper my low score and I'll go a little higher with three and a half.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Trader Joe's Sparkling Coconut Water with Yuzu

It's merely a fact of life that sometimes things come a little too late.

Such it is with Trader Joe's Sparkling Coconut Water with Yuzu for us.

It's gearing towards mid-September here, but last week, it was HOTT here in the 'burgh, like in the mid-90's and very humid. Such a day would have been notable but acceptable in, say, June or July...but September? After Labor Day? Awwww heck no! Though not equinoxically correct, summer's over by then! I spent the day going from place to place to scoree free AC without getting cited for loitering.

Two days later...our local TJ's gets this new cocount water in. It screams summer refreshment...but we just spent a whole weekend in the 50s and low 60s, extremely rainy to boot, almost jeans and hoodie weather. I'm not complaining about that one bit, really, but as much as I like this coco-water, I'd like it even more when it's hot and sticky.

Oh well. Gotta dance with which you've been dealt. It's delicious water, really. There's just enough carbonation in there to keep me from guzzling the whole somewhat dimunutive can at once, which is a good thing. It's certainly not as carbonated as a soda or anything like that.

But, man, the flavor...good stuff. The coconut flavor really shines through with sweetness, though not overkill by any stretch. And the yuzu adds a perfect accent. This isn't our first TJ's yuzu product, so I kinda knew a little what to expect, but if you're not familiar with the fruit, here ya go.  It kinda tastes like mild grapefruit with maybe a little orange or lemon, but not bitter or overly acidic or anything. It's a very mild, pleasant flavor that's uber refreshing when ice cold.

There's parts of me that wishes it came in a larger can. At $3.99 for the 4 pack, it's a comparable price point for most other beverages of its ilk, but I somewhat feel it's a little small for a buck per can. That's probably just me being cheap, though, and it'll be a repeat buy for sure. As is, if I let it settle for a bit, there's enough water in a can to quench my thirst and kinda fill me up a little too because of the fiber from the coconut. So it's probably a proper size...I just like it too much, is all.

Go get some before it's too late!

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Sparkling Coconut Water with Yuzu: 8.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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