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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts

Nope, still not going there. Nathan caved first...I'm holding strong with my "alternative tastes of fall" binge for as long as possible!

If you ever find yourself driving along Rt 100 in Waterbury, VT, chances are you'll stop for ice cream and maybe the tour at the Ben & Jerry's Factory. Been there probably 100 times on vacation, as my family vacationed in Vermont almost every summer for years. We still occasionally do. And dang it, we love ice cream. But there's much more to be had on that stretch of road. There's a Cabot cheese outlet annex store (oodles of free samples) and also Cold Hollow Cider Mill...with more free samples...and freshly made cider donuts to die for.

No, Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts don't hold up against Cold Hollow's, or probably any local apple orchard that makes their own cider donuts. There's just too much to be said for freshmade from a local source that make cider donuts an undeniable treat.

But if you're not anywhere close to anywhere that makes cider donuts and these TJ's ones are available, it's a more than adequate consolation prize.

These cider donuts from TJ's are thick and dense and cakey. There's nothing light and airy about them at all. The distinct lack of overall greasiness to me that suggests perhaps they're baked and not fried.

Biting into the dough past the cinnamon and sugar sprinkled outside, there's subtle appley sweetness with a little twinge of typical cider spices like nutmeg and clove. Admittedly, tthese particular cider donuts, as with most, aren't an overwhelming flavor experience, but go more for a comfort vibe. Eating one of these is good enough to hold me over for several hours, which is no easy task, and certainly not something an average donut could do.

Still, having had truly exceptional cider donuts both on vacation in VT and closer to home from our local orchard, I can say these TJ's ones just lack a little something. I can't think of it being anything other than freshness and local taste. I'm not calling them stale tasting, by any means, because they're not, but a donut made moments before consumption tastes much different than one that's been in a box for at least a day or two.

If you have no other options, go get 'em, you won't regret 'em. At $3.99 for the six pack, it's a good deal. I was happy enough to eat them alongside some coffee for breakfast the other morning, as well as enjoy part of one for a late night snack with a little bourbon. Our kids liked them but weren't wowed....just wait til I take them on vacation and stuff them full of free samples, donuts and ice cream right before they pass out for the long drive back home from Vermont, just like my dad used to do. Then they'll love cider donuts for sure.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Apple Cider Donuts: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons 

Friday, September 21, 2018

Trader Joe's Spiced Pumpkin Madeleine Cookies

Rejoice. It's that very special time again. It's that time of the year when it rains pumpkin spice products all across the western world. There'll be lattes for Suzy, and Kringles for Johnny, and muffins for Dick and for Jane. 

It's time to get basic—or, perhaps, basically awesome—depending upon your perspective. At any rate, let's get down to basics and talk about this: the first pumpkin spice product of 2018 here on our illustrious blog.

As noted previously, the first Trader Joe's pumpkin or pumpkin spice product of the season tends to have a distinct advantage over later offerings. It's a combination of pumpkin overload, heightened expectations, and social media steering us to the best products first and the "meh" products last. This year, it's no different.

Not that we heard a huge buzz about these on the interwebs prior to picking them up, but Sonia had definitely spotted them on Instamagram a couple times. "Instamagram." That's not an error. That's how I say it. Like when I say my home state, I call it "Pennsylmavania." It's funny. Homer Simpson-inspired. I add an extra syllable in the middle of words to amuse myself and, occasionally, others, because I'm basic like that. It just seems to work particularly well with Instamagram.

Sonia's a huge fan of it when I add my extra "ma" syllable to things. Know what else she's a huge fan of? Pumpkin stuff. Know what else? Madeleines—ahem, mademaleines. So these are like a dream come true for her. In fact, she actually said, "This is a dream come true for me" when she bit into her first cookie. She really, really enjoys these.

I like them too. They're sweet and punkinny. I think the pumpkin spice element is juuust a little too heavy-handed. I enjoy pumpkin spice to a degree, but I feel like it overshadows the natural butteriness of the madeleines slightly. Sonia thinks the balance is nearly perfect.

The texture of the cookies is very madeleine-esque—moist, soft, and spongy. We're both fans.

We both think $2.99 is a tad steep for six small cookies, but Sonia will quickly point out that madeleines tend to be on the pricier end of the cookie cost spectrum.

Sonia will kick off this pumpkin season with a four and a half star score and a big thumbs up. I'm on board for four stars and another vote for "yea" on these mademaleines.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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