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Friday, October 19, 2018

Trader Joe's Pumpkin Spice Cream Liqueur

Currently visiting a booze-friendly state, Sonia and I decided to check out what the local Joe's had to offer in the way of exotic libations. In addition to canned wines and the standard Josephsbrau offerings, we spied this gem wedged in between the Three Buck Chuck display and some non-TJ's brand pumpkin ales—relics left over from an America that still tolerated pumpkin spice.

Not surprisingly, this isn't the first pumpkin liqueur we've ever sampled. I'm quite certain we've had more than one other brand, in fact, but the names of most escape me at the moment—mainly because they were entirely unworthy of note. The one other brand that's not bad that I can still remember is Fulton's Harvest. This product is comparable, but both Sonia and I agree it's slightly better.

Like Fulton's Harvest, this beverage is thick and smooth—similar to Bailey's or any other cream liqueur, for those of you unfamiliar with the pumpkin varieties. It's creamy, syrupy, and velvety. It's nearly the same consistency as non-alcoholic dairy cream—although, in this case, it's like the cream you'd get from an alcoholic cow that eats a lot of pumpkin spice. 

The flavor here starts off with a liquor-laden bite, but then gradually, the pumpkin spices open up on your palate. There's a nice balance of nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger. It's like a sweet, liquefied pumpkin spice pudding, with just a bit of a kick. It'd be great, along with some vanilla ice cream, as the base for an autumnal adult milkshake. 

The alcohol content is similar to that of an average wine at 12.5%. It's strong enough to give the lightweights a buzz, but since it's so thick and desserty, it's difficult to down more than a shot or two at a time. 

Along with the recently-discovered Spiced Pumpkin Madeleines, this product is a winner. I'm sure it won't make quite the splash on social media that it might have circa October 2014, but if you're a drinker and you like pumpkin spice, Sonia and I will tell you it's definitely purchase-worthy. $8.99 for 750 ml. Double fours on this one.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter

Are we pumpkin spiced out?

Here we are....halfway thru October...and there's been nary a new, exciting, enthralling, OMG-worthy debut of anything pumpkin spice related. That's fine by me. When we've reached the tipping point of society where the local garage is advertising pumpkin spice brake pads, it shows we've gone too far. Cinnamon is far too crumbly to offer decent stopping ability anyways.

Maple, though?

In my opinion, maple really ought to be the official flavor of fall. Can't get enough of it. It goes well with almost anything. It's far more versatile than most people give it credit - think beyond pancakes, people. Maple is where it's at.

And so it is with Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter.

It's really tempting to compare TJ's maple butter with something like their maple sugar candy, although that wouldn't be precisely accurate. Whereas maple sugar is highly concentrated nature sugar bomb from boiling down maple syrup to remove liquid, maple butter is simply churned maple syrup that got agitated to the point of creaminess. That's it. As a result, it's still very maple-y, of course, but not quite as much as maple sugar. There is a similar feel though, in that there is a slight chalkiness from the sugar granules. It's nowhere near offputting.

The maple butter is pretty darn excellent. It's absolutely creamy, smooth, and a little bit drippy and runny, but nowhere to the same extent as regular maple syrup. That might make it an excellent "mess control" option for the younger crowd. Like regular butter, it will melt/seep into something warm if placed on top of it, like on top our sweet potatoes the other night. Put it on anything though - veggies, toast, pork roast, chicken, ice cream, etc. And yes, I guess even pancakes too.

It's $5.99 for the small jar, which is about in line pricewise for most maple products. It's not an awful value. I'll admit to being tempted to just guzzle the whole jar down. Love maple and anything maple, as does Sandy, so it's an absolute winner from us. The only thing keeping it from a perfect score is the small lack of anything truly amazing/unique about it, but that doesn't mean it's not worthy of your pick up next time you're at the shop. It's a small jar, you'll find room for it alongside all your pumpkin spice crazy stuff.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Organic Maple Butter: 9 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, October 15, 2018

Trader Joe's Chocolate Salted Caramel Mug Mix

"I didn't choose the mug life. The mug life chose me." It's kinda true. This product has been out for at least a month or so, I'm pretty sure. It's not particularly fall-ish. I'm just reviewing it by default since we don't have any spectacular new pumpkin things to check out and we're between TJ's runs at the moment in our household. But we do have a microwave and mugs, so chocolate salted caramel mug mix, here we come.

I'm a fan of substituting water with milk any time something cake or brownie-ish comes along. But in this case, I didn't have any milk on hand, so water it was. The product still came out fairly rich and creamy, despite the absence of actual cow juice. I guess there's a bit of condensed milk in the caramels, but you know what I mean. No milk was added. I actually followed the instructions for once.

First impressions: I'm really surprised at how easy the product was to make. If I had been handed a dessert like this at a fancy restaurant, I'd have marveled at what wizardry might have been responsible for getting actual salted caramel into the middle of a brownie in the middle of a coffee mug. I never would have guessed in a million years that it could be as simple as plopping two unwrapped caramels into the mix during a 40 second microwaving process. And yet that's it. Stir water into the mix, heat, drop caramels, heat again. Done.

My foodie-hack prowess is responsible for the odd streaking marks on the sides of the mug. I'm sure with a little patience and care, one could spiff the presentation up a bit more than I did. Also, for some reason, the colors of the brownie turned out a bit redder in this picture than they appeared to my naked eye. Not sure what I can attribute that to. I either need to white balance my camera again or get my eyes checked or both. Or neither. It's not a big deal, is it?

Flavor-wise, this product is quite sweet. I've mentioned many times before that I do have a sweet tooth, but I'm craving sugary stuff less and less in my old age. This, surprisingly, was one of the most cloyingly sweet items from Trader Joe's in recent memory. There's a bit of richness to the chocolate, and you can definitely taste the sea salt of the salted caramel, but the dominant essence was very sweet to my tongue. We've seen the Fleur de Sel Caramel on this blog once or twice before, and it's a quality product for sure, but it is quite sweet, as well as salty and creamy. This time, it comes in the form of cellophane-wrapped, bite-size chewy candies—four of them, two for each of the two suggested servings. I should also note that there are two individual packages for the cake mix, too. All the measuring is already done for you.

The flavors of the brownie and caramel come together nicely, despite the sweetness. I can't complain about this product too much in the end. It's very convenient and fun to make. The texture is everything you'd want and expect from a fresh-made brownie filled with gooey caramel, and the price is right at $1.99. I probably wouldn't purchase again just because it's rare I crave chocolate and salted caramel these days, but if you do, this would definitely be a product you should reach for.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

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