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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Trader Joe's Vegan Banana Bread with Walnuts

It's always amazed me that veggies like zucchini, carrots, rhubarb, and even pumpkins can provide the base for delicious desserts. Zucchini bread, carrot cake, pumpkin pie, and rhubarb pie? Heck yes. But prior to sampling each of those goodies, my intuition told me to steer clear. I was wrong. Hey, it happens to the best of us.

Bananas on the other hand? That's just a no-brainer. Of course they would make taste-tastic treats. They're already sweet, they have an almost bread-like consistency, and they're super malleable. Since it lacks the intimidation factor of vegetable-based desserts, I've been sampling and praising banana bread from my earliest days—so the bar has been set pretty high.

This offering is obviously vegan, which means no eggs or dairy—and in our opinion, as non-vegans, this product doesn't suffer at all for want of animal products. It's soft, slightly sweet, and has a nice bready, banana-y flavor. The walnuts add a pleasant touch, although, there could be a few more of them. It might have required some kind of refrigeration, but I wouldn't have minded some real banana chunks scattered throughout the loaf.

All in all, it's comparable to most other shelf-stable, pre-packaged banana breads I've had. It's no competition for homemade or fresh-baked, but it's a pretty impressive accomplishment considering the lack of animal-based elements. This is one of the tastiest vegan desserts I've had in recent memory, and at about $4, it's worth a whirl whether you follow a vegan diet or not.

Sonia would have liked to see this product go the alternative grain route. Unbleached, enriched wheat flour is so...commonplace and humdrum, even if you don't have celiac issues. Since this bread is already flirting with that "healthier alternative" vibe, we wouldn't have minded a gluten-free offering here. Maybe in the future. I often find rice-based flours taste better to me anyway, so I'd almost always pick the non-gluten offering if it were available.

All things considered, this is still a thumbs up from both Sonia and I. Four stars from her. Three and a half from me.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky

It's probably been mentioned, but when my family goes on vacation, there's three basic kinds of must-do stops: a zoo, a baseball game, and Trader Joe's. Zoos are always fun with small kids (although we live less than two miles from the local one and never go...), baseball is fun for Sandy and I, and Trader Joe's? Well, you gotta eat anyways. We don't have the budget to have every meal out and don't wanna eat nothing but fastfood either.

But that's not the biggest reason. It's just fun to go see the different TJ's. Each own has their own local flavor. And perhaps most excitingly to us native Pennsylvanians, most out of state TJ's have beer and wine...and some even have booze like Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky, as procured on summer vacation when passing through Louisville, KY a few months back.

I like me most single malt scotch whiskies, but this one? Not a huge fan of it as is. Can't quite state why. I've never heard of any "speyside" whiskies which just might show my complete depth of ignorance...apparently it is so named after the region of Scotland by the River Spey. Sounds quaint. They're also known for their salmon around there too. I'd probably love it there.

The label states all sorts of stuff: "slight sweetness", "toffee notes and a floral elegance," "flavors of caramel , dried apricots, vanilla and light cinnamon spice," a "smooth oaky finish." I'm not sure I'd say or taste all of that...but there's different a lot of here and there going on, with a fairly alcoholic burn. It's enough that for me, I need a little ice in it to melt. Whisky on the rocks isn't always my preferred presentation, but to make it drinkable it's what I need here. That helps mellow everything out into a more cohesive flavor, versus it being all over the place.

I will tell you this though: this just might be the perfect whisky for mixing. I could see spiking some punch or whatnot with it...but Sandy made me a cop of TJ's fox tea and poured some of this whisky in for me for when I got home from the day job today. It was FANTASTIC. So perhaps that's where it strength lies.

It's also pretty cheap. Can't recall for sure, but it's around $10 or $15 for the 750mL bottle of 80 proof booze, so you get your money's worth. There's certainly a lot worse out there in similar price range, but I'm also not lamenting that the nearest bottle for sale is at least a six-ish hour drive away. I'll more than deal with that, and will be looking for something else next time we're on a trip. We'll give it a 5 total.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky: 5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

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.

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