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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Trader Joe's Amba Mango Sauce

It's been a while since it's been mentioned here...I get weird about packaging, and especially for condiments.

Namely, I hate squeeze bottles. Hate. That potentially uncontrollable plopping purge. That variable farty sound. The way when they're empty they only exude scented air and not only product. Ugh.

Jars and bottles are okay, and you'd think that'd cover most basics aside from individual packets (also not a huge fan, mostly cuz I either can't open them or rip them right in half)...but here comes, of all things, a pouch. With a spigot. Whaaaa?

Such as it is with the new Trader Joe's Amba Mango Sauce. Why a pouch? I'm clueless here. Sandy said they're more refrigerator friendly than a jar or bottle. I'm not sure if I buy that. I see no reason for this to be in a pouch, and alone made me somewhat hesitant to try. Fermented mango stuff is cool, pouches with spigots, not so much.

Man oh man, I'm glad I got over that.

Imagine a mild, slightly sweet curry sauce, without any milk or anything for that little extra creaminess, and that's almost exactly what we got here. I wasn't sure if it was gonna be more jelly/jam/chunky/salsa like - nope, just smooth, smooth sauce that comes running out of that faucet faster than a tornado or a house falling down, as my four year old would say. There's some serious flow.

Sandy and I poured some over some roasted chicken...and wow. It's unbelievable to me how mild it is. Mangoes can be strong and overpowering, and fermented stuff (which I love) can have that serious level of funk....but there's none of that here. Although fairly simple and somewhat unassuming, the amba sauce has a certain balanced smidge of complexity between the faintly sweet mango and the spices, with the slightest bit of ferment as the backdrop.

It's delicious. There's a part of me that wants a little more oomph, a little more bite, a little more spice, a little more something. But nah. The more I had, the more I appreciated it just as it is. It almost went better on our potatoes than our chicken, and man, I'd put this on almost anything.

I've never had the privilege of trying authentic real amba sauce, so how good of a comparison this is to the "real stuff," you're gonna have to tell me. And also the price, too...Sandy picked it up but misplaced receipt. First one to hit me up with a price gets a shoutout here. EDIT: thanks to loyal reader rh383, it's $3.49! Not a bad price at all!

I can see buying this again and again and again. Pork, roasted veggies, falafels...yes please. I can put down the hot sauce and sriracha for the amba any time. My kids don't like it, which is odd I think...oh well, more for Sandy and me. She ranks it as a perfect five, and well, it's been long enough since we've placed something on the Pantheon, so I'll go a little higher than I would (seriously, the pouch and spigot thing bug me way more than it should) to ensure the amba's place among the all time greats.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Amba Mango Sauce: 9.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Friday, February 1, 2019

Trader Joe's Chocolat En Croute

Call me jaded, but when I see "Chocolat En Croute," I assume it's just a gimmick. Crusty chocolate, eh? You expect us to pay $6.49 for a loaf of crusty chocolate, TJ's? I was wholly disinterested. 

Fortunately, Sonia didn't see it that way, and she picked one up before we left the San Antonio area. We needed backup review items for our long journey across western Texas and southern New Mexico. There aren't any Trader Joe's between San Antonio, TX and Tucson, AZ along the I-10 corridor. That's almost 900 miles and 13 hours of driving without a TJ's. We could have taken a detour up to Albuquerque and made a TJ's run there, but that's six hours round trip off our plotted course. So we just stocked up and headed west.

So that means this box has been sliding around our little Norcold RV freezer for over a thousand miles. It was noticeably banged up, but still mostly intact. I photoshopped the worst parts of the package. Did anybody notice?

Nope? Good. 

"So why review this product now?" you wonder. Well, Valentine's Day (VD) is right around the corner, and this is among the items that Trader Joe's is promoting as a VD treat. Now that I've tried it, not only will I not argue with that assertion, I'll wholeheartedly plug this dessert as an ideal gift for your sweetheart.

If your significant other is a chocolate person, but you don't want to go that same old, tired "box of chocolates" route, this is a great alternative. It's bursting with rich dark-ish chocolate taste, but it's also got flaky, buttery crust, almonds, and a delicious, creamy frangipane—reminiscent of amaretto. I don't often read the individual product write-ups on because they tend to influence my opinions and scores, but I love the description of this dessert on Trader Joe's own website—particularly the line that calls it a "gorgeous, Paris-p√Ętisserie-worthy pastry." Couldn't have said it better myself.

It's a top-shelf quality product that's almondy, chocolatey, creamy, and bready. I'd buy it again for VD or any special occasion—or just dessert on an ordinary day. Pleasant surprise with this one. Put us down for four stars a piece.  

Brieturkey, and now chocolate. What will TJ's stick in a pastry crust next? Mango? Cookie butter? Coffee? Your guess is as good as mine.

Bottom line: 8 out of 10.

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