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Friday, June 7, 2019

Trader Joe's Milk Chocolate Covered Mini Pretzels

Seems like TJ's has had chocolate covered pretzels on their shelves for basically always. I can't remember a time they haven't been there. And yet, I don't think we've ever purchased them. Not the plain old milk chocolate covered ones, anyway. 

But now, they're in a fancy new resealable bag, they're featured prominently on under "What's New," and TJ's is begging us to taste them again...for the first time, or something like that.

So we did.

No cookie butter filling. No exotic foreign confectionery coating. No hazelnut sprinkles. Just pretzels and chocolate. And some newfangled packaging.

I've always liked chocolate covered pretzels, and these are no exception. They taste exactly as I remember them. Salty, sweet, bready. The chocolate is still smooth and the pretzels are still crunchy. They still dot your fingertips with little brown splotches if it's warm outside, and they're still just a tad too firm when it's cold out—or if you store them in the fridge rather than the pantry. 

They're so run-of-the-mill, I'm really at a loss what to write about them. There's absolutely nothing new or innovative about these tasty tidbits, but it's also nice to know they didn't screw them up, either.

I have this memory from very early childhood. It was probably the first time I'd ever had a chocolate covered pretzel. It was evening and the sky was dark. There were two elderly ladies that babysat me frequently in those days, and I was in their apartment on Chocolate Avenue in Hershey, PA. No lie. There's a Chocolate Ave there. Cocoa Ave, too. Anyway, they had this little apartment in downtown Hershey, and I spent a lot of time there. At this point, I couldn't have been older than three or four years old. I remember eating a chocolate pretzel they gave me—my parents wouldn't allow me to have chocolate back in those days, but these two: Nana and Minnie—they'd let me live a little while in their care. The chocolate pretzel they gave me was so transcendently delicious, I remember being excited about life in a way that's very hard to capture now at nearly 40 years old. And then, as if the moment weren't special enough, I recall looking up into the night sky through their kitchen window and seeing a streak of light—I had no idea what it was at the time, but in retrospect, it must have been a shooting star. I don't think I've ever experienced a sense of awe greater than that instant, with the taste of chocolate pretzel dangling on my tongue. 

I don't eat chocolate pretzels all that often these days, but that night in the early 80's comes to mind almost every time I do, and for that reason, there will always be a special place in my heart for these tasty morsels. $3.49 for the 12 oz bag.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Trader Joe's Ghost Chile BBQ Sauce

Nothing can make smashburger night any better at my house.

What's a smashburger, you ask? Simple. I break out my trusty cast iron griddle, heat it up, lightly handle a small chunk of ground beef (really, as little as possible, can't mush or ball it up too much), place in the piping hot cast iron...and promptly smash into thin burger form with a cast iron bacon press. Add a little salt and pepper, flip after a minute or two, melt some cheese atop. Goodness, it makes a good burger...way better than what should be possible. Fun to make too.

And not only that...but all my kids like them and practically beg for them, and eat them happily. If we go more than two weeks without smashburger night, it's an upset.

Yup, nothing can make smashburger night any better...except for just maybe Trader Joe's Ghost Chile BBQ Sauce.

 I'm always on the lookout for new and interesting sauces for TJ's. This must be pretty dang new, because man, sounds awesome, right? Also a little daunting, even though past ghost pepper products from TJ's were a bit underwhelming.

What's the case here? This BBQ sauce is hot. Legitmately. It takes a bit for the flames to stoke themselves, but when they do...wooo. It's a bit much for Sandy, who took a few bites on some grilled chicken for our first go around with the sauce, and promptly waved the mercy flag. I didn't but about halfway through, at the base of my throat, I felt that heat rise up with my eyes watering just a touch. It wasn't unbearable but it's been a while since I've enjoyed a good little burn like that.

It's a well-balanced heat, though. Upfront the sauce tastes a bit tame and even a little sweet and sugary from the tomatoes and pineapple juice base. It's a set-up, though, that starts sneaking in with a little pepper, a little garlic and spice, a little touch of smokiness. Then it hits. Not right away, but when it does, it does.

My only real complaint, if I could call it that, is that it's a bit thin for my taste. There's not much body to the sauce as it strays more towards a very light consistency. I like thick and gloppy sauce, not watery and runny.

Other than that, the ghost chile barbeque sauce is a winner in my book. Buy a supply and apply to all your summery barbeque needs if you can handle it. Tasted equally delicious on grilled chicken as it did on my aforementioned smashburger. Next time I smoke a pulled pork I know what sauce I'll be using, and should look to baste on some ribs. That's gotta be good. Just know your crowd. Sandy said she liked it but would like it more if she "knew how to handle it" which is her weay of saying it was a touch too potent for her. She's going with only a mere three for her score which is too low in my book. Maybe there's some legit ways to tamper it down a bit without losing too much, but that's not for me. Four and a half, I say.This stuff is an absolute smash.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Ghost Chile BBQ Sauce: 7.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, June 3, 2019

Trader Joe's Sweet Corn, Burrata & Basil Ravioli

I must admit I wasn't familiar with burrata cheese prior to trying this fascinating pasta product from Trader Joe's. As is usually, although not always, the case with curious culinary commodities, the lovely Sonia was able to educate me on the subject. It's basically mozzarella and cream. Sounds good, right?

It is good. "Burrata" and "ricotta" not only sound like they should be included in the lyrics to a Jimmy Buffett song together, but they also taste great when paired in a pasta pocket. They're a little sweet, very creamy, and still retain the light, subtle flavors of mozzarella. Throw corn into the mix...and to me, there's a bit of a creamed corn effect.

I've never been a huge fan of creamed corn. It's one of those dishes that doesn't know whether it wants to be a vegetable or a dessert. In general, I love corn in almost any form, but all that sweetness and creaminess seems like it would be better suited with peaches or strawberries. But whatever. That's just a little hang-up of mine. The important question is: does it work here?

Along with the pasta and a little olive oil, yes, the aforementioned "creamed corn effect" is mitigated to a point I can tolerate. It yields a nice, mellow, summery flavor that works just fine without a heavy cream or tomato-based pasta sauce. None of the other flavors completely overshadow the taste of the corn, which is also nice. 

Sonia and I both found the basil flavor to be somewhere between nonexistent and barely detectable. It wasn't really begging for the taste of basil, though, either.

The wifey also expressed her frustration that the filling was popping out of certain ravioli squares. It's possible that their structural integrity was compromised while bouncing around in our RV fridge on the way to our campground. Also, as you might have guessed from the picture, we boiled water over our campfire and heated the ravioli there. Why waste propane when you've got a nice fire going? I don't think it influenced the flavor of the product at all, though. A little woodsmoke wouldn't have hurt the taste, anyway.

$3.49 for the package of two servings. Enough to serve as a main course for both of us. Sonia wants to try it with a white pasta sauce of some kind. I think most pasta sauces would clash with the dish. We'll possibly buy it again just to see who's right.

Three and a half stars a piece.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

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