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Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Trader Joe's Honey Mustard & Onion Seasoned Pretzel Pieces

This is not meant as any undue attack or unforward critique of one of the all time classics...but there is a serious need of innovation here.

Yes, we are talking about Trader Joe's Honey Mustard & Onion Seasoned Pretzel Pieces. If anyone could have magically pulled this off, I would have counted on TJ's to Wonka-fy it into existence. They didn't. I can't really be disappointed, because it just might be impossible, but still...I had hopes, only to be in vain.

You see, there is a fundamental issue with many snack food items, and honey mustard onion pretzel pieces are probably the best, clearest example. It's such a strong flavor, right? You know it when you taste it. The sweetness and bite of vinegar, the saltiness of the onion, the goodness of whatever other odd spices are sprinkled know what I speak of. If you've ever had a honey mustard onion pretzel, you'll know exactly what this taste like.

That's not precisely the issue, of course.

Instead, it's this question: how many bites of a perfectly balanced flavored snack do you actually get, per bag? It can be frustratingly few.

Alas, there's no exception here.

The first few portions out of the top of the bag are surprisingly bland. Like, they look like they should taste like something, and they kinda do...but not really. All that flavor dust went south for the winter and never came back.

Work towards the equator and there's a couple great bites in there, that taste like a little bit of everything and not too much of anything. Snack time bliss, that's what that is. Yum.

But then there's the bottom third or more. It's where everything settled. A little bit is good, but then for such a strong flavor like honey mustard and onion, it gets way too powerful way too quick. It's hard to have too much, unless you're really hungry.

I was really hopeful for some sort of innovative solution that TJ's would bring forth to the masses here. Maybe it'd be a scientific break though, in that some sort of edible, tasty glue or adhesive would hold on more tightly to the flavor crystals, so all would arrive in factory perfected form. Or that the delivery driver would bring them in a rented out concrete truck, tumbling the packages all the way from distribution center to retail. How about a paint-shaker type contraption in the stockroom? Or, like, maybe like the stockperson would give them an expertly vigorous shake before putting on the shelf, with the cashier giving an instructional DVD to purchasers to ensure even flavor distribution and snack food satisfaction all the way to the point of the consumption, so that if a consumer didn't fully love a balanced, even, delicious morsel of honey mustard onion pretzel that'd be squarely on them as some sort of societal outcast worthy of weeping and gnashing of teeth? It's not like TJ's employees are doing anything else these days.

I kid, of course, but alas, it was not to be. Here we go instead from predictable palatal progression from mediocre to delicious to "a bit much." Sigh.

But apparently I like them, enough to have devoured more or less the whole package myself with a few bites spared for the kiddos. It took a few days to be sure. My lovely bride didn't even try them - she's not opposed, she technically had opportunity, but in her opinion the window of time afforded her was too short -  so I'm flying solo here, which is dangerous. So, spoons? Sure. Need a breakthrough to get to that next level.

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Honey Mustard & Onion Seasoned Pretzel Pieces: 7 out of 10 Golden Spoons

Monday, May 4, 2020

Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Fruit Spread

Nothing says summer—or at least warmer weather—like watermelon: the fruit, the flavor, the culture. It brings to mind memories of more carefree days. It's a reminder that no matter how long the winter, spring and summer are sure to follow. 

2020 has been quite a ride so far, and I'm sure the fun's not over yet. But even in unprecedented and uncertain times like these, there will be unique moments of discovery and joy. Sitting out in the green grass and opening up this jar for the first time was one such moment for me.

I'm not saying this product is so good that it will universally provide transcendent moments of bliss for all who partake of its goodness, but it might do that for some. I'm sure a few of you have tried another version of watermelon jam, jelly, or fruit spread before, be it homemade or some exotic brand I've never heard of. But this was a first for me. Leave it to Trader Joe's.

It's exactly as sweet as I want it to be. It might be a little too sweet for some and not sweet enough for others, but to me, it is juuust sweet enough to be a dessert-like treat, but not so syrupy that I feel a sudden urge to compulsively brush my teeth immediately after consuming.

It truly tastes like watermelon, by virtue of "organic watermelon puree" being the main ingredient. "Cherry juice" is pretty high up on the list, too, and it provides a subtle kick of sweet-tart sass, but you'd never mistake the dominant flavor of this fruit spread. It's absolutely delectably watermelony.

There are no seeds or grit here. Fruit pectin and watermelon puree yield a very smooth consistency. As far as thickness goes, I think it's on par with a strawberry jelly type vibe, but again, with no seeds, fruit bits, or chunks of any kind. A version with little pieces of real watermelon might be interesting, but I'm not complaining about the texture here at all. The smoothness works perfectly.

I've tried it straight from the jar as well as on toast with a little cream cheese. I'm thinking there has to be a way to incorporate this product into a watermelon-flavored smoothie, but I'm not sure what else I'd throw in there. If we had any vanilla wafer cookies on hand, I'd try dunking them straight into this fruit spread. A topping for vanilla ice cream? Plain yogurt? Possibilities abound.

If you like the flavor of watermelon with just a hint of extra tartness and sweetness, I don't see how you'd hate this product. I think it was $2.99 for the jar...? It's unique and very tasty. I give Trader Joe's Organic Watermelon Fruit Spread four stars. Sonia will go with four and a half.

Bottom line: 8.5 out of 10.

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