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Thursday, December 31, 2020

Trader Joe's 2020 Vintage Spiced Ale

2020. There's one for the books. Appropriate to end the year with a product that actually has "2020" in its name, dontcha think?

Now, I'm not sure if I'm doing this right. If this were a bottle of wine, we'd want it to age a few years and then in, say, 2025 or 2030, we'd be like, "Hey let's break out that bottle of vintage '20 we've got in the cellar," and then we'd reminisce about this most ridiculous of years. Incidentally, that's one of the gifts I got Sonia this year for Christmas—a wine rack that we keep in the basement. I even assembled it myself. We totally have a wine cellar now. We're fancy like that. Actually not really.

We keep one row of pseudo-fancy local stuff on the top rack. The rest is filled in with cheap wines and random selections like, well, this spiced ale. I wouldn't call it "cheap," but for $5.99, it's not exactly gonna break the bank, either. It's a top rack bottle for a bottom rack price. I mean, granted, it's not even's dark ale, but the shape and size of the bottle fit our wine rack perfectly.

So since I'm fairly certain most ales don't improve with age, let's see what we've got going here. Ooh. That is spicy.

Upon pouring into my pub-style pint glass, the head was a little out of control. I like to think I'm decent at pouring like a bartender, where you have the glass basically horizontal at the start of the pour and then you slowly upright the glass as the liquid falls to the bottom, so as to minimize the agitation of the beverage, thus reducing the amount of unwanted foam on top. However, I may have to reassess my pouring skills after serving Sonia and myself about 1/2 pint of beer and 1/2 pint of foam each.

Nevertheless, the foam and the beer were both tasty. The ale was fairly spice-forward with a sort of clove and allspice blend. There was something cinnamony in there, too, but it definitely had the flavor of a beer, rather than that of pumpkin pie or a scented candle. It was a bit creamy, malty, and it tasted festive and unique. It poured a deep brown color, nearly completely opaque. It was moderately carbonated—not too bubbly and not too flat. 

It's 9% ABV, so definitely on the stiffer end of the beer spectrum. Overall, we both liked it. I guess Trader Joe's mixes things up from year to year as far as these vintage brews are concerned, but this one was good enough that I'd definitely check out next year's offering, as well, whatever it may be. 2020 was a very interesting year and I have a sinking feeling 2021 will be, too. So grab an interesting libation or "take a cup of kindness yet" and have a happy New Year!

3.5 stars from me. 4 from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust

Having never been a Trader Joe's employee, I cannot confirm with absolute certainty if this would be the case or not, but as an avid shopper for years I can almost assuredly claim that it is: When checking out at the register, the employee running the register must absolutely see one product you're buying and exclaim "OMG have you ever had this? It's literally the best _____ I've ever had!"

Sure, maybe they're being super friendly brand ambassadors trying to make an easy natural conversation, but it's happened way too many times to be coincidence. Can any employee confirm? 

This is mentioned in reference to the new Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust because while checking out, not just my cashier exclaimed this about this pizza, but two others I walked past as I was walking out. It kinda helps that they know who I am and want to say Hi and wondering what new thing I'm picking up for the blog...but when one of them, whose opinion you generally trust, exclaims "it's one of the best pizzas I ever had!", I follow with a clarifying question of "Pizza pizza or frozen pizza?" and she assuredly states "Pizza. Period.", well, it kinda gets a mind a-wanderin' and a tummy a-growlin'. 

The selling point here, obviously, is the crust. That makes sense. It's the single most important component of any far. And I've heard  of deep fried pizza crust but have never actually had it, so I think this is a somewhat natural, unbiased opinion: the deep fried crust is amazing. I've grown so used to (and tired of) the usual frozen pizza cardboard crust that, to have something so light, so crispy outside, so soft and chewy inside (like chewing on a cumulus cloud) it was amazing. This...from a freezer box and my oven, with literally no effort on my part? Amazing! I love it!


Making this only one time so far, I'm not sure if this is an everytime occurrence or not, but during baking the crust puffed up to deflated soccer ball size. Literally, I had a 5 inch tall pizza mound baking. Cheese and pesto slipped off, dropping to the oven floor, making the smoke alarm obnoxiously blare like some dumb kid with subwoofers driving down the street. Relatedly, the toppings also rearranged themselves, making them not quite as uniformly spread out as before. My lovely bride and I shared a pie, and we each only got about two, maybe three smallish bites of pesto on our portions. 

That's a shame, because it truly was the only downside to the deep-fried pizza. That classic pesto, beefed up with some cashews? Awesome, herbaceous, and lively. All four cheeses- burrata, mozzarella, provolone and parmigiano reggiano? All present and delicious, could use more of the reggiano, but then again I almost always think that. Plenty of good roasted garlic too, which coincidentally is our personal pizza topping of the month - we make homemade pizza almost every week and have ben plopping that atop our like mad. This stuff is great.

At $5.99 for a smallish pie, it's a good enough value. it says three servings per pizza, which sounds slim to me. Half a pizza and some veggies or side salad sounds like a much more appropriate dinner. And yeah, it's still frozen pizza, so there's much healthier things out there (looking at you, fat and sodium), but c'mon now. So happy with the pizza, it's definitely taken the crown of my favorite TJ's pizza. Still can't beat our homemade though. Double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic & Pesto Pizza with Deep Fried Crust: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons  


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