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Monday, February 8, 2021

Trader Joe's Heart Shaped Macarons

Each February, I'm hard-pressed to fulfill my husbandly duties of surprising Sonia with goodies on back-to-back special occasions. Today is her birthday, and less than a week from today is, of course, Valentine's Day. Fortunately, neither she nor I tend to put a lot of emphasis on V.D. so a casual edible novelty or two and a cozy movie night generally fits the bill.

Since today is Monday, any birthday festivities for the wifey took place over the weekend. She opened some gifts—most of which she ordered herself online and then I wrapped—and we had some Shari's Berries instead of a traditional cake, a few special appetizers and beverages during the Superbowl, and finally, we decided to break out these strawberry and raspberry flavored macarons.

I've ranted about silly heart-shaped things before on this blog, so I'll spare you my diatribe a second time. Seasonally appropriate? Check. There's the obligatory white, pink, and red colors that scream "Valentine's" all over the packaging. Easy enough for me to prepare? Check. All that's required is thawing in the fridge overnight or at room temperature for an hour.

Flavor-wise, they're pretty decent. They've got an almond meal base, with egg whites as the secondary ingredient, followed by white chocolate. They didn't overdo the sweetness at all. In fact, I almost want them to be a bit sweeter. The "vanilla creme with strawberry center" ones—the white ones—are slightly better than their pink counterparts in my opinion, although there's very little strawberry filling at all. They're mostly just vanilla.

Sonia likes the other flavor better—the pink ones. The outer shell of the raspberry flavor tastes almost freezer-burnt to me. Our box has a best buy date in January 2022, so freshness shouldn't be an issue. Maybe I'm just not used to the ingredients used here...? I must admit, however, the raspberry creme filling is pleasantly sweet and tart, and there's more than enough of it in each little heart-shaped bite.

These are a suitable alternative to the common V.D. box of chocolates. For $4.99, you're paying as much for presentation and pretty packaging as you are for the actual food. Product of Belgium. Again, why does Trader Joe's need to import them from another continent?

Three stars from me. Three and a half from the missus.

Bottom line: 6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Trader Joe's Magnifisauce

In addition to chatter about GME, NOK, and AMC "stonks," the death of Dustin Diamond (RIP Screech) and Punxsutawney Phil seeing his shadow, the interwebs are ablaze with news and opinions about this ostentatiously-packaged new condiment from Trader Joe's. Some are saying it's just Thousand Island dressing. Some are saying it's the next big thing. Some are angry that "canola oil" is the number one ingredient. Some are saying they'd drink it straight from the bottle. Inquiring minds want to know: is it worth the hype?

Ever since 1980's McDonald's commercials sang about "special sauce" in their Big Mac burgers, Americans have had an obsession with special or "secret" sauces. Oooh. Everybody loves a secret, right? Soon places like Burger King would follow suit with the Big King, and although I wasn't exposed to them until many years later, In-N-Out on the west coast would slather their burgers and animal style fries with a mysterious pinkish dressing that astounded and allured the masses.

I'm not sure why, but myself, my family, and my circle of friends didn't figure out that these clandestine condiments were simply a mixture of other more common toppings like relish, ketchup, and mayonnaise, with a few spices thrown into the mix, until many years after we'd first partook of the secretive salsa in our fast food burgers. Are we a bit slow? Perhaps. But at least now the cat's out of the bag. All special sauces are basically conglomerations of other less exotic constituent parts. So is the $2.99 squeeze bottle of Magnifisauce really that magnificent?

Yes and no. The convenience factor is high. I don't think I've ever seen special sauce sold as special sauce before, and certainly not in such a handy package. It's shelf stable until it's opened, and it's best if used within 90 days. 

Sonia and I don't eat hamburgers all that often, but we'll be able to finish this sauce as a dip for appetizers like French fries and onion rings. Make no mistake, it's pretty tasty when eaten as the main condiment on a traditional burger. We got a couple of patty melts from the bar and grill restaurant down the street yesterday, took them home, broke out this sauce, and were pleasantly surprised with its taste. Flavor-wise, it really is basically just Thousand Island dressing with a good bit of pickle relish and some faint garlic and onion in the background. We both think it's a little thinner than mainstream fast food secret sauce, and by my estimation maybe just a tad sweeter.

I'm no food scientist, so you can tell me in the comments below why canola oil is good or bad. It's the base of this sauce. Most Trader Joe's products at least have the veneer of being healthy-esque. I'm not convinced either way, but even if canola oil is detrimental to my health, I won't be eating enough of this stuff for it to kill me. Like I said, we'll finish this bottle over the next few months. After that, not sure if I'd re-purchase except perhaps to take to a big party or neighborhood barbecue type gathering where lots of burgers will be eaten all at once. I wish I could join the ranks of either the Magnifisauce zealots or even the haters, but alas, I'm a moderate and a centrist at heart, even when it comes to condiments. Call me a milquetoast fencesitter if you must. You wouldn't be wrong. Three stars from me.

The wifey will be slightly more pro-Magnifisauce and throw out four stars.

Bottom line: 7 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Trader Joe's Almond Butter Almonds

There's so many phrases and words out there that, for whatever reason, really grind my gears. The following isn't a complete list of such phrases I've heard used so often and thrown around carelessly I think I'd rather be smacked by .a two by four than hear them again

"Now more than ever..."

"New normal."

"Social distancing."

Generally calling someone a Karen. Called for sometimes? Sure. All the time....nah. Does that make me a Terry or Kevin or whatever the male name equivalent is?

And most pertinently to this review of Trader Joe's Almond Butter Almonds..."double down/ed/ing."

Ugh to all of them. 

Except the Almond Butter Almonds! They're delicious!!!!1!

You see, I could say TJ's DOUBLED DOWNED on all things almondy and tasty here to make a rather tasty, somewhat redundantly flavored snack. I could...but no. Doesn't sound right.

There's a fairly straightforward concept here. Get an almond butter-flavored candy-esque coating and slather on some salted roasted almonds, and that's about it. And fabulous, because almonds by themselves are pretty mundane. But here, add that nut butter shell and they became magical. Think of something akin to a yogurt covered almond, except maybe a tad softer and mealier (it is almond butter, after all) and that's about what thee nuts crunch and munch like. The little bit of salt and toasted crunch of the almond core really help to hold up and support the outer layers, which remained remarkably intact all the way from factory to distributor to store to home to belly. The result is undeniably snacky, and something that feels like a little guilty pleasure. We love 'em. 

Good nuts, good stuff. And a good price too - I think these were maybe $4 for the bag? Wasn't anything major, Just a small handful or two was more than enough to put a major dent in any hangry tummy rumbles. Because of that, earlier today we finally finished off our one bag I bought...I guess maybe next time in the store, I'll have to say to myself "Self, now more than ever, we need to make it the new normal to double down on our purchases here, lest you lovely bride decides to become a Karen and socially distance you for your transgression." Or something to that general effect. Nothing down from the Mrs or I, the almond butter almonds are a double win in our books with double fours. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Almond Butter Almonds: 8 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


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