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Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Trader Joe's Kibbeh

Although I haven't been there myself yet, I've known numerous people who've either lived in or visited Israel throughout the years. At least one of them referred to falafel as "Israeli hamburger" with a smidge of disdain. I, personally, could replace hamburgers with falafel and be perfectly happy. But I've often wondered if the reverse were true: if any Levantine people, upon being presented with beef or hamburger, thought, "Oh, this is that American cow falafel I've heard so much about."

That's probably a silly notion, since Middle Eastern diets do include beef. It might not be as ubiquitous as it is here in middle America, but there are a number of Mediterranean dishes that involve red meat. Kibbeh is apparently made with lamb just as often as beef, if not more so. I'm not a huge fan of lamb, so I'm glad this Trader Joe's offering went with another option.

The kibbeh are roughly football-shaped. That's American football-shaped, just to be clear, not futbol case you don't speak 'Murican. They're so close to football-shaped, I'm actually wishing we'd broke these out a few weeks ago for the Superbowl. Ah well, there's always next year.

The "shell" is a firm, bread-like crust. I'm guessing that's the bulgur wheat mentioned on the box. It's not tough or chewy at all, but it has a much firmer texture than the ground beef within. The meat is tender and slightly juicy, but not oily or greasy. It's very lightly seasoned and flaunts a mild flavor profile.

It's so mild that it begs for some fixins, in my opinion. My instincts told me to throw a big slab of cheddar cheese on the kibbeh and slather it with ketchup and mustard, but then I came to my senses. 

I just had some beans and veggies on the side and added some extra seasoning. But what I really wish we'd have had on hand to pair with this dish is some baba ghanoush, garlic spread, tzatziki, or zhoug sauce. Even hummus might go well with these Middle Eastern meatballs.

It's another unique selection that I'm glad I got to try. Thanks for broadening my horizons again, Trader Joe's. I'd consider a repeat purchase, but next time, I'll be sure to pick up the appropriate condiments. They're nothing to complain about on their own. $4.79 for six beefy footballs. Three and a half stars from me. Four from Sonia.

Bottom line: 7.5 out of 10.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Trader Joe's Crispy Peanut Butter Filled Milk Chocolate Peanuts

"A stopped clock is right once a day."

Had a friend who used to go around saying that, and if you said "Uh, wouldn't that be twice?", he'd snap back with "It's on military time!" and think he was being really funny. Sigh. 

So anyways, a similar sentiment to a stopped clock being correct however many times you want it to be is: Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. Don't know how you can get too smart with that one. 

So, what if this blind squirrel were to stumble across some Trader Joe's Crispy Peanut Butter Filled Milk Chocolate Peanuts?

Good question. Depending on how hungry that squirrel was - it may have been a while since it's last nutty snack, the poor little guy - or if he's dodging hawks or something, at first that squirrel may think it's just a normal nut. The size of these new filled chocolate treats are fairly peanut like - maybe a touch bigger, peanut shell textured and all - and for all intents and purposes each piece is definitely as peanutlike as a piece of chocolate can be on the exterior. It's a little bit of artistry, maybe not quite enough that a blind squirrel could fully appreciate it, but present nonetheless. Maybe that squirrel's sense of touch is a bit off as well.

But once that little bushytailed rodent sank its teeth in, there's an undeniable difference. As you can see, the exterior shell is completely made of fairly thick-to-scale milk chocolate. Speaking as someone who has incidentally ingested actual peanut shells once or twice, there's no mistaking that difference. The chocolate is soft and welcoming, sugary and sweet just like a good milk chocolate, and hits all the right dopamine centers. Nothing wrong with it - if it indeed tasted like a peanut shell that'd be very different. 

Further in, let's say that squirrel was in such a rush that s/he didn't notice the shell difference and was straight driving for that crunchy peanut in the middle. Would that squirrel be disappointed at the soft, creamy peanut butter in the hallowed out middle? I can't answer for anyone but myself, and I wasn't. Don't think a Reese's experience - while delicious, their pb tends to be somewhat dry and chalky, while this pb is more of Skippy or Jif experience. Delish, and great for candies. Love it, and could definitely tell the difference in a blind taste test. 

But what neither that squirrel nor anyone else could detect would be anything fulfilling the packaging's promise of a crispy undertaking. there's supposed to be some toasted rice type crispy crunchies in here. There's scarcely any - maybe two grains per candy. That's...not enough for anything that says it'd be crispy. Put more of that ricey goodness in the chocolate shell - that'd be awesome! Or make more of peanut butter rice crispy treat type center, and coat with plain chocolate - also a great idea. Or go for gold and do both - that might be a little overkill but i think it'd work. 

So yeah, let's shoo away that squirrel and wrap it up. These TJ treats are good and tasty, in a somewhat novel form, but aren't appreciably different from many other choc and pb based candies. Gotta step up that crisped rice game. No one in our house dislikes them, and the little baggie that sells for $3ish bucks goes way too fast with only like 15 of them in there. Pretty average in the end, I guess. Can't always find that golden nut. 

Bottom line: Trader Joe's Crispy Peanut Butter Filled Milk Chocolate Peanuts: 6.5 out of 10 Golden Spoons 


Friday, February 19, 2021

Trader Joe's Cold Brew Coffee & Cream Liqueur

I guess the whole upper and downer all in a single beverage isn't a new concept. I love Red Bull and I'm fine with vodka when coupled with appropriate mixers, but blending the two together? Stimulants and depressants both at the same time make me spazzy.

Some might say I'm spazzy to begin with. That's fine. I won't argue the point. 

Stuff like Kahlua, coffee liqueur, or this cold brew beverage? Same thing. There's real coffee with real caffeine as well as alcohol. But you know, it tastes so gosh dang good, I have some every chance I get, which realistically isn't all that often.

I guess the real question is: when is the appropriate time to enjoy such a beverage? I, personally, can't have it before bed as a nightcap, because it'll keep me up into the next morning. I suppose some could get away with the whole Irish coffee thing and have it in the morning, especially if you work from home and don't need to drive anywhere, but I know I don't function very efficiently that way, depending, of course, on what I'm working on and how into it I am.

I suppose the best time for me to consume such a beverage would be right after dinner, still hours before bed, but after the day's tasks are completed. It's a narrow window, indeed. And it still might keep me up a little later than usual. Even more likely: I'll be in a spazztastic mood that'll annoy Sonia and anyone else around, making all involved wish I'd simply stuck to an upper or a downer and not both simultaneously.

Of course, I exaggerate the effects of such beverages. I don't think there's enough caffeine or alcohol in this drink to really do any harm to me or anyone else. I just needed a lead-in for the review, and stream-of-consciousness seemed as good an angle as any.

The product? It's sure tasty enough. The coffee element isn't overdone. It doesn't taste like a pot of black java. It's more like a premixed frappuccino or what-have-you. I guess cold brew coffees tend to be a little smoother and less bitter than other selections. It's super creamy, slightly thick, and almost velvety, texture-wise. It's only moderately sweet, well-balanced flavor-wise. It's perfect in a cocktail glass with a few ice cubes to keep it cold and thin it out as they melt.

Sonia was quite smitten with this liqueur. She's generally way more into coffee products than I am. She almost always sips her drinks super slowly, while I'm more of a chugger—and that goes for everything from water to juice to fine cream liqueurs—although I must say she downed this selection uncharacteristically quickly. She liked it significantly more than Kahlua, stating that it's much less harsh and more palatable.

For less than $10, it's worth a try for coffee connoisseurs and boozehounds alike. The quality is on par with any other cream liqueur, a la Bailey's or RumChata, with a distinct cold brew coffee taste. The wifey and I will both give it a thumbs up.

Four stars from me. Perfect five from Sonia.

Bottom line: 9 out of 10.

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