On Vacation – Comment Round Up Rodeo!

Hello all you wonderful people, out there in the world.

I’m on vacation all this week, probably relaxing in a hammock even as you read this, so I’m breaking my usual posting schedule. Instead, I’ll be treating you to a round-up of my favorite ever blog posts, one a day, until we resume our regular posting schedule on August 4th.

Here’s a posting I received on the Ace Hard Pumpkin Cider post.

AC Repair Thousand Oaks – Oxnard a/c Repair
https://www.youtube.com/(link redacted)
michelepeppin@yahoo.com

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on air conditioning repair glendale california
usa zip code. Regards

It’s the “Regards” that really makes this one for me. Also, the complete failure of subtlety to tie the blatant air conditioner pitch into anything at all other than a blatant air conditioner pitch. Over all, a beautiful economy of language that achieves maximum impact in minimal space.


On Vacation – Comment Round Up Rodeo!

Hello all you wonderful people, out there in the world.

I’m on vacation all this week, probably relaxing in a hammock even as you read this, so I’m breaking my usual posting schedule. Instead, I’ll be treating you to a round-up of my favorite ever blog posts, one a day, until we resume our regular posting schedule on August 4th.

The favorite comment round up continues with this uplifting feed back from earlier this month.

pixel fury graphic design Seattle
melodicafterlif02.wikidot.comx
jonathongoldsmith@inbox.com

Great goods from you, man. I’ve have in mind your stuff previous to and you are
simply too excellent. I actually like what you have obtained here, certainly like what you’re saying and the way in which you are saying it.

You’re making it enjoyable and you continue to care for to keep it smart.
I can’t wait to learn far more from you. That is actually a wonderful website.

Thank you Mr. Pixel Fury Graphic Design Seattle! The feeling in mutual. I also like what you’ve obtained there, certainly like what you’re saying, and most of all, the way in which you are saying it.

Keep it smart!


On Vacation – Comment Round Up Rodeo!

Hello all you wonderful people, out there in the world.

I’m on vacation all this week, probably relaxing in a hammock even as you read this, so I’m breaking my usual posting schedule. Instead, I’ll be treating you to a round-up of my favorite ever blog posts, one a day, until we resume our regular posting schedule on August 4th.

A clear stand out for my “Favorite Comment” , has to be this gem by spam-bot “cracked games windows phone 7.5″ Reposted here for your convenience:


cracked games windows phone 7.5

ostacmojica@yahoo.com

yоu’rе in reality a fantabulous webmaster. Тhe vane situation load velocity іs incredible.
It seems tɦаt yοu’re dօing whatever classifiable joke.
Αlso, The contеnts are masterwork. yoս’ve done a dandy activeness ߋn this topic!

There’s a lot to love in this comment. As a blogger, being called a webmaster, let alone a “fantabulous” one, really strokes my ego. Things get a little bit confusing after that, then take a sudden nasty turn as whatever I’m doing is suddenly deemed a “classifiable joke”. However, Mr. Games Windows Phone 7.5 manages a beautiful recover in the end with some more fine, balming praise.

A classic example of the “compliment sandwich” technique if there ever was one. Thank you again Mr. Games Windows Phone 7.5! Hope you’re still enjoying the blog!


Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites

Trader Joe's Turkish Fig Bites

Trader Joe’s Not Quite Fig Newtons

Broadly speaking, Trader Joe’s products fall into three categories:

Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites fall squarely into that final category. As should be clear from the packaging alone, these are Trader Joe’s own take on that classic, love-’em-or-hate-’em after-school snack, the Nabisco Fig Newton.

Ranking: 3 stars 3 star ranking

What it is: Fig Newtons, by Trader Joe’s
Price: $1.99 for a 10 0z. pack
Worth it: Yes. They’re not perfect, but they’re cheap

Usually, when Trader Joe’s goes through the trouble of re-creating an another brands product in their own image they actually end up improving on it. TJ’s seems to have a genuine devotion to only putting their name on quality products that they stand behind, which is truly laudable in this day and age. For example, when they recently released their take on the Sour Patch Kid candy with sweet-and-sour T’s and J’s gummies, I found myself strongly preferring Trader Joe’s delicious, nuanced flavors and all-natural ingredients to actual Sour Patch Kids.

It’s unusual, then, that Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites fall short of the original Fig Newton. You’d think that improving on these would be a piece of cake (or fruit and cake, as the case may be), but instead TJ’s delivers an inferior version – heavier on the dry cake, with less fruit.

This is a particularly surprising outcome given the super pretty packaging, which manages to bite on the Fig Newton’s signature “yellow” look, while also keeping Trader Joe’s signature quaint whimsy. How could such attention to detail on the packaging be betrayed by underwhelming contents? Well, I guess that’s just life, isn’t it?

Figs are something Trader Joe’s does well, and in fact we’ve looked at them several times before, along with their incredible mythic history. And, in fact, the fig part isn’t all that bad. Trader Joe’s promises Turkish figs, which I’m sure these are, but you’d be hard pressed to tell, given the serious mushing and processing they necessarily undergo to be worked into a sweetened cookie.

No, it’s the “Newton” part that Trader Joe’s has trouble with. Nabisco must have found just the right recipe to deliver their original drupe-based treat to the world, because no one else ever seems to get it quite right. The generic fig roll snack you come across in drug store always tend to be too dry. Trader Joe’s doesn’t have that problem, but instead screw up the fig to cake ratio – giving you way too much thick and bready cake to the relatively meager amount of filling. It’s simply not all that satisfying to bite into, giving you a dry mouth without enough sweet fruit to balance it out.

To compare I bought a box of Nabisco brand Newtons and compared them side by side. As you can see the Nabisco Netwons are much more refined looking – an elegant balance of just enough dough to the filling. As a result the Nabisco Newtons are much more snackable, while the Trader Joe’s “Newtons” tire you out after two or three.

Trader Joe's Fig Newton Comparison

Trader Joe’s Fig Bites on top, Nabisco Fig Newton on bottom

Of course, if it’s the price you’re considering Trader Joe’s more than compensates for its short comings. Each package of Trader Joe’s Fig Bites is a mere $1.99, in comparison to the $5 and up you’ll be asked to pay for Fig Newtons. I may not like TJ’s version quite as much as Nabisco’s, but that price point make a compelling argument for choosing them anyway.

By the way, before I get out of here – just what is a “Newton”?

It turns out that Fig Newtons don’t owe their name to the revered Grandfather of Gravity (a connection that I always presumed and found troubling, given the absence of apple), but to the humble town of Newton, Mass. where they were first made by the Kennedy Steam Bakery all the way back in 1891. And now you know!


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Not really, the original Fig Newton is better.

Would I Buy Them Again: The price is low enough, and I’m enough of a cheapskate, that I probably would.

Final Synopsis: Fig Newton knockoffs for a reasonable price.

Trader Joe's Turkish Fig Bites - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Turkish Fig Bites – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar

I’m sorry? This is a chocolate bar, you say?

Some days I wander the aisles of Trader Joe’s, vainly seeking for something that piques my interest, and sometimes Trader Joe’s makes it easy. There was certainly no way in hell, for example, that I wasn’t picking up Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar. If there’s such a thing as baiting the trap too richly, this is it – metaphorically and literally. We’re talking about a bar of bold, 70% dark chocolate, injected full of chocolate cream sauce and infused with crispy bacon bits. The resulting trip is as delicious and intense as that description makes it sound.

Ranking: 4 stars 4 star rating

What it is: Dark chocolate bar, with ganache and bacon filling.
Price: $1.99 for a 3 0z. bar
Worth it: Yes! An intensely delicious ride for cheap.

Not since Trader Joe’s Sweet Srircha Bacon Jerky have I encountered a product name with such scene-stealing panache. Or ganache, as the case may be. Clearly Trader Joe’s has seen what Chuao has been doing with their amazing candy and spice infused Firework bars, and decided they can one-up them at their own game.

The Uncured Bacon Ganache bar is, shockingly, exactly what it says it is. Starting with a rich, semi-sweet (read, “bitter”) 70% dark chocolate, Trader Joe’s has then piped each individual square full of syrupy caramel-and-chocolate-ganache mixture. This makes the candy bar decadent, but what really sets it apart are two things – the heavy touch of smoked salt, and the crunchy bits of bacon peppered throughout. The result is a tongue-top riot of deep bitter chocolate, super sweet caramel, and savory, tasty saltiness. In short, it’s beautiful.

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar - 2

The Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar – in action!

The success of the whole bar depends heavily on the intense ganache filling. I have to admit that despite hearing the word almost constantly nowadays, I didn’t exactly know what a “ganache” was. In it’s basic form, it’s just dark chocolate mixed with cream to create a velvety chocolate sauce. Again, that’s in its basic form. Trader Joe’s modifies their ganache so dramatically that it probably doesn’t deserve the name any more. In addition to the melted chocolate and cream, TJ’s adds a healthy dose of pure, and unheralded, caramel that really ups the sweetness factor.

The real star, however, is the alder smoked salt. Rather than dusting the bar with salt, like they’ve done with their recent dark chocolate and sea salt offerings, the salt seems to be mixed into the ganache itself. The result is a salty-caramel-chocolate syrup filling. Like we saw with Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt grahams, and their Milk Chocolate Jumbles, a little sea salt and chocolate is a winning combination.

That equation adds up here too, where the salt content has be ramped way up and melted into the candy itself. In fact, there’s so much salt in the filling that it tastes more salty than sweet, at least at first blush. I actually liked this, because it balances out the darker, heavier tones of the dark chocolate, and also helps bring a little life to the bacon crumbles.

The bacon, by the way, needs all the help it can get. Despite top billing, the bacon doesn’t make much of an impression in this bar. Its presence is limited to a sprinkling of small crumbles which are baked into the chocolate itself, rather than incorporated into the filling. Whatever savory or salty taste the bacon still has is overpowered by the intense dark chocolate and the saltier ganache. You’ll mainly only notice these nubs as bits of texture, tough flecks of a vaguely meaty substance that show up from bite to bite. While they do lend a very subtle bacon flavor to the candy bar, there’s not really enough to make much of an impact, and the bar would be just as good without it.

Underwhelming bacon performance aside, this is a fine fine chocolate bar. Taken alongside the new Firework Bar, it signals a delicious future for Trader Joe’s chocolate aisle.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Yes, to lovers of intense chocolate everywhere.

Would I Buy It Again: Sure, once I’ve recuperated sufficiently from this one.

Final Synopsis: A tasty bar without much bacon, but more than enough caramel, salt and dark chocolate.

Trader Joe's Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Uncured Bacon Ganache Bar – Nutrition Facts


Trader Joe’s Marinated Olive Duo with Lemon and Herbs

Trader Joe's Marinated Olive Duo with Lemon and Herbs

Such weird packaging. Look at the little metal studs in the upper corners. Definitely not an original Trader Joe’s product, right?

If there’s one thing Trader Joe’s likes to do, it’s suddenly releasing jars of preserved Mediterranean produce with little or no instruction. The latest entrant is Trader Trader Joe’s Marinated Olive Duo with Lemon and Herbs, a vacuum packed bag of green and black olives muddled up with a strong shot of lemon zest and thyme – a combination that brings new levels of intense flavor to an otherwise familiar appetizer.

Ranking: 3 stars 3 star ranking

What it is: Strong, marinated olives with lemon zest and herbs.
Size: 8.8 ounces.
Worth it: Yes, if you’re making an anitpasto plate. Otherwise, no.

Previously, we looked at Trader Joe’s Preserved Lemon Slices, and before that their various iterations of olives stuffed with almonds and peppers stuffed with olives. Aside from growing on the sunny shores of the wine-dark Aegean, these products are all united by the confusing lack of all instruction. Usually Trader Joe’s is pretty good about this sort of thing – giving you a little nudge on the packaging and suggesting that you maybe, you know, serve your Korean scallion pancakes with soy sauce and vinegar, or explaining why bamboo flowers are being served with your rice, or what have you.

No such luck here. Instead, I’m left looking at this cloudy bag of olives, straining the limits of my imagination in an attempt to integrate these into my daily diet.  Martinis maybe? Should I put these in martinis? Again? The lemon zest whisper yes, but all the floating herbs and slices of red pepper say no pretty clearly. Can I cook with them, then? Maybe this is a sort of add on kit for the otherwise underwhelming Greek Cheese Spiral I reviewed the other day? All ready to spread on top of those folded cheese coils?

Native Greeks, the very ones who pack this product of Greece perhaps, surely have no such uncertainties – gobbling them down by the handful, stuffing them into their mouths one after another, and firing out the pits with machine gun-like efficiency, I’m sure.

Actually, as it turns out this sort of marinated olive dish is actually meant to be eaten as is – as an addition to an anitpasto platter, as an appetizer in of itself, or as a stand alone cocktail snack. This being a Mediterranean snack, these marinated olives can naturally be served up with some cheese, cured meats and, of course, wine.

If that sounds good to you, just make sure that you’re prepared for how very intense this flavor combination is. A briny olive can be overwhelming by itself, but combined with the bitter citrus bite of lemon zest and a pungent dose of thyme and other herbs, they become an entirely new beast. This is certainly not an appetizer to serve to the unaware or persnickety. Both types of olives in this duo – the purple kalamata and green chalkidiki – have firm, almost tough flesh, and come loaded up with that intense sodium punch you expect from a preserved olive.

On top of this we have a strong lemon zest – which tastes about as bitter as it does citric. The lemon zest does a lot to balance out the strong salty taste of the olives, but it also leaves a lingering bitter aftertaste that, while not unpleasant, definitely doesn’t invite binge consumption.

The titular herbs, though still strong, are understated in comparison. The ingredient label don’t provide a description of what seasonings go into the mix, but you can certainly detect thyme and rosemary and probably garlic. Not easy flavors to contend with, but certainly interesting ones.

The result of all these parts is a simple dish that is very strong, but also intriguing enough to invite a second and third tastes. In some ways, it’s a cocktail snack’s cocktail snack. They look nice, they’re compelling to try, but no one is going to need more than a small handful of them. It’s telling that the serving size is given as “3 olives” on the package. That seems about right – after three olives you’re about ready to move onto something else.

If you’re looking for something to pique your guest’s palettes, these marinated olives might be just what you need – the culinary equivalent of brash bit of trumpeting mid-concert. For more mundane uses, such as satisfying your afternoon munchies, you should look elsewhere.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend Them: Hesitantly. They’re not “good” so much as they are “interesting.”

Would I Buy Them Again: I doubt it. I’m not sure I or my friends are quite cultured enough to appreciate these.

Final Synopsis: A more intense olive for your appetizers.


Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt

Does a chocolate-covered cracker become a cookie, or is it still just a cracker? 

Trader Joe’s never seems to run out of things to cover with dark chocolate, for good or ill. That said, chocolate of any stripe is pretty dang good, so I was intrigued by Trader Joe’s new Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt – little squares of graham cracker coated in a thick, dark chocolate shell and dusted with a trace of sea salt.

Ranking: 3 stars 3 star ranking

What it is: Chocolate covered graham crackers with a sprinkling of salt.
Price: $3.99 for 8 ounces.
Worth it: Yes. Dark chocolate and sea salt go well together.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that you need to be careful using dark chocolate. It’s really nice when used in the right context, but you can’t simply go around replacing it for milk chocolate in any confection that crosses your mine. Milk chocolate is a sweet, pleasurable treat. Dark chocolate on the other hand, especially when you get to 70% pure and above, is a refined nibble with a bitter edge. You can’t just mix it with peanut butter, for instance, and expect everything to turn out alright.

Fortunately, these dark chocolate covered graham crackers fall squarely in the “tasty” column. All the parts here play really well together. The dark chocolate is doing the usual dark chocolate thing – semi-sweet as it melts on the tongue, with a long bitter back. Being clever sorts, Trader Joe’s doesn’t use a very high concentration of dark chocolate. Although they don’t tell us exactly how much on the label, it tastes like maybe 60% dark chocolate or so.

Underneath this is the bit of graham cracker. Trader Joe’s alleges that there is some honey on the cracker, but it really doesn’t make much of an appearance. In fact, almost none of the graham cracker taste really shows up – unless you’re the sort that likes to hold it in your mouth until allllll the dark chocolate melts off before swallowing. Really, the crunchy cracker is just there for the body and texture, giving the little chocolate-covered cookie something for us to snap into.

However, the real hero here isn’t the dark chocolate or the graham cracker, but the judicious use of sea salt. Although you’ll only find a few big grains of salt on each cookie, that’s all you really need. The semi-sweetness of the chocolate mingles delightfully with the high, salty notes and transforms the dark chocolate’s bitterness into complex, tongue-teasing treat.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt 2

More than anything, Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate Covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt reminded me of Trader Joe’s previously released Milk Chocolate Jumbles. These were a very similar snack using toasted quinoa for the body and milk chocolate for the thick shell, but made the same use of a light dusting of sea salt. The Jumbles were quite a bit sweeter, but otherwise a very similar chocolate-and-salt taste.

The take away? Putting a little sea salt on your chocolate is a downright delicious idea. Whatever else you do with it, a little fancy chocolate and salt marry very well together. In fact, as long as we’re mixing chocolate and salt, why not take this all the way to the top? It sort of makes me want to pick up another of Trader Joe’s great Fireworks Chocolate Bar and some of their Cypriot pyramid-shaped flake salt and just go nuts.


The Breakdown

Would I Recommend It: Sure – if you like chocolate-heavy snacks that are more than just chocolate.

Would I Buy It Again: Maybe. I liked the toned down sweetness compared to the richer Jumbles.

Final Synopsis: Another great pairing of chocolate and sea salt.

Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt - Nutrition Facts

Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate covered Honey Grahams with Sea Salt – Nutrition Facts


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