Trader Joe’s South African Smoke Seasoning BlendPosted: September 23, 2011 Filed under: Spices, Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: Spices, Trader Joe's Brand 18 Comments
What have we here? Smoke-flavored seasoning, it promises us. But can anyone really bottle smoke? I mean, it’s smoke man. It’s famously elusive. If you could stick that flavor in a pepper mill and sell it for a couple bucks, then what the hell are people laboring over charcoals in smoke houses at minimum wage for? Let alone selling it in the very same pepper mill / pepper grinder doohickey you’re already selling your sea salt and flower pepper in? A prelimary whiff of the unopened container imparted the strong smoky musk of a dying campfire. Skepticism overruled by curiosity, I decided to give it a shot.
I tried Smoke Seasoning out on a couple different meats – some hamburgers I was grilling up outdoors and a nice, skinless chicken breast. After a few liberal grinds of the (to me) incredibly satisfying built in pepper mill apparatus and both items suddenly smelled a whole lot better. Smell, of course, is one thing. Taste? Quite another. One bite though, and I was stunned. The bastards over there at Joe’s did it. God know’s how, but it effortlessly infuses your food with a seductive, delectable waft of smoke. Just perfect.
What the hell’s in this stuff? Just smoke and paprika, a little salt and garlic? Seriously? And, as we all know, paprika does basically nothing aside from lending color – so basically, yeah, it’s just bottled smoke. But wait, now you’re telling me that the smoke in question is made from a renewable south african hardwood? Man oh man, Joe – you have out done yourself again.
The effectivness of this product is undeniable, but it’s scope is somewhat limited. I only tried it on meat, but the imagination suggests it might go well on grilled veggies too. Even if so, even the toughest of men, men who barbeque their every meal, don’t
want to have their every dish taste strongly smoke. This is an item best used in the height of summer revelry, a delicate but savory flavor to grace the periodic hedonistic grill session. As such, I predict this item will be sitting in a cherised spot in my cupboard until next summer comes.
Would I Recommend It: Without hesitation
Would I Buy It Again: Once this one runs out.
Final Synopsis: Smoke your food the easy way.
Trader Joe’s Flower PepperPosted: September 7, 2011 Filed under: Spices, Trader Joe's Brand | Tags: Pepper, Spices, Trader Joe's Brand 41 Comments
Whoa-ho-ho, now you’re talking Trader Joe – a product so seemingly mad that I would never have dreamed of its existence.
Pepper – and FLOWERS?!? This is already well beyond the range of even the craziest food mash ups I’ve ever heard of. I mean, we’re talking about a food mashed up with a decidedly non-food product. That I’ve got to respect. Let’s just look at the ingredients: Black Peppercorn (natch), Rose Petals, Calendula, Lavender, Cornflower. I don’t even know what calendula is.
I’ll be honest; this is exactly the sort of product I go to Trader Joe’s every week hoping to find. Something so outlandish that no sane buyer could ever be expected to purchase it, yet marketed right next to the brownie mix. This is where I, Trader Joe’s Taste Tester, come in – give me the goddamn desiccated flowers, I’m ready to rock.
But first, a digression.
I am amazingly slow to learn, but a few lessons have slowly crept their way into my brain over the last 28 years, and one is that product mash ups which sound like they may be terrible almost invariably are. Case in point: the Red Eye (1/2 tomato juice, ½ beer) and the Ditka Burger (peanut butter on a hamburger). I tend to assume, over and over, that these concoctions are only being sold because a gauntlet of testers have engineered the flavors to magically fuse into a symphony of taste. I have come to appreciate that this assumption may be a bit naïve, and the real source of these products are just bored gluttons and drunks. Hope springs eternal however, and the very few big wins (Salt and Vinegar?!? On a chip?!!) continue to spurn me on to self-abuse.
So, flowers in pepper – what’s up with that? I gave my flower pepper a try in two big ways – ala garden salad and ala some chicken breast I had lying around. Both delighted me. I don’t want to get onto a whole digression on pepper here, so let’s suffice to say that a little pepper brings out flavor and a lot of pepper chokes you with it’s fire. We know these things – we are not fools. What flower pepper brings to the table is a moderation of both ends of the equation – for the better. The hints of flower petals are far less subtle than I would have guessed – even in a small quantity over a large salad they lent a distinguishable, pervasive flavor that never got to heavy or clashed with my veggies and dressing. It enhanced goddammit, it went in there and did what it was supposed to do, then it went and brought a whole new herbal flavor to the mix. (Loving my italics right now, by the way. Lovin’ them.)
The chicken went down plain, save for a dusting of the titular spice, and I’m happy to say the flowers seemed to dial back the more peppery part of the pepper – retaining the bite while losing the fangs, if that makes any sense.
While I’m sure flower pepper can’t substitute for ordinary blackcorn pepper in every instance, there’s no real need for it to. I can easily imagine keeping a happy larder with both peppers side by side, taking on all comers. The only criticism I have is a weak one, that due to the pervasive use of floral scents in household cleaners it could be said that the pepper tastes how soap smells. There’s nothing unpleasant about it, tastewise, but the conditioning against eating cleaning products is so strong you might find you have to mentally push past it.
Would I recommend it: To try, at the very least.
Would I buy it again: I think I will, when I eventually run out.
Final Synopsis: A rare win for Team Strange Food Mash-ups!