Tampa Bay Food Monster

...eating food since 1985.

Trader Joe’s Goods

the always awesome foodette was kind enough to deliver me a package full of trader joe’s goodies, after seeing my enjoyment of trader joe’s mint chocolate creams and s’mashing s’mores. when i received the package, i was delighted to find an assortment of different snacks and condiments.

group shot

holy schnikes!! that’s a lot of stuff. joe seemingly has his fingers in all sorts of things. dirty, dirty things. but mostly food-related things. so what have we got here? three types of chocolate covered items (pomegranate seeds, almonds, and “powerberries”), some type of fun seasoning, a spicy mustard, and… roasted seaweed snack. D:

dark chocolate almonds

let’s begin with trader joe’s sea salt & turbinado sugar dark chocolate almonds. so first of all, wtf is turbinado sugar? words i don’t understand… scare and confuse me. well, dr. wikipedia informs me that turbinado sugar is just natural brown sugar, after being spun through a turbine to remove impurities. i guess that’s pretty straightforward… but i’m a bit disappointed it’s not from a place or people referred to as turbinado.

okay, so it’s basically salty/sweet dark chocolate covered almonds. and it really whips the llama’s ass. this is quite possibly the most addictive snack ever. i already knew that trader joe’s did chocolate really well, with the two chocolate treats i’d had before, so i was expecting much the same here. i was not disappointed. there is a nice, thick layer of chocolate surrounding the almond. but the key here is the sea salt. it turns it from what could well be just another candy into a multi-layered snack experience. the saltiness plays well against the dark chocolate, allowing its sweetness to come out. and it keeps you wanting more, to start with the salty, and finish with the sweet. oh and the almond is somewhere in there too. it’s… it’s perfect.


next up are the so-called “powerberries”, some sort of ungodly amalgamation of açaí berries, cranberries, blueberries, and pomegranates. then they use the power of DARK CHOCOLATE COATING to seal in this berry juice cocktail, solidifying into something that resembles a chocolate covered berry. a “powerberry”. now, they claim that they’ve brought these different fruits together in order to deliver unto you ‘flavanol antioxidants’, ‘vitamin c’, and ‘nutrients’, but i see through their ruse. all they want to deliver unto you is a fucking awesome snack. once again, their delicious dark chocolate works well with the chewy faux-berry center, which brings its own tartness and gentle sweet to the table. it’s a sugary sweet snack that, if not carefully watched, is likely to disappear completely moments after purchase. i’ve limited myself to one powerberry per day, in order to make this sweet bliss last.

dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds

then there are the dark chocolate covered pomegranate seeds. also quite delicious, and another dangerously addictive snack. perfect dark chocolate mixed with super-tart pomegranate, with a crunchy seed center. a wonderful snack for any mood, from depression to melancholy to the blues.

roasted seaweed snack

so here’s an interesting little… thing. what’s up with this… stuff? it’s roasted seaweed snack, which is not something that i would ever consider snacking on. ever. but this is not that same seaweed that grabbed at my feet so many years ago, in that icy lake, helplessly left alone to ‘learn to swim’. OH GOD. instead, this is a crispy seaweed, resembling badly crumpled lighting gels (rosco 91??). and it’s uh… it’s a bit slimy. it’s crispy, and as you eat it, it turns chewy, like you’d imagine a seaweed would be. the taste is a bit salty, but largely fishy. i do believe i hate this.

21 seasoning salute

let’s now turn to the 21 seasoning salute! this is trader joe’s love letter to the world of spices, using spices… from… all over the world. the spices involved range from the size of pepper flakes to a fine salt. it’s not salt based, which is a good start for a spice. instead, the main ingredient is onions, and it’s immediately noticeable in the flavor. it does have a nice little burn to it, but it’s not immensely spicy. i will have to wait to get a full sense for it after using it on a burger or on eggs, but from what i’ve tasted, it’s quite nice.

hot & sweet mustard

and finally, we come to the most amazing item in the package, trader joe’s hot & sweet mustard. it. is. incredible. it’s got a good mustardy bite to it, enough to give your sinuses something to deal with. a light burn; just the right amount so that it’s not distracting. but there is an incredible sweetness up front, in every bite. it’s practically a honey mustard (it does, in fact, have honey in it). the sweetness is largely due to the fact that the number one ingredient is sugar. oh god yes. it’s a perfect accent to basically anything that comes near it, including human flesh (…try not to get any on you).

and that’s it! a group of awesome shit, none of which is available to you! TAKE THAT, TAMPA. perhaps i will pay a visit to the closest fresh market and see what sorts of goods they feature there. one thing is for sure though – trader joe’s kicks ass, and tampa sucks because it doesn’t have one.

Xing Tea

xing tea

i’ve started seeing cans of xing tea around town at different gas stations, hiding in small numbers among the plethora of arizona and even peace tea options. so i decided to finally pick one up, and i notice the price tag – $1.49!!! WHAT AN OUTRAGE! surely they jest! for sitting next to it is a can of arizona tea, for a mere 99¢! this was at a CVS, so maybe they’re not priced like this everywhere. let’s hope not

okay so an extra fifty cents is not a big deal at all, especially considering you’re getting more to drink than you would with a bottle of soda, and it’s going to be better for you, for basically the same price. so good deal. they only had two varieties – green tea with pomegranate, and green tea with mango. i picked up the pomegranate, because i wasn’t feeling festive enough for mango at the time.

the tea is actually very good. it is not nearly as strong as either arizona or peace teas, instead it has a lighter, less manufactured tea flavor. the hints of pomegranate was not in your face, but more of an accent to the tea, which was really nice (i rarely drink arizona’s pomegranate tea because it hijacks the whole taste). it wasn’t overly sweet like peace tea can be, but it was sweet enough that you couldn’t detect any real bitter. it was a perfect balance. apparently they use both cane sugar and honey to sweeten; all natural ingredients.

i was actually rather impressed with this tea. checking out the site, i found that they have a whole bunch of different flavors that just aren’t offered widely (including half green half black tea, green tea with lemon, blueberry green tea, and even a cherry green tea), and they also offer sugar free options. i guess they’re still looking to get a more wide distribution, because there are photos on their site from events they’ve been to or sponsored (in tampa) for promotional purposes. apparently they are harnessing the awesome power of boobs for promotional purposes too.

so if you’re looking for a drink, give xing tea a try. it’s worth the extra fifty cents.


UPDATE: i’ve since had the mango green tea, which had a huge mango flavor. i don’t know if this was because mango is such a strong flavor compared to pomegranate, but it was far more intense, and about as sweet. i personally preferred the subtler pomegranate, but the mango should be perfect for any mango lover.