REVIEW: Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s

Yes, it’s January, and technically the holiday season has come and gone, but there are such an insane amount of delicious seasonal products released every year that sometimes it takes a little longer than December 25 to get to them all.  This could end up being my last Christmas-y write up of the year, and fortunately, it’s a good one.  Trader Joe’s have done something I have always wished Nabisco would do with Oreo’s – released a variety pack.  This, however, is no ordinary variety pack, this is the “Trader Joe’s and the Astounding Multi-Flavor Joe Joe’s” variety pack featuring four different sandwich cookies, covered in different chocolate, and garnished with additional texture/flavor boosts.

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Let me start off by saying there isn’t a bad cookie in the box, and I am going to attempt to talk about each one and rate them somewhat based off of each other because honestly they all kick ass.

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First up is the only one you can get in a separate package outside of this box – the Peppermint Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with Peppermint Sprinkles.  It should come as no surprise that this one is awesome, since Candy Cane Joe Joe’s are one of the best seasonal cookies TJ’s offers, it’s a no brainer to amplify those flavors even more and they simply slap even harder.  The dark chocolate is rich and indulgent, with the peppermint “sprinkles” on top actually being crushed up pieces of candy cane that give crunch and an extra mint boost.  Completely crave-able and delicious, the only thing I can fault this one on is the dark chocolate coating mutes a bit of the mint bite from the creme and the “sprinkles” don’t add enough to really take the minty-ness over the top.  Still, an absolute winter wonderland in your mouth.
Rating: 9/10.

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Next we have one of my favorite flavor combinations ever with PB&C – Peanut Butter Joe Joe in Milk Chocolate with Dark Chocolate Drizzle.  Chocolate and PB is an automatic win and this cookie basically transforms the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup into cookie – beautiful round shape and all.  As much as I was looking forward to this one it didn’t give me the depth of peanut butter flavor I had hoped for, once again being a bit muted by the chocolate cookie and double chocolate coating.  One of the best aspects of a solid peanut butter cup is the ratio of PB to chocolate and I’ve never been a fan of a cup that gets too chocolate dominant, which happens here.  Again, still completely delicious but some of the fatty nutty nuances of the peanut get lost in the drizzle party.
Rating: 8/10

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The third cookie in the lineup is the most unique and by far the one I was most excited to try – it was actually the push that came to shove that convinced me to spend $6.99 on this box of brilliance – Ginger Joe Joe in White Chocolate with Ginger Sprinkles.  I absolutely love white chocolate when it’s executed well and ginger is one of my favorite flavors of the festive season (or anytime, really).  I have never tried a naked Ginger Joe Joe so I’m not sure how this one stacks up but the first flavor I got was lemon.  I’m don’t know if this is a weird mind trick from the flavor play of the ginger and white chocolate together but the initial bite reminded me of that lemony cookie flavor you get from a box of Barnum’s Animals crackers.  The white chocolate is smooth and sweet, and on the finish you get a pleasant little dance of ginger that gets extra heightened when a bite with the gingersnap crumbles comes into the picture.  The flavor on this one really seemed to vary depending on the amount of sprinkles, with either just enough, or not enough ginger spiciness to mellow out the white chocolate.
Rating: 8.5/10

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Finally, last but definitely not least, the one I was least looking forward to and took me by surprise – Double Chocolate Joe Joe in Dark Chocolate with a Milk Chocolate Drizzle.  This cookie is a perfect example of don’t dog it till you’ve tried it, because while I expected this to be a relatively one-note boring experience it ended up being my favorite in the whole box and absolutely perfect.  The layers of chocolate on chocolate give a rich, almost brownie-like flavor and texture to the cookie, with the variations between the creme, wafer, and coating being more distinct than in the other three Joe Joe’s.  This cookie channels all of the greatest chocolate indulgences, reminding me of not only brownies but layer cakes, truffles, and candy bars.  It’s got the kind of cocoa richness and depth you would expect from a high end chocolate shop like See’s or Godiva, not a cardboard box of cookies from a grocery store.
Rating: 10/10

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The whole happy family

It took me awhile to review this product, not only because each cookie has 130 calories and 11 grams of sugar, but because I wanted to give each one its proper due in how they not only stood on their own but how they fit in in relation to the others in the box as well.  During the holiday’s Trader Joe’s becomes awash with an insane amount of high quality limited time products and these astounding Joe Joe’s are no exception.  Highly recommended, highly delicious, highly dangerous.

Overall rating: 9/10

REVIEW: Baskin Robbin’s Peppermint Bark in the Dark

Although still technically autumn, the flavor gods have officially decided it’s time to be immersed in a wintery mintery wonderland as crisp and cool as the air outside.  For the last week or so it feels like the air may as well be peppermint flavored as that has been the dominant taste every time I’ve opened my mouth.  Baskin Robbins have decided to fittingly join the party with their December flavor of the month Peppermint Bark in the Dark.

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Originally released in December of 2013, the flavor is as straight forward as it sounds – peppermint bark in chocolate ice cream.  The pairing of chocolate and mint is one of the most classic holiday flavors around, so classic that unlike eggnog or pecan pie it can be found year round in everything from York Peppermint Patties to BR’s own Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream.  It’s this common-place profile that makes this flavor a little bit of a letdown as the headliner of a year that brought both a new spin on a Halloween flavor (Trick Oreo Treat Dark) and cookies and cream mashed up with Frosted Flakes (Oreo Milk ’N Cereal).

The ice cream is good – a rich chocolate base that carries the essence of peppermint in every bite, with the occasional bursts of very strong peppermint and crunch from the bark – it’s just not anything particularly new or exciting.  The pieces of bark hold their own and deliver cool bursts that fill your mouth with Christmas cheer, floating along in a chocolate river with glassy-smooth texture.  The scoop that I got did not have nearly as many, or as big, chunks of peppermint bark in it as the promotional picture which is a bit of a rare letdown for Baskin Robbins.  The picture on their site and ingredients also imply some kind of ribbon which I didn’t have any of.  Again, the ice cream is solid and of high quality, just not as good as the previous two years’ December Flavors of the Month – York Peppermint Pattie and Oreo Cool Mint Chocolate – both of which had more elements to keep them exciting.

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Searching for them chunks and swirl – not so much

What would make this a more successful flavor?  One more component – a ribbon or swirl or additional mix-in (maybe it was supposed to be there, Baskin HR were of no help trying to figure this out), and maybe something less predictable.  Toss a marshmallow swirl in to highlight the white chocolate and call it “Santa’s Rocky Sleigh” or some spiced cookies and caramel and call it “Peppermint Stocking Stuffer” – something along those lines.  A perfectly suitable flavor for the holiday’s, just a tad bit boring and not anything you should rush to the scoop shop to try ahead of any other chocolate mint mash ups from other brands in grocery or otherwise.

Rating: 7/10