Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Trader Joe's Brandy Beans
You may have noticed that I review a lot of liqueur flavored items. That is because I like various spirits, and I really like items flavored with booze. I blame my parents.
As living proof that the Seventies were a very different place to be both a parent and a toddler, let me reveal a tidbit of Gigi family history:
The house I lived in back in Boston was a typical three story house for the area. The bottom floor had living quarters for my grandmothers as well as family room. One corner of said family room was taken up by the same leather-padded bar that every other goombah house in the neighborhood was equipped with, and which looked like Sopranos fan's wet dream. (Everyone in our neighborhood was a goombah. Everyone. Even those who weren't Italian.) Neither of my parents were or are really drinkers -- but again, in that time and place, it seemed everyone had a similar set-up. My parents' bar was stocked mostly with those little "nip" bottles that you get on airlines or on the counter of package/liquor stores. And apparently they had quite a collection going.
One autumn, they noticed that these tiny bottles were being drained of their contents...but whoever was doing it wasn't bothering to throw the bottles away, nor even to finish them. Since they knew they weren't the ones doing the drinking, they immediately assumed that it was my grandmother; who was known to like her glass of wine before bed. They told her that they didn't mind her drinking whatever she wanted, but asked that she at least get rid of the bottles afterward. She denied having anything to do with it. And after this went on for a few months, they started to wonder if she didn't have a drinking problem...but they never caught her in the act, so what could they say?
One night they were watching television (old school TV -- no cable! -- analog! -- with only 3 three channels! Can you imagine?!) and they heard the clinking of bottles behind the bar. They thought this odd because they had not seen my grandmother go by, and my other grandmother was long asleep. I was tucked in upstairs. They thought it might have been the cat...but when the noise continued, they were forced to get up and look. And there behind the bar they found three-year-old me pounding shots. Somehow I had managed to not only get down two flights of stairs, but I got those damn little bottles open -- a feat the much older me today has a hard time doing. My grandmother got to let out a big "I told you so!" and I was labeled a booze hound for life.
Yeah, like I said, the Seventies were a much different place...
Fast-forward about 30 years, and that leaves grown-up me sitting here with a box full of boozy chocolates from Trader Joe's. The box even bears the following warning: Sale of this product to persons under the legal age for purchasing alcoholic beverages is unlawful. It further adds that the beans have a maximum alcohol content of 5.2% by weight. Well, that had my tail wagging like Brian Griffin.
Each little bean is nicely molded into a little glossy crescent of semi-sweet chocolate happiness. When you bite into the bean, the liquid center starts to ooze out. I can understand why they aren't sold to kids! There is certainly a kick. But if you are expecting fine brandy, well...yeah. Right.
Yes, it does have the warm burn alcohol brings, but none of the actual flavor. The most redeeming factor the brandy filling brings to the table is the fact that, if you ate enough of them (and I have a feeling "enough" would be at least the entire box), you might, just possibly, get a minor buzz. Well, the same thing can be said about liquid NyQuil -- and I don't want to eat that enrobed in chocolate, either.
The chocolate: It's waxy, it's kinda gritty, and the bottom of the bean is surprisingly thick. It's a semi-sweet. Not light and sweet enough to be milk, yet not dark and brooding enough to be...well...dark. It's somewhere in the middle, and it's a pretty mediocre middle. And the lingering aftertaste could best be called "stale Raisinet." Yeah.
Trader Joe's so seldom lets me down that I am somewhat surprised that these were as "bleeh" as they are. Don't get me wrong, they aren't the worst candy out there. They won't make you die or anything...in fact, they won't even make you want to die. But they will make you wonder why the hell you wasted your money on them.