Saturday, August 27, 2016

Almondina – The Original Almond Biscuits

So, Almondina. 

A gentleman named Frank contacted me via Facebook message way back in May.  He had seen my blog, and asked if I had ever reviewed Almondina Biscuits.  I replied that I had not, and he replied with information on the product, links, and also offered to SEND ME SOME to review.  This flattered me!  I mean, FREE BISCUITS, right??!!  But I said no, thinking that if I accepted his offer of free biscuits I would not be able to review them neutrally.  I didn’t want to be swayed (or appear to be swayed) by a gift.  But I did tell him I would be sure to check them out.

Then life got super busy.  We travelled to India.  We hung out in Florida.  We went into intense rehearsals for a show.  I was swamped with work.  We travelled to Canada (twice) for the shows…  So, ummm, yeah…  Trader Joe’s reviews got even more backed up than usual.

Almondina Package
Frank contacted me a couple more times, nudging me and asking if I had a chance to review his product yet.  I felt so guilty!!  So finally I remembered to pick some up while we were at TJ’s in July, only then we never took time to EAT THEM.  Cuz, see, these reviews take quite a lot of time to do!  First, we need to buy the product.  Then photograph it.  Then taste it.  Then review it.  Then write and edit the review…  Then find and add the photos taken earlier…  Then POST the review…  It is not like a 10 minute job, people! 

Anyway, life is a tiny bit calmer today.  It is a Saturday.  We both have the day OFF.  We slept til noon.  We were tempted to pop down to the local donut shop and grab a maple and bacon donut for breakfast (healthy choice, I know!), but then I remembered – ALMONDINA!!!!!  So we finally ate them (not to worry, the “best before” date is March 2, 2017).  I served them with cappuccino and TJ’s yogurt topped with honey, fresh strawberries and toasted almonds (to match the Almondinas!).  Here is what we thought:

Look!  An Almondia!
David: “This is a biscotti, so it is a little bit hard and crunchy.  But since that is the ESSENCE of a biscotti I can’t really fault it for that.  It is THIN SLICED, which I like, ‘cuz that makes it easier to bite through.  It is tasty.  It has a nice balance of the almonds and raisins.  I must say; I am impressed the almonds stay in the cookie, they don’t pop out, even though they have so little biscuit to purchase on.  It is a well-made cookie.  Biscotti is not really my favorite…  I like a slightly softer cookie with maybe a little more buttery-ness to it, but this is doing the “biscotti thing” very well, so I think it is a good one.  It has a little bit of aftertaste of “honey-ness” rather than aftertaste of pure sweetness (editor’s note: there is no honey listed in the ingredients, it is pure cane sugar, and when I mentioned that to David he said, “Maybe the honey taste is my imagination, I am an unreliable source.”). 

The taste is good.  It is nice to dip it in coffee.  It is a great old family recipe from a time before mega food companies found ways to soften everything and make everything taste sweeter.  For that, it is a lovely historical and still delightful biscotti.  In terms of what the cookie is trying to do, I would give it a 4.5.  in terms of whether I would recommend to someone in the store that they are gonna LOVE this, I would give it a 3.5, because it is not very soft and it is not very buttery, and that is what I like in a cookie.”

Susan: “This cookie is filling a niche that I do not personally need filled.  I am not a huge biscotti person.  So I want to be honest about that from the get go.

2 Almondinas on a petite plate 
The tag line on the packaging for this product is “The Delicious Cookie Without the Guilt”.  I find this super funny because this is the one product I have ever reviewed that I feel SUPER GUILTY about!  I feel like I should have reviewed it months ago when contacted, and have had pangs of guilt every time Almondinas crossed my mind.  But I must say that normally, had I not been feeling bad for not doing something I said I would do in a timely manner, this tag line would be offensive to me.  It is my belief that one should never feel GUILTY about eating anything!!!  Food is something our bodies need, and what we choose to eat is a personal decision that should not be guilt inducing.  We can eat complete crap one afternoon, and a super healthy choice the same evening.  DO NOT FEEL GUILTY ABOUT EATING, PEOPLE!!!  (See another review with this rant here:  Reduced Guilt Pita Chips ).  For that reason, I recommend that Almondina re-think the tag line.

I also have been nervous about writing this review because, honestly, I feared I wouldn’t like the cookie.  Normally my personal like or dislike of a product doesn’t make me nervous, it is indeed the name of the game with these reviews. But since I was ASKED to review this one, I felt somehow like I didn’t want to disappoint Frank.  That is ironic, because I have been doing media work for David’s show lately, and a big part of that is contacting outlets and “pitching” the show to them.  Basically, I am asking them to review David’s show.  This situation of ME being the asked of (instead of the ask-er) has made me wonder if theatre reviewers ever feel nervous or guilty about disliking a show. 

One of the promo images I have been sending out to media for "A Little Business at the Big Top"
(photo credit R. Rado)
Stepping off soap box now to get back to the cookie review.

This is not the kind of cookie that I would normally go for.  Here is what I see as positives about it: 
-          It is thin – I love that it is thinner than most biscotti.  I like the petite-ness
-          I like the almonds
-          The raisins are good
-          The biscuits are CRUNCHY, but not MESSY.  I was surprised that no bits fell out when I bit these
-          It is cool that is a family recipe
-          It is awesome that they have been making them since 1929
-          I give them MAD PROPS for getting a non-Trader Joe’s branded product into TJ’s stores. That is a wicked hard thing to do, and THEY DID IT.  That, to me, means loads of people love this product

Here are things I am not really a fan of:
-          The biscuits have a bit of a rubbery, bendy quality before it snaps.  That is odd to me (David did not notice any bendiness)
-          They are not sweet enough for me – if I am going to eat a cookie, I want SWEET
-          They are really dry

Packaging:  I love the 3 little sections that so carefully hold the cookies.  They do a great job of keeping the crispy cookies whole – only one was broken when we took it out of the package.  The thing I do not like about the packaging is that once you open it, there is no way to seal it back up.  There are 4 servings in a package, so unless you have 4 people sitting around each wanting 4 biscuits, you are going to have to find a way to store these to try and keep them fresh (a Ziploc or a plastic container perhaps?). 

These are a biscuit that you want to eat paired with a nice coffee or tea (the website says you do not need coffee or tea with them, but I would beg to differ on that point).  I can sort of imagine a healthy parent giving one of these to a child, too (though NOT with a sippy cup full of coffee…). 

Overall, I would say that this product must fit a lot of people’s palates.  Non Trader Joe’s branded products rarely make it to TJ’s shelves, and this one did.  Color me impressed!!!  I think that this is just not “my cup of tea” when it comes to cookies.

Mad props to you for getting a product into TJ's under your own brand name
(Photo at TJ's Cincinnati) 
This is a tough one for me to rate.  I, like David, am going to give it 2 scores…  For the packaging, for having the gumption to do all the legwork to get it into TJ’s stores, for reaching out to me, for keeping a family recipe going, and for execution of idea – I will give this a 4.25.

For MY opinion of this cookie (which is how I have reviewed every other product on this blog, so I feel I need to be fair and review this one the same way) – for my enjoyment of it – I give it a 3.

Price: $2.79
Rating (average of 4 scores):  3.75

Find Almondina on Facebook at:  Almondina

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