There was something amiss in my local Trader Joe's last Thursday. It was all a flutter of activity -- and not due to the scads of overzealous patrons fighting over the last bag of dried cranberries. I had just stumbled into a glorious moment in the life of any Trader Joe's -- the moment when the store is restocked. Yet as I looked around the perpetually bustling grocer, I realized that this wasn't a normal restocking. The bare shelves were being refurbished with fresh products, specifically holiday products such as the ever popular Peppermint Joe Joe's. Ignoring the sight of the telling red and white striped Joe Joe's boxes (I find them rather lacking), I raced my way through the frozen foods' aisle, my eyes peeled for my favorite holiday treat.
My heart pitter-pattered with excitement when my lustful eyes landed upon the light blue box. "They're back!" I thought happily, clutching a box to my chest. The lighthouse picture on the exterior was a change from the evergreen trees on last year's product, but there was no mistaking it -- the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramels had returned.
The key to these dark chocolate, caramel-filled delights is not the decadent gloss the chocolate imparts on the tongue. Nor is it the way the buttery caramel oozes out of the shell when the chocolate seal is broken. It is the sea salt. The glorious, high-blood-pressure-causing, sea salt. The combination of the sweet caramel, bitter chocolate and robust kernels of salt is intoxicating on the palate, and the textural components are equally compelling. The firm chocolate is nicely balanced by the soft interior and crunchy bites of salt. While the chocolates do crumble when pressure is applied from the teeth, the problem is easily solved by eating the whole piece in two bites. The next problem -- ie. desiring more -- can be solved by eating another of the approximately 70-calorie treats. And another...
Of course, since these delectable goodies are only available during the holidays, the extra indulgence can always be justified. As for the four glasses of eggnog downed at the office party? Not so much.